Before the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Mitt Romney trailed President Obama 49 percent to 46 percent in the RealClearPolitics national poll average. After Americans got to meet the real Romney during the first presidential debate -- not the caricature created by Obama's omnipresent negative television ads -- Romney pulled ahead of Obama in the RCP average, 47 percent to 46 percent.
Democrats had hoped the second debate would provide a more aggressive Obama an opportunity to expose the debate Romney as a fraud. And two flash polls taken after Tuesday's debate did show that Obama narrowly won the debate. But Romney has maintained a narrow lead on Obama in national polls since the debate, and more and more swing states have begun to move his way. According to Rasmussen Reports, Romney now leads by 5 in Florida, 6 in North Carolina and 3 in Virginia. And according to Public Policy Polling, the same liberal polling firm that does surveys for the Service Employees International Union, Romney is now narrowly ahead in New Hampshire.
When releasing his New Hampshire results Friday, PPP's Tom Jensen tweeted out: "NH voters think Obama won debate by 8 pts, still support Romney by 1. Democrats need to accept debate this week was not a big game changer."
Why are voters, even ones who think Obama won the debate last Tuesday, still breaking for Romney? A clue can be found in the issue breakdowns of both post-debate polls. Undecided voters name Romney the better candidate on jobs and the economy, by commanding margins -- CNN had Romney up 18 points on jobs, and CBS had him up 31 points.
A similar story developed during a focus group conducted by MSNBC after the debate Tuesday night. After every single one of MSNBC's far-left anchors declared Obama the winner by a mile, most of their own hand-picked focus group of undecided voters said they were now leaning toward Romney, mostly on economic grounds.
"I'm more for Mitt Romney just because I feel like he's gonna have more of a plan. He is a businessman. Businessmen can take care of it. He took care of Massachusetts, I think he can take care of us," said one female voter.
Another female voter who voted for Obama four years ago said: "I really like what Mitt Romney had to say about the economy, about what he is planning on doing in order to change things for us and how President Obama has not really gotten it done in the last four years." And a male voter said, "I think I'm going to have to vote for Romney, and that's primarily because of the economy. I think that Romney has a better plan and a better track record in what he's done for the economy."
That had to be a devastating exchange for the Obama campaign to watch. Not only did the panelists reject Obama's attacks on Romney's record as a businessman, they also seemed to accept it as one of his main qualifications. More importantly, Obama has completely lost his brand as the candidate of "change." If you are unhappy with the current state of the economy, and gridlock in Washington, Romney is "change" vote in this election.
The only voter on MSNBC's panel who said she preferred Obama's economic plan also admitted that social issues, not the economy, were her main concern. "As a younger voter, I think social issues have more of an effect on my vote, and the president's views on like gay marriage and abortion definitely line up with mine," she said.
This explains why Obama's stump speech has turned into a freak show of references to "binders full of women," "Big Bird" and "Romnesia" on his opponent's position on abortion. He has nothing else to run on.
If you are an undecided voter, and your No. 1 issue is the economy, Romney is your man. That is why America is breaking for Romney.
Conn Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @conncarroll.