This morning, President Obama moved one step closer to reelection. The September jobs report showed 114,000 jobs added -- and unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent -- the lowest rate in four years. In addition, August jobs numbers were revised upwards. Yes, Governor Romney won the debate Wednesday night in Denver in convincing fashion, but that bounce may be somewhat short-lived. Team Romney desperately needed a 1-2 punch -- a great debate and a poor unemployment report -- to realign this campaign. They got the first but not the second and so, with 32 days to go, the race is tightening but it is still Obama's to lose.
Now he might do just that if he doesn't have a better second debate. Let's go back to Wednesday night for a moment. This wasn't just a convincing win for Governor Romney, it was a loss for the president. Listen to the pundits and we heard it all: Romney aggressive, the President didn't want to be there, Obama isn't used to people challenging him, Romney had facility with facts and data, Obama was on the defensive, etc. All true. But the visceral translation for some swing voters was this: Romney just might be better than the president we have now. Romney strategist Stuart Stevens put it well when he said "the president didn't have a bad debate, he has a bad record." And Obama failed to defend that record on Wednesday. For those 90 minutes this election was both a referendum and a choice... and Team Obama wants nothing to do with the referendum part.
We have all seen the numbers. More than 67 million people watched the debates on television and an indeterminate amount watched online. Snap polls showed that viewers thought Romney "won" by a two to one margin. Romney even won big in the social media universe. Below is an analysis of social media mentions of the two candidates -- as well as a look at voter sentiment toward them -- for a period including the debate and one hour after its conclusion. Romney led in terms of sheer volume: 54 percent to 46 percent. This almost never happens because those on social media tend to be younger and, as a result, they are far more likely to be Obama supporters. Typical social media volume for the president is two to one in his favor when compared to Governor Romney's.
The data below shows the total volume of conversation (includes: Twitter, blogs, online news, Facebook and forums) and overall sentiment toward President Obama and Governor Romney immediately before, during and after Wednesday's Presidential debate. The charts validate our expectation that Romney's strong performance during the debate would lead to an increase in online conversation and generate positive commentary.
What comes next? Look for key battleground states polls early next week. That will tell us how much the election has been realigned. The vice presidential debate will be interesting, but what everyone will be waiting for is Romney-Obama Redux. And for that one, the media will be poised to write the "Obama comeback" story. If Obama is even moderately engaged in the second debate, the media will likely proclaim him the winner. OK, we jest (sort of). But the point is that the president will go into that debate as the underdog, allowing him to play the expectations game to his advantage.
Thanks again to Pete Ventimiglia, Geoff Nykin, Kelsey Cohen and Allison Quigley for their insights and contributions to the Election Monitor. Follow us on Twitter: @Steve_Lombardo.
Please note that the author was an advisor to the Romney for President campaign in 2008, but is not affiliated with any campaign in 2012.