Barack Obama

Obama's Mistake: Ceding Political Middle to Mitt Romney

Deciding to play to his base in the general election could prove fatal

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The third and final presidential debate did little to change the race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, who are tied with just two weeks to go. Even so, this week's inconsequential contest provides a key of sorts to understanding the election.

In the first debate—which was consequential and then some—Romney abruptly changed from the severely conservative Republican he'd presented to voters during the primaries to the reassuringly pragmatic moderate he'd seemed as governor of Massachusetts. It was an audacious move, and one that strains credulity, in two respects: for the sheer distance in ideology he had to walk back, and for the timing, because he left this second outrageous pivot so late in the campaign.