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Multiple personalities

multiple-personality.jpgIf you had the stomach to make it all the way through last night’s debates (yes, there was a NC gubernatorial debate as well), then congratulations to you: You now know less about the candidates than you did before you started.

Ok, not exactly. But if you’ve been following any of the campaigns for the past few months, you were probably rather surprised to see which version of each candidate showed to debate last night. We had “aw, shucks” McCrory, a surprisingly animated Walter Dalton, a less-than-polished Obama, and, most surprisingly, a quasi-moderate Romney. What the heck is going on?

Over the past few election cycles, it has become increasingly clear that, at least at the presidential level, a candidate’s performance is far more a function of debate prep than of their actual debate ability. For this reason, I wasn’t overly surprised that Mr. Romney performed so well last night, as he has been intensely preparing for weeks, while Mr. Obama has not.

What was surprising, however, was the substance of the responses, especially on Mr. Romney’s part. Not only was he able to avoid any campaign-ending gaffs, but he effectively moved to the center on a few of his core issues while still remaining on the offense for the majority of the debate.

There is near-universal agreement that Romney “won” the debate last night, but many also feel that neither performance will sway the electorate in one way or another. I agree on both counts. As an antidotal example, I spoke this morning with the one of my friends who is still undecided about the election, and he said that the debate was not useful at all for him in making up his mind. I anticipate that sentiment will be illustrated in polling numbers in the coming days.

So, what I’m really saying is that we all wasted our entire evening yesterday. Unless, of course, you watched the Yankees game instead.