The Debate Will Matter: NBC/WSJ poll: Almost 40 Percent Say Debates Will be Important
Forget what some analysts are suggesting. A new poll suggests tomorrow’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney could be important to a big chunk of potential voters:
Nearly four in 10 voters say that the upcoming debates will be either “extremely” or “quite” important in helping determine their vote in the presidential election, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
That combined number — 38 percent — is up slightly from the last times the NBC/WSJ poll asked this question in 2004 (when 31 percent said the debates would be important) and in 2000 (when 36 percent said that).
Still, more than 60 percent say that the debates are either “just somewhat important” or “not at all important” to their votes.
Overall in this survey, 22 percent say the debates are extremely important, 16 percent say they are quite important, 34 percent say they are just somewhat important and 28 percent say they are not at all important.
Meanwhile, CNN’s David Gergen notes that while most commentary centers on what Romney needs to do and could to do change the course of the race, Obama could decide not to play it safe and do some things to chance the existing course of the race, and, if he is re-elected, is second term:
But it is becoming apparent there is another possibility: Contrary to much conventional wisdom, Obama may actually be able to bust open this race, sweeping almost every state he won four years ago and rolling up a victory margin of perhaps five points or more.
The difference between a big win and a small win for Obama is, to draw upon a famous Mark Twain phrase, almost the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
Looking beyond November, what really matters to Obama is whether he can effectively govern in a second term. If he wins big, he can persuasively argue that the American people have spoken loudly and clearly, choosing his path into the future over Romney’s. At minimum, he will claim a mandate in favor of higher taxes on the affluent, a strong safety net for those in trouble and a cautious approach toward reducing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs. Republicans will have a much harder time challenging his mandate if he wins big.
Moreover, a big Obama victory would keep the Senate safely in Democratic hands and — less likely — might put a few House seats in play. Obama campaign advisers have been building a powerful ground game for months; they have far more offices in battleground states than Romney. Their hope is that if they turn out enough voters, a rising tide will lift lots of boats downstream. Especially in the Senate, they entertain hopes that a Democratic candidate can come within three points of Obama. If he were to break beyond 53% in key states, that could elect a lot of Democrats.
Add together the possibility of a convincing mandate with congressional results that may be far better than expected a few months ago and what do you have: bingo, a resurgent Obama heading toward a second term. To some of his advisers, that would make it far more likely he could achieve a “grand bargain” on deficits, breaking open the deadlock now paralyzing Washington and holding back corporate investment.
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In short, Obama has a great deal riding on Wednesday’s debate, too. Members of his team may talk as if they have less at stake than their opponent, but in their hearts, they know that if Obama can put Romney away in their first debate, he could well have some lightning at his command in a second term.