Election 2012

Romney’s One Debate Win vs. Obama’s Three Debate Wins

Nate Silver's charts with my annotations:

Question for the room: Why do you think Romney received such a massive bounce with one debate win, but the president received a much smaller bounce with three consecutive debate wins (including the vice president's debate win)?

Romney had 90 solid minutes in six months of piss-poor general election campaigning. And somehow that changed his fortunes so significantly? Why? The president, on the other hand, had two solid debates and his bounce appears minimal beyond simply stopping Romney's momentum.


After three presidential debates and much handwringing, Americans have declared the debate season featuring President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney a tie, according to polling released Thursday by USA Today/Gallup.

The president won two debates (three with Biden) and Romney won one, but voters according to Gallup call it a tie? Hmmm.

  • E Michael

    “Why do you think Romney received such a massive bounce with one debate win, but the president received a much smaller bounce with three consecutive debate wins?”

    Because the first debate is when many people actually started thinking about the election. The old joke about polls is “if the election were held today, most people would be very surprised”. But voters start making up their minds in October and many of them have already voted.

    My guess is that the Romney surge involved a lot of people suddenly passing the likely voter screen based on the fact that they were now paying a lot of attention to the election. As more people make up their minds, there is less room for subsequent bounces in the polls.

  • James Laing

    the soft bigotry of some really low expectationa

  • mrbrink

    I think the polling is pretty much where it was before the conventions. All the bumps and lumps have miraculously healed for Mitt Romney and it’s as though it was all a huge waste of time trying mightily to appeal to truth, facts, and logic. Evidently, a brilliant campaign, superior convention, a proven record to run on, and three victorious debates just don’t resonate with the victims of right wing bullies, who are off bullying gay people to the point of suicide when they’re not trying to bully a national election to the same end.

    And Republicans keep moving the goal posts. I remember when 8% unemployment was the number that we were supposed to use as some measure undisputed of success. Now it’s 5.4%. When the president pulled us out of Iraq, he didn’t do it fast enough, or slow enough, or whatever it was he didn’t do to appease the torture and rape party. Got Bin Laden! No he didn’t. George W. Bush did! Saved American auto manufacturing! No he didn’t! Mitt Romney saved it, too! Republicans have conspired to overthrow the president through a sort of legislative coup. No they didn’t! Obama just can’t work with the other side! Get the leader of the Republican terrorist network in there!

    It never fucking ends with these psychopaths.

    Right now, in Illinois, Republicans are running ads that are co-opting the Democrats’ message. They’re co-opting populism! Attacking democrats(Bill Foster, for instance) for owning a business that “laid off workers and shipped jobs to China.” Attacking Democrats for not looking out for the Middle Class. The party of concentrated wealth, who never complained about Bush’s McJob economy, or “uniquely-American” economy, are now outraged, conveniently, that this president actually turned all the lights on– scattering all the right wing cockroaches and their lobbyists. The hookers and blow parties at the Department of the Interior was a prime example. Off-the-books War accounting is another. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is another. Fraudsters scamming Medicare is another. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is another. Health insurance corporations and their pre-existing conditions policies is another. The $1.2 trillion deficit another. And another. And another…

    Republicans have no idea where all these roaches and rats came from! Those vermin weren’t there when Bush was running things!

    It’s a near total rewrite of history and a magnificent trick getting your head all the way up your own ass, and in record time! That’s what happens when you let the Republican party control the electricity, or the narrative. They will literally turn the lights out on truth and Democracy to hide their pro-rodent policies.

    They know their shit stinks and doesn’t poll well. It turns people off. The focus groups tell them so. And when Mitt Romney, their idiot leader who they never liked anyway, says he doesn’t have a plan to cut taxes for the very wealthy, or when he stands in front of big ass lying signage that says some bullshit about “the Middle Class” and “Jobs,” it’s always in daylight hours, when their pro-rodent policies are naturally hiding in the walls. Their party’s leader is named, Willard, for fuck’s sake!

