OK, I'm going to talk you down. But first you must promise you'll do or decide nothing rash. You must say your Oms. You must recall that the pundits always overreact, that last night was only one of three presidential debates, and that we're talking Mitt Romney here, who is way, way overdue for another blockbuster gaffe.
Actually, just to back up a bit, the NY Times avoided the customary unsightliness of punditry-panic and took things in fairly reasonable stride: "Obama has the facts on his side to expose the hollowness of his opponent. But first he has to decide to use them aggressively"; as did BuzzFeed's Ben Smith: "Romney's core success was that he won by not losing."
PowerLine, on the other laughable hand, boomed in its headline--"It's over"--while retreating on second thoughts in its text: "This was a huge night for the cause of freedom, one from which, one hopes, Obama can’t recover."
Andrew Sullivan used, in conclusion, the all-important "may" word: "this was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach, and his effete, wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look."
Here's the first look at that second look. MSNBC held a post-debate focus group of independents. Its members, overwhelmingly, believed Romney dominated the evening's debate. But get this: When asked if any were now supporting Romney, not one focus-grouper said yes. Not one.
Remember, these are the undecided voters, America's most fickle of the transcendently fickle. As a basis for forming a decision, they've had four years of Obama's solid performance in the White House and at least five years of Mitt Romney flipping and flopping everywhere and now a presidential debate and they still can't decide. More than a few probably never will; they'll just stay home on Election Day, bundled in chronic indecision and swathed in permanent angst.
As for pre-existing likely voters?--the vast mother lode of voters? In them, there is a pre-existing commitment to one candidate or the other as well, and one poor debate performance on Obama's part is exceedingly unlikely to reverse sentiment in, say, Ohio, where the nation's election is effectively talking place.