Debates Will Impact National, State Vote, Insiders Say

Republicans feel Gov. Mitt Romney rode the momentum of his strong start, while Democrats believe President Barack Obama rebounded down the stretch.

From “bayonets and horses” to “binders full of women” the presidential and vice-presidential debates were chock-full of memorable moments.

Moments that will carry either President Barack Obama or Gov. Mitt Romney to victory Nov. 6, or be pointed to as a reason for one of the candidates’ defeat.

And with the fourth and final debate in the books, Patch asked: Who gained an edge during the back-and-forth bantering over the last month?

For Republicans who responded to Patch’s latest survey of political insiders, the first debate between Romney and Obama set the tone and marked the beginning of a momentum-building run for the GOP candidate.

Democrats who responded to the survey, however, said Obama bounced back nicely and that Team Obama won the final three debates and, in essence, the presidency.

“The (president) and (vice president) winning three of four debates will be viewed by history as a key factor in getting them re-elected,” one respondent wrote.

When Monday's debate ended, Patch sent its "Blue Wisconsin" and "Red Wisconsin" surveys to more than 150 influential members of both parties who have agreed to be regularly polled between now and the Nov. 6 election. The panel includes party leaders, elected officials, talk show hosts and prominent political bloggers.

Parties align with their candidates

Most of the 22 Democratic respondents — more than 86 percent — felt the Obama-Joe Biden team helped its chances to win the election by either a wide or slim margin over the Romney-Paul Ryan team with its combined performance during the four debates.

And two moments stood out to Democrats the most: Romney’s “binders full of women” comment in the second debate and candidate’s back-and-forth on Libya during that same town-hall event.

“The one defining moment was when Mitt Romney was proven wrong about Libya and President Obama’s response during the town hall,” one respondent replied. “It showed Mitt Romney is willing to do and say whatever it takes to win, even if that means lying.”

The “binders of women” comment, “made women very angry” and “a lot of women took issue with that statement and what it represents,” respondents said. 

Meanwhile, nearly 88 percent of the 33 influential Republicans who responded said Romney and Ryan helped themselves the most during the debates to win Nov. 6. Many said Obama’s performance in the initial debate was a momentum builder for the GOP, and that Obama was dismal and horrid, that he “failed to show up,” was asleep and had a “deer in the headlights” look.

“Mitt Romney ‘hitting a grand slam homerun’ in the first debate,” one responded replied when asked what is the one moment that has the potential to change the course of the campaign. “His presence, his confidence, his knowledge, his pleasant demeanor showed the American people the real Mitt Romney, not the one the Obama campaign pictured him via ads for months and months!”

Another respondent said Romney has continuously come out of the debates “looking like a President while Obama has the appearance of being the challenger.”

And Monday's winner was ...

A majority of the 33 Republican respondents felt Romney won Monday’s debate, but 45.5 percent of them thought he did so by only a slim margin with 27 percent feeling it was by a wide margin. Another 21 percent felt there was no winner.

Two Republicans thought Obama won last night’s debate.

Several Republican respondents thought Romney earned high marks for highlighting what he dubbed Obama’s “apology tour” and thought Obama’s “bayonets and horses” comment was one of the more memorable of the evening.

The “bayonets and horses” comment also resonated among influential Democrats, as 14 respondents pointed to it as the most memorable moment of the debate. They felt it accentuated Romney’s “naivety” and “shallow understanding of foreign policy.”

Of the 22 responding Democrats, 19 (or 86.4 percent) said Obama won the final debate by a wide margin. One said Obama had a slight edge, one said there was no winner and one even said Romney won by a wide margin.

Several influential Republicans felt Romney played it relatively conservatively in the third and final debate and were surprised that he didn’t attack more. One respondent believes it was because the Romney camp feels it’s in the lead.

“A clear line was drawn between the two contenders,” another Republican respondent wrote. “One was clearly up to the task, while the other was outclassed and never deserved the job he has abused these past (four) years.

Other findings from the unscientific survey:

  • Democrats were split on whether or not Obama and Biden did enough during the debates to carry Wisconsin next month. Nine strongly agreed that tandem did, and another eight somewhat agreed. But three weren’t sure either way and two strongly disagreed.
  • Nearly 73 percent of Patch’s influential Republican strongly agreed that Romney and Ryan did enough in the debates to increase their chances of carrying Wisconsin, with the other 27 percent somewhat agreeing.

