Analysis: Two out of three … enough?

Post-debate polls gave Barack Obama a win in the rubber match of the three-debate series with Mitt Romney, but as with his win in Round 2, it was far from the kind of blowout win that Romney had in Round 1 back on Oct. 3.

The Oct. 3 performance from Romney was a game-changer, lifting the Republican nominee to a virtual dead heat in the polls that has persisted since.

At least that’s the conventional wisdom, if there’s anything resembling conventional wisdom in this wacky 2012 election cycle.

All that the game-changer Oct. 3 debate win for Romney did was turn what had been a nominal Obama lead into a nominal dead heat. It was the news media that had been declaring that small Obama lead to be indomitable, with breathless reporting and commentary on how the Romney campaign was at odds with itself as to what to do to break the logjam.

Even the dominating performance by Romney was a bit of a media trick. The first instant polls taken after that debate had Romney scoring a narrow win, with the impression that it had actually been a Romney beatdown coming after the pundits at CNN and MSNBC in particular declared it so.

So the race tightened, but it had been tight already. And then Obama wins the final two debates, but still can’t seem to pull away despite having done so well.

What we’ve done here is reinforce that the debates don’t really matter, by and large. The less-than-one-in-ten-of-us who say we don’t know how we’re going to vote still have two weeks to make up our minds. The debates will be a distant memory by the time that small base heads to the polls on Nov. 6.

Expect to see a nominal bounce for Obama in the polls in the next week to 10 days. Also expect the race to be within one to two to at most three points in the polls heading into Election Eve.

Which means, of course, that going into Election Day, it’s anybody’s ballgame.

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