A couple quick, mostly non-partisan comments on media coverage of debates here.
First, the media certainly covers the importance of firing up the base, and differences in enthusiasm among each candidate's supporters. These points are underscored by poll outcomes that differ depending on whether registered voters or just likely voters are included. All this is a reminder that, for each candidate, voters fall into one of, let's say, five categories (although one could concoct various schema):
1. For the opponent and definitely voting
2. For the opponent but only possibly voting
4. For the candidate but only possibly voting
5. For the candidate and definitely voting
But this reality seemed to be largely ignored in last night's debate analysis. Odd, since there are so many damn people out there opining about it. What seems to have been missed, at least among the range of source I subject myself to, is that certain debate moments may have different effects depending on the type of voter. Take Obama's guns and bayonets comment. It made group 1 and possibly group 2 cry. It made group 4 and group 5 cheer. It probably didn't affect group 3 (unless, after all that deliberation and hesitation, some of them were still basing their vote on likability, saw the candidates as close on likability, and felt this comment made Obama less likable, to the extent that Romney overtook him on this count. I know--doubtful). So, the real question is, did it drive more Romney or Obama "possible" voters to the polls. No one knows the answer, but that doesn't mean the correct question shouldn't be asked. There is some discussion of whether an overall debate performance fired up the base or converted undecideds, but not all that much. We need a systematic approach.
Which brings us to point two. Post-debate analysis that refers to Twitter can't be banned, but it should automatically disqualify the station that airs it from any Emmy or other TV award. As if the DC media wasn't too Beltway-blinded to begin with, too obsessed with partisan spin, they are now institutionalizing it in their coverage. It's gross and lazy. As a social scientist, it's offensive because one's Twitter feed is so obviously not representative of anything (even if one tries to get a smattering of viewpoints on it). As a citizen, it's disgusting. As a former journalist, I find it lazy, lazy as hell. Do some real reporting, folks.
And, finally, point three, which is our one partisan point here, although the facts are transparent and supported. Hearing the Right (and some others) say that Obama's performance means that 1) he's losing in the polls and 2) made him look weak, is a joke. Granted, it is possible that he came out strong because he feels like he needs to shore up his leads in Ohio and other places, like Nevada and New Hampshire. But to make it part of a victory narrative for Romney is incorrect or, at least, premature. And the concept that anyone other than a relative few Beltway navel gazers--and the uncritical folks in their audience--felt that coming out strong made him look weak is yet more proof that the DC media needs to come up for some air. Folks may not have liked Obama's debate performance for other reasons, but it was anything but weak.