Many of us assumed Mitt Romney would earn a considerable polling bounce following his debate victory last week. Early indications were that the Republican made a splash in some key swing states, and now it looks as though a national bounce has emerged. The question is whether this phenomenon represents a flash in the pan or a more lasting shift in public opinion. Let's examine three new polls and see what conclusions we might be able to draw:
(1) Rasmussen - The race is tied, 48/48, among likely voters. For those Americans who are locked in to their choice, Romney leads by two points. New data from Rasmussen also shows statistical ties in Iowa and Colorado.
(2) Gallup - In the days leading up to the first presidential debate, President Obama appeared to be pulling away from his challenger, leading by as many as seven points. Now? Knotted again -- among registered, not even likely, voters:
Gallup's write-up offers an instructive piece of analysis, including the revelation that the public viewed Mitt Romney as the debate winner by a record-setting 52-point margin:
Gallup typically reports voter presidential preferences in seven-day rolling averages; the latest such average as of Saturday interviewing shows Obama with an average three-point edge, 49% to 46%, among registered voters. This Sept. 30-Oct. 6 field period includes three days before the Oct. 3 debate, the night of the debate itself, and three days after the debate. Even on this basis, the race has become somewhat more competitive compared with before the first debate. Obama held four- to six-point leads in Gallup's seven-day tracking results in the eight days prior to the Oct. 3 debate. Should Mitt Romney's momentum continue in the coming days, that gap in the seven-day rolling average would narrow further.
(3) Politico/GWU - This survey contains the best news for Republicans. The race is statistically tied among likely voters (more on that in a minute), with enthusiasm spiking among GOP-leaners:
President Barack Obama has a worsening enthusiasm problem. A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll of likely voters shows Obama ahead of Mitt Romney 49 percent to 48 percent nationally, a statistical tie and a percentage point closer than a week ago. The head-to-head numbers have held remarkably steady through the past three weeks, but there’s been a notable shift of intensity from the Democrats to the Republicans since the party conventions over a month ago. Most of the poll’s calls were made before Romney’s strong performance at the first presidential debate in Denver. Only 73 percent who support Obama say they are “extremely likely” to vote, compared to 86 percent who back Romney. Likewise, 84 percent of Republicans say they are extremely likely to vote, compared to 76 percent of Democrats. Among those extremely likely to vote, Romney actually leads Obama 52 percent to 46 percent. That’s up from a 2-point lead last week. Obama led 50 percent to 47 percent among this group three weeks ago.
The Politico story reports that fully *85 percent* of this poll was conducted before Romney's debate win, yet he still leads by six points among the likeliest voters. This also indicates that the R vs D enthusiasm gap was widening prior to the destruction in Denver. But Obama leads by a statistically-insignificant percentage point. Problematic? Maybe, but what does the partisan sample look like? Over to you, Ed Morrissey:
It has a D/R/I of 38/30/32, for a D+8. That’s more Democratic than 2008′s D+7, which took place in a cycle with much more Democratic enthusiasm than this poll demonstrates. If Obama trails in a D+8 poll by 6 among the extremely likely voters with four weeks to go, he’s in deep trouble — and his debate performance certainly won’t boost him.
With a less preposterously skewed sample, Romney would be winning outright. Before the debate. I'll leave you with NBC's Chuck Todd
fretting over analyzing similar enthusiasm trends on Meet the Press:
Parting quote: "And by the way, all of this, pre-debate."
UPDATE - Another morsel from the Politico poll: Romney leads independents by...16 points. The only way the poll gets Obama into the lead is via the D+8 sample.