Patch will be conducting "Red Wisconsin" and "Blue Wisconsin" surveys between now and the election in hopes of determining the true sentiment of active members of both parties in the Badger State. Not everyone who agreed to be part of our survey panels participated in this survey.

Participants in Patch's Red Wisconsin Survey are:

Jim  Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, former chief of staff for Assembly Republican Leader Jeff Fitzgerald; Bill Berdan, first vice chairman, Wauwatosa Republicans; Keith  Best, public relations chairman for Waukesha County Republicans;  Bob Bradley, party activist; Charles Brey, field director for state Assembly candidate Tracy Herron; Tracy Brodd, Republican campaign worker; Paul  Bucher, former Waukesha County district attorney and candidate for Wisconsin attorney general; Roy Catron, Tea Party activist; Andrew Cegielski, former Milwaukee County Board candidate; Sara Conrad, party activist; Bill Cosh, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources; Michael Crowley, Waukesha County supervisor; Jake Curtis, former state Assembly candidate; Lou D'Abbraccio, board member, Racine County Republican Party;  Brian Dey, Racine County Tea Party member; Fred Dooley, conservative blogger; Steven Duckhorn, former Republican candidate for Milwaukee County sheriff; Bill Folk, chairman of Racine County Republican Party;Elisabeth Friesen, Republican activist; Jesse Garza, chairman, St. Croix County Republican Party; Mark Green, senior director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and former congressman; Chris Haines, longtime campaign volunteer and former GOP campaign manager; Deb Hawley Jordahl, conservative strategist and consultant; John Hiller, co-chair of Scott Walker's transition team as governor; Sandra Hollander,  member of Mitt Romney's  “Juntos con Romney” leadership team; Ethan Hollenberger, former chairman of the College Republicans at Marquette University and staff member on several legislative campaigns; Mark Honadel, state reprsentative, 21st District; Marguerite Ingold, party activist; Valerie Johnson, former GOP fundraiser and staffer for various campaigns; Thomas J. Keeley, political consultant; Scott Kelly, communications director for former state Sen. Van Wanggaard; Cindy Kilkenny, conservative blogger; Rik Kluessendorf, attorney and former state Assembly candidate; Dan Knodl, state representative, 24th District; Tif Koehler, campaign volunteer and civic leader; Johnny Koremenos, regional field director for Tommy Thompson campaign; Gordon Lang, member of North Shore Republicans; Chris Larsen, trustee in Village of Sturtevant Trustee; Noelle Lorraine, field coordinator for Americans for Prosperity; John P. Macy, first vice chairman of Waukesha County Republican Party; Kathleen Madden, Waukesha County Clerk of Circuit Court; Ginny Marschman, party activist; Jessica McBride, conservative columnist; Bill McCoshen political consultant and; former cabinet secretary for Gov. Tommy Thompson; Joe Medina, party activist; Randy Melchert, field director for Mark Neumann's campaign; Gerald Mellone, Brookfield alderman; Ryan Morgan, conservative blogger; Dean Munday, conservative blogger; Mark Neumann, U.S. Senate candidate and former congressman; Kelly O'Brien, founder of Shorewood Citizens for Responsible Government; Eric Wm. Olsen, conservative activist; Nick Oliver, state Assembly candidate, 22nd District; Victoria Ostry, treasurer of the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women.; Rick Owen, Brookfield alderman; Monnine  Parnitzke, party activist; Steve Ponto, mayor of Brookfield; Don Pridemore, state representative, 99th District; Paris Procopis, grassroots activist; Jim  Pugh, director of public relations and issue management for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; Denise Rate, Tea Party member; Bob Reddin, Brookfield alderman and executive director, Jobs First Coalition; Pam Reeves, treasurer, Waukesha County Republicans;  Joe Rice, former county supervisor and member of North Shore Republicans Executive Committee; Nate Ristow, candidate for 13th District State Assembly; Brandon Rosner, Wisconsin Republican consultant;  Bill Savage, aide to state Rep. Don Pridemore and  officer of Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association; Jim  Schaefer, Muskego-Norway School Board president; Josh Schimek, conservative blogger; JB Schmidt, conservative blogger; Christian Schneider, senior fellow at Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and former policy analyst for Wisconsin State Legislature; Ashley Schultz, state director of the Recall Action Fund;  Nick Schweitzer, Libertarian pundit and blogger; Tim Schwister, former State Assembly candidate; Dan Sebring, vice chairman, Milwaukee County Republicans and candidate for 4th Congressional District; Cathy Stepp, Wisconsin Natural Resources secretary and former state senator; Jeff Stone, state representative, 82nd District; Jonathan Strasburg, attorney; Dave  Swarthout, board member, 1st Congressional District Republicans; Charles Sykes, conservative talk show host for WTMJ Radio;  Steve Taylor, Milwaukee County supervisor; Jenny Toftness, executive director of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee; Greg Torres, Jefferson County supervisor; Jim  Villa, former chief of staff to County Executive Scott Walker and Alberta Darling; current CEO of Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin; Robin Vos, state representative; 63rd District; Dan Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive; Yash Wadhwa, former State Assembly candidate; Jeff Wagner, conservative talk show host, WTMJ Radio; Tom Weatherston, candidate for 62nd Assembly District and Village of Caledonia trustee; Steve Welcenbach, head of the Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association and Tea Party activist; Todd Welch, Wisconsin state coordinator at Campaign for Liberty; James Wigderson, conservative blogger and columnist for Waukesha Freeman; Eddie Willing, conservative columnist in Racine County and executive director of FoundersIntent.org; Chris Wright, Sturtevant village trustee and former candidate for State Assembly; Phil Ziegler, CEO of InPro Inc. and party activist.

