I Was Wrong: Debates Matter

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Both on this page and in day-to-day conversation I have mocked the idea that leaders debates have a substantial impact on elections. I must now concede that in the case of this Presidential election I was most probably wrong.

Six weeks ago when the candidates showed up for the first debate the Romney campaign was dead in the water. After the Democrats seamless convention, the Republican party were made to look a shambles,largely thanks to the polarizing Tea Party movement. But since that first debate in October Mitt Romney has redefined the tone of the election and as we enter the final day of campaigning he has drawn practically level with the President.

Romney’s performance in each and every debate has been commendable, he has been articulate, sprightly, empathetic and dignified. Contrary to my expectations he has used the debates to successfully frame himself as an impressive alternative President of the United States. With each debate the former Governor has successfully accrued gravitas in the public eye and assuaged the apprehensions that normally accompany an untried candidate for the Presidency. Do I think this is exclusively the product of the debates? Absolutely not, he has campaigned brilliantly day in, day out, for weeks now but the debates gave him the attention he needed to seize the national spotlight and he did so effectively.

It’s too late to change much now, the bulk of the campaigning is over and the Obama camp  must now be wondering how they went from leading comfortable to a virtual tie and the answer I can offer them is one word: debates.

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