Analysis: Who won Round 2?

The short answer is, That’s easy. Barack Obama, if only in the line of thinking of film director Woody Allen’s observation that 80 percent of success is showing up.

The president by and large didn’t show up for the first debate of the 2012 cycle Oct. 3 in Denver, and suffered greatly at the polls as a result – turning what had been a three-point lead in the Real Clear Politics poll average into a slight (less than half a percentage point) lead for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The pressure was clearly on Obama to deliver if not a knockout performance last night, then at the least put up a helluva fight – and that the president did.

As to whether it will matter in the polls … the jury will be out on that one for at least the next couple of days.

Remember that it took close to a full week before the full extent of the Romney bounce became apparent in the polls. This time around, the followup debate – the third and final in the series of presidential debates this fall – is scheduled to take place within that week time frame.

It may be, then, that any positive movement to Obama resulting from his win on points last night on Long Island could be muted in the polls.

From a horse-race perspective, let’s say that the two are now running neck-and-neck, with the third debate being key for both sides, maybe more so Romney.

We’ve used boxing and horse-racing analogies and will now go to baseball to illustrate this next point. Obama, as the incumbent, gets the last at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. The old saying in baseball is that you play for the tie if you’re the home team and you play for the win if you’re on the road.

If the race goes into Nov. 6 too close to call, it resembles 2004, when Democrat John Kerry was within the margin of error in the polls behind Republican George W. Bush, to the point that the early exit polls from Election Day actually had Kerry winning the White House.

That one ended up going Bush’s way, and the slight, slight headwind that Obama gets being the incumbent this year may be enough to push him past the finish line if we get to the final day at or near a dead-heat.

One more sports analogy, this time from football, and then we can be done for the day. Romney can’t go into Monday night’s debate thinking that he can kick a field goal and then play prevent defense for the final two weeks and expect to win the close one. He need to put the ball in the end zone and then blitz, blitz, blitz, blitz.

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