How badly was Obama hurt by last night's debate?*

debate4.jpgWell, the president's chances of being re-elected took a noticeable drop on Intrade, the online trader's market, falling from around 76 percent on Monday to the current 66 percent. Now to be clear, Obama's numbers have been quite a bit lower during the campaign (52 percent in late June), and Intrade has been proven quite fallible in its election bets. But no matter how you slice it, a 10-point drop ain't great. And I'm guessing that as assessments of Wednesday night's drubbing keep making the rounds, his prospects will fall even further. From the WSJ:

"Let's be blunt: If the debate last evening had been a heavyweight prize fight between a seemingly indomitable champion (the President) and a reasonably well respected challenger (Mr. Romney), this would have been a first round knockout by the challenger," says investor Dennis Gartman, author of the eponymous daily investment newsletter. "It was not even close."

Which brings us to Friday morning's employment report for September. Guesstimates about the number of payroll jobs added are hovering around the 120,000 mark - not great, but not horrible. Watch those numbers - they're likely to shape the election spin. From Barron's columnist Randall Forsyth:

While the debate slightly tilted the presidential odds slightly in favor of the challenger while maintaining the president's solid lead in the Intrade market, the September jobs report may have more impact on the race. A weak number would likely narrow the gap in the polls. A robust one, meanwhile would lend credence to the president's campaign theme his policies are working.

From the NYT's Nate Silver:

It seems likely that Mr. Romney will make at least some gains in head-to-head polls after the debate, and entirely plausible that they will be toward the high end of the historical range, in which polls moved by about three percentage points toward the candidate who was thought to have the stronger debate.

For what it's worth, I think the president did himself a lot of damage. First debates always get more attention than the others, and the opening minutes of that initial exchange are usually the most crucial. Those were Romney's best moments. The positive for Obama is that he didn't do or say anything that's likely to be picked up and replayed again and again - as with Al Gore sighing or George H. W. Bush looking at his watch. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see Romney pick up at least two or three points - perhaps more in the battleground states. The president remains the favorite, but not by much.

*Update: For whatever reason Intrade has Obama's chances edging higher this morning, at 68.7 percent.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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