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Did Debate Make Undecided Voters More Decided?

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — A tale of two undecided voters: For Amy Alonso, Wednesday’s presidential debate brought her a little closer to casting her ballot, but for Michael Fazio, the debate did nothing but cast doubt.

Both are key voters in key swing states — Florida and Nevada. And both were looking for the candidate they leaned toward to bring home the bacon. Today, only one of them is eating a BLT, albeit slowly.

Until late on October 3, Fazio, 41, of Las Vegas, was leaning toward President Barack Obama. But Obama’s “disinterested” performance in the first debate this week left him concerned.

Fazio said Obama wasn’t on point.

“As the president of the United States, I hate to say it, no rest for the weary,” said Fazio, who voted for Obama in 2008. “If he’s not sharp in the debate … what’s he going to be like behind closed doors?”

Alonoso, 38, a single working mom to a special needs child, said she now leaned toward the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

 Alonso, who listened to the debate on the radio in her car, appeared in the film “The Hope & the Change” made by conservative advocacy group Citizens United.

“It was either Romney or no one,” Alonso said, who was a registered Democrat for 20 years until recently switching her party registration.

Romney’s debate performance and the president’s lack of performance all but sealed it for the Minneola, Florida, resident.

“I feel he was really on point,” said Alonso. “I think that the president really came across as disorganized and kind of scattered in his answers and his responses. I think that Governor Romney did a good job of following along in the answers.”

Back on the campaign trail the next day, Obama seemed to notice the difference in the energy levels between himself and his opponent.

Obama, stumping in Denver, said he met a different Romney on stage Wednesday night.

“We had our first debate last night, and when I got onto the stage I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama told the crowd of roughly 12,300. “But it couldn’t have been the real Mitt Romney.”

What difference that will make for the president now is unknown.

But polls show Alonso and Fazio aren’t alone in their assessment of the candidates’ performances.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey taken just after the debate, 67% of registered voters who watched the debate said that the Romney won the contest. One in four said Obama won the 90-minute event.

“No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

And while in the history of televised presidential debates, only two have shifted the tide of the presidential election, according to a Gallup Politics analysis — 1960 and 2000. Those elections, Gallup explains were close — not unlike the election this year.

With the candidates neck-and-neck in national polls, any edge is valuable, especially with undecided voters who make up somewhere between 3% and 8% of the electorate.

But it isn’t game over for Obama.

Instead, the debate,”kept both of them squarely tied, so it didn’t sway the campaign either way,” said Christine Riordan, dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, site of the debate.

“The second and the third debate become more critical in the minds of the undecided voters,” Riordan said.

Those debates could bring up some of the more “volatile” issues that weren’t talked about Wednesday night, she said.

“There weren’t any social issues introduced,” which affect important voting blocs of women and Hispanics in important swing states such as Colorado, Riordan said.

Before taking advantage of early voting in their states, both Fazio and Alonso say they are looking toward the next debate to see whether Romney and the president make a repeat performance.

“I am going to probably wait. I want to see the next debate, I want to be fair,” said Alonso. She says that the economy and health care will decide her vote.

“I don’t have insurance myself,” Alonso said, because she can’t afford it. Being forced to purchase something she can’t afford through health care reform, she says, will be costly.

Fazio says that he is worried Romney will revert to Bush’s policies.

“It scares me to stick the Republicans back in there.”

He also added that at this point in the election, he’s watching out for mistakes — because consistency matters.

“I hate saying this … but I am waiting for a gaffe from one of them to say, ‘Oh my goodness, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.'”

Undecided voters tend to vote wait until the last minute to cast their ballots, said Jan Leighley, professor of government at American University.

“If you don’t have to buy a new cell phone for another month, you probably won’t buy it today,” Leighley said.

But for Fazio, because of the debate, he says he couldn’t vote today.

“If you had me pencil in a vote today, I couldn’t tell you who I was going to vote for.”

By Allison Brennan and Gabriella Schwarz also contributed to this report.

CNN

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