Drip, drip, drip with nine days to go:
In the most precipitous decline it has seen in more than a year, President Barack Obama's job approval rating has dropped 7 points in three days, according to Gallup. In the three-day period ending on Oct. 23, says Gallup, 53 percent said they approved of the job Obama was doing and 42 percent said they did not...On Oct. 26, it dropped yet again to 46 percent who said they approved and 49 percent who said they did not.
Bear in mind, this represents Obama's approval level even after Gallup abruptly changed its methodology last month -- a move that appeared to favor Obama. Despite the new home cooking, Obama is still underwater by three points. In the head-to-head match up with Mitt Romney, the president trails by five points among likely voters, 51/46. The good news? Historically speaking, both of these stats spell doom for Obama's electoral prospects. No incumbent president has gotten re-elected with these sorts of numbers. (PPP's latest has Obama's approve/disapprove at a dismal 44/52). The bad news? Obama could lose the popular vote but win the electoral college. If Romney's apparent national momentum doesn't bleed into Ohio and/or Wisconsin, the beleaguered president might just get dragged across the 270 finish line. The Romney campaign has canceled three scheduled rallies in Virginia today, due to the impending hurricane. In some ways, GOP strategists may see this as a political blessing in disguise because it's freed the nominee up to return to the Buckeye State, where every last vote is critical. Romney will join Paul Ryan, who is already in the midst of a bus tour through Ohio. Barack Obama is clinging to a tiny lead in the state, though some data crunchers believe Obama's support in the polls may be overstated because of early voting complications. As I reported on Friday, Romney will scoot over to Wisconsin tomorrow to address supporters in a state where the race is statistically deadlocked. Another extremely competitive Midwestern state is Iowa, where both campaigns are expecting things to come down to the wire. In a development that could boost the Republican ticket's chances, Iowa's largest newspaper has decided to endorse Romney. From the Des Moines Register editorial board:
American voters are deeply divided about this race. The Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement. Our discussion repeatedly circled back to the nation’s single most important challenge: pulling the economy out of the doldrums, getting more Americans back in the workforce in meaningful jobs with promising futures, and getting the federal government on a track to balance the budget in a bipartisan manner that the country demands. Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate. The former governor and business executive has a strong record of achievement in both the private and the public sectors. He was an accomplished governor in a liberal state. He founded and ran a successful business that turned around failing companies. He successfully managed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Romney has made rebuilding the economy his No. 1 campaign priority — and rightly so.
Barack Obama rocketed to the presidency from relative obscurity with a theme of hope and change. A different reality has marked his presidency. His record on the economy the past four years does not suggest he would lead in the direction the nation must go in the next four years. Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation’s fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America — with the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed.
Newspaper endorsements don't pack the same punch that they once did, but this one is striking for two primary reasons: (1) Iowa is nip-and-tuck. (2) Not only did the DMR endorse Obama in 2008, they haven't backed a Republican for president in 40 years. Check it:
1972: Richard Nixon (R) - won
1976: Jimmy Carter (D) - won
1980: Jimmy Carter (D) - lost
1984: Walter Mondale (D) - lost
1988: Michael Dukakis (D) - lost
1992: Bill Clinton (D) - won
1996: Bill Clinton (D) - won
2000: Al Gore (D) - lost
2004: John Kerry (D) - lost
2008: Barack Obama (D) - won
This paper backed Carter in 1980, and later Mondale and Dukakis. But even they have seen enough of Barack Obama. One can't help but wonder how much this episode influenced the editors' decision-making process. My hunch is that they were leaning towards Romney anyway, then Obama's bungled interview sealed the deal. Might this sway a few handfuls of undecided Hawkeye State voters?
UPDATE - Fresh Ohio poll: 49/49, with Romney up by six on the economy. Rasmussen's swing state tracker has Romney +6, his largest lead of the entire campaign. Parting quote: "Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida."
UPDATE II - Gallup's new numbers have Obama at 48/48 on approval, with Romney leading 50/46. Rasmussen has it at 50/47 overall.