Patch's Blue Wisconsin Survey participants are:

Kelley Albrecht, candidate for 63rd State Assembly District; Mandela Barnes, candidate for 11th State Assembly District; Ron Biendseil, vice chair for membership, Dane County Democratic Party; Tammy Bockhorst, membership secretary/membership chair, Milwaukee County Democratic Party; Randy Bryce, candidate for 62nd State Assembly District; Brian Carlson, liberal blogger; Sachin Chheda, chair, Milwaukee County Democratic Party; Jeff Christensen, chair, 5th Congressional District Democrats; Mark Conforti, chief negotiator for the Fox Point-Bayside Teachers Association; Rick Congdon, former judge and former chair, Democratic Party of Waukesha County; Deb Dassow, progressive and labor activist, and semi-retired educator; Victor Drover, liberal blogger; Dale Dulberger, party activist; Perry Duman, candidate for the 60th State Assembly District; Brett Eckstein, Democratic attorney; Waring R. Fincke, vice chair, Washington County Democratic Party; Stephanie Findley, chair, 4th Congressional District Democrats; Kelly Gallaher, founding member, Community for Change; Heather Geyer, liberal columnist; Ginny Goode, Grassroots North Shore; Darcy Gustavsson, party activist; Kristin Hansen, neighborhood team leader, Obama for America and co-host, Drinking Liberally Waukesha; Robert Hansen, co-chair of Progressive Democrats of America in Milwaukee County; John Heckenlively, secretary, 1st Congressional District Democrats; Kelly Herda, treasurer, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Women's Caucus and political consultant; Robert Heule, Region 5 Chair, Democratic Party of Milwaukee County; Peter Knudsen, legislative aide and longtime Democratic staffer; Marga Krumins, candidate for 97th State Assembly District and associate chair Democratic Party of Wisconsin Women’s Caucus; Bill Kurtz, candidate for 21st Assembly District; John Lehman, state senator, 21st District; Matthew Lowe, youth outreach director, Waukesha County Democratic Party; Fran Martin, election observer for the Democratic Party and appeared in Wangaard recall ads; Tom Michalski, Oak Creek alderman; Bridget Moen, chair, Democratic Party of Ozaukee County; Meg Moen, treasure, Democratic Party of Ozaukee County; Rick Moze, party activist; Lisa Mux liberal blogger, and co-founder and co-host of Drinking Liberally Waukesha; Thad Nation, political consultant and former aide to Gov. Jim Doyle; Larry Nelson, former Waukesha mayor, current County Board supervisor and delegate to Democratic National Convention; Jason Patzfahl, liberal blogger and founding member of the Progressive 28th Political Action Committee; Jeffrey Perzan , attorney and party activist; Colin Plese, Shorewood School Board member; John Pokrandt, candidate for 13th State Assembly District; Steven Potter, communications aide, state Democratic Party; Jason Rae, Democratic National Committee member; Aaron Robertson, party activist; Chris Rockwood, candidate for 14th State Assembly District; Kristopher Rowe, party activist; Keith Schmitz, member, State Democratic Platform Committee and founding member, Grassroots North Shore; Richard Schwalb, party activist; Erin Sievert, chairwoman, Jefferson County Democrats; Kathleen Slamka, party activist; Eilene Stevens, party activist; Mike Tate, chair , Democratic Party of Wisconsin; Melissa Ugland, business owner and party activist; Sarah Wagner, community activist for Wisconsin Jobs Now; Jamie Wall, candidate for 8th Congressional District; Jim Ward, candidate, 28th State Senate District; Jane Witt, chair of Racine County Democrats; and Graeme Zielinski, communications director, Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Blair Nielsen October 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
The one defining moment was when Mitt Romney was proven wrong about Libya and President Obama’s response during the town hall,” one respondent replied. “It showed Mitt Romney is willing to do and say whatever it takes to win, even if that means lying.” Said a Democrat in this poll. Candy Crawled admitted she was wrong the next day. I guess they missed that. I like what Charles Krouthammer said about the Libya murders and this is a paraphrase: I think Obama would have a easier time keeping his facts straight if he would just tell the truth.
Keith Best October 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Obama for America has spent $millions trying to define Romney. Romney defined himself with all of these debates,.... as presidential. That is why he will win.
Avenging Angel October 23, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Forget the debates, if you want to understand the mentality of the left, look at recent developments. The Patch was quick to publish the Obama yard sign vandalism, but absolutely NO mention of the vicious beating of Sean Kedzie by two thugs trying to steal his Romney/Ryan yard sign.
