In the third debate, Obama had to show in 90 minutes that the first two debates were a fluke, and that Romney was not presidential enough to end his tenure. He did not do that by any means; for all his pique, interruptions, and attacks, Obama scored few points against the workmanlike Romney who knew that he simply did not have to lose. In any debate, when the two score comparable points, the more aggressive and petulant usually comes off less well, especially given that Romney’s tone and expression were more like the reflective performance of his wildly successful first debate. The take-away quotes and sound bites from the debate will favor Romney.
I predict that either Obama will not gain traction from his performance or, more likely, his standing will continue to erode as the public becomes assured that Romney is not only more knowledgeable but more likable and steady, especially when the pressure was on him in this final debate and the president went all out to call him both untruthful and uncaring.
The key, again, is to ask whether Obama will arrest the erosion in his support, and the answer is clearly no — it will only continue as the third debate confirms the verdict that was established in the first and not altered in the second.