Within minutes of the first incriminating words being leaked onto the internets, a number of voices of the left, right, and center began declaring that this was a pivot point in the election, with some calling it Romney's "Macaca moment", and others comparing it to a more apt analogy: "the fundamentals of our economy" comment from John McCain in 2008. Bloomberg's Josh Barro may have stated it the most bluntly:
You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president.Is it too early to declare the Romney presidential campaign deceased? It may well be. One study shows that "game changing" gaffes, as it happens, are almost never game changers. There are exceptions, however, and this might be one of them.
First, though, on to the numbers:
PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama d. Romney (47-46)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Obama d. Romney (47-43 LV; 48-40 RV)
NATIONAL (NBC/Wall Street Journal): Obama d. Romney (50-45 LV; 50-44 RV)
NATIONAL (PPP for Daily Kos/SEIU): Obama d. Romney (50-46)
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking--with leaners): Obama tied with Romney (48-48)
COLORADO (Rasmussen): Romney d. Obama (47-45)
FLORIDA (Gravis Marketing--R): Romney d. Obama (48-47)
MASSACHUSETTS (PPP): Obama d. Romney (57-39)
MASSACHUSETTS (Suffolk University): Obama d. Romney (64-31)
MASSACHUSETTS (Western New England College): Obama d. Romney (60-38 LV; 64-32 RV)
MICHIGAN (Marketing Resource Group--R): Obama d. Romney (48-42)
NEW HAMPSHIRE (American Research Group): Obama d. Romney (48-46)
OREGON (SurveyUSA): Obama d. Romney (50-41)
PENNSYLVANIA (Muhlenberg College/Morning Call): Obama d. Romney (50-41)
VIRGINIA (Washington Post): Obama d. Romney (52-44 LV; 50-43 RV)
CA-36 (PPP for D.F.A.): Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) 47, Raul Ruiz (D) 44A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
CO-06 (DCCC IVR Polling): Rep. Mike Coffman (R) 42, Joe Miklosi (D) 39
FL-SEN (Gravis Marketing--R): Connie Mack IV (R) 43, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) 42
FL-26 (PPP for D.F.A.): Joe Garcia (D) 46, Rep. David Rivera (R) 39
MA-SEN (Suffolk University): Elizabeth Warren (D) 48, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 44
MI-SEN (Marketing Resource Group--R): Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) 46, Pete Hoekstra (R) 40
NH-GOV (American Research Group): Ovide Lamontagne (R) 47, Maggie Hassan (D) 46, John Babiarz (L) 2
NJ-SEN (Philadelphia Inquirer): Sen. Robert Menendez (D) 43, Joe Kyrillos (R) 32
NY-18 (Siena College): Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) 46, Sean Maloney (D) 33, Larry Weissman (WFP) 10
OH-06 (Anzalone-Liszt for the Wilson campaign): Rep. Bill Johnson (R) 46, Charlie Wilson (D) 46
PA-SEN (Muhlenberg College/Morning Call): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 45, Tom Smith (R) 33
WA-01 (SurveyUSA): John Koster (R) 46, Suzan DelBene (D) 42
On Monday, it was hard to know which was more toxic: the release of the taped remarks by Mitt Romney showing his disdain for roughly half the Americans he would serve as president, or the catastrophic attempt at damage control.
As Mitt Romney's day seemed to be getting progressively worse, Democrats were nearly exuberant, and even nominally centrist political observers were declaring this the death knell of the Romney for President campaign, with many echoing, with perhaps a bit less certainty, the comments of Josh Barro.
However, as John Sides noted in his blog, The Monkey Cage, races pivoting on a single gaffe are a decided rarity:
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hasn’t the 2012 campaign taught us not to jump the gun with various “gaffes”? (Yes, I will be using scare quotes throughout.) In fact, didn’t the 2008 campaign teach us this too?To buttress his point, Sides graphed the head-to-head trial heats between Romney and Obama, helpfully adding in where three notable candidate campaign gaffes took place:
The best case for saying that “gaffes matter” is that actual voters are persuaded to change their minds because of the gaffes. If they don’t, then it’s tough to argue that “gaffes” are really “game-changers.” And, in fact, usually voters don’t change their minds.
That third movement, incidentally, was not voter affirmation of Mitt Romney post-Libya commentary, but rather the natural tightening of the race that comes when a convention bounce begins to recede.
I tend to agree with Sides here: there is little evidence historically that a single gaffe turns a race permanently around. The most commonly cited example of recent vintage was the "Macaca" moment in Virginia (though Sides disputes that, as well). But there are a number of other "game changing moments" that simply weren't. If you click on the Sides link, you'll see plenty of evidence that 2008 was full of big gaffes that moved the polls incrementally, if at all.
However, that does not mean that Romney is out of the woods. The danger for Romney, a danger for which yesterday's disaster may prove to be a tipping point, is a cumulative effect. We saw some evidence of that in 2000, when the relentless attempts by the GOP to undermine Al Gore on the honesty/trust issue found purchase after the first debate, when the media became oddly obsessed with a rather minor errant claim by Gore that he had accompanied FEMA director James Witt on a trip to Texas. That was just one of nearly countless examples of the media grabbing onto that meme and not letting go.
If the press does the same thing to Romney, and Romney obliges with a few more poor comments or horrific attempts at damage control, it could prove damaging to the point of rendering his challenge to the president permanently wounded.
In other polling news:
- Today's head-scratching poll of the day? No question: it is the Gravis poll showing not just Mitt Romney, but also GOP Senate hopeful Connie Mack IV, staked to incremental advantages in Florida. Hey, Gravis, here's a tip: if everyone has one result, and you have another, the odds are against the prospect that everyone else is wrong, and you are right. Despite our repeated insistence on posting all of the polls, and letting our readers sort it out, Gravis is about a millimeter away from getting consigned to the Zogby Interactive (rebranded "JZ Analytics") memorial ash heap. And to prove that this is not a partisan move: the old JZ actually had a very good poll for Obama last week. Which, you will note, you did not see in the Wrap.
- If Gravis offered up the weak poll of the day, credit Mark Halperin for the weak tweet of the day:
Sweet home Alabama, Mark. On what occupied planet is either the national or state polling trend in Mitt Romney's direction? Down 5-8 points in Virginia? Down 5-7 in Ohio and Florida (unless you're buying stock in Rasmussen and Gravis)? Down 3-7 nationally with every pollster not named Rasmussen or Gallup?
If only he had actually written that tweet with the phrasing that the polls are "great news for Mitt Romney." That, friends, would complete me.
- Speaking of national polling: did you know that Mitt Romney is up by eleven points? He really is! According to the most unintentionally funny attempt at "unbiased polling" you ever will read. Go ahead and read the write-up. While you are at it, check out our man's archives, where you will learn that if you just take the left-wing bias out of polling, Mitt Romney is clearly favored to win 350+ electoral votes. Just...read the whole thing. Oh, and one more thing: You're welcome.