Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mitt Romney takes lead in post-debate polls

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s sterling performance in last week’s debate has led to a resurgence in the polls. President Obama held a small lead going into the debate according to polls from the last week of September. Now Mitt Romney seems to have closed the gap. The Real Clear Politics average of polls now shows Obama with a half point lead. If the polls are examined more closely, however, the RCP average includes five polls taken before the debate.

In the three polls taken since the debate, two are ties and one, the most recent, gives Romney the edge. The current Rasmussen and Gallup polls show the race tied. Rasmussen gives Romney and Obama 48 percent each while Gallup shows a 47-47 split.

The biggest post debate news is the Pew poll that shows Romney with a four point lead. The poll of 1,112 likely voters was taken in the three days following the debate.

Given the fact that the election is based on the Electoral College and not the popular vote, the real question is whether the polls in the swing states have moved toward Romney. The states upon which the election will likely hinge are Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Colorado. Both candidates’ chances of victory depend on whether they can win a majority of these states.

Ohio with its 18 electoral votes is the king of the swing states. No Republican president has won without Ohio. The two most recent polls there are split. Rasmussen shows Obama with a one point lead. We Ask America, with a sample more the twice the size of the Rasmussen poll, shows Romney with a one point lead. Both organizations polled likely voters.

In Florida, another large electoral prize with 29 votes, both post-debate polls favor Romney. Rasmussen shows Romney with a two point lead. A simultaneous We Ask America poll found Romney held a three point advantage.

In Virginia, there are three post-debate polls. Two of these favor Romney and one favors Obama. The two Romney polls were taken on October 4. Rasmussen showed a one point Romney lead and We Ask America found a three point lead for the Republican. A Public Policy poll that finished on October 7 found a three point Obama lead.

North Carolina has not been polled since the debate, but Romney already led by four points in two separate polls by Rasmussen and ARG. Obama also led in two polls (Survey USA and NBC/Wall St. Journal/Marist), but by two points. One poll, Public Policy, found a tie.

Colorado is an aberration in that Romney held a lead before the debate, but now the race is split. Two polls, Rasmussen and University of Denver, show Obama with one and four point leads respectively. Romney leads in a Gravis Marketing poll by three points.

Here in Georgia, Mitt Romney is heavily favored despite his Mormon religion. The most recent poll, taken in September by Insider Advantage, showed Romney with a 21 point lead. This is in spite of a poll last year by Gallup that showed a majority of Georgians approved of President Obama’s job performance.

In contrast to Georgia’s deepening red state status, some blue states are becoming more competitive. Wisconsin, which under Gov. Scott Walker has trended more conservative, is now hotly contested. Although the Real Clear Politics average gives President Obama a six point lead, the sole poll taken since the debate (by Public Policy Polling) shows that the president’s lead has narrowed to two points. The shift is even more dramatic when it is considered that two polls (Marquette University and We Ask America) taken just prior to the debate had given Obama 11 and 12 point leads.

In Pennsylvania, Real Clear Politics also shows that Obama holds a six point lead. However the most recent poll, a Susquehanna survey of 725 likely voters, only found a two point Obama lead. This was down from seven and 12 points in polls by Morning Call and CBS/NY Times/Quinnipiac prior to the debate.

The story is similar in other blue states as well. In Michigan, Obama’s lead has fallen from 12 points to three. Nevada moved from an 11 point Obama lead to a tie. Obama’s lead in Iowa shrank from as high as seven points to two. A number of other blue states have not been polled since the debate so the full extent of the Obama’s collapse may not be known.

It appears that a trend toward Romney is underway around the country. This trend may well be understated. Pollsters like Dick Morris have pointed out that many current polls oversample Democrats by using models based on the 2008 turnout that swept Obama into office. In reality, Democratic Party identification has fallen sharply since 2008 and Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about the election than Republicans.

With four weeks left before the election, current trends favor Mitt Romney. Nevertheless, the race remains close and events could shift the tide in either direction. The instability of the economy and the world is reflected in the instability of the presidential campaign. Rising unrest in the Middle East and an economy that remains stagnant mean that President Obama will likely need unexpected good news or a Mitt Romney meltdown to regain the initiative.

Originally published on

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