Piercing the Process Story.

Reading the post-debate polls makes it appear that the status quo was maintained and that 12 million viewers were schooled in the obvious: there are 2 front runners.

Earnest efforts like NBC’s SurveyMonkey Poll of Who Won the Debate add branded endorsement of the notion that there were obvious winners and losers and little movement.

Where was the Carly Fiorina Moment?

What is missing in the easy process story that the media loves because it requires no entrepreneurship, just indisputable facts, is that campaigns don’t move ahead by the surveyed masses, even likely voters, certainly months out before the first caucuses — they are driven by organizers.

Aren’t the organizers just a subset of those who have been surveyed? No,organizers in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially, are super-serious about their work. They don’t dive to another camp for a Fiorina moment, otherwise the math would be simple: Carly would be five clever comments away from the Presidency. No, that bump was like a sit-com that brings in Charlie Sheen for a guest walk-on. Fun, but not the beginning of a long relationship with a new CBS Smash Hit Comedy. Just a bump, Fiorina or Sheen or otherwise.

What happens now is Iowa and New Hampshire have the incentive to spend the time to get to know Martin O’Malley. He showed that he could go toe-to-toe with the two candidates in a battle for first and second in Iowa.

This is a generational election. Martin O’Malley understands that this isn’t just about policy it is about how you get policy done. His years as mayor and governor aren’t simply credentials — they drive how he thinks; how he builds consensus; and how he became the guy who gets things to happen where others didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t.

What makes this debate significant is that in a cycle — unusual in how little exposure there has been to date for the candidates to be challenged and pushed and exposed to a broader audience — what excellence is, is not a Carly- Fiorina-poll-tested-clever-by-half moment.

What was needed was a chance to inspire the activists who create surprises especially in places like Iowa.

One candidate did that. Martin O’Malley.