With a fuller post-debate picture, it's now clear that Mitt Romney scored a definitive post-debate polling bump.
Registered voters' preferences for president are evenly split in the first three days of Gallup tracking since last Wednesday's presidential debate. In the three days prior to the debate, Barack Obama had a five-percentage-point edge among registered voters.
So in the three pre-debate polls, Obama led 50-45. In the three days after, it was 47-47. So is there reason to panic? Well, Sunday turned into a monster Obama day, because suddenly Obama leads 50-45 once again. Right where things began. Here's the last seven days of Gallup results. The debate was on Oct. 3, so everything above the dotted line includes post-debate samples.
The gray results are those during the period in which Romney had tied up Obama 47-47, so that Sunday must've been monstrous for Obama as he pushed back out to a healthy five-point lead. (Brad DeLong guesstimates it was Obama 57, Romney 38, which smacks of outlier—hence the seven-day smoothing.)
On the other hand, this chart shows just how stable the race has been, even after Obama's subpar debate performance: His numbers have fluctuated between 49 and 50. Romney's between 44 and 46. We're not talking wild swings here, just some rejiggering along the margins.
Meanwhile, Rasmussen seems to agree on a solid Obama Sunday:
Obama erased a two-point deficit in the Rasmussen tracker on Sunday night. Again, even Rasmussen's famously volatile tracker appears fairly stable—with both candidates swinging between just two points, 47 and 49. The last daily tracker, from Ipsos/Reuters, has actually given Romney his biggest boost:
Romney's gain in the Ipsos polling comes entirely from rallying the GOP base, something Romney appears to have finally done. Unlike the other two trackers, Ipsos doesn't seem to have caught an Obama recovery on Sunday.
Note, tomorrow's weekly poll from PPP for Daily Kos and SEIU will show Romney with a lead, with the bulk of respondents coming the Thursday and Friday after the debate.
Given how pessimistic PPP was at the national level, it was interesting to see what they saw at the state level over the weekend. In Wisconsin, a 52-45 pre-debate Obama lead was shrunk to 49-47. Meanwhile, a 49-43 pre-debate lead in Virginia shrunk to 50-47 (though with Obama at 50, can't get too upset at that one).
So what's the lesson here? Obama needs to stop with his "rhetorical embrace" of Romney, or playing prevent defense, or trying to look presidential by pretending to be a punching bag, or whatever harebrained strategy he was supposedly employing. Debates aren't supposed to be game-changers, and yet he almost let Romney do that while suffering the worst debate defeat in Gallup polling history (confirming the post-debate snap polls).
The Obama campaign did a decent job the day after calling out the lies in the debate, and progressives had fun with the Big Bird stuff. Maybe all that had an effect on reversing Romney's little bump. And of course, people have short memories and emotions cool quickly, so perhaps the first debate is just old news and people are just reverting to the status quo, as Gallup seems to show.
But there's no need to give Romney extra juice, and there's no need to re-motivate conservatives who were close to walking away this cycle. So next time, rebut his bullshit at the debate itself, and stop pretending there is anything similar between the Republican and Democratic visions for our country. Because there is not. At least there better not be.
1:19 PM PT: Pew poll shows Romney surging big, now leading 49-45 among likely voters. Note, like PPP poll we're releasing tomorrow, the bulk of the respondents were collected in the few days after the debate. If there is a Sunday reversal, we'll have to wait until next week to see the results.
1:20 PM PT: Oh, and a reminder that we don't elect presidents by national popular vote. We need to see what the states look like, and PPP's Wisconsin and Virginia numbers are encouraging, particularly since they also saw a big swing toward Romney at the national level (details on that coming tomorrow morning).