North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

Opinion

October 24, 2012

Our Views: Debates give insight into candidates, but do they sway voters?

AN NJN EDITORIAL — Monday night’s presidential debate, the last of three scheduled for this year, featuring President Barack Obama and challenger Gov. Mitt Romney, pointed out the stark differences between the candidates. They have often provided for great theater, if not necessarily giving voters something to really chew on.

But the big question: Do these debates actually do anything to move the needle one way or another in the election itself?

The final answer will come on the first Tuesday in November, of course. But there is ample evidence that, at least in this election cycle, the debates — particularly the first one, which even most liberals agreed that Romney won — have mattered.

Before the first debate, Obama was ahead by about 2 percentage points in most major polls. Afterward, Romney had a pronounced bounce, with Monday’s Gallup poll of about 3,500 likely voters showed a seven-day moving average of 51 percent of voters favoring the former governor, and 45 percent for the president. (Other polls had a smaller Romney lead or a dead heat.)

The challenger largely kept his lead after the second “town hall” debate, which was widely regarded as either a draw or a slight win for Obama. Opinions after the final debate are still being sampled.

The most important thing that these debates provide are an unfiltered view into the two candidates. No editorial opinions (like ours), no campaign commercials, no barrages of attack ads funded by so-called super-PACs, no spin. Just two men duking it out politically — though it seemed at times they would duke it out physically in the town hall debate.

It is political discourse in its purest form, if not always its finest.

So now they’re done, and we’re left with a sprint to the finish. A week from Tuesday, and we’ll vote to keep our current president, or to replace him. We hope you are earnestly considering your choice.

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