I tell you, it’s been driving me crazy to hear journalists talking about Romney’s momentum basically right into this week (Sandy finally put a stop to it). It’s bee eminently clear for a while that after a big post 1st debate gain, the race stabilized and Romney clearly stopped gaining any more ground (the very definition of momentum). Given that Romney had such a huge (by historical comparison) gain from the 1st debate, I really did think it almost inevitable that some of that big bump would recede. If Obama had performed as poorly in debates 2 and 3, it probably would have. But it was never realistic to expect that to happen. What I’ve been waiting for is Nate Silver (or anybody else, but Silver’s the one who’s done it) to put together the chart to show that Obama has clearly regained some ground after Romney’s big surge. Now, only a small portion– but he only needed to regain a small portion to re-take a clear lead. Here’s Silver’s key chart:
Now this is a very modest movement back to Obama, but considering the number of polls being averaged here, it likely represents a statistically significant, i.e,. real, movement back to Obama from the week following the Denver debate. Now, I actually think some of this movement would have happened had we not even had any more debates, but I do think there’s something to be said for Obama’s much stronger debate performances leading to more positive media coverage and re-renergizing the Democratic base. So, did the debates matter? Absolutely. Did they change what will be the ultimate result of the election? Probably not.