WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney won the debate and picked up the support of some undecided voters, but whether his gains will be enough to turn around the presidential race remains uncertain, according to Democratic and Republican polling experts who convened debate-watching focus groups Wednesday night.
In Las Vegas, for example, the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies teamed up with the Democratic firm Momentum Analysis to listen in with 30 mothers who are Walmart customers – part of a yearlong research project sponsored by the giant retailer.
Most of the women entered the evening undecided, although some leaned toward President Obama. Many had tuned out Romney before the debate, the pollsters said. By the end of the night, they had more interest in Romney and were disappointed with Obama.
Romney gained a more favorable image among these women than he had before. But although he picked up ground in a hypothetical ballot matchup, his votes came at the expense of the “undecided” category, not from Obama’s supporters. Comparing the pre-debate and post-debate ballot matchups, the pollsters found that both candidates had gained some support while the number of people calling themselves undecided had gone down.
Similarly, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg convened a group of 45 swing voters in Denver to watch the debate. As with the Las Vegas group, the dial-meters the participants used and the discussion afterward showed “Romney performing well, improving his personal appeal,” as well as his standing as a strong leader and his support on certain issues, including taxes.