To many pundits, the debates are forgotten, a thing of the past—but it’s quite possible they are the key to Barack Obama’s dominance in the polls, writes Robert G. Kaiser in the Washington Post. Before the debates, Obama was seen as a risky unknown. But having seen his performances, “Americans find Obama more empathetic, stronger, better prepared to be president and just more sympathetic” than they did before.
The debates pulled in more viewers than any other campaign action, beating even American Idol in popularity. And Obama won them by big margins, says a leading pollster. One analyst compares this race to 1980, when the newbie Ronald Reagan broke a deadlock with his debate performance and won in a landslide. After seeing that debate, “the country felt reassured”—as they now do with Obama.