I made this point last night, but I think it’s worth re-emphasizing: Obama really wasn’t as bad as it felt like he was. The worst aspect of his game was presentation — smirks and sighs, umms and ahhs, low energy, looking down at the podium — and you can bet your sweet keister those kinks will be worked out before the next debate. Far more relevant than how bad Obama was is how good Romney was. He was much better than the base expected, and more critically still, much better than the media expected. They already had an incentive to create a “Romney comeback” narrative, at least for the next couple of weeks, and Romney’s stellar performance put meat on those bones.
Still, I think the degree to which Romney 2.0 will stick will largely be determined by two things that happen over the next couple of days. First, the jobs report. One of the most frustrating aspects of the race so far is how little crappy-jobs-report after crappy-jobs-report have done to move the needle. They’re basically priced in to Obama’s popularity. But the timing of this report could make it different. If the numbers are surprisingly good, it gives the Obama campaign a change of subject. If the numbers are surprisingly bad, it reinforces the “America giving Romney a second look” storyline. Second, and believe it or not I think this is nearly as important, how will Saturday Night Live play it? Broadly, they could hone in on mainstream media’s take, and make the sketch about how bad Obama was. Make fun of him a la Gore and the sighs. For a low-information, marginal voter this will just be another little signifier that the president of the United States got schooled. Or they could take the Obama campaign’s approach, which is essentially that Romney etch-a-sketched just before he walked on stage, and that what we saw isn’t the guy who’s been running for 18 months. “Cut taxes? Who, me?” “I just love regulations” and stuff like that.
I’m curious to see.