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By Tim Montgomerie
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About
a month ago we asked Tory members who they'd support in the forthcoming
presidential election. I was heartened and surprised that Mitt Romney
enjoyed just over 40% of respondents' support. In recent years –
because of the Iraq war, because of gay rights issues, because of the
Cameron love-in
and because of the Obama stardust effect – it was all
the rage to be an 'Obamacon'
. Not so much anymore it seems. Less than a
quarter of British Tories would now vote for America's incumbent
president. All that fiscal red ink and class war have finally ended the
love affair.

The two presidential candidates go head-to-head for
the second time tonight. Debates don't normally make a big difference
in US elections but when the two men are (at the time of blogging) separated by just 0.4% in the poll of polls
this and the third debate might well matter. Mitt Romney will be hoping for a repeat
of the first encounter when three-quarters of viewers gave him victory
over a somewhat lifeless Obama. My theory is a simple one. Romney
wasn't spectacular three weeks ago but he turned up and looked a
reasonable, competent and not unlikeable guy. The attempts by the
Democrat machine to demonise him were OTT and in ninety minutes of
prime time TV Romney confounded the grotesque caricature.

The
heavily-unionised Democrat get-out-the-vote machine (particularly well-organised in the battleground states) probably
means that Romney will need a 2% to 3% lead in the national opinion
polls to actually win and at the moment he's short of that. If I had to
bet money I would still bet on Obama therefore*. But time and time again the President
cannot get above 50% in the crucial approval ratings. This suggests at
least half of the country don't want to re-elect him. If Romney can
reassure tonight and in the final debate – if he can convince viewers
that he'll be president for 100%, not 47% of Americans then he can win.
Obama's economic policies have clearly failed. It's now a question of
whether enough Americans are ready to trust Romney with their jobs,
their medical care and their futures.

* The number-crunching Nate Silver still gives Obama a 64.8% chance of victory.

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