Andrew Sullivan, you’ll be reassured, is “bloody elated” over Obama’s performance in last night’s debate. Democrats and the media across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief as the President brought a much more combative and energetic performance than the first debate. He was aggressive, had some good zingers and largely stood his ground against substantive attacks from Romney. According to two flash polls, he appears to have “won” on points, but didn’t land any real punches on Romney. His performance wasn’t enough to change the fundamentals of the race.
Dem partisans and the media who console themselves that Obama narrowly “won” both the CNN and CBS polls of the debate would be wise to look beyond the headline question. According to both, Romney crushed Obama on better handling of the economy.
In CNN’s poll, Romney bested Obama on the economy by 14 points, 54-40. In the CBS poll, Romney beat Obama by a stunning 31 points on the economy, 65-34. Romney’s strongest parts of the debate were his withering litany of Obama’s failures and strong vision for turning around the economy.
On the question of whether the candidates had a clear vision for fixing the country’s problems, 61% of voters said Obama did not. The voters split 50/50 on whether Romney had a clear vision. Considering that Obama currently has the job tasked with having such a vision, its a damning indictment.
Romney also bested Obama on the issues of taxes, health care, the deficit, and leadership. If he “loses” any more debates this way, he could be forced to suffer a landslide victory over Obama.
Aside from the weak economy, Obama’s real problem in this campaign is that he isn’t offering any new ideas for the next four years. The only real specific thing he has outlined is raising taxes on the wealthy. Everything else is just more of the same stuff that already isn’t working. It goes a long way to explain how almost two-thirds of voters don’t think he has a clear vision for fixing America. People without a vision don’t get reelected.
In the end, Obama had a fine performance. He did better than his first debate, but it would have been almost impossible not to improve on that flaccid display. But, he didn’t do anything to stem Romney’s growing momentum. It was probably Obama’s best debate performance ever, yet voters still overwhelmingly supported Romney over him on improving the economy.
The economy, not gender pay equity, will decide the race in November. And, on that issue, Obama’s got nothing.