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Not an October surprise

October 19, 2012, at 1:15 AM
 

Surprise! It's October and Democrats are freaking out. The election, which seemed within their grasp just two weeks ago, now seems to be... well, like a real election, with two candidates.

Here's the truth: The latest battleground polls suggest that President Obama is maintaining the leads he held on to after Gov. Romney's post-debate bump. (It was a bump — his numbers went up and stayed there — not a bounce, where numbers go up and down.)

Iowa: (NBC News/Marist): Obama is up by 8

Wisconsin: (NBC News/Marist): Obama is up by 8

Colorado: (PPP): Obama up 3 (and at 50 percent)

Michigan: Two polls show Obama up

Pennsylvania: Latest poll shows Romney up by 4

Virginia: (PPP) Obama: 49 percent, Ronmey 49 percent

Florida (Zogby): Obama: 47 percent, Romney 44 percent 

It seems like lessons learned about time and consideration are quickly unlearned as soon as a poll comes out that shows something contrary.  

(1) This race was always going to be tight.  Independents were always going to be up for grabs. And even if Romney hadn't closed the deal post-convention, he would need a single moment of good television, something not pre-rehearsed, to cross the plausibly presidential threshold.  

(2) Obama still has an edge in the battleground states. His get-out-the-vote operation is significantly superior to the GOP's, something that the GOP will admit. 

(3) When something happens in the race, it is priced into the election almost immediately. American voters, as Bruce Feiler and others have noticed, seem to be much better at quickly processing information... the same information that, 10 years ago, might have taken a week to process. That's why game-changing events don't change the game very much — or why they don't often change the game.

(4) A corollary to this is that both sides at this stage will try to use new information to bolster their beliefs or fears. So a second bad poll for Obama, or some bad news report, might actually exaggerate the valence.

We will know today whether Obama receives a bump from his debate performance.

So here's a question for you: Why do Democratic elites freak out? Why is it that Democrats are always freaking out?  And why would a similar situation not make Republican elites  do the same thing?

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

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