I recall reading Theodore White's "Making of a President 1960" and how he described the excitement for Kennedy following his only debate with Nixon. Romney must be getting a similar vibe following his debate with Obama.
Look to dusty Iowa cornfields, rain-soaked Virginia parks, the muddy fields of the Shelby County Fairgrounds, where a crowd of 9,500 - almost half of this western Ohio town - gathered among the barns and stables on a frigid October evening this week to glimpse the Republican presidential contender.
"Where else would we want to be?" said one of the shivering faithful, Judy Cartwright, a 71-year-old nurse from Sidney. "I want to see the next president of the United States."
Romney's debate performance against President Barack Obama last week - and his energetic appearances following it up - have fueled a rise in enthusiasm on the campaign trail. Whether or not it will translate into votes, polls do suggest that Republicans are fired up. It's a welcome development for the Republican businessman, who is hardly a natural politician and has long struggled to match Obama's ability to inspire excitement.
In Virginia, for example, Republican leaning counties appear to be getting the fastest start on absentee voting ahead of Election Day. State Board of Elections data analyzed by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics, shows that of the 25 localities where absentee voting is busiest, 21 voted Republican in the 2008 presidential race. And of the 25 localities where absentee balloting is the slowest so far, 16 supported Obama.
Romney seems to be feeding off the energy pumping through his now-sprawling crowds, even as aides downplay the newfound momentum among the GOP base.
"I'm overwhelmed by the number of people here," he exulted while scanning the sea of supporters packed beyond the fairgrounds fences here. "There are even people out there - that's another county over there."
Romney's growing crowds come as new polls suggest he has erased Obama's advantage in voter support nationally. Races have tightened in a handful of battleground states, too.
While Romney supporters have been energized, there are indications that it isn't only Republicans who are getting excited. Romney may have had his best day yet according to yesterday's polls:
This is probably Romney's best polling day of this election. Not only did he hold leads in the battleground state polls but Romney made relatively large gains compared to pre-DNC surveys. And the North Carolina poll where Obama led was partially conducted prior to the debate and Romney led by 6 points in the post-debate sample. Romney even led a poll in Nevada, the first he's led since the onset of the general election campaign. The national tracking polls didn't point toward any additional gains for Romney, but that's hardly good news for the president, who largely trails in the national polls.
Obama will come out on fire on Tuesday during the debate. If Romney can hold his own, this momentum will continue.