The News & Observer asked area political pundits to share their reactions to Wednesday’s presidential debate.
Here are their thoughts:
Steven Greene, associate professor of political science at N.C. State University : Honestly, Romney seemed sharper, more assertive, and more energetic tonight. If we want to score this like a boxing match (which it seems that we generally cannot resist), Romney wins on points. Certainly nothing here, though, that strikes me as a knockout blow. Short of a complete Obama implosion, I’m not sure a knockout blow is even possible. There’s increasing evidence from political science research and analysis of historical public opinion data that debates just do not have a big impact on the state of the race. The best evidence at this point suggests Obama has about a four-point lead nationally. The cumulative effect of the debates may help Romney to close that gap, but there’s really not an historical precedent to think that the debates will allow Romney to overcome that gap – despite how much the post-debate spin suggests otherwise. My best guess – and its an informed one, but still just a guess – is that we’re looking at a 2004 analogy here: the debates help Romney close the gap against Obama (as they helped Kerry pull quite close to Bush), but that there’s simply not enough voters left who are truly up for grabs to allow a Romney comeback.
David B. McLennan, professor of communication and political science at Peace College: This was a strong debate for Mitt Romney. He appeared presidential answering the questions calmly and confidently. At times Romney put President Obama on the defensive on topics like support for alternate energy companies and Obamacare. Mitt Romney effectively critiqued the president’s economic record without resorting to zingers or inappropriate lines. President Obama appeared to lack energy at times and appeared angry at times. This debate was exactly what the Romney campaign needed to reverse the bad news of the last few weeks and get attention off the 47 percent comment.
Kerry L. Haynie, associate professor of both political science and African and African American studies at Duke University : The debate drew clear distinctions between the two candidates. The debate format was partly responsible for this, but both President Obama and Gov. Romney stuck to a discussion of the key issues. President Obama seemed a bit too presidential. By this I mean he seemed unwilling to engage Gov. Romney directly and to speak some from the heart rather than all from the head. Gov. Romney was appropriately aggressive, which played well on camera. Going forward, Romney will have to be more specific on what he plans to do to combat high unemployment and a weak economy, and Obama will have to make a more passionate case for why he deserves another term.