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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Looking for the 'Horses and Bayonets' Bounce

Google debate graphic for term 'horses and bayonets'
That Google graphic is really all you need if you want to learn who won the debate last night. Snap polling is unreliable, but the consensus seems to be that Obama won. CNN's poll gives it to Obama, 48%-40%. Public Policy Polling's results [pdf] were more stark, with a 53%-42% Obama win. And CBS News reports an absolute blowout: 53% Obama to 23% Romney. Yeah, that's a two -- as in twenty-three.

But it's the fact that everyone's searching the "horses and bayonets" line that confirms these findings. That wasn't exactly a Romney gaffe, but it's sort of a gaffe that Obama forced on him. One of the few foreign policy positions that Romney didn't completely reverse himself on last night was his promise to throw $2 trillion at our already bloated military and build ships the Navy hasn't requested. And Obama whacked him for it:

But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works.

You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.


And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.

And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward because it just doesn't work.

When people are looking for that particular bit of text (or video), things are not going Mitt Romney's way. Romney, clearly out of his depth on foreign policy, played for a draw. He didn't get it. "President Obama won the foreign policy debate, cleanly and decisively, on both style and substance," writes Joe Klein. "It was as clear a victory as Mitt Romney's in the first debate." Romney screwed over his neocon backers, he abandoned the warmongering cowards in the base, he threw the Willard Romney of just last week under the bus -- and for nothing. He lost. He so lost.

The question now is whether that will matter. Romney's hoping it doesn't, but history shows it could -- easily. Nate Silver writes that the third debate has historically resulted in the smallest bounce, but with the race so tight, a small bounce could easily lead to an Obama victory. "If Mr. Obama’s head-to-head polling were 2 percentage points higher right now, he would be a considerably clearer favorite in the forecast, about 85 percent," he writes. "A 1-point bounce would bring him to 80 percent, and even a half-point bounce would advance his position to being a 75 percent favorite in the forecast."

So, if you're hoping for a bounce like Romney got from the first debate, you're going to be disappointed -- and you shouldn't be.

Silver cautions -- as I did earlier -- that snap polls are unreliable, but I think it's unlikely that things will swing around toward a Romney debate victory. I mean, did you see it?

No, if this debate results in any change to the race, it'll be to President Obama's advantage. And he only needs a small advantage.


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