Republicans need not panic about recent grim national tracking polling numbers that have shown President Obama opening up a lead of three to five points, writes Romney pollster Neil Newhouse in a state-of-the-race memo sent out Monday morning. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly,” the missive reads. “The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race.”
Never mind that a senior Romney adviser predicted an 11-point Republican convention bounce just a few weeks ago. This argument is paper thin on its own.
The economy is bad and that alone means Obama will lose, Newhouse argues. This is a pretty good theory–and still quite plausible, I’d say–except for the fact that it’s clearly not one that the Romney campaign believes any longer. In early August, when Romney gambled on Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, his campaign began making the case that this election is a choice between two different governing philosophies, not just a referendum on Obama’s economic stewardship. The most likely explanation for this shift was that all things being equal, Romney believed he would lose a referendum on Obama. The economy is undoubtedly the President’s greatest weakness and he’s not going to get much help on that front in the closing weeks of the race. But if Romney doesn’t believe that will be enough to topple Obama, why should anyone else?
Polls that show Obama ahead also show that he’s not ahead by very much, “virtually guaranteeing a tight race,” the memo points out. OK. Since no one has ever said this race would be anything but tight, I’m not sure where Newhouse is going with this, but let’s translate it into a tired football metaphor: We’re only down by one score in the fourth quarter.
Is that supposed to cheer Republicans up? This section also points to several states where Obama’s lead is “only seven points.” Now that’s a glass half full view if I ever heard one! Conspicuously absent from the memo is any mention of internal campaign polling that’s more favorable to Romney than recent public surveys, which is usually what campaign polling memos supply. Reasonable inference: Optimistic internal polling doesn’t exist.
Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan at one point in 1980 and then he lost, Newhouse writes. This Ronald Reagan character sounds great, but the memo barely tries to mush these apples and oranges together. The economy was important then, too, it says before moving on to other non-sequiturs — without mentioning that Reagan’s big surge started with a double digit bounce out of the GOP convention.
“The Romney-Ryan campaign is running deeply local and targeted efforts in each of the states focusing on the voter groups that will make the difference on Election Day,” the memo reads. “Anyone asserting a ‘one-size-fits-all-campaign’ effort is being put forward is simply misinformed.” This may quiet the unnamed critics, but the Obama campaign also has a vast voter targeting operation. The memo brags about Republicans’ ground game and turnout operations too, another area where they can claim success all they like, but can’t credibly say their organization is better than Democrats’. These things are not evidence that the polls underestimate Romney.
Republicans raised more than $111 million in August, Newhouse writes. This is his best point: Romney does have a financial advantage, outside groups only widen the gap and there is a massive flood of GOP advertising coming. But the August figures aren’t really the best to tout since Democrats narrowly outraised them last month. And fundraising is not an explanation for bad poll numbers. Really, nothing in this memo is.