James R Hoffa October 23, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Clearly, Democratic insiders have a problem with processing reality and the truth, while the Republican insiders tend to be much more honest with themselves and others about the reality of the situation. This says a lot about the two sides and which is more righteous! ROMNEY/RYAN/THOMPSON 2012!!!
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) October 23, 2012 at 08:19 PM
@Avenging Angel - the Kedzie incident is horrible, to be sure, but it didn't happen in a Patch community whereas the sign burning we reported took place in Caledonia.
H.E. Pennypacker October 23, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Governor Romney did exactly the right thing last night, he looked and sounded gracious, relaxed and presidential He was appealing to the middle instead of throwing red meat to his base! Obama was angry and disrespectful trying to appeal to his angry and disrespectful base. He engaged in sophomoric taunting tactics unworthy of the president of the United States! Mitt Romney is the winner of this debate because he recognized what the game was and played it well. Obama lost because he played the wrong game and came across as an angry petulant child.
The Anti-Alinsky October 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Blair, what exactly was Governor Romney "proven wrong" about? Just because BO says it's not true, doesn't mean it's not true. In fact, from past performance, I pretty much assume it is.
Avenging Angel October 23, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Heather, you are, of course, correct. My apologies. In my own defense, please understand the abject fustration that NO local media has covered this story.
morninmist October 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Mitt endorsed Pres. Obama's foreign policy last night. Meanwhile--- President Obama: Ohio won't forget that Romney was against the auto bailout http://bit.ly/XbeYBI
Blair Nielsen October 24, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Anti. Please reread my post, I was quoting a DEM. In the story.
The Anti-Alinsky October 24, 2012 at 03:18 AM
My apologies Blair. You are absolutely correct. However, the way it was written I had read it as your own response followed by a quote.
Michael McClusky October 24, 2012 at 03:28 AM
The independent parties debate was just exceptional. The four candidates were earnest, frank and genuine with all of their answers and were really clear about their proposed policies. It was a welcomed change.
Bob McBride October 24, 2012 at 11:14 AM
While that's commendable, Michael, when you really have nothing to lose there's nothing really being gambled by being earnest and speaking your mind. You've seen how ridiculous the scrutiny of the two leading candidates is when they debate. We're left with sound bites and zingers and people who consider themselves knowledgable voters responding to that crap like it means something. The spectacle is imbued with all the gravity of a WWE cage match. Any one of the four independents, should they ever find themselves in the position of being a serious contender (rather than a spoiler) at a major debate including the candidates of the two major parties would find themselves subjected to the same conditions, criticisms and "expert analysis". There's not going to be a Rocky Balboa moment when the hard luck underdog prevails via unorthodox methodology and mountains of spunk. We've been down that route already with Perot and we ended up with Clinton, a president who couldn't have been a more conventional political gamesman if he tried. It's not the candidates, it's the process itself and the apparent willingness of not only the parties and the candidates, but also those in the media, those deemed "political insiders" and the general public itself to abide by the absurdities it produces.
Michael McClusky October 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM
@Bob McBride What these independent candidates need is more air time. Even if they do not contend for the throne, atleast their ideas would circulate better and the American people would be well-served by this.
