Good news for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: despite President Barack Obama’s somnambulant performance at the first presidential debate, the American public still expects him to win the second debate. According to the latest Pew Research Center poll, 41 percent of Americans think Obama will do better, compared with 37 percent for Romney. That is a large shift in Romney’s direction – before the first debate, Pew found that people expected Obama to win, 51 percent to 29 percent. Independents think Romney will do better than Obama; Democrats seem far less sure that Obama will beat Romney.

The expectations game is key prior to this second debate. If the American public expected Romney to win, he’d have no room for growth after this debate. But while independents think Obama will lose, they only think he’ll lose by a 41-32 margin. That means that there’s significant upside for Romney here. For Obama, by contrast, the expectations remain high – he’ll have to show strong to win this debate.

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