Last night, we saw NBC/WSJ's latest national poll, which has held nothing but bad news for Mitt Romney and ludicrous partisan samples for much of the year. This iteration has a D+7 split, including a D+5 among the likely voter subsample. That breakdown is not as terrible as it's been in the past, but it's still probably a few shades too blue. The strange part about this survey is the significant improvement Obama appears to be enjoying on the economy. If you hadn't noticed, there hasn't been very much good economic news lately, to put it kindly. So is this the beginning of a counterfactual trend as voters break for the incumbent? Is it residual afterglow from Bill Clinton's "it isn't Obama's fault" address at the DNC? Or is it simply an outlier? I suppose time will tell, but NBC's polling outfit certainly seems convinced that this election is all but over -- or at least that's the message they're hoping to convey. Today, USA Today and Gallup are out with yet another national survey (I look forward to future election cycles wherein new polls will be released every half hour). Their verdict? It's a tie. Nationwide, Obama leads by statistical noise (47/46), while nursing a within-the-margin-of-error 48-46 edge in twelve battleground states. That list includes Pennsylvania and New Mexico, both of which are already effectively off the board and in O's column, perhaps adding a cushion that doesn't exist across some of the other hotly contested states. USA Today's write-up of its own findings can be summed up this way: "Yeah, it's still really close, but what about Romney's gaffe?"
The good news for Republican challenger Mitt Romney: After three rocky weeks, he remains within striking distance of President Obama in the battleground states that matter most. The bad news: His latest misstep could upend that. A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of Swing States, completed Monday night, shows Romney lagging President Obama by only 2 percentage points, 48%-46%, well within the survey's margin of error and a point closer than their contest last month. Nationwide, Obama's bounce from the Democratic National Convention is dissipating: The president now leads across the country in the Gallup Poll by a single point, 47%-46%. But the story transfixing cable newscasts and the Twitterverse on Tuesday wasn't Romney's recovery but his comments, captured in a secretly recorded video of a Florida fundraiser in May and posted online Monday by Mother Jones magazine. Before a wealthy audience, he dismissed (coincidentally) 47% of the electorate as people who don't pay income taxes, lack personal responsibility, are dependent on the government and are firmly behind his opponent.
Of the first six sentences in a story written about polling data, three of them are devoted to a factor that isn't measured in the poll. Why let actual information get in the way of the chosen narrative? It's as if USA Today's Susan Page is apologizing for the relatively positive survey results, assuring readers that things are going to get worse for Romney now that video has emerged of him attacking government dependency. Wasn't last week's Cairo response supposed to be the final nail in the coffin for Mitt? Didn't the media's collective freak-out ensure that? No? Well I guess it's on to declaring a new death knell. Who knows how voters will react to the media's wall-to-wall coverage of the latest Romneypocalypse, but up to this point, they've pretty stubbornly refused to dump him overboard and lift their voices in a national cry of "four more years!" The USA Today data mirrors the trend we've seen from the daily tracking polls: Rasmussen shows Romney with a very small national and swing state lead, while Gallup has the race within a point (this Gallup poll was conducted separately from the seven-day tracker). The most recent Washington Post/ABC News survey also showed the contest in a virtual tie. Two meaningful internal stats from this new poll:
(1) Democrats have closed the enthusiasm gap, which is not an insignificant development. The GOP is still ahead with the most ("extremely") intense voters, but Dems make up the difference with those who are "very enthusiastic." Whether that trend holds well past the DNC remains to be seen.
(2) "Persuadables." Among Obama supporters, 21 percent say there's at least a slight chance they'll change their vote. That number drops to just 14 percent with those planning to back Romney. Finally, roughly a quarter of voters report the upcoming debates could impact their decision a "great" or "fair" amount.
Since the press is doing its level best to sow doom and gloom among Republicans, I figured I'd leave you with this highly optimistic forecast from Business Insider. This guy's glasses are undeniably rose-tinted and he almost certainly overstates matters. But what if he's even half right?
Both Romney and Obama have been fundraising consistently for months. But Romney has kept his head down and his account flush, and didn't try to compete with the Olympics, the Conventions, or the recent mediocre press. He was competent enough to realize that the Obama campaign had to hemorrhage cash in order to maintain their numbers. And now, he's got a massive upper hand, which very few people are talking about. Once he and his surrogates carpet bomb the swing states with adverts, by shear mathematics Obama will take a small but predictable dive in the polls. In the middle of October, Mitt starts looking like a contender again. The past few weeks of Mediocre Mitt are about to end. He's got more resources than the Obama campaign, and his ability to find cheap media markets and flex his muscle are just coming to the fore. This, plus a few more bad economic months, and he's in the White House. Mitt is undervalued. The real race is just getting started.