If a viewer didn’t trust Romney coming into the debate, he said nothing to change that, but he didn’t make any major errors that can be used against him later. He is an unlikable candidate, and more people will still view him that way, but he didn’t make things any worse for himself.
I think that’s about right so Romney didn’t lose the debate but it was certainly a classic Romney etch-a-sketch moment. As Matt Yglesias points out he changed his mind on nearly everything – this was not the same Romney we have heard all summer.
Barack Obama’s timid approach to debating—I saw a lot of analogies to a prevent defense in football, but I think it was more like the four corners basketball offense that’s so deadly boring it’s now against the rules—was the most striking element of tonight’s debate, but the most important one is probably that Mitt Romney finally shook the etch-a-sketch tonight and moved to the center.
He could have done this is July but it’s a little late now. He basically repudiated nearly everything he has been saying all summer so Larison is right – “ If a viewer didn’t trust Romney coming into the debate, he said nothing to change that.” He will get a bump in the polls but not enough to change the picture. Yeglesias again:
With the spotlight on and the pressure in place to define his tax plan, Romney angrily denied the existence of any agenda to reduce federal revenue and conceded that political realities mean he may not be able to cut rates by very much consistent with that agenda. Romney swore to defend single-payer health care for everyone born in 1957 or earlier, touted the universal health care initiative he signed in Massachusetts, promised not to cut federal education spending, defended the role of regulation in building an effective market economy, defended the current structure of Social Security, and charged Obama with failure to crack down adequately on big banks.
The problem with all of this is exactly what you’d expect the problem to be with an etch-a-sketch move—it’s inconsistent with things he’s committed himself to previously.
This will not change the minds of anyone who had already decided and there are few undecideds left. Any bump will be temporary and will fade as they realize exactly what he said. And you can bet that Obama will be prepared for the next debate which is a week subject for Romney, foreign policy.