Bob McBride October 24, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Michael, I admire your independence and perseverance, but I think resistance is futile. I don't know how old you are, but I remember several elections where we had independent candidates actively involved in debates, garnering a fairly significant amount of press coverage and the net result, particularly if you tend to view both parties and their candidate interchangeable (I do to a degree, but those are the lumps of Play-Doh we're given to work with) has been nothing. They never win and their ideas evaporate as quickly as does the memory of their run for the office. Not to overdue the cynicism, but frankly when you're an unknown and your name is Gary Johnson, you've kind of got an extra strike against you right there in the name recognition department. Had he changed the first one to Fabio, the name alone might spark some kind of reaction and interest on the part of folks whose legs tingle when they think about binders full of women or mules and daggers or horses and bayonets or whatever. That being said, I agree in terms of the coverage. I'd like to see one of the major networks step up to the plate and take a chance on airing the independent debate. Keep it separate. Differentiate it from the circus sideshow that is the major party debate. Give it a unique format. Give it a unique host/moderator. I don't ever think it will happen because we're talking about a medium that lives and dies on viewer shares and ad revenue. But, yeah, it's a good idea.
Michael McClusky October 24, 2012 at 01:38 PM
@Bob McBride I am old enough to remember John Anderson and Ross Perot; I agree with you that both candidates faded quickly from view after the election. Ross Perot received more votes than I had anticipated, but the people once again became mired in the Republican and Democratic camps soon afterwards. These days with the social media anything is possible. As long as the independent candidates' names are floating out there, then there is a chance that their followings can grow. The mass media could be bypassed or circumvented along with their assinine pundits. In China the internet is actually leading the country in some ways. Although the government there has shut down some sites, it has become more responsive to the needs of the people for fear of a mass movement. Currently the big issue there is the terrible state of the environment. If we keep the ball rolling, then maybe someday the Republicans and Democrats would have to answer questions from the independents. This would be a good thing.
FreeThought Troy October 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Here is a lingering question I do have. Are there truly independants or just individuals so frustrated by all the partisian noise, they just taket themselves out of the whole mess?
Bob McBride October 24, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I think, generally, that's one of the forces behind independent movements of all types, Troy. Whether it be partisan noise, a feeling that the traditional parties are both beholden to special interests, frustration over party platforms that are 99.9% fluff, the generally entrenched entitlement to power that the traditional parties hold....the list could go on and on. Probably all pretty much the same thing. If you're not accepting funds from one of the two major parties or backers who "own" you I guess, in essence, you're what we commonly refer to as an independent.
Secrets Guru October 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
morninmist October 24, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Keep up the good work Obama-Biden. @TPM: POLL: Obama by 3 points nationally http://tpm.ly/PrbwCH IBD/TIPP Tracking Poll: Obama By 3 Points Nationally President Obama leads Wendesday's IBD/TIPP tracking poll by 3 points, 47.3 percent to Republican candidate Mitt Romney's 44.3 percent. That's an improvement for the president, who led by 2 points in...
Michael McClusky October 24, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@FreeThought Troy I was a Republican my whole life until this year. When Jamie Dimond, the CEO of JP Morgan, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee over the London whale fiasco, it was openly reported that the six senators, (3 Dems and 3 Repubs) were all on JP Morgan's contribution list. All 6 senators treated Mr. Dimond with kid gloves. Surprise, surprise. Both major parties are so corrupt that we no longer know what their real agendas are. With the Citizen's United case of 2010, things will only get worse as time goes on. Furthermore, to accept being a Democrat or Republican is to also accept the extremists of both parties. I cannot quite stomache that. I am an independent, a deserter of the decaying political parties and a true believer that both of them must some day fall.
FreeThought Troy October 25, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Yes. We for sure need to take the money out of politics. All candidates - from both parties - spend far too much time fund raising. With CU that has only increased the problem. Who are contributing to the SuperPAC? Are they even Americans? We'll never know.


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