It’s Raining Polls

by Bob Grundfest

The Democratic Nation Convention is a dot in the campaign’s rear-view mirror, but the shift in public sentiment it engendered is now embedded in the polling numbers. And that’s not good news for Mitt Romney.

The one bright spot for Mitt’s campaign is in North Carolina, where a Rasmussen poll has him leading by 51-45%. This is a firm enough pick-up for the GOP that the Obama campaign will probably not contest the state too vigorously because there are other states that need their attention.

Most of the other state polling over the last week shows the president with small leads in some of the swing states and solid leads where he needs to have them, most notably in Pennsylvania and Michigan, where the conservative groups supporting Romney have pulled their advertising, and New Jersey where, despite Chris Christie’s best efforts, Romney is behind by double digits. Those states, though, were always considered nice switches if the election was going to swing hard against Obama and Romney was going to win in landslide, a scenario not out of the question last spring when the economy and momentum were on Mitt’s side. After a summer in which Obama ran a textbook incumbent’s campaign (define your opponent negatively, change the topic from the economy, force Mitt further to the right), the big Republican win seems to be fading. Romney can certainly pull this election out, but he’ll need to go a different route than the 44 state rout he was thinking about.

In the states where the election will turn, the latest polls show a virtual dead heat. Obama leads by one point in a Rasmussen Virginia poll and by one in Colorado according to a Denver Post/SUSA survey. In Florida, and NBC/WSJ/Marist poll has Obama leading by 49-44%, but the poll overstates Democratic participation so the actual results are probably closer than five points. Both Rasmussen and ARG show one point leads for Obama in Ohio and UNH/WMUR sees Obama with a five point lead in New Hampshire. If Romney can carry Ohio, Florida and Colorado, he’d be within two Electoral Votes of the presidency and could win with any one of New Hampshire or Virginia. This is a tall order, but this is where both he and Obama will be spending the most money and time over the next seven weeks.

The main focus for the next few days, though, will be on Wisconsin, a state that hasn’t been polled since the DNC. With native son Paul Ryan on the national ticket, a poll-leading Republican, Tommy Thompson, atop the Senate ballot and a Republican governor at the helm, Wisconsin has been trending red for the past two years. The Romney campaign is putting a good deal of money into the state and a win there would be a huge pickup. In fact, a Romney win in Wisconsin could mean that Ohio follows suit. That would obviate the need for Mitt to win Colorado. It’s big. Perhaps we’ll get some numbers this week.

The national polls show an Obama bounce that has faded somewhat, though the Rasmussen tracking poll had Romney ahead by four early in the week and now shows his lead cut in half. Gallup has shown a pretty consistent Obama lead throughout the last 10 days. National polls by the New York Times, ABCNews and NBC/WSJ show an Obama lead, but they all overpolled Democrats in their surveys. I at least will need some further confirmation from more realistic internals to make a judgement about the national race. We know it’s close, but we don’t know just how close it is.

With foreign policy grabbing the headlines this week, the Romney campaign hopes to undermine the president’s policies while continuing to attack him on the slow economy. That Mitt’s comments on the Middle East unrest were seen as political opportunism will not help him, but if further events lead to more instability, he could correct himself and gain the high ground. Obama has probably built up enough of a lead in the foreign arena to survive, but more problems are clearly not what he wants. The president’s campaign has to figure that any day Romney is not talking about the economy, he’s losing ground. We’ll see what happens this week.

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