    Since Citizen’s United, this is all uncharted territory for American presidential elections, in more ways than one. The dark money pouring in is frightening enough, but we have one candidate resorting to unthinkable lies and fraud and secrecy, and President Obama is not only hanging in there, buy he’s going to win this thing.

    • muselet

      As I’ve said I don’t know how many times before, in a sane Universe, Mitt Romney would be down by 90 points in 49 states plus DC (Utah would have Romney down by only 60). In our Universe, Romney looks to lose but not get the drubbing he so *ahem* richly deserves. And don’t get me started on congressional elections.

      I believe Mayor Robert Chisholm said it best: “Idiots. I’m surrounded by idiots.”


  • Victor_the_Crab

    Reason #1: The Lamestream Media wanted so, so badly to get their horse race that they saw that first debate as their chance to pounce all over it and tell the public that it’s a whole new ball game, semantics be God damned! The Lamestream Media wants their horsey race and will get it even if they hold their breaths till mommy and daddy give in to their little brat’s demands.

    Reason #2: Mitt Romney looks like what a proper U.S. president should look like (white).

    But don’t worry. Just because the debates haven’t restored Obama’s large margin, pre first debate, the trend seems to be pointing in the right direction, with about ten days to go.

  • bphoon

    I’ve said it before here: The media need a horse race to drive ratings. They’ll do anything they need to do to wring top advertising dollar from their political shows, especially the cable news channels. Yes, that includes MSNBC–they need ratings as much or more as anyone else and they’re beating the horse race drum, too. So, since average voters don’t pay that much attention to the substance of actual issues, and certainly don’t research the issues on their own, they’ll believe whatever they’re told. That tends to make the horse race a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I’m getting the feeling that this race won’t be as close as everyone says it will be. Same thing happened in ’08.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Bob, I keep forgetting to mention this, but Rick Ungar has a piece up that you should read.

    • bphoon

      I read it. I saw mention of this a few days ago but this piece goes into much more detail. Thanks for the link.

    • mrbrink

      Those machines should be immediately dismantled and a hand count ordered.

      Can you imagine the outrage if President Obama had a dip shit son who owned voting machines in Ohio?

  • muselet

    Most of this is actually in response to comments above. Sorry, but I’m lazy and it’s easier just to write one long comment.

    National polls are schmuck bait. We don’t elect our presidents on a national basis, we elect them state-by-state. National polls are almost always fairly close, though, so our glorious news media love them some national polling.

    State-by-state polls, properly done, are most meaningful when rolled into an average. That’s what Nate Silver does very well and most everyone else does remarkably poorly.

    Ignoring polls entirely is always a good policy. Watching Electoral College projections—skeptically—is a reasonable waste of five minutes a day.

    Mitt Romney got a bounce the first debate because few voters outside of Massachusetts had seen him in that setting. As long as you ignored the actual words he said—most of which were said in furtherance of a lie—he put in a creditable performance: he looked and sounded presidential. Barack Obama didn’t get a bounce after the second and third debates because everyone has by now seen him speak in public. In other words, Romney had more to gain than did Obama. The VP debate didn’t move the needle because VP debates almost never move the needle.

    Oh, and Romney’s got less melanin than Obama.


    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      “State-by-state polls, properly done, are most meaningful when rolled into an average. That’s what Nate Silver does very well and most everyone else does remarkably poorly.”

      Bingo. He only got one state wrong in 2008.

      Adding…Silver also includes Intrade in his calculations.

  • willpen

    I am just so fucking sick and tired of the shit that is being flung at every possible wall by what I have started to call “the opposition party”. I don’t believe that they even have the right to be called Republicans anymore because that would denigrate any historic significance that some, one time, decent Republicans may have the right to claim.

    Every time I deign to post something about Mittens on my facebook page there is inevitably that one douche bag fb friend that finds it necessary to school me in the way of Mitt so I can see the Romney light and walk blindly towards it. Well I have nicely told more than a few to fuck off. No matter what I might post it can in no way be compared to the vile and disgusting things that these unleashed wingnuts have been spreading around.

