Perhaps it is ironic that one of the best examples was that of Mitt Romney's Dad, George, in his campaign for the Republican presidential momination back in the late '60s. George Romney claimed that he had been 'brainwashed' by the U.S. military and diplomatic personnel on a visit to Vietnnam. "Romney brainwashed' screamed the headlines. And that was all it took for his campaign to unravel.
Even a youthful observer could understand that Romney was using what in literature is known as synecdoche, where a part is used to represent something far larger. I have since seen this repeated scores of times in political confrontations of all types most recently in the Arab Spring. Today, we label this kind of support 'shallow' where a significant number of supporters are ready to abandon their candidate at the first instance that a viable alternative arises.
Could this explain what we saw in the aftermath of the first debate? It seems unlikely, but nevertheless could explain the remarkable transformation of the presidential contest we are now witnessing. I should note that it also doesn't mean the the president will lose on November 6th. His lead is structural, both in terms of constituents as well as geography. There are many paths available for Obama to construct a electoral majority. For Romney the options are far fewer. Even if Romney's momentum continues to build, there is a possibility of Romney eking out a slim victory in the popular vote, while losing by a far larger margin in the Electoral College.
The stakes in Tuesday's debate could not be higher. For Romney the task is to build upon his momentum, for Obama it is to halt Romney in his tracks before he loses complete control of the race.
Payack is president of The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas.