So the debates are over and the clear consensus appears to be that President Obama took two out of three. Unfortunately for the president he chose the wrong one to lose, and resoundingly -- the first. That first debate did something that most of the political pundits say presidential debates don't do (short of a major mistake) -- change the direction of the race.
Prior to the Oct. 3 domestic policy debate, the president was gradually building his lead. Major donors who were spending millions of dollars on commercials attacking Obama were wondering if it was time to close the check books. Republicans were disillusioned and baffled as to how their guy was losing to a president when gas prices were so high and the economy still sluggish.
But on Oct. 3, the most watched of the three debates, Romney came off as confident, aggressive and presidential. Obama was laid back and aloof. In the days after, the momentum shifted to Romney. And despite unemployment dropping to 7.8 percent (finally breaking the 8-point barrier) and the president having a strong performance in the Oct. 16 "town hall" debate, the momentum appears to have stayed with Romney, though it has slowed.
Will Monday's final debate on foreign policy, where it was Romney's turn to look passive and unsure, change the election again? My guess is not. Americans do not show much interest in foreign policy until it whacks them over the head (military entanglement in Vietnam leading to unpopular war, Iran hostage crisis, 9/11).
But I think a new strategy announced Tuesday by the Obama campaign could change things and potentially close the deal for the president. President Obama released a minute-long, positive and personal commercial that will be shown in swing states. We are unlikely to see it on Connecticut TV, but you can view it here.
My guess is that those last few undecided voters, sick of the steady stream of attack ads they have seen for months, will embrace this optimistic message, which recalls Reagan's "Morning in America" appeal in the 1984 election. It will be difficult for the Romney camp to respond. Do they attack it, going negative once again and risk further alienating voters? Or do they respond with a positive message of their own, but one less likely to persuade voters to fire Obama?
The president, criticized in this campaign for not offering a vision for his next term, also announced the release of a 20-page booklet: "The New Economic Patriotism: A PLAN FOR JOBS & MIDDLE-CLASS SECURITY". The campaign says 3.5 million copies are being printed and it will be made available online.
It is probably no accident that the more detailed plan on the economy, jobs and energy comes after the debates, limiting Romney's ability to respond and attack it.
Here are the president ideas on the economy, on manufacturing, on small business, his tax and health care proposals, and helping seniors.
Romney has had his five-point economic plan out for sometime now.
All indications are this election will come down to the wire. It should be a wild last two weeks. And don't be surprised if votes are still being counted on Wednesday Nov. 7 in an effort to figure out who won. Of course Connecticut, considered solidly blue for Obama, will be more viewer than participant.