Political Pros: Romney Momentum vs. Stronger Obama

We asked political veterans for their reactions to the second Obama-Romney debate, and here they provide their analysis. The contributors are Mark S. Mellman, Democratic pollster and Mellman Group president; Frank J. Donatelli, former Reagan political director and current GOPAC chairman; and David Winston, GOP strategist and president of the Winston Group.

Donatelli: Constant Attacks, but No Re-Election Rationale

As advertised, President Barack Obama was more aggressive, constantly calling Mitt Romney‘s current views a change from his past statements. He attacked Mr. Romney’s positions on taxes, spending and regulation of business. He scored at the very beginning with an attack on Mr. Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout and never missed an opportunity to attack Republicans, private corporations and the wealthy. All of this will no doubt cheer his partisans.

What he failed again to do was to offer a coherent rationale for his re-election. His failure to explain why things would be better in a second Obama Administration is still the missing element in his re-election campaign.

For his part, Mr. Romney attacked the incumbent’s record at every opportunity. He recited the dreary statistics on Mr. Obama’s record on deficits, job creation and economic growth on numerous occasions. Building on the credibility he achieved in the first debate, he spent considerable time discussing the economic future he envisions. He gave a particularly strong answer in attacking Mr. Obama’s energy policies after going toe to toe with the president for several exchanges. It is unusual for the challenger to be more specific on his agenda than the incumbent, but that is the continuing dynamic of this race.

Debates are all about appealing to soft partisans and undecided voters. For those voters looking for specific programs and ideas to change the status quo, Mr. Romney came out far ahead. His pledge to work across party lines to find common ground also resonated with this target audience.

The public has been open to the idea of a new president for the past two years. It has only been in the last two weeks that Americans have warmed to the idea of Mitt Romney as that man. He is no longer seen through the prism of Mr. Obama’s negative ads as voters now have a more complete picture of the man, his views, and his qualifications. The status quo prior to the first debate cannot be restored. if that was Mr. Obama’s aim, he was destined to fail.

The GOP surge continues.