We have several new swing state polls in today and they all continue to show a shift to Mitt Romney following last week's debate. At this point, it is pretty clear that Romney's debate bounce has outweighed whatever counter-bounce Obama might have gotten from the drop in the unemployment rate, and may have actually wiped out all the gains Obama had gathered since the Democratic convention and the release of the 47% video. That being said, there are several factors to consider when evaluating the "new normal" state of the race.
First the numbers, then my analysis.
Originally published at No We Can't Politics.
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* OHIO: Obama 51%, Romney 47% -- No previous poll (CNN)
* OHIO: Romney 48%, Obama 47% -- Romney +2% since 1 month ago (ARG)
* NEVADA: Obama 47%, Romney 47% -- Romney +2% since 3 weeks ago (Rasmussen)
* COLORADO: Romney 50%, Obama 46% -- Romney +6% since 3 weeks ago (ARG)
* NEW HAMPSHIRE: Obama 47%, Romney 41% -- Romney +9% since 2 weeks ago (WMUR)
* NORTH CAROLINA: Romney 50%, Obama 41% -- No previous poll (Gravis)
Taking these numbers in as a whole continues the trend we've seen since the debate -- a shift to Romney in pretty much every state. In some states, the shift has been bigger, in others smaller, but it's there just about everywhere. Yes, a lot of the polls released since the debate have been from Republican-leaning pollsters like Rasmussen, Gravis, ARG, etc. But if we're going to be fair, we have to look at all the data as a whole, and more importantly, the trendlines, which all continue to go Romney's way.
It's also worth noting that the gap between registered voters and likely voters continues to grow, as evidenced by Gallup now switching to a likely voter model and showing a 2% Romney lead, as well as the fact that the CNN Ohio poll had a 10% lead for Obama among registered voters, but just 4% among likely voters. This seems to point to an ever-increasing enthusiasm gap for Democrats.
That being said, in what has been a largely positive week for Romney, and probably Obama's worst of the campaign in terms of polling, one silver living for Obama is that he has had data out this week showing him still up in Ohio, Iowa, and New Hampshire. Those are crucial states for him, along with Nevada, as they form his best shot at some sort of electoral college firewall. Right now, if we look at the averages of those states, that firewall is barely holding on:
So even with Romney at the absolute peak of his campaign so far this year, he remains behind in the averages of all these states. It's also worth noting that the Ohio average does not include polls from NBC/WSJ, CBS/NYT, and Washington Post, the three pollsters that showed the largest Obama leads in Ohio previously. It will be important to see what their new polls say whenever they come out, and how much of a shift to Romney they record. Still though, unless there is a tidal wave shift, they are likely to further pull Obama's Ohio average lead up.
With that firewall currently holding, Obama is hanging on right now in the face of big momentum for Romney. The question now is, how much more of a shift to Romney are we going to see, or has it maxed out?
It is without question now that Romney has gotten a significant boost from the debate last week and has fought back from the brink of defeat to what looks like a national tie. Obama's debate performance has been very costly. Romney is also back in the game in the electoral college -- the polling averages work out to 294 Obama, 244 Romney while the 538 forecast has it at 296.7 Obama, 241.3 Romney. Romney has made gains everywhere. But it's worth noting that the electoral college remains in Obama's favor (even though the national polling may, in fact, be tied now).
We do seem to have a "new normal" now in that what was looking like a 2008-type electoral route early last week is now looking a bit more like a 2004-type squeaker that will rest on a few key states. As I've been saying for over a month, North Carolina at this point seems like a questionable investment for the Obama campaign. It is hard to see him winning North Carolina without winning the national vote by at least 5%, and right now, it seems more likely that the national vote will be well below a 5% difference, perhaps within 2%-3% or less. In that scenario, North Carolina is not going to matter. The money and resources allocated there could make a difference for Obama in states like Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire where he remains ahead even at his weakest point in the campaign, as well as states like Florida and Virginia which, in this "new normal" of a much closer race, figure to be toss-ups. Keep in mind that Obama only had a tie in the North Carolina polling average at his highest point in the campaign two weeks ago.
So yes, we do have a "new normal." The race is much tighter now, and Obama no longer looks to be in position for an electoral landslide. But we also have to remember that we are in the middle of the most volatile time of the campaign, particularly one that is close -- debate season. Just like Romney gained huge momentum overnight with the first debate, we can see shifts of that magnitude just as quickly with the second and third debates. It's important to not get too swayed in one way or another by a day's polling. The trends absolutely favor Romney right now, but the overall fundamentals of the race still favor Obama. That could change. If Romney wins the next debate in convincing fashion like he did last week, it could be devastating for Obama as it would show the electorate that the first debate wasn't a fluke. At the same time, Obama has a chance to completely erase the first debate by simply showing up and being aggressive and passionate in the second one.
The small percentage of swayable voters have shown themselves to have a very short memory this election season. They were swayed after the Democratic convention to Obama. They were swayed again to Obama after the 47% video. But then much of that swayable group was swayed back to Romney after the debate. In other words, they are swayable, and will likely remain so for awhile. It'll be up to Obama to sell it at the next debate, just like it will be up to Romney to sell it.
I wrote earlier today about how the Obama campaign seems to be losing the messaging battle since the debate. They have flipped places with the Romney campaign -- now they are the one with helter-skelter, short-term, small attacks like the Big Bird thing -- not the ones with the long-term, broader, grander attacks. As I said in that article, the Big Bird thing reminds me of the Joe the Plumber attack by the McCain campaign in 2008 -- it may have rallied the base a bit, and it was an entertaining distraction, but nobody else cared much and it didn't move many votes. The Obama campaign will need to get back onto a grand message that hurts Romney.
Unfortunately for Obama, he may not have a legitimate chance to do that in the current media climate until the next debate. To use a baseball analogy, it's like when a closing pitcher comes in and blows a save. He can talk about what went wrong all night, but people aren't going to stop talking about that blown save and blaming that pitcher for it, and analyzing what went wrong, and praising the guy who got a hit off of him to win the game, until he goes back out there and closes the next game successfully. That's the only way to get past it. That is what Obama will need to do.
But for now, Obama's electoral college firewall is holding up in the face of continued momentum for Romney.
Originally published at No We Can't Politics.