After an Obama bounce prompted a wave of articles about Romney’s dwindling chances, Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse published a memo detailing the case for a comeback. Perhaps the most striking element of the memo was the complete absence of polling data, but his strained reconceptualization of the 1980 race was also highly unusual. Newhouse contended that Carter led by nearly 10 percentage points in late October and asserted that this year would see a rerun of that campaign.
The tracking polls showed Obama remaining at elevated levels, but the Washington Post threw a wrench into a clear assessment of the race: The Washington Post showed Obama leading by 1 point among likely voters but 6 points among registered voters, a bounce of 3 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters. As a result, the gap between registered and likely voters actually widened after the DNC, presumably because Obama only swayed the views of unlikely voters without convincing them to turnout on his behalf.
Of all the signs of movement in Obama’s direction, Gallup's poll is perhaps the single most telling. With huge sample sizes, Gallup's demographic breakdowns have much smaller margins of error than other polls. Today Gallup released its weekly demographic breakdown, which covers the last four weeks of Gallup polling. Over that period, Obama led 48-45 compared to a one point deficit over the prior four week period (Obama was on average up by 1 prior to the DNC; he leads by about 6 over the last week).
With the memory of the conventions fading and initial signs pointing toward an Obama bounce, attention is already turning to Romney’s ability to mount a comeback. In the minds of many, Team Romney’s financial advantage tops the list of reasons for Republican optimism. Indeed, the Romney campaign and its allied super PACs are poised to spend millions on a historic advertising campaign that some argue could bury Obama and swing undecided voters toward Romney. And yet ... There are good reasons to doubt whether Romney will get his money’s worth.
The tracking polls continue to show Obama holding a 5 point lead nationally and Obama maintained 50 and 52 percent approval ratings in Gallup and Rasmussen, suggesting another solid night of polling for the president. CNN joined the chorus by showing Obama leading by 6 points among likely voters. Intriguingly, Obama didn’t make meaningful gains among registered voters, who Obama led by 8 points. Instead, Obama’s bounce was primarily the result of renewed Democratic enthusiasm.
With the conventions wrapping up, we’re entering one of the most pivotal periods of the presidential race. Before the conventions, the polls are only modestly predictive. But over the next few weeks, the polls will rapidly start to provide the clearest picture of the race to date. And, of course, we’ll be tracking all of it. The national tracking polls are pointing toward clear bounce for Obama. To catch up, check out this post on the bounce and its meaning. Let me take this opportunity to add a few caveats.
Obama’s bounce has arrived and so has a debate about its meaning. Some contend that Obama’s bounce will fade over the next few days and that Romney remains very much in the race. Others argue that analysts should hold out for two weeks before making proclamations. Bounces tend to overstate a candidate’s strength, so there are risks in extrapolating too much from Obama’s initial improvement. The critical question is whether it’s possible to learn any lessons from the bounces themselves, even before we learn whether they endure.