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2012: Did the debate change the race's trajectory?

“Buoyed by a powerful debate showing, Mitt Romney said Thursday he offers ‘prosperity that comes through freedom’ to a country struggling to shed a weak economy. President Barack Obama accused the former Massachusetts governor of running from his own record in pursuit of political power,” AP’s Espo writes. “Both men unleashed new attack ads in the battleground states in a race with little more than a month to run, Obama suggesting Romney couldn’t be trusted with the presidency, and the Republican accusing the president of backing a large tax increase on the middle class. The debate reached 67.2 million viewers, an increase of 28 percent over the first debate in the 2008 presidential campaign.”

Michael Hirsch: “Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered to notice—he seemed to think he was at a White House news conference, not a debate—but while the president was acting so veddy, veddy presidential on Wednesday night, his challenger, Mitt Romney, decisively made his long-anticipated leap to the center. And if the GOP nominee stays there, he may yet have a chance to take Obama’s job away from him.”

Charlie Cook’s not so sure: “It would take a very consequential event to change the trajectory of this race. Time will tell whether Romney’s strong debate performance on Wednesday night was the event that he needed—particularly in swing states such as Ohio. But at least he energized his supporters and sent a clear message that the race is not over. … Romney had a six-week stretch where nothing broke his way. Now we’ll see if his debate performance was a turning point—or a brief interruption—in the campaign narrative.”