8:55 am Oct. 4, 2012
There wasn't much debate about who won last night's presidential debate in Denver, with the only real question being how much it would matter, and to whom.
The instant polls gave a clear win to Mitt Romney, and suggested the debate could help the image problem that has plagued him in some swing states, if he didn't over-do it with his attacks on President Obama.
In a CBS News poll of "uncommitted" 500 voters, 44 percent said Romney won, compared to just 22 percent who felt Obama won. The remaining 32 percent thought it was a tie.
Just over half said they viewed Romney in a better light after the debate, and the percentage who felt Romney cared about their issues shot up from 30 percent before the debate to 63 percent after the debate. (Though Romney still trailed Obama on that score, whose numbers also shot up, from 53 percent to 69 percent.)
But another post-debate poll, from CNN, had Romney's favorable rating up just two percent after the debate, despite the fact that 67 percent of voters thought Romney had won. That was the highest number since Ronald Reagan got a 60 percent win in 1984, when the question was first asked, according to CNN's polling director.
Only 46 percent said Romney was more likeable in the debate, and there's some evidence his more aggressive posture, which was a hit with pundits, might have turned off some voters, particularly women.
A focus group of 30 Las Vegas area "Walmart moms"—which is, apparently, a demographic being tracked closely—there was a general sense that Romney had won (not a single hand went up for Obama), but perhaps at some cost.
The women used words like “rude,” “pushy” and “assertive”—in a bad way—to describe Romney's demeanor, according to an ABC News report. A National Journal report about the same group made it sound bad for Obama, with words like "defeated" and "backpedaling."
Another dial-response focus group, organized by the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA and conducted in Aurora, Colorado, conceded that Romney had negated the president's advantage on the issue of taxes, but also claimed only 1 in 7 of its attendees, described as weak Obama supporters of independents, had view Romney's performance favorably.
"For these key swing voters, whom Obama must hold and Romney must win, the first debate did not change much, but it also did not settle much," wrote Geoff Garin, the pollster, in an email memo distributed to reporters. "Obama continues to have the advantage with them, but the deal still is not sealed."