The American electorate has been broken down by percentages over the past year in a variety of ways: from the 99% refrain of the Occupiers to the 47% Mitt Romney knows he can’t win. Tonight’s debate speaks to that increasingly small percentage of Americans who have yet to make up their minds.
They get to play kingmaker as polling indicators show a tightening race.
The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Obama up 49-46% among likely voters. That’s down a bit since the relative glow of the Democratic convention.
But while the national polls are tightening, the electoral college map continues to be rough terrain for Romney. This helpful map from the Fix shows the difficulty for the GOP. Despite a close national race, Romney has to get to 270 electoral votes and unless he turns it around in states like Ohio and overcomes Obama in Virginia, Florida, and a few more, 270 remains elusive. He’s got a lot of work to do over the next few weeks.
I suspect both candidates will do well tonight and they’ll keep the race close. But there are not likely to be great displays of fireworks. Presidential debates are actually quite boring. We remember various words or phrases from past debates (or “sighs” and orange makeup in the case of Al Gore) because they seem to suggest game changing moments. They weren’t.
Chris Christie thinks we’ll wake up on Thursday to a new campaign narrative. He’s wrong. The Wall Street Journal poll tells us that the race is already tightening before a single word has been spoken in the debate.