DENVER -- How President Obama’s lackluster performance and Mitt Romney’’ forceful response at their first face-to-face confrontation will play among undecided voters is an open question, awaiting the next round of polling in the battleground states. But political observers say Wednesday night’s showdown had a keen effect on both political parties.
“It’s hard to tell if it is a game changer at the level of ... undecided voters. It’s clearly a game changer for the bases of both parties,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster.
Ciruli said he addressed two Republican-leaning business groups Thursday, and that the change in their mood was palpable.
“They stood up and cheered when I said, ‘Well, was last night a good night for you?’ They are revived,” Ciruli said. Previously, “they were very dispirited in what they saw as a sort of lackluster and gaffe-prone September, and now they feel tremendous vigor.”
Though the impact on undecided voters is unknown, the mobilization of the GOP base will benefit Romney in multiple ways, he said: larger, more telegenic crowds at rallies, more volunteers and less need to spend resources pushing the party’s base voters to the polls.
“Most importantly, they are going to vote. They don’’ need mobilization now,” Ciruli said. “They are very much up.”
For Democrats, the silver lining may be that a campaign, a candidate and a ground force that had grown complacent after months of favorable polling is now reenergized, he said.
“I also have received and seen a number of emails, traffic between Democrats saying, ‘Gosh, we can’t be taking this for granted, there’s a few more days left for voter registration,’” Ciruli said. “In other words, a bit of overconfidence has been diminished in the Democratic campaign.”
He said Democrats he spoke with were dispirited by the debate. While complaining that Romney misrepresented his positions, they also realized the debate was potentially pivotal.
The next key moment, he added, will be the second debate between the two candidates later this month.
“Obviously, for both groups, they are going to be watching the next debate a lot more intensely than they would have been,” Ciruli said. “Republicans are going to be a bit anxious and hoping it continues, and Democrats want to see a reset.”
But he questioned how it would affect undecided voters in Colorado.
“This state will, in my view, remain in play unless something dramatically changes,” he said.