Laura Hollis

1. What does “undecided” mean?

“Undecided” voters in New York state are evidently different from “undecided” voters in Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, or Nevada. “Undecided” in New York can apparently be loosely translated as, “Please, Mr. President, give me a reason to vote for you again.” Next time, either put the “swing state townhall” in a real swing state, or don’t waste our time. There are few things more BORING than watching Obama voters pretend they aren’t really going to vote for him this time.

2. “Binders” of women
Am I missing something? This has become an internet meme overnight. Maybe SNL can do something with it this weekend, but it doesn’t strike me as remotely humorous.

3. It’s time to play “Pick the Moderator”

If I were the head of the RNC, I would simply refuse to participate in this charade of “moderated” debates anymore, unless Republicans – not the “Commission on Presidential Debates” -- get to choose two of the moderators. I personally feel that Jim Lehrer did an acceptable job as moderator precisely because he did not insert himself into the debate. But Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley both demonstrated that liberal press personalities (and that’s most of them) are incapable of playing it even-handedly, interrupting and cutting off the conservative candidate more often, tolerating interruptions and bad behavior, affording more time to the liberal candidate, and even (in Candy Crowley’s case), “fact-checking” in the middle of the debate – with incorrect “facts”! (Yes, she admitted she was wrong after the fact – thanks, Candy – to paraphrase President Obama, “Can you say that a little louder, and in front of a national viewing audience of 50 million people?”) Going forward, the RNC should insist that we get two liberal moderators from the press, and two mediaconservatives, of the RNC’s choosing. Imagine how differently things could go if the debate were being moderated by Victor Davis Hanson of National Review, or Fred Barnes from The Weekly Standard. It is absurd that conservative politicians have to keep up the happy dance as liberal moderators fire bullets at their feet, while we all pretend they’ll be unbiased next time. Enough.

4. George Bush isn’t running.

Someone needs to tell that poor Obama voter that George W. Bush has not been on the presidential ballot in eight years. The idea that a candidate should have to distinguish himself from someone who last ran for national office in 2004 is ridiculous. Stupid question, but since Candy Crowley selected them, see #2, above.

5. Romney did not “blow” the Libya question

A number of people have criticized Governor Romney for not hitting the president harder on Libya. I disagree. It is perfectly understandable that Romney would be thrown when the moderator inserts herself into the debate, and then – inaccurately - claims that the President’s first public statement about Benghazi characterized it as a “terrorist attack.” We all watched while statement after statement came out from the administration, blaming that asinine YouTube video, and calling it a “spontaneous protest.” That Obama would want to rewrite history is understandable. That the press would do so – and in the middle of the debate – was astonishing. Anyone would have been gobsmacked, and Romney rebounded as well as anyone could have. To have been more insistent – without the videotape right there, for example – would have made him look belligerent, combative, and defensive. Far better to let the fact checkers point out immediately after the debate – and for days thereafter – that Obama was trying to deceive the American public, and that Candy Crowley helped him do it. This keeps the issue at the forefront of public consciousness, going into the final debate about – ta-daaaa! – foreign policy. Expect Governor Romney to have transcripts at his fingertips next week, if need be.

6.There’s “won.” And then there’s “won.”
The poll results demonstrate the difference between asking, “Who won the debate?” and “Who is going to win the election?” In a CBS poll, undecided voters indicated that Obama “won” the debate, but only by a plurality; 63% were either unsure who won, or gave the win to Romney. More significantly, CNN reported that polled voters gave Romney a substantial edge on issues like the economy (58% – 40%), health care (49% – 46%), taxes (51% - 44%), controlling the deficit (49% - 36%), and leadership (49% - 46%). Even the group polled by MSNBC went for Romney. So Democrats need to ask themselves this question: will voters select a president who won a debate? Or one in whom they have more confidence to fix the economy, health care, taxes, and the deficit? I think they already know the answer to that one.

7.It doesn’t move the needle the way they think it will
Democrat consultant Joe Trippi summed it up best last night when he said, “I think it stopped the bleeding” for the Obama campaign. Meaning that Obama loyalists will not be filled with despair, and the good folks at MSNBC will have a breather in between spells of apoplexy. But if the feedback from undecided voters on both Fox and MSNBC are any indication, momentum for the Romney campaign will continue to grow. Expect more of the same: polls will still slightly oversample Democrats and Obama will still not be able to crack the 50% mark, Gallup will keep dishing up more bad news for the president, crowds at Romney rallies will increase, swing states will keep swinging for Romney, and – worst of all for President Obama – Benghazi will stay in the news right up to the date of the next debate. The game changer was the first debate. From here on out, it is all about confirmation and turnout.


Laura Hollis

Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.