Romney's Rhetoric Responsible For Obama's Surge And New Lead In Polls
Mitt Romney's string of offensive remarks—attacking Obama after U.S. diplomats were murdered in Libya and saying 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes and are pathetic government dependents—has resulted in the largest lead by Obama in 2012's polls.
The most detailed poll, by The Pew Research Center For The People And The Press, gives Obama the biggest lead—8 percentage points—and says that compared to this same time period in recent presidential elections, Obama shares the favorables that recent candidates had who went on to win.
“Not only does Obama enjoy a substantial lead in the horserace, he tops Romney on a number of key dimensions,” Pew said. “His support is stronger than his rivals, and is positive rather than negative. Mitt Romney’s backers are more ardent than they were pre-convention, but they are still not as enthusiastic as Obama’s. Roughly half of Romney’s supporters say they are voting against Obama rather than for the Republican nominee.”
However, Obama now leads Romney 48.3 percent to 45.0 percent in an average of all nationwide polling taken in the last week, according to Real Clear Politics. In a handful of swing states, such as Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, Obama also is moving ahead of Romney. In others, notably in Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, both candidates are statistically tied.
Pew’s poll was taken before Romney’s remarks on the “47 percent” and concluded, “No previous presidential candidate [who won] has been viewed more unfavorably than favorably at this point in a presidential campaign in Pew or Gallup surveys going back to 1988.” Those unfavorables include Obama leading Romney “by nearly three-to-one (66 percent to 23 percent) as the candidate who connencts with ordinary Americans—an even wider margin than in June.”
On economic issues, which Romney has tried to portray as his strength, Pew finds the public is evenly split on who will do the right thing to fix the economy (Obama 52 percent, Rommey 49 percent). Obama is seen as inspiring to 64 percent, and leads 56 percent to 37 percent among women registered voters, young voters under 30 (59 percent to 33 percent) and voters age 30 to 49 (52 percent to 41 percent). He also is far ahead among African Americans (92 percent) and Hispanics (69 percent to 24 percent).
Pew’s poll suggests that Obama is pulling away from Romney based on many issues that stir voters, but it also shows where Romney and Obama are running evenly. Among men, Romney leads slightly (47 percent to 46 percent for Obama), and, of course, Romney is also winning among white evangelical Protestants.
It is important to note that Pew’s polling presents the most optimistic scenario for Obama. Other national polls taken in this period show the momentum moving toward Obama, although his lead—such as at the historically GOP-friendly Rasmussen survey where the president is ahead 47 percent to 45 percent in a poll done Sept. 17 to 19—is less than the 3 percent margin of error.
Still, an overnight national poll conducted on Tuesday by Gallup in response to Romney’s “47 percent” statement found that 36 percent said the statements would make them “less likely” to vote for Romney. Twenty percent said the statements would make them more likely to vote for Romney—which is about the size of the electorate that has historically supported the Tea Party since 2009. And 43 percent said that the remarks made no difference.
As expected, Gallup found the remarks are turning off lower-income voters, with 42 percent of people making less than $26,000 a year saying it made them less likely to vote for Romney. Gallup also found the remarks also bothered nearly a third of independent voters, tilting “toward the ‘less likely’ over the ‘more likely’ view by a 29 percent to 15 percent margin, although more than half say Romney's comments make no difference.”
While the national surveys suggest that Romney’s campaign is crumbling, the picture in swing states—where the key Electoral College votes are needed to win—is far tighter and also shifting in some surprising ways. According to the Huffington Post’s polling, Obama is pulling ahead in the East and Midwest, while the race is still within one percentage point in Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.
The Huffington Post's polling found: In Colorado, Obama has 47.0 percent to Romney’s 46.1 percent. In Iowa, Obama has 46.5 percent to Romney’s 45.8 percent. In Wisconsin, Obama has 49.2 percent to Romney’s 44.4 percent. In Ohio, Obama has 48.7 percent to Romney’s 43.7 percent. In Virginia, Obama has 49.1 percent to Romney’s 44.8 percent. In North Carolina, Obama has 47.0 percent to Romney’s 46.9 percent. In Florida, Obama has 48.9 percent to Romney’s 45.1 percent.
These state-based figures suggest that Obama has the upper hand, but his victory is by no means assured. In several of these states, the deadline for registering to vote for the fall election is quickly appoaching in early October. Even the most optimistic survey—Pew—found that a key cohort of Obama’s 2008 supporters, young people under 30, weren’t as interested in 2012 as they were four years ago.
“Overall interest in the 2012 election is not as high as it was at this point in the 2008 campaign, with a similar decline among both Democrats and Republicans,” it said. “But the dropoff in engagement is most notable among younger Americans. Just 48 percent of voters younger than 30 have given a lot of thought to to the 2012 election, down from 65 percent at this point four years ago. The share of young people who say they are closely following electuion news is down by about half (from 35 percent to 18 percent).”
Democrats cannot take Obama’s current edge for granted. It means that they will need to make sure that their base is registered and motivated to vote in swing states—and not just for the presidential race. As Romney’s campaign has sunk, Democratic congressional candidates in tight races, such as U.S. Senate candidates Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, have surged ahead. Even if Obama wins—as these polls suggest he is poised to do—he needs a Democratic congressional majority to get anything significant done.
The Princeton Election Consortium predicted on Thursday that the Democrats had a "74 percent" chance to take back the House, but the Consortium's Sam Wang said he could not be as precise as he would like because most House race polls were taken before the recent Romney outbursts.
Now is not the time to become complacent, but rather to focus on registering new voters, updating voter registration information if you have moved since the last federal election and ensuring you have the right forms of state-required ID to vote. You can assume the GOP will still fight very hard—and go into court as they did in Florida in 2000—if there is a chance they can disqualify enough swing state voters if the presidency hangs by a thin margin.