Just under a month ago, I noted to much criticism that were the election held that day Mitt Romney would lose. The right did not like it, but it was the simple truth. At the time, Romney was flailing about badly without a coherent message. I wrote that he could turn it around, but at that time he had not.
Well, who knew Mitt Romney's October Surprise would be mopping up Denver with Barack Obama. I still haven't been able to calculate how many calories Mitt Romney consumed eating Barack Obama's lunch that day.
Nonetheless, it made a difference. What is so telling is that throughout the debate Romney hammered the most consistent message he has had since he finally found a consistent message — too many people are out of work and we can do better now, not by waiting for Barack Obama to get his act together. The commercial Romney did in the past few weeks looking into the camera, talking about our problems, resonated with swing voters. It particularly resonated with women. His debate performance solidified it.
Liberals are now in full meltdown and the press is doing "how can Obama turn it around" profiles now.
If the election were held today, the race is so close and momentum is so strongly with Mitt Romney right now, I believe he will win the race. Never mind that the Politico has been telling us for two months that the race is flat out over.
There is still peril out there for Romney. If Barack Obama is able to just utter one sentence without stuttering, we know the media will declare him the comeback kid. Republicans are getting terribly cocky about Paul Ryan's debate with Joe Biden. They shouldn't. Swing state numbers are still shaky. But the aggressive Romney has actually worked.
The question I have is whether or not he keeps it up. It clearly worked in the debate. Romney schooling Obama gave voters what they wanted. Many of us, myself included, have had a sense that voters were just sitting out there waiting for Romney to show them that he could, in fact, lead and did, in fact, understand both what is wrong with the country and what he could do to fix it. For a variety of reasons, though we all know he could demonstrate both those things, he never has effectively with swing voters until the debate.
More striking, it was more an "emperor has no clothes" moment than anything else. Finally, swing voters saw Obama the way conservatives have seen him all along.
Put it to you this way — for four years, conservatives have ridiculed Obama for his inability to speak without a teleprompter. The right has generally used this critique against him through each big speech and it has been treated dismissively or racist by the left and media. Before the sun rose last Thursday morning, every leftist in America was lamenting Barack Obama's lack of teleprompter. The conservative critique finally found ground outside the conservative echo chamber.
The same thing happened with the conservative critique of Obama as petulant and thin skinned. It took this debate against Romney for everyone else to see him as we have long seen him. That's important. It means our criticisms of the President have moved into mainstream opinion and makes it difficult for him to overcome those now.
There will still be ups and downs between now and Election Day. Mitt Romney could still blow it. The President could be resurgent in future debates. After all, past Presidents have mostly always lost the first debate. Americans could decide they believe part-time burger flipping now considered a full time job is a sign the economy is turning around.
But were the election held today, we'd be looking at President-Elect Romney. We should at least enjoy it today.