Debate Outcome: Early Warning Signs

Monday night's third and final presidential debate started off with some early warning signs both for Mitt Romney and for viewers.

I suspect due to both that there were lots of clicks around the country as remote controls took audiences to either the Monday Night Football Bears/Lions game or game seven of the National League championship.

Not only did Mitt start out with a signal of discomfort, but President Obama landed quick hits so early that switching channels seemed a real option.

I'm not suggesting Obama skunked Mitt the way the Giants took the Cards 9-0. It was more like the Bears beating the Lions 13-7.

(As you might imagine, I like it when bears win.)

Snap polls after the debate gave the round to Obama. A CNN poll said Obama 48, Romney 40. A CBS poll said Obama 53, Romney 23 with 24% undecided.

But it was the start that pretty much seemed to end things.

In opening remarks, Romney began to make a reference to his and Obama's appearance at the annual Al Smith Dinner (a night for trading funny barbs aimed at each other) last week in New York but then, inexplicably, puddled into this:

"We were together at a humorous event a little earlier (actually four days ago) and it's nice to be funny this time, not on purpose. We'll see what happens."


I immediately thought, uh-oh.

Then, within 10 minutes Obama launched some barbs that Mitt must have thought were neither nice nor funny. The President mentioned Romney's reference to Russia as our number one geopolitical threat and tagged Mitt with, "the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years."

Then came Obama's jab, "every time you've offered an opinion you've been wrong," followed by the assertion that Romney offers "wrong and reckeless leadership that's all over the map."

At about this point, the pro sports world probably picked up some viewers.

Then maybe 30 minutes into the 90-minute debate, came a reprise of past debates with Romney talking about unemployment, his five-point plan, 12 million jobs and anything to get off the topic of foreign policy, as Obama re-fired charges about small businesses in Massachusetts suffering under Romney and the need to hire more teachers, which prompted moderator Bob Schieffer to point out "we have heard some of this in the other debates."

I figure somewhere in there, ratings for baseball and football really went up.

The race, no doubt, remains tight and seems headed to a photo finish. But the last debate, from the beginning, was a boost for Obama -- and the sports world.