Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats both expressed confidence in their candidates after the final presidential debate, with Republicans citing Gov. Mitt Romney projecting an image of a "capable Commander-in-Chief" and Democrats citing President Barack Obama's line about the military having "fewer horses and bayonets" as standout moments: that's the major finding of the Red and Blue Commonwealth flash polls sent out to local politicos immediately after the debate ended Monday night.
Obama and Romney faced off on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., with CBS' Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer moderating a debate that focused on foreign policy, but regularly delved back into domestic policy differences between the candidates.
Of the 21 local influential Republicans who took the flash poll, six (28.6 percent) said Romney won by a large margin, 12 (57.1 percent) said he won by a slim margin, two called the debate neutral and one voted that Obama won by a wide margin.
On the other side, 22 local influential Democrats took the flash poll and 17 (77.3 percent) said Obama won by a wide margin, two said he won by a slim margin and three called the debate neutral.
Democrats surveyed also overwhelmingly said that Obama would be the consensus "winner" as declared by the national media: nine (40.9 percent) said by a wide margin and 12 (54.6 percent) said by a slim margin, while one said Romney by a slim margin.
Republicans surveyed were somewhat evenly divided on who they thought would be the consensus "winner" as declared by the national media: six (28.6 percent) said Romney by a slim margin, another six said it'd be neutral, 5 (23.8 percent) said Obama by a slim margin and four (19.1 percent) said Obama by a wide margin.
'Failed Policies' Versus a Military Equipment Zinger
Asked what moment would stand out in the minds of conservatives in Massachusetts, several local Republicans pointed to Romney attacking Obama's policies as president, while also saying the GOP nominee projected a strong and presidential presence.
"Mitt looks like a Commander-in-Chief, Obama is still explaining his failed policies," one Republican poll taker wrote.
Another local Republican cited Romney's response when Obama said that the nation cannot "go back to the same policies" that led to the nation's difficult economic situation and needs to go forward.
"I couldn’t agree more about going forward," Romney replied, "but I certainly don't want to go back to the policies of the last four years ... It's just a tragedy in a nation so prosperous as ours that these last four years have been so hard."
Asked what moment would stand out in the minds of progressives and liberals in Massachusetts, several local Democrats pointed to Obama's retort when Romney said that the Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917.
"We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed," Obama said. "We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities."
Other Democrats cited Obama attacking Romney's previously stated positions, which they characterized as "flip-flops."
What About Swing Voters?
Asked what moment would stand out in the mind of swing voters in Massachusetts, some Democrats again cited the "horses and bayonets" line, while others pointed to Romney "so often agreeing" with Obama on foreign policy issues.
"Romney backing off from every criticism of the President's foreign policy," one Democrat respondent wrote. "And his closing, talking repeatedly about peace as if reciting something memorized. And not answering the President's comments about his campaign. He came out as if trying to get by and not make any waves."
One local Republican also said that "horses and bayonets line was memorable;" however, one local Democrat said that Bay State swing voters would remember "how calm and clear Romney was in his statements."
Other local Republicans cited Romney touting his ability to work with Democrats from his time as Massachusetts Governor, while others pointed to him repeatedly bringing the topic back to the question of the economy.
"Twenty-three million Americans out of work and food stamps at an all-time high—Obama has had four years to improve it and failed," one Republican respondent wrote.
Will the Debate Make a Difference?
Both sides believed that their candidate's performance would increase the number of votes their candidate would win in Massachusetts.
Eight local Republicans (38.1 percent) said they strongly agreed Romney's performance would increase his tally of Bay State votes, another eight somewhat agreed, four (19.1 percent) were neutral and one strongly disagreed.
Eleven local Democrats (50 percent) said they strongly agreed Obama's performance would boost his Massachusetts vote totals, eight (36.4 percent) somewhat agreed and three were neutral.
In final remarks, both sides returned to previous themes, with several Republicans citing Romney's "statesman" demeanor, which they contrasted with Obama's "defensive" and "disruptive, undisciplined" demeanor.
Several Democrats again cited Romney's "etch-a-sketch treatment of al previous statement," as one respondent put it, and that Romney "parroted" Obama "on most of his policies."
That said, one person on each side of the aisle said that both candidates performed well, while another looked forward to Nov. 7, the day after the election.
"Glad it's over," the respondent wrote. "Now let's get through the next two weeks!"
Who do you think won the debate? Tell us in the comments below.
Red and Blue Commonwealth Surveys
Our surveys are not a scientific, random sample of any larger population, but rather an effort to listen to a group of influential local Republican activists, party leaders, candidates and elected officials in Massachusetts. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in Massachusetts' Patch's surveys, although not all responded to this story's questions.
Patch will be conducting Red Commonwealth and Blue Commonwealth surveys throughout the 2012 election season in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and liberals on the ground in Massachusetts. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in periodic surveys that last just a few minutes, please contact Associate Regional Editor Daniel DeMaina at firstname.lastname@example.org.