    I just can’t wait till November 7 when I can finally stop and breath easily again. I always have faith in what Nate Silver says but there is a small part of me that is scared shit that these bastards are going to steal the race this time. If this happens then I don’t even want to know what is going to happen.

    • Not Sayin

      Don’t be scared, just round up every eligible voter you know and make sure they get to the polls. I have told people through this entire season that I didn’t care how they marked their ballot, I just wanted them to vote. The more people who actually cast a vote, the harder it is for anyone to screw it up.

  • Not Sayin

    It all comes down to how it was played in the media, and how the polls have been handled. Everyone was talking about Romney’s momentum for a stretch, but I don’t believe he ever *truly* had any. I don’t think the people who have decided to vote for Romney really like him or believe him, even if they say they do. He’s just not the OTHER guy. I don’t get the sense that people are lining up to vote for him with any real sense of passion or connection. More like some grim chore they feel obligated to because of their misguided ideology.

    I believe the Obama/Biden campaign has a much more stringent GOTV ground game in place and I think this may be one of the first years in a long time where actual election results come as something of a surprise to the predictions based on polling. I also believe that the corporate-backed GOP is going to learn the hard way that it’s not as easy to buy an election as they thought it was.

    • Brutlyhonest

      It all comes down to how it was played in the media,

      BINGO! The narrative after the first debate, that was carried for days, was that the President performed horribly, lost the debate, and was spiraling down. The substance of what each man said wasn’t important, how they “acted” was all they yammered about.

      Conversely, after the VP and President handed Ryan and Rmoney their asses, the narrative following each was always centered on something the right accused the winners of lying about.

      Shocking, isn’t it, that the corporate media can drive the polls via what & how they choose to report.

      • KanaW

        And how it’s much more difficult to finagle the election if the polls show that the candidates are wide apart in popularity.

        The tighter the polls, the easier it is to hack the machines without penalty. 51O-49R suddenly becoming 48O-52R during the election is within the ‘margin of error’ of the polls, whereas 60O-40R becoming 49O-51R isn’t.

  • http://JCohenMusic.com Justin Cohen

    Bob, it’s not just about winning vs. losing. If that were the case, the president should be ahead of his pre-debate numbers after winning, 3 – 1.

    The problem is, the president’s showing in the first debate was shockingly bad. Not only did he appear tired and unenthused, he let every single one of Romney’s false attacks go unanswered, implicitly validating them. It’s the shock that caused the big change in poll numbers.

    When the president did well in the following debates, there was nothing shocking about it. We were watching the president we know and love. With no shock, there wasn’t as big a shift in the polls.

    While progressive folks experienced the last two debates as monster victories for the president, folks on the fence saw them as modest victories. Remember, a progressive supporter of the president, and a person who is undecided in this election, see the world through very different eyes.

    Just a final word for everyone here who is nervous – The president has this. Silver’s numbers should continue to slide in the president’s direction up through election day. The president knows how to campaign, his people are smart, and he’s got a great ground game in Ohio.

    Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay. : )

    • Not Sayin

      Gah. Obama’s performance in the first debate was not shockingly bad. What was shocking was the brilliant, glittering insanity of the Romney-Machine that came on stage and smiled and said no less than 8 times “people are struggling” and that he liked Big Bird. That would have thrown the best of us off our game and I think it just disgusted the President He has never been a boisterous debater, but 4 years ago, he didn’t have to be as he rode the wave of Bush & Co. fatigue into office.

      • http://JCohenMusic.com Justin Cohen

        I respectfully disagree. I love the president and give him the benefit of every doubt but I was bewildered watching the first debate.

        His substance was fine but he let Romney run all over him with lies and just kind of looked down and smiled like, “you got me.”

        You don’t need to be a boisterous debater to point out that something your opponent said was untrue and then calmly set the record straight. He did a masterful job of this in the second debate.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      Amen brother!

  • Draxiar

    I think there’s many things that play into it but I think it’s mostly due to fear of change and supeficial values.

    Romney looks like the typical modern day American President. His substance is for shit though. The first debate gave people something to cling to. It allowed them to project onto Romney what they WANTED to believe despite all evidence to the contrary. They want to believe that the caucassian race is still in charge of America. Any alternative is just too scary (why this fear I have no idea). They WANT to believe that the magician on stage really is Gandalf instead of some shmuck in a tux.

    In our change the channel, looks are everything, cell phone distracted, Cosmo mag culture where people’s attention span and interests are so short and shallow it’s no wonder Romney’s bounce occured. People heard the debate but didn’t listen to a fucking thing. They didn’t see that Romney is all answers and no solutions. They didn’t see because they didn’t want to see. They don’t want to see facts…they want to believe the lie. “It’s not a lie if you believe it!”

    I’ll sum this up with some of the stupidity flying around from an uniformed voter that I know personally:

    My stepdaughter living in North Carolina is surrounded by Republican loving poor white trash (she also receives government assistance)…yes, the ones we think of when we think of people voting against their interest. In fact my wife admits that she pretty much is poor white trash. She often posts things about Obama being a Socialist and keeping government out of our lives (did I mention she gets government assisstance?) even though she really has no grasp of what that means. During the VP debate she writes on Facebook something that was essentially this, “I’m not really paying attention to the VP debate but it looks like the old guy is just being rude and picking on the young guy.” My wife read that to me and I actually did scream. I can’t bear the amount of ignorance it takes to say that.

    Anyway, that’s my take.

  • Robert Miller

    I think that there are a lot of people who wanted an excuse to vote white, and that was Romney’s “momentum”. Also, it’s easy to believe lies when they’re something you want to happen.

    • Draxiar

      Right on. I said much the same thing and I want to assure you that I was writing while you posted…in short, I wasn’t trying to copy you.


  • roxsteady

    Seriously, I read an article on the kos a couple of days ago about how Gallup gets it wrong most of the time. This is nothing but the media trying to keep the horserace BS going.

  • timmysmalls

    I had this conversation with my brother the other day. The margin of error for Obama is much smaller. Romney, having typecast President looks and being a white Republican male, gets the benefit of the doubt.

    R’s filibustered Veterans’ Benefits Bill, 9/11 Responders Bill, Small Biz Tax cut… if D’s did this, Obama would lose every state but Hawaii.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/U4BHCFE5U2XM3XYHH2D6PKJDYY J

      The GOP gets away with killing all those bills but heaven forbid you say we have fewer bayonets in the military. Then you’re destroying the armed forces as we know it!

      The gall of these people (or should that be the Galt?)

  • Chris Andersen

    I think Obama temporarily lost sight of a very important fact in this election. His team had done a very good job of making people question Romney’s qualification for the job and it showed in the pre-debate polling. But the fact that Obama lost sight of was that he himself was not seen all that favorably by the electorate as well. When he came out in the first debate and gave a sub-par performance, it validating in many swing voter’s minds some of reasons why they were dissatisfied with him.

    Romney, on the other hand, defied the expectation that months of Obama team politicking had created. Why? Because Obama didn’t put the pressure on him to make the kind of mistakes he usually makes in those situations.

    The combination of validating worries about Obama with a more positive impression of Romney caused a small but significant number of voters to re-think their position on the election. When the polls are separated by only a few points, that kind of small change can have a significant impact on the final results.

    Silver’s model tends to magnify this phenomena. When the race is within a couple of points, his model puts the leading candidate at about 60-70%. But a shift of just 2-3 points can cause a 20-30 swing in Silver’s model because that small a shift is *huge* in a close election.

    While I like the work that Silver is doing, it is not the kind of thing you want to follow if you are faint of heart.

