Twelve days ago, the campaign for President of the United States underwent a major change. Or so it seemed, as Barack Obama appeared every bit as inept and unready as he claimed his opponent to be, while Mitt Romney showed himself calm, assured and competent, clearly the more Presidential.
The subsequent polls showed Romney take the consensus lead in the polls. Those polls which gave Obama the lead, like the most recent ABC/Washington Post, do so by giving Obama a laughable imbalance in party affiliation. All polls taken since the debate with any kind of realistic representation of the salient demographic indicators show Romney in the lead.
But is this a reflection of one impressive debate, or something else? A hint can be found in last week's Vice-Presidential debate. The media generally split on that one, but the polls didn't waver. On the one hand, Romney's lead did not increase but it did not go away, either. When examined carefully, both debate performances reveal fatal flaws in Obama's re-election strategy.
Let's start with the obvious; the actual performance by Obama is lousy. Unemployment, foreign conflicts, the National Debt, the ham-handed imposition of Obamacare, any way you count it the record of Barack Obama is a failure. The funny thing, though, is that failures sometimes get re-elected anyway. Without running down that road, there were a number of ways Barack Obama could have won himself a second term. Frankly, I think it's too late for him now, unless Mitt Romney completely destroys his campaign and hands the election to Obama. There are several reasons why the impetus is too far along, including the Incumbency Effect (an incumbent generally produces election results several points below his October poll numbers, and an incumbent who does not reach 50 percent support in October polls cannot win), the Economic barometer (GDP growth below 2.5 percent in an election year favors the challenger), and the Mid-Term Election effect (Mid-Term results by party are often reflected party support in the subsequent Presidential Election). But there are additional reasons why Romney is surging just now.
In any campaign, candidates must expect a mix of good and bad news, success and blunders, surges and pitfalls. But Obama's campaign has not been able to communicate real conditions to the President. Obama is so much a narcissist that he refuses to listen to bad news, which is why he followed his loss to Romney by blaming style and "being too nice", which resulted in Biden's manic behavior in the Vice-Presidential Debate. It not only failed to address critical mistakes in substance by Obama, it opens the possibility that he could very well compound his error in the next debate. Romney was able to demonstrate competence and a presidential demeanor. If Obama fails to recognize this is already in place, his haughty disrespect towards Romney could be seen by Independents as desperate panic or an outright inability to face facts. If that happens, Romney's lead could become decisive with more than half a month to go to the election.