The debates are over. The public has been informed. All that's
left now is the vote.
On Monday night, the two major party candidates for President of the United States -- incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney -- held the final installment of a three-series debate (four if you include the vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan held in Danville, Ky.) in Boca Raton, Fla.
Over the course of the debate season, Romney has gained considerable ground in the polls, going from several points behind Obama across the board to virtually neck-and-neck, and even ahead in some measures, including the high-profile Gallup Poll, where Romney now holds a five-point lead.
Of course, the popular vote doesn't determine the presidency -- the electoral vote does. And while most projections have had Romney gaining ground there too, he's still behind Obama in the number of states leaning or strongly going his way. (One exception is the popular website realclearpolitics.com, which has Romney with 206 solid electoral votes, Obama with 201, with 131 votes still up for grabs in key swing states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida).
In other words, the only thing voters know for sure is that their guy still has a good shot -- and that means both Republicans and Democrats are expressing confidence down the home stretch, while only one of them can be correct.
Cloyd Bumgardner, chairman of the Pulaski County Republican Party, echoed Congressman Hal Rogers' sentiments after the GOP Convention in August -- Romney's campaign is bringing to mind shades of the party's hero Ronald Reagan from 32 years earlier.
"I think back to the presidential race where Reagan ran against (sitting President Jimmy) Carter," said Bumgardner, referencing the 1980 race where an unpopular Democrat facing a poor economy was unseated by a substantial margin.
"There at the end, President Reagan really picked up speed and came on strong," he added. "I'm confident we'll see the same situation here."
Bumgardner saw Romney as the big winner of the debate season not just for the momentum he gained, but the manner in which he presented himself, gaining accolades in the press for his poise and focus in the face of Obama's increasing debate aggression.
"He seems to have maintained his cool and calm disposition in the face of what I think is a hard situation, debating with the president," said Bumgardner. "... At the end of the day, I really believe that people will take a step back and say to themselves, 'Which one of these candidates for president will protect America's status in the world and grow the economy?' and I think that it will be Romney."
The theme of the last debate targeted foreign policy issues, though as Romney has stressed the economy -- one area where he carries a substantial lead over Obama in public opinion polls -- as the key issue of the race, money matters snuck in. Then again, there's a good reason for that, suggested Bumgardner.
"I thought Romney did an excellent job of laying out his foreign policy strategy and how it ties into the economic situation," said Bumgardner. "The price of oil affects the economy, and a lot of foreign policy issues talked about were centered around the Middle East (from which America gets so much of
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