Fact is, Obama doesn't like to play the partisan fighter role. He wants to be the conciliator who brings people together to blah blah blah. That's why he let the health care debate drag on 14 months instead of genuinely ramming it down the GOP's throat. That's why he waited until this year to act on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the DREAM kids. Every time you think he has learned that Republicans want to utterly destroy him, he comes back with his rhetorical embrace of the enemy, telling everyone that we should all come together because we're not really all that different! You see, Republicans want to destroy Social Security, and Democrats want to ... destroy it a little less? God, I hope not. But that's the Obama people got last week.
And as we've seen time and time again, every time Obama shies away from standing firm he gets burned, and he got burned badly.
The irony, of course, is that Romney scored his biggest points by moving to Obama's left. The Etch-a-Sketch was in action, as Romney transformed himself from a "severe conservative" to "Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney."
But conservatives didn't care, because one, they know Romney is malleable and they'd be able to shape him like silly putty, and two, they'd embrace Bernie Sanders if the Vermont socialist went on stage and punched Obama.
But here's the data, post-debate: In what were the worst polling days for the president all cycle, the GOP's hack pollster Rasmussen found Nevada tied 47-47, Obama up in Iowa 49-47, Obama up in Colorado 49-48, and Obama up in Ohio 50-49. He also found Romney up 49-47 in Florida and 49-48 in Virginia.
PPP found Obama winning Virginia 50-47 and Wisconsin 49-47. Ann Selzer, one of the best pollsters in the biz, found Obama leading in Colorado 47-43. We've got a CNN poll of Ohio coming out in several hours which will also help paint a better picture of where things stand. But again, remember—if the poll was in the field last Thursday and Friday, the results won't be great. But in this, the highest point in Romney's campaign thus far, this is the best he can muster?
(Continue reading below the fold.)
2:04 PM PT: Note, that CNN poll was in the field Fri-Mon, which means it avoided that bad Thursday, and added a good Monday (and maybe Sunday). This week, the numbers will be heavily dependent on when exactly the poll was taken.
Also remember that the bump is fading. That's why they call them bumps. Particularly when Romney still hasn't solved his biggest problem. From ABC's latest poll:
Night-to-night data indicate a sizable [favorability] boost for Romney, and drop for Obama, on Thursday night, a day after their first debate, which Romney widely is seen as having won. But both of those trends subsequently subsided in this poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday.Got that? Romney got more popular Thursday, but faded over the rest of the weekend to the point that his net unfavorability ended up just one point better than before the debate. Obama, paradoxically, ended up +2. The Rasmussen daily tracker has already given back most of Romney's debate bump, as has Gallup:
The net effect is slight at best. Romney is now seen favorably by 47 percent of registered voters overall, unfavorably by 51 percent; Obama’s rating is better, 55-44 percent. Changes for both candidates from their pre-debate levels (Romney 44-49 percent, Obama 52-45 percent) are not statistically significant, given the surveys’ margin of sampling error.
Since Saturday, however, Obama has regained a 50% to 45% edge among registered voters in interviewing conducted Sunday and Monday -- the same as his margin in the three days prior to the debate. Although these two days of interviewing involve relatively small sample sizes, they suggest that Romney's debate "bounce" may be fading.That's a very bumpity bump.
The problem is that we must now suffer through a couple of days of polling that were in the field late last week. If these trends hold, we'll have some great polling news next week. So instead of freaking out about every poll you see over the next few days, just take a gander at the dates and realize that those numbers are about as worse-case as you can get.
Of course, that assumes that Joe Biden and Obama won't screw up the remaining three debates. I must admit I previously underestimated Obama's ability to blow this. But as bad as last week was, and regardless of the media chatter, the fundamentals of the race remain little changed: Romney is still not a popular figure, while Obama continues to improve (today, Gallup was up +4 on the day for Obama's favorabilities, 53-42) while retaining the lead and sitting at 50 or very close to it in the States That Matter. Given the choice, I'd much rather be Obama than the other guy.
People want to vote for Obama, they want him to succeed, which is more than can be said about Romney. But he can't let them down again. Another bad debate performance, and the fundamentals may not hold.