Following Mitt Romney's decisive Denver debate victory, the salient question was whether the resulting polling surge represented a fleeting bounce or a lasting movement. NBC's Chuck Todd examines the data and announces his determination:
"I feel like there's been this structural shift. We're not longer in this 'it's even, but the president has these advantages.' The 'but the president has these advantages' in the battleground states I think is gone."
Todd's analysis came in the context of evaluating today's new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows a virtual tie, but with Obama ahead by three points. How did WaPo manufacture a 49/46 Obama edge? Through a preposterous partisan sample that defies the poll's own findings. Ed Morrissey explains:
The partisan split among likely voters in this poll is a jaw-dropping D+9, 35/26/33. The D/R/I in 2008′s presidential election was a D+7 at 39/32/29, while the midterm was 35/35/30, Is there any reason to think that Democratic participation will be so off-the-charts huge that it will reduce Republican participation by nearly a third from the midterm elections, our most recent model of the electorate? No, as the Post’s own findings on enthusiasm show.
What are these enthusiasm findings of which Ed writes?
The improvement in views of Romney carries directly into the underpinnings of his support: Fewer of his supporters now express anxiety about a Romney administration, and the number of his backers saying they support him “very enthusiastically” jumped by double digits. Among the likely voters supporting Romney, 62 percent now do so intensely, exactly double the number who were eagerly lined up behind Republican nominee John McCain at this stage in the campaign four years ago.
So GOP enthusiasm about the presidential ticket has "exactly doubled" since 2008, but Republican turnout will be even lower in November than it was back then? Nonsense. Ed notes than the bigger headline may be that this survey handed the president a gargantuan sample advantage, and he still couldn't crack 50 percent. In fact, among independents, Romney leads by six points. Meanwhile, a fresh national survey from Politico/GWU shows the race tied (unchanged from the last few iterations), with Mitt Romney opening up a very modest lead over ten swing states -- and hitting 50 percent. The Republican nominee seems to have finally shaken his likeability issues, at least for now:
A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Pollof likely voters puts Obama ahead of Romney 49 percent to 48 percent, a statistical tie and the same as the week before. Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Romney leads 50 percent to 48 percent. Even as the head-to-head number held stubbornly steady for the past month, Romney improved his likability numbers. A slim majority, 51 percent, now views Romney favorably as a person, while 44 percent view him unfavorably. The former Massachusetts governor had been underwater on this measure. In mid-September, 49 percent of respondents viewed him unfavorably. Going into the first presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3, the electorate was evenly split 47 percent to 47 percent on what to make of Mitt.
This suggests that Romney has managed to undo much of the damage from the Obama campaign's massive negative ad blitz over the summer and early fall, the purpose of which was to bury Mitt's favorables in a hole so deep that he couldn't emerge from it. Romney leads by eight points with independents in this poll. As for specific swing states, two new polls show the race exactly tied in Iowa, with Romney slightly ahead in Virginia. Rasmussen has Romney in the overall lead, but just barely. Tomorrow holds another critical debate. Team Obama has promised that the incumbent will be much sharper and more aggressive in the town hall-style forum, and the candidate has been tucked away cramming for the exchange. Barring a second collapse, Obama will perform better in round two, and much of the media will swoon, relieved. But I'll leave you with a piece of commentary from Bob Woodward. He warns that Obama has to step up his game without coming across as an entirely different person:
Voters know Barack Obama at this point, so they're more likely to be suspicious of a hasty makeover. That's why Denver was so big: Voters didn't really know Romney very well at all (apart from advertisements and news soundbytes), so his debate showing was a first, unfiltered impression.
UPDATE - In the first clip, Todd notes that the one key state where Obama continues to hang tough is Ohio. Read Byron York's dispatch from the Buckeye State:
Just two weeks ago, Republicans here in Ohio, even in GOP stronghold Warren County, were filled with anxiety and doubt. Poll after poll showed President Obama widening his lead over Mitt Romney in this crucial battleground state. Republicans didn't know whether to believe the polls -- many didn't -- or admit their man was faltering in a nearly must-win state. Either way, it was a frustrating situation. No longer. In the wake of Romney's decisive victory over Obama in the first presidential debate October 3, the campaign's trajectory here in Ohio is up, up, up. Not just in the polls, where Romney has cut a five-and-a-half point Obama lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls to 1.7 points, but also in Republicans' everyday lives as they talk to friends and, in some cases, volunteer for the campaign. And on Saturday evening in Lebanon, population 20,242, county seat of Warren County, where John McCain beat Barack Obama 67 percent to 31 percent in 2008, optimism had returned. "There is hope, we have hope now," said Tracey Perry of Loveland as she waited for Romney to speak to a crowd of nearly 10,000. "We were afraid the message was never going to get out."