Daniel Doherty

According to the New York TimesNate Silver, if Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to serve as the next President of the United States (and send Barack Obama back to Chicago) he simply cannot afford to lose Florida in November. And I’m inclined to agree with him. Indeed, earlier this month, Silver conducted a series of hypothetical simulations (explained in greater detail here) testing the likelihood the former Massachusetts governor would defeat the incumbent if he lost certain battleground states in a close election. “These simulations,” he explained, “estimate that Mr. Romney has only a 2 percent chance of winning the election if he loses Florida”:

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Thus, in my view, the Florida NBS/WSJ/Marist poll released today is perhaps more important than most people realize. So while the slightly unrealistic D+5 sample breakdown (among likely voters) undoubtedly shows President Obama edging his opponent by one percentage point -- 47 percent to 46 percent -- one nugget of additional hope for Team Romney is that independent voters are moving decidedly to the Right:

In Florida, though, it's a different picture. There, Romney's image is in better shape -- 46 percent view him positively, while 43 percent view him unfavorably. That may not seem like much, but that three-point, net-positive score is Romney's best in any of the nine battleground states tested in the NBC/Marist/WSJ polls following the political conventions.

In the last Florida poll, Romney was plus-two in positive feelings; in Virginia last month, he was plus-one, just as he was in North Carolina last week. All of the other states have shown Romney with an upside-down score.

Though Obama is a slightly higher net-positive (50 percent to 45 percent) in favorability in Florida, his negative score is actually higher than Romney's.

The movement in Florida came from independents. Both parties are locked in, but in this survey, independents broke for Romney 47 percent to 41 percent. Three weeks ago, Obama led with them 48 percent to 41 percent.

Because the pollsters surveyed both registered and likely voters, it’s important to note that in the former sample Barack Obama holds a bigger, albeit modest, five percentage point overall lead. (This falls just outside the survey’s 3.3 percent margin of error). That said, the poll reflects a growing national trend in which Mitt Romney seems to be slowly but surely convincing independents (who are estimated to comprise about a third of the 2012 electorate) that he is the better candidate. There’s no question, then, that tonight’s debate in Denver is a golden opportunity for Mitt Romney to make his pitch to tens of millions of Americans. Will he rise to the occasion and finally convince middle-of-the-road voters (especially in Florida) that after nearly four years of chronic unemployment, falling household incomes, and rising food and gas prices it’s time for a change?

We’ll just have to wait and see.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography