The presidential and vice-presidential debates this election season have been some damn good entertainment. We’ve been treated to moderator and Yoda look-alike Jim Lehrer’s feeble attempts to control the candidates. We’ve been amused by Joe Biden’s monumental, just-heard-the-funniest-yo-mama-joke-in-his-life sneer. But despite all the hype, a fundamental question rests on my mind: do the debates actually make a difference?
A quick refresher. Before the first presidential debate, the Romney campaign was still reeling from a leaked video where the GOP candidate claimed to wealth donors that the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax consider themselves victims dependent on government.
In short, for the GOP, the stakes riding on the first debate were higher than Obama during his college years.
In a shocking reversal of his previous strategy, Mitt Romney succeeded in connecting with voters—I know, shocker—when he spoke during the first debate. His Mormon-umentally effective performance narrowed the 5% gap in support in national polls to a tie, according to a national average of polling data calculated by Real Clear Politics.
Next came the vice-presidential debate, which is usually about as useless as Sarah Palin. Neither Joe Biden nor Widow’s Peak—excuse me, Paul Ryan—emerged as the definitive winner. On his first truly national stage, Ryan withered Biden’s bombast with a cool head. As a result of both VP-hopefuls’ strong performances, the polls stayed virtually even.
With the election only weeks away, the final debates had the most potential to linger in the back of voters’ minds on Election Day. The third debate found both candidates circling each other on an empty stage, creating an atmosphere tenser than a Jenga game during an earthquake. Romney’s decision to politicize the death of our ambassador to Libya proved to be the block that started the Jenga tower’s collapse, prompting Mitty to finish debate season on a whimper instead of a bang.
The debates had highs, they had lows, but did they actually make a difference?
Upon entering the debates, the candidates were virtually tied. Even in the poll with the biggest initial disparity between the two candidates, Obama only led by 4%; however, with the margin of error at 2%, the candidates were essentially tied.
Now, with the debates more over than The Oprah Winfrey Show, the candidates are still separated by the exact same margin, though now Romney leads. In short, they entered tied, they left tied, and I wasted six hours of my life watching this crap.