<a href="http://www.northmobilepost.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mitt_Romney_Speech.jpg"><img src="http://www.northmobilepost.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mitt_Romney_Speech-150x150.jpg" alt="" title="Mitt_Romney_Speech" width="150" height="150" class="aligncenter size-thumbnail wp-image-5053" /></a>
The common perception is that the challenger in a presidential race usually wins the first presidential debate. The thought process behind this phenomenon is that the challenger is elevated by being on stage for the first time with the president. Tonight, the old adage held true, at least in the eyes of the media. Most outlets believed Romney was the clear winner, and several snap polls backed that thesis up.
Romney came out energetic and aggressive from the start. His experience from the multitude of Republican primary debates was on clear display. In contrast, the president did not seem to want to be there at all. His delivery lacked the usually snap that it has. Early on he highlighted agreements between himself and Romney, which may have been a tactical mistake.
One problem Romney did have was the fact that he was essentially running away from his own policy. It was almost as if the former Massachusetts governor was making the long anticipated shift to the center before our very eyes. When President Obama challenged his tax plan, which involves a 20% across the board tax cut, Romney backtracked and said he would not cut taxes if they could not be paid for. Most independent analysts say Romney's tax plan can not be paid for by simply closing deductions unless taxes are raised on the middle class.
Another problem for Romney was once again his lack of details, another point that the president challenged him on. This has been a core argument against Mitt Romney. He has laid out broad policy goals, but has rarely explained how he would pull them off. He failed to do so again tonight.
Throughout the campaign, Romney's positions have been constantly evolving. One of his campaign officials likened him to an etch-a-sketch. If Governor Romney does make a concentrated shift towards the middle, he may finally make some waves in this election. A far right campaign is not going to win him critical states like Florida and Virginia. He must keep up the moderate tone he expressed in the debate to win in those states.
The president left liberals very angry with him for his refusal to engage Romney on a number of controversial issues. Romney had been plummeting in the polls lately due to the leaked "47% video". Obama never mentioned the comments or the video. He also never mentioned Bain capital, or Mitt Romney's secrecy on taxes. Democrats were hoping President Obama would go for the jugular, and seal the deal. That clearly did not happen tonight, and Romney now has a new lease on life in this campaign.
Was tonight's performance enough to push Mitt Romney into the lead? It is too early to tell yet, but it seems doubtful at this point. Though the national polling showed a fairly tight race (Obama leading by 3), the electoral picture is not nearly as close. Obama was leading in every swing state. North Carolina is the state most likely to flip, and Romney's performance tonight may finally pull that state away from the president. Ohio seems to be out of reach for Romney at this point. Virginia and Florida are still in play, and new polls from those states will be highly anticipated.
Romney's strong performance makes Friday's jobs report an even bigger deal. A poor showing, namely job figures below 100,000, would seal a bad week for Obama. The president had a big cushion going on, but he will have to be on his game from here on out. Mitt Romney proved he wasn't going away without a fight. This contest is just beginning.