The very long news cycle

Mitt Romney's strong performance in the first presidential debate this year did not, as of today, cause a spike in his poll results, but rather a steady increase. Which begs the question: if 40 million people watched the 90 minute debate, why would some voters wait a week to change their mind?

I think the answer is in the dynamic of the news cycle.

People use the term "24 hour news cycle", but I think a better analogy is the weekly TV drama. If you're in a part of the population that likes Grey's Anatomy, for example, then perhaps your friends are as well. And after each weekly episode -- and particularly after an emotionally riveting episode -- you don't just turn off the experience at the end of the hour. You talk about it at work the next day. And if your kid has ballet on Thursdays, you talk about it with the adults there. And with the other friends you encounter on the weekend. For the Grey's Anatomy segment, the ripple lasts precisely a week -- until the next episode, at which time interest in the previous episode dies.

Similarly, Mitt Romney's debate performance experienced a multiplier over the last week, likely through millions of conversations as people who encounter other politically-engaged acquaintances need a topic for their conversation.

The same occurred with the 47% video, which had a negative multiplier effect for Mitt Romney, as did his Libya remarks, which were only interrupted by the 47% video. But if there had been an unrelated interruption to the news cycle -- in the example above, perhaps a Grey's Anatomy actor got married -- the previous story would die.

Hours before the VP debate, the game is different. If Biden wins conclusively, the "strong Romney debate / weak Obama debate" story will die and Romney's numbers, I think, will stop moving up. If Ryan wins or the result is inconclusive, the debate story remains ascendant and Romney's trajectory continues. And if a major political event occurs, on the level of the Benghazi attack, the debate story will die.