    • TerranceGilmore

      I can’t imagine the backlash if Obama loses based off of what will be precieved as one poor debate performance

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000098740588 Jeremy Grunloh

    Did everyone forget that President Obama is still a black man in America? He still has to “work twice as hard as these little white shits” (thank you, James Earl Jones) for America to give him even EQUAL credit. That’s the way it was in 2008 with McCain; it’s the way it’s been the last four years… and it’s the way it is now.


    • http://profiles.google.com/rollotamasi13 Rollo Tamasi

      Exactly right.

      Let’s say Obama was the vulture capitalist who refused to release years of tax returns to the public and made the 47% remarks,

      Do you think we’d have a tie in the national polling right now?

      Romney has run a terrible campaign, lied repeatedly, and committed normally disqualifying missteps, yet he remains tied with the President.

      The President could not have run the campaign Romney has run and remained competitive in this race. Obama is the incumbent, but it seems the advantages have gone to Romney.

      Even when he’s President of the United States, for the black guy, the double standard remains.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    A lot of people watched the first debate having no idea who Mitt Romney was and having paid little or no attention to anything anyone was saying about him. He came across as a guy who knows what he’s talking about, who cares about things, and who could be President. He looked and sounded like a guy who could be President. He didn’t say anything offensive or controversial or unclear or weak or meandering or hesitant or without conviction (the fact that it was essentially all bullshit is irrelevant; people who don’t know anything don’t know a lie when they see one and don’t particularly care in any event). That was all they needed to see. Obama’s dull, uninspired, and inexcusably unprepared “performance” only made things worse. Romney’s decision to wait for the first debate to perform this particular part of his improv act, to portray this particular character, was a stroke of brilliance.

    I’m bracing myself for a loss here. The idea of these awful, mendacious, cynical, disgusting people winning is almost too much for me to take. Everything from the Tea Party to Birthers to Glenn Beck to Andrew Breitbart to Orly Taitz to Donald Trump to Ted Nugent to Dinesh D’Souza will be completely vindicated on November 6 if Romney wins.

    • ninjaf

      You have said pretty much what I would’ve said.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      “…..will be completely vindicated on November 6 if Romney wins.”

      That’s the sickest part about it all. With a Romney win these cheating, immoral, hateful slimebuckets, and their sycophantic followers, will all receive the message that might does make right, immoral triumphs over moral, lying over truth, etc. It’s enough to turn my stomach and it makes me angry. I’m not naive enough to think that life is fair, but I am liberal enough to believe that it doesn’t have to be unfair (in most regards) if I just stand up and speak out. A Romney would belie my belief and that just pisses me off.

  • WRinDTW

    While I agree that something other than simply ‘debate performance’ seems to be at work here, I don’t know enough to intelligently guess what that might be. However, I think part of the reason Romney got such a big bump after the first debate is ‘our’ fault…

    Recognizing him for what he is, the left painted him as a clueless, robotic, out of touch, elitist, etch-a-sketching moron. So when he showed up and actually strung together three sentences, and they didn’t see wires running from his temples, and his lips actually MOVED when he spoke, the right went nuts. “See”, they said, “he’s not a robot, he can speak, Woo Hoo!” We helped set the bar extremely low and all he had to do was fall over it.

    It didn’t matter that everything he said was a lie, because in part, the President failed to challenge him aggressively, and the right believes all the lies, so win-win!!

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      I agree, I think it had to do, in large part, with expectations. Those who knew Romney expected so very little of him. And those who didn’t know him at all, had no expectations. But everyone, whether they truly know the Pres or not, expected him to do outstanding (like Clinton, love him or hate him, you have to respect his skills).

      I think those expectations combined with a media that is running away from the “liberal bias” label as fast and as hard as possible….means we have a full on media press to give more credit to Romney and less to the Pres. And like it or not, the media affects opinion. I think the Republicans figured this out a long time ago (Murdock certainly did). Whosoever controls the Fourth Estate controls everything. The solution is to find a way to ensure that no one party or perspective controls the media. Actually doing that may be impossible without a whole lot of money and systemic corrections.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U4BHCFE5U2XM3XYHH2D6PKJDYY J

    Perhaps the “tie” pushers thought that only the first debate was a true debate worth paying attention to. Town Hall? Meh, not a debate, and Candy Crowley was a puppet of the liberal media! Factcheckers be damned. Foreign Policy? Yawn. VP debates? Yawn.

