Obama’s bounce: Has the race shifted?

Surveys taken after the Democratic National Convention give President Obama the lead over Mitt Romney.

“All elections have turning points,” said Nate Silver in NYTimes.com, and last week’s Democratic National Convention may have been exactly that. President Obama received a big, postconvention bounce in the polls this week, with a Gallup survey giving him a 6-point lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and even the right-leaning Rasmussen polls giving him a 3-point lead. In a tight race where “very little has moved the polls much all this year,” the president now seems to be the clear front-runner. It’s too soon to know if the bounce will last, said Nate Cohn in TNR.com, but it’s already clear that “Romney’s chances are in jeopardy.” The Republican nominee received no detectable bounce from his own party’s convention, or from his selection of Paul Ryan as running mate. Moreover, he has never led President Obama in the RealClearPolitics.com average, which collates data from multiple polls. That historically accurate, aggregated poll now shows Obama ahead, 49 percent to 45.4 percent. With most of the electorate already committed, there isn’t much likelihood of a Republican “come-from-behind, Reagan-esque sweep of undecided voters.”

That’s nonsense, said Conn Carroll in Washington Examiner. Obama’s bounce will be temporary, just as every prior president’s postconvention bump has been. It’s a “sugar high,” as Romney pollster Neil Newhouse put it. The president’s approval rating already dropped from 52 percent at the end of the convention to 50 percent a few days later—after the latest disappointing jobs report. “Don’t let anybody fool you: This is a close election.” What’s more, that bounce had little to do with Obama, said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com, and everything to do with Bill Clinton, who “dramatically overshadowed” the president at last week’s convention with his usual rousing rhetoric. Only 43 percent of voters rated Obama’s speech as excellent or good, according to Gallup, compared with 56 percent who said the same about Clinton. This was a Clinton bump. “Unfortunately for Obama, his name will appear on the November ballot.”

All Clinton did was persuasively lay out Obama’s argument for re-election, said Andrew Sullivan in TheDailyBeast.com, and that’s what has caused the shift in polling. Most Americans weren’t paying much attention to the presidential race until the conventions, “essentially backing their party in reserve before truly focusing.” Now they have grasped the pragmatic, positive nature of Obama’s message—and the truly radical nature of the GOP platform on tax cuts for the rich, safety-net shredding, and abortion. “It cannot be encouraging for the Republicans that after the first real apples-to-apples focus on the choice, Obama has surged.” Indeed, the Romney campaign appears to be panicked, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. This week, it unleashed a “massive swing-state ad blitz” in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia. But the campaign has apparently given up trying to win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—meaning Romney will need to “nearly run the table” of the other eight swing states to get to 270 Electoral College votes. Just losing Ohio—a state where he currently polls 2 points behind Obama—would mean almost certain defeat.

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The electoral map is hard for Republicans, said NationalReview.com in an editorial, but far from impossible. The much-heralded bounce seems limited to non-swing states; it mainly “made blue states bluer.” Florida and North Carolina are leaning toward the GOP, and Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire still seem competitive. The math may look daunting, but “there are several paths to 270.” In the remaining weeks before Nov. 6, said Mark Halperin in Time.com, the race could turn in an instant with a major Obama gaffe or bad debate performance. But for the GOP, there’s one problem that’s unlikely to change: “Romney is an unlikable, awkward candidate.” The big danger for him now is that “the congealing conventional wisdom”—even among conservatives—is that he’s running a poor campaign, and is losing ground to Obama. In politics, perception can very quickly become reality.

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