The cable news channel pundits, talk-radio gurus, bloggers, and water-cooler political experts are all are missing the most important point about the latest debate. The rancorous debate's scorecard is irrelevant.
What matters is that the debates have made Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan look credible and allowed voters to give themselves permission to do what they have wanted to do for several years—fire Barack Obama.
Romney and Ryan looked, acted and sounded qualified and presidential. Both Republican candidates sent voters a strong message that there is a credible and serious alternative to Obama and Joe Biden.
This is terrible news for Obama and Biden—and I am predicting a strong Romney victory in the range of 5 percent to 7 percent or more of the popular vote.
One need only look back to the last failed Democratic presidency, that of Jimmy Carter, to see a similar dynamic at work. Once Reagan established himself as a credible alternative to Carter during their debate on Oct. 28, 1980, very few of the undecided voters broke Carter's way.
They already wanted to fire Carter for his disastrous stewardship of the economy and foreign policy debacles. When there was a credible alternative, most jumped to Reagan and he ultimately won the popular vote in a landslide 51 percent to 41 percent.
The situation is similar today.
In recent years, Barack Obama has been stuck in the mid-40s in the polls because most Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction and that the massive growth of government he has brought about is a threat to our freedom.
These Americans see Obama and his policies as both failing and frightening.
Yet until there was a credible alternative, especially while Obama continued to be well-liked on a personal level, the president maintained a lead in the polls.
To some extent, merely appearing on the same stage with a sitting president gives the opposing candidate some credibility. That's one reason Lyndon Johnson refused to debate Barry Goldwater.
In the past two weeks, Romney has emerged as that credible alternative to Obama.
Even though the debates often got down in the weeds, Gov. Romney has come across as presidential and, as Obama once said about Hillary Clinton, "likeable enough."
Indeed, Romney is rising even among voters that may not be in 100-percent agreement with his positions as stated during the debates.
These voters may not buy every aspect of Romney's agenda, but they don't have to.
They know they want to fire Obama and hire a new president, and Romney has impressed these voters as more than capable of handling the job.
While all the experts seem stuck on the horse race or boxing match angle of the debates, the point everyone is missing is that Romney has now done what Reagan did in 1980—established himself as a credible alternative to a president that voters have long wanted to fire.
Richard A. Viguerie is the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com and author of Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Richard A. Viguerie and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charisma editorial staff.