The Debates

The presidential debates kick off today. Many commenters claim that Romney is going to kick ass and teach Obama a thing or two in the debates.

He needs to…because it is his last hope. Those same commenters have used all manner of excuses to blind themselves to reality…that Mitt Romney is a plastic candidate with a wooden demeanour and a tits campaign. They claimed that Romney was waiting till confirmation to spend and that once the spending got underway things would change…it didn’t and hasn’t. They claimed that using Ronald Reagan’s mantra would work…except Romney can;t deliver the lines as convincingly as Ronald Reagan could. They claim that the media and polls are all bias. Now while I have some sympathy with the bias of the media the same cannot be said of the polls. That myth has been thoroughly debunked.

However they may be right when it comes to debates, because traditionally the polls favour the challenger after the first debate:

[T]he first debate has normally helped the challenger. In the nine elections between 1976 and 2008, there were only two years when the incumbent-party candidate gained ground relative to the challenger; these cases were 1976, when Gerald R. Ford halved his six-point deficit with Jimmy Carter, and 1988, when George H.W. Bush moved just slightly further ahead of Michael Dukakis.

But on average, the challenging-party candidate gained a net of one and a half percentage points on the incumbent-party candidate.

There is a slight catch though:

[T]he challenger’s gains have come mainly from undecided voters rather than from the incumbent himself.

If you look at the poll average for the incumbent and challenging candidates individually, the incumbent candidate held steady on average at 45.5 percent of the vote both before and after the debate. However, the challenger improved to 43.9 percent of the vote from 42.4 percent.

So a reasonable best guess, based on the historical precedent and without considering any factors specific to this race, is that Mr. Romney will gain a point or two in the polls by next week, while Mr. Obama’s number will hold steady.

Mitt Romney needs a blinder, he really needs to score big, unfortunately that just isn’t going to happen. He may get a modest bounce but it is unlikely to be enough.

If he doesn’t get a bounce though, as history suggests he should, then he is in deep, deep trouble.

[H]ere’s the bad news for Mr. Romney: no candidate who trailed by as much he did heading into the first debate went on to win the election. In the two cases where the lead reversed after the debate, 1980 and 2000, the trailing candidate was down only one or two points in the polls. The FiveThirtyEight “now-cast,” conversely, pegs Mr. Romney’s deficit at about 5 points instead. (Other methods put it at between three and four points.)

More bad news for Mr. Romney: although there has been a tendency for the challenging candidate to gain ground immediately after the first debate, there has not been any tendency for the challenger to gain over the remaining weeks of the election. On average during these years, the challenging candidate trailed by 1.5 percentage points in polls conducted just after the first debate — and the challenger eventually lost the election, on average, by 1.4 percentage points, a nearly identical margin.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.