Everyone is asking whether Obama or Romney will win the first debate. Personally, I don't expect much from either candidate: Both are capable, unexciting speakers. The more interesting question is whether the winner of the first debate stands an improved shot at winning the election.
The following comes from October 2, 2004
-- a time when this blog was just starting to gain some attention:
In light of Kerry's fine debate performance, am I going to take back my prediction of a Bush win? Nope. Look at some debate history, as preserved by Gallup.
Gore won the first debate against Bush, yet lost (well, sort of lost) the election.
Dukakis won the first debate against Bush the elder, yet lost the election.
Mondale won the first debate against Reagan (by a margin comparable to Kerry's recent win) yet lost the election.
In 1992, Perot trounced both Clinton and Bush, who tied each other. (The numbers: 38% - 28% - 28%.) As you may recall, Perot did not win that election.
History suggests that a first-debate win often translates into a massive election-day defeat. If Bush bounces back in the next debate -- and you can bet on it -- his miserable performance of two days ago will seem fluke-ish, not characteristic.
The original post contains a link to a "debate history" page maintained by Gallup. Alas, that link no longer works -- so you'll just have to take my word for it. (Or do your own research. That works too.)
A word about the first Gore-Bush debate in 2000: As many will recall, the media called that one for Dubya, even though the public's reaction favored Gore. One Salon writer originally wrote that Gore cleaned Bush's clock, then modified his stance due to pundit peer pressure.
As for me -- well, I can't make up my mind. Should I live blog the debate? Or should I take a few hours away from politics and catch the rebroadcast (after scanning the headlines for immediate reactions)? The latter course is usually less nerve-wracking.