Is the Obama Bounce Overstated?

by Bob Grundfest

Remember the Super Ball (if you do, you’re old, but that’s OK)? The rubber and plastic ball that was wound so tightly that it bounced halfway to the moon when an eight-year-old threw it?

That’s how big a bounce Obama has reportedly received since the Democratic National Convention ended three weeks ago. It’s astounding, and it’s driving the Romney campaign crazy.

Scores of polls have been released since the DNC and the overwhelming majority have shown President Obama leading nationally and in the swing states that will decide this election. Republicans and some independent polling analysts are questioning the results of those polls, stating emphatically that they overstate Democratic participation and assume that the 2012 electorate will look more like 2008 (more Democratic participation) than 2004 (fewer Democrats) or 2010 (many more Republicans, and Independents who voted Republican).

Still others say that polls are usually right given that they’re aggregated from a variety of sources, such as the Real Clear Politics Index, and that changes in the electorate, whether pollsters call cell phones or use Internet-only methods, and the effects of early voting laws make polling an inexact science at best. Watch where the candidates spend their money and you’ll get a sense of where the races are the tightest, they say, and will be based on candidates’ internal polling. Right now that’s in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin and Virginia where the two campaigns are running thousands of TV spots per day in an attempt to either away voters or destroy their brain cells. It’s difficult to tell. Even here, it seems, the Obama camp has an edge, though Republican PAC money will surely change the equation soon.

At this point in the campaign, and polls can only give us a snapshot of this moment in time, President Obama has gained traction and has expanded his lead in the race. Part of that is his convention bounce, part of it is Democrats more firmly committing to his campaign, and part of it is reaction to Mitt Romney’s 47% comment that has cost him the support of some independent voters. Obama is polling at or above 50% in many of the swing states while Romney is polling in a narrow range of between 44 and 47%. This has to concern Republicans because 47% is where John McCain ended up four years ago. And Romney has not led in any of the swing states save for North Carolina in quite some time.

Next Wednesday’s debate will be Romney’s last, best hope to turn this election around. He’ll need to show a side of him that voters have not seen in order to convince the undecideds that he’s the answer to the nation’s problems. The President does have weaknesses on the deficit, unemployment and unrest in the Middle East. And word is that Obama is not preparing for the debates as thoroughly as Romney, which has to make the Republicans hopeful.

But Romney not only has to improve, he’s got to make up ground lost due to his own missteps. That will be a tall order.

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