    By the end of the first debate, I guess many of them already made up their minds as to what would happen with the rest. The result was so bad, and the MSM played it up so strongly, that it dwarfed anything that came next. Sure, Ryan got pantsed and Romney turned into a spineless, quivering, lip sweating fool, but he was SO strong and assertive in the first debate, remember!?

    Anyone who dares tell me that we have a liberal media is getting a nice boot to their swing states.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      In their dangling chads, no less.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    “The president won two debates (three with Biden) and Romney wins one, but voters according to Gallup call it a tie? Hmmm.”

    This is why, as I’ve consistently repeated, I only pay attention to Nate Silver and the betting markets (on a day to day basis, mostly Intrade).

    And okay, I’m not afraid to say it. The pollsters freaked out because of the wingnut’s “skewed polls” crap, and they are now skewing right because they have started hitting primarily Republicans. These people should all fucking resign as this could be construed as an attempt to swing an election.

    And, as far as the right wing goes, I don’t even want to share the same country with them anymore. I consider them outliers……..fascists in a country founded on the antithesis of fascism.

    Call me fucking fed up.

    • TerranceGilmore

      Nicole, we are in complete agreement.

      I had some family over for dinner last night. I said then, I hope I don’t come off as cocky, but I do not believe this thing is as close as we are made to believe.

      I understand the incentive to make it sound close on every side. For Fox News, they want it to be close so their viewers will go vote. For MSNBC, they want it to be close so people don’t get complacent. If every network came out today and said, without Ohio or Wisconsin, Romney literally cannot win the election, how many people in other states would just stay home.

      Nate Silver has Obama up anywhere from 1.5-3 points in Ohio with a 75% chance of winning there.

      Honestly, the only thing I am concerned about is the Franken-Storm and the effect that will have on voter turn out. Luckily, old people vote Republican, and they are least likely to brave inclament weather.

      • roxsteady

        Actually, I noticed this yesterday…the NBCNews/Marist poll was done only for Nevada and Colorado. What happend to Ohio? Today it’s all about Colorado since they’re saying that Nevada doesn’t look good for Romney but, I’m very pissed that polling for Ohio can’t be found anywhere today. I did see that today’s bullshit ABCNews/Washington Post daily tracking poll now has Romney leading Obama 49 to 48. Yesterday’s same poll had Romney leading 50 to 47. Apparently there is momentum, just not in Mitt’s direction!

    • rob black

      “This is why, as I’ve consistently repeated, I only pay attention to Nate Silver and the betting markets (on a day to day basis, mostly Intrade).”

      I’ve said that either the polls were wrong before the first debate…or they are now, and I am going with the former. We here, know that: based on issues, character, hell…reality this thing shouldn’t even be close, and the polls prior to the first debate seemed to be confirming that reality, because prior to that, only close followers were paying attention.
      There was nothing about the first debate that should have caused that drastic a swing, and that is reflected in the fact that the subsequent beat downs handed out by the v.p. and the president not producing an equal polling upturn.
      The betters were not dramatically influenced by the first debate, and apparently, neither are the early voters. Reality is solidifying.
      I only see two outcomes: either a closer than comfortable win for the President, or a surprising thumping with several states that look marginal now going dark blue. Alas, there will be no President Willard.
      I think foreign policy “hippie” Mitt, counter to his strategy, may have pissed off just enough wingnuts who will stay home, thus providing the “thumping” margin.
      Lastly, after this election, there will be polling models that will be completely chucked as outdated. As in: land line only shut-ins do not an accurate demographic sample make. That alone may account for a large percentage of this bizzaro season.
      C.T.F.O. Chill out!

      • JackDaniel07

        *Cpt. Picard slowly clapping*