Commentary Magazine


Debate Gives Romney Likability Boost

Mitt Romney accomplished in one night of debate what the marquee names of the Republican Party couldn’t accomplish in three nights of the convention: he boosted his likability rating. A CBS News poll found that the percentage of undecided voters who say they feel Romney cares about their needs spiked by 33 percent after last night’s performance:

By a 2 to 1 margin, uncommitted voters crowned Mitt Romney the winner over President Obama in the first presidential debate in Debate, Colo., on Wednesday night, according to a 500-person instant poll taken by CBS News.

Perhaps most promising for Romney, whose upper-class income has helped stifle his ability to relate to the “average American,” the percentage of those polled who said they felt the former Massachusetts governor cares about their needs and problems spiked from 30 percent pre-debate to 63 percent post-debate. President Obama also enjoyed a bump in that category, with 53 percent of voters saying they believed he cares about their issues before the debate, moving to 69 percent after the debate. …

Uncommitted debate watchers saw Mitt Romney as the winner on handling the economy (60 to 39 percent) and the deficit (68 to 31 percent), just as they did before the debate. These voters also think Romney will do a better job on taxes (52 to 47 percent), a reversal from before the debate, when uncommitted voters gave the president a 52 to 40 percent advantage on that. The president still leads on Medicare, 53 to 45 percent.

CNN, which surveyed registered voters for its snap poll, found that Romney actually led Obama on the likability question after the debate:

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said Romney fared better, compared with 25 percent for Obama, according to results aired on CNN after the match concluded. Forty-six percent said they found Romney more likeable, compared with 45 percent for Obama, CNN reported.

It’s still early, and we won’t get a clear idea of how much impact Romney’s win will have on the race until at least the next couple of days. But these numbers are definitely an encouraging early indication for the Romney campaign.

If you want to get an idea of how individual undecided voters responded to last night’s debate, check out the video of Frank Luntz’s focus group on Sean Hannity’s show last night. Key quote from Luntz: “We’ve done these now for Fox News back in 2008, I’ve done these for other networks in the past, I will tell you I have not had a group that has swung this much…This is overwhelming for Mitt Romney. This is a big deal.”