The Wind at Mitt Romney’s Back

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 9, 2012

Never let it be said that good debates don’t have consequences for the winner. And never let it be said that bad debates don’t have consequences for the loser.

Gallup now has Mitt Romney and Barack Obama even after Romney’s emphatic debate win over the president. The Battleground Poll has Romney leading the president by 16 points amongst independents, with a 13 point advantage in voter enthusiasm. More here:

President Barack Obama has a worsening enthusiasm problem.

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of likely voters shows Obama ahead of Mitt Romney 49 percent to 48 percent nationally, a statistical tie and a percentage point closer than a week ago.

The head-to-head numbers have held remarkably steady through the past three weeks, but there’s been a notable shift of intensity from the Democrats to the Republicans since the party conventions over a month ago. Most of the poll’s calls were made before Romney’s strong performance at the first presidential debate in Denver.

Read the whole thing. And be sure to linger lovingly over that last sentence, which it was my joy and pleasure to italicize and make bold. That sentence ought to scare Democrats to death.

And then there is the Pew Research Center Poll, which is another deeply scary one for the Democrats:

Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.

Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.

In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.

[. . .]

More generally, the poll finds Romney’s supporters far more engaged in the campaign than they were in September. Fully 82% say they have given a lot of thought to the election, up from 73% in September. The new survey finds that Romney supporters hold a 15-point advantage over Obama backers on this key engagement measure. Supporters on both sides were about even in September.

Coming out of the debate, Mitt Romney’s personal image has improved. His favorable rating has hit 50% among registered voters for the first time in Pew Research Center surveys and has risen five points since September. At the same time, Obama’s personal favorability rating has fallen from 55% to 49%.

In the presidential horserace, Romney has made sizable gains over the past month among women voters, white non-Hispanics and those younger than 50. Currently, women are evenly divided (47% Obama, 47% Romney). Last month, Obama led Romney by 18 points (56% to 38%) among women likely voters.

Again, read the whole thing, which does indeed make for delightful reading if one is a Romney supporter. Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center, elaborates on the poll’s findings:

“[Romney's] favorable rating, for the first time in this campaign, hit the 50 percent mark,” he says. “He came across as the candidate of new ideas over Obama by a seven-point margin, and he was seen, unlike a month ago, as apt to be as strong a leader as Obama. So he fixed his image very well in this debate victory.”

Obama also lost some of his popularity among women. In September, just 42 percent viewed Romney favorably, while 60 percent had positive impressions of Obama. Now, 51 percent see Obama favorably; 48 percent see Romney favorably.

Romney now finds himself doing well in some issue areas where he had problems among women.

“Romney made gains on health care, taxes, foreign policy, the role of government,” Kohut says. “He now ties Obama on those issues and he trailed by rather respectable margins a month ago. It’s sort of an across-the-board win. And the climate of opinion is strongly Romney compared to a month ago when it was strongly Obama.”

Kohut noted that these polling numbers were gathered after the debate and amid new data released Friday, which show the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month.

As of this writing, the RealClearPolitics average only has the president up by half a percentage point. Rasmussen has Romney within one in Colorado, and the Detroit Free Press shows that Romney has cut the president’s lead from 10 points in Michigan to 3, which is within the margin of error.

For the president, when it rains, it pours:

In his closing remarks at the first debate in Denver last week, President Obama uttered the following sentence: “Four years ago, I said that I’m not a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect president.”

For anyone who has watched Obama campaign for a second term this year, the phrase is old hat — part of the president’s seemingly self-effacing acknowledgment that he has, is and will continue to make mistakes but that he does so in the service of trying to do the right thing.

But the now-familiar phrase took on a different — and more troubling — meaning for the president in the debate as it capped a decidedly desultory performance that left even his most loyal allies wondering what was wrong with him.

Obama’s debate performance also raised a bigger question: Is he overrated as a candidate?

For someone like Barack Obama, who prides himself as a candidate, reading that has got to be absolutely humiliating.

All of this negativity has caused longtime Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan to completely freak out:

The Pew poll is devastating, just devastating. Before the debate, Obama had a 51 – 43 lead; now, Romney has a 49 – 45 lead. That’s a simply unprecedented reversal for a candidate in October. Before Obama had leads on every policy issue and personal characteristic; now Romney leads in almost all of them. Obama’s performance gave Romney a 12 point swing! I repeat: a 12 point swing.

Romney’s favorables are above Obama’s now. Yes, you read that right. Romney’s favorables are higher than Obama’s right now. That gender gap that was Obama’s firewall? Over in one night . . .

[. . .]

Look: I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week – throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement? And after Romney’s convincing Etch-A-Sketch, convincing because Obama was incapable of exposing it, Romney is now the centrist candidate, even as he is running to head up the most radical party in the modern era.

How can Obama come back? By ensuring people know that Romney was and is a shameless liar and opportunist? That doesn’t work for a sitting president. He always needed a clear positive proposal – tax reform, a Grand Bargain on S-B lines – as well as a sterling defense of his admirable record. Bill Clinton did the former for him. Everyone imaginable did what they could for him. And his response? Well, let’s look back a bit:

With President Obama holed up in a Nevada resort for debate practice, things can get pretty boring on the White House beat right now. Pretty boring for Obama too, apparently. “Basically they’re keeping me indoors all the time,” Obama told a supporter on the phone during a visit to a Las Vegas area field office. “It’s a drag,” he added. “They’re making me do my homework.”

Too arrogant to take a core campaign responsibility seriously. Too arrogant to give his supporters what they deserve. If he now came out and said he supports Simpson-Bowles in its entirety, it would look desperate, but now that Romney has junked every proposal he ever told his base, and we’re in mid-October, it’s Obama’s only chance on the economy.

It is, of course funny to read Sullivan blaming this state of affairs on Romney’s supposed dishonesty; four years ago, America was allegedly dazzled and awed by the purported piercing honesty of the Lightworker. Now, we are to believe that a mere four years later, America is gaga for getting liars and carnival barkers into the Oval Office.

But I digress; more of the Sullivanian freak out. He now thinks that maybe, Barack Obama doesn’t want a second term. For those who are old enough (like me) to remember the campaign of 1992, that’s what they were secretly whispering about George H.W. Bush as well. And when enough people believe that a presidential candidate really doesn’t want the presidency, it turns them off from voting for that candidate.

I guess I should write at this point that I still think that the fundamentals favor the president’s re-election. He may have trouble in the popular vote matchups, but his path to 270 electoral college votes appears to be easier than Romney’s path.

But what if my estimates are wrong? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my estimates were wrong?

  • Stephen

    You’re estimates are wrong. You’re trying too hard to avoid the possibility of a disappointment. Common sense should inform you that the electorate is not as volatile as polls would seem to suggest. Look at the methodologies being used because they are not fixed.

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