by Bob Grundfest
Tell me that you saw this coming.
With four weeks to go before the election, we seem to have the race we thought we’d have: close, hard-fought, and partisan. It’s how we landed here that’s most interesting. Mitt Romney received a negative bounce out of the GOP convention and his 47% comments further eroded his support. Then came last week’s debate in Denver and the president’s implosion, which has led to a surge in Republican enthusiasm that’s brought us to today. The improving unemployment rate is also exerting its influence, but so far it’s difficult to gauge just how much it’s affecting the race.
It’s likely that we are still in a volatile polling episode and it will take a few more days to determine the extent of Romney’s rebound and Obama’s reaction to it. Here’s what we know at this point.
According to the latest aggregate polling from Real Clear Politics, Mitt Romney leads president Obama by 0.7%. The bulk of this advantage comes form polling over the last few days, most notably from the Pew survey showing Romney with a four point lead and Gallup’s switch from a Registered to a Likely Voter model. Curiously, the Rasmussen Tracking Poll has the race even at 48% and Gallup and ABC show Obama’s approval ratings as 54% to 43% and 55%-44%, respectively. Usually, those are signs that the candidate is doing well, but this is 2012: we do things different here.
There are significant changes in the electoral map as a result of the Romney spike. Colorado and Virginia are now rated as tossups and Pennsylvania has narrowed to a three point lead for Obama. Ohio, the big state that Romney must have to win, is closer, though a new CNN poll gives Obama a four point lead with a D+2 sample.
Other odd things are happening with the numbers. Despite the Romney Romp, the Congressional ballot shows Democrats with a one point lead, and Democratic Senatorial candidates in Connecticut (Murphy), Massachusetts (Warren), Missouri (McCaskill), Virginia (Kaine) and North Dakota (Heitkamp) holding on to leads or running close races. Down ballot contests, it seems, have not reaped the debate benefits.
The question remains as to what to make of this swing. Most of the polls in the field now include a super two days of Romney spike last Thursday and Friday. After Sunday, both Gallup and Rasmussen find a regression in Mitt’s numbers and a small rebound for the president which could be due to the lower unemployment rate (this is not definite by any means). If this represents a true resetting of the race, then Romney is in a great position to use the second and third debates to close the deal. My sense is that it will take until the weekend, or next Monday, to see where the race is heading.