The two debates we have had so far have lifted the Romney-Ryan ticket for a reason that President Obama didn't see coming and won't believe, in spite of the evidence.
That is, neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan has lived up to the negative image that Obama has tried to create. Simply put, people who watched the first presidential debate saw for themselves that Romney was happy, enthusiastic and informed. He wasn't the tax-cheating, uncaring, murderous corporate villain that Obama has tried to create. In last night's debate, Ryan was nimble, mature, informed and credible as a leader. He wasn't a cruel accountant who wants to throw your mom under the bus as Obama would have voters believe.
For months the Obama campaign has tried to vilify both Romney and Ryan, so that they could not be viewed as credible alternatives in a referendum on Obama and his record. After these debates, it is clear Obama's tactics have failed; perhaps voters now feel like they have been lied to.
A decent performance by Obama in the next debate won't cleanse him of the stain of desperate deceit that voters have now seen for themselves.
The debates have not just been about style points or a credible policy presentation — they have been about character. When voters see Romney and Ryan as earnest, good people, they think Obama is just another desperate politician willing to say anything to hold on to his job. The politics of defamation hasn't worked. There is no other way to explain the dramatic, across-the-board drop in the polls that Obama has experienced since Oct. 3.
Look at the internals of this Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll. Not only has the race in Florida swung from a one-point lead for Obama to a 7-point lead for Romney, but on issues ranging from the economy to Medicare to foreign policy issues, voters now favor Romney. Florida is gone and the president is bleeding credibility everywhere.
It appears the attacks on Romney and Ryan are approaching a state of diminishing returns. The president is out of ammunition and he's exhausted, but he needs to keep the race close. More of the same is probably now a losing trajectory for the president. The luckiest politician in the world needs some luck because his campaign to destroy Mitt Romney has failed.