The Ryan Bounce

By Bob Grundfest

It’s been more than a week since Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate, which is enough time to determine the extent of any bounce in the polls. At this point, the answer is that Ryan has helped in part, but it remains to be seen if he provides a more lasting upward movement in Romney’s numbers.

Last week, Mark Blumenthal of Huffington Post/Pollster wrote that the polls weren’t showing much of a bounce, perhaps 1 or 2 percentage points towards Romney, but most of the gains were within the poll’s margin of error and that President Obama had gained in some polls after the announcement. Nate Silver weighed in on the Romney bounce in the polls and the Intrade markets, and was unimpressed, but he did note that many of the trend lines in recent polls have been moving in Romney’s direction. Stuart Rothenberg also wrote an interesting piece warning that party identification samples are key to deciphering polls and weighing their relative merits. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who watches and analyzes polls, but it will become even more important as pollsters move from registered voter samples to likely voter models after the party conventions.

The state polls that were released last week show better results for Romney than any perceived bounce from the Ryan announcement. The Purple Strategies polls from August 15 give Romney leads in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, and Obama the lead in Colorado. Recent polling in Virginia is showing promising news for the Romney campaign as he tries to cut into Obama’s perceived strength in the Washington suburbs. From the article:

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, says the task for Romney is to put the “pieces of the puzzle” together: the Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Washington suburbs and exurbs, along with the rural regions of southwest Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and Southside. “The rural areas are still 20 percent of the vote in Virginia,” Sabato says, and the people there are conservative. The difference this year is that Republicans in these parts of the state are more motivated than they were in 2008. Maximum turnout among rural Virginians could make all the difference.

If those results stood up until November, Romney would win the presidency and the Republicans would probably take the Senate.

There were a pair of Wisconsin polls, with Romney ahead in the Rasmussen survey and Obama ahead in a CNN poll. The big difference is that Rasmussen polled likely voters and CNN found registered voters, so in this case I would say that the addition of Paul Ryan has probably affected the race.  The president is ahead according to a Franklin & Marshall  poll of Pennsylvania (registered voters) by 47-42%, but that margin represents a reduction from 11 points the last time F & M polled, so the Romney campaign will probably look to put more resources into that state.

The national tracking polls don’t really show a sustained bounce for the GOP. Gallup now has Romney with a 2 point lead, which is up from a tie late last week, but the Rasmussen tracking poll shows Obama leading by 2. That represents a 6 point swing for the president who was down by 4 as late as last Wednesday.

In the end, the polling after Romney made the Ryan announcement has been mixed with some good news on the state front for Romney and a continued national lead for Obama. The Republican Convention provides our next opportunity to gauge the race and I would say that this is Romney’s biggest and best opportunity to introduce himself to the American people. If he does it well, he could see a 10 point bounce in the polls. Anything more would be gravy, but anything less would be seen as disappointing. In addition, unemployment figures will be released not long after the Democrats close their convention, and we know how both campaigns will use those numbers.

Enjoy the August doldrums. The excitement lies ahead.

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