Polling Passions: How to Deal with Campaign Vertigo

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Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's stump speech notes sit on a podium during a campaign rally on Oct. 6, 2012 in Apopka, Fla.

Throughout much of September, polls showed the incumbent President with a clear lead, sometimes as much as eight points nationally. Then he lost the first debate, and things began to change. First, the national polls showed a tie, then a slight advantage for the challenger, albeit inside the margin of error. After the second debate, CNN reported that the challenger “appears to be holding the ground he gained against President Bush after the first presidential debate, according to a recent poll.” Of course, the challenger, John Kerry, went on to lose the 2004 election by 2 points. George W. Bush was reelected to a second term.

Now here we are, eight years later, in October of 2012. A first debate disaster for President Obama has eliminated his lead in national polls. Democrats are wringing their hands. Swing state polls show a similar narrowing. Romney is finally hitting his stride after months of a struggles. The suspense builds. So what happens next?

(MORE: Obama, Romney Twist Two Crucial Issues in First Debate)

As Sasha Issenberg has pointed out, the best people to answer that question work for the Obama and Romney campaigns. They sit on an enormous amount of expensive and current data about where this race stands, and what may happen over the coming weeks. But they aren’t talking. So we are left with far less targeted public polls, which offer intermittent snapshots of the electorate, but cannot predict at this point the outcome of such a close race.

But for those who yearn for more certainty than that with less than 30 days to go, here are some other things to chew on as you click refresh on the RealClearPolitics polling page:

–The first debate was bad for Obama. Maybe even worse than if Obama had fallen “off the stage,” as his spokeswoman Jen Psaki had foreshadowed. But the first debate will not be the final word. Over the next 13 days, there will be three more debates, two presidential, and one vice presidential. All those images you have of the first debate are about to be replaced by new images. This is probably good for Obama, but only if he can fix his first debate performance.

(MORE: The Battle for Ohio: Can Obama Keep His Lead?)

–Both campaigns have said from the beginning that this will be a close election. And neither campaign has ever suggested that this was spin. The electorate really is closely divided, and hardened, and the decision will come down to a handful of swing states. That’s one of the reasons that all the crowing about Obama’s advantage in September was what it seemed. When people answer pollsters they are expressing how they feel at the moment, not necessarily how they will feel on Election Day. So the polls tend to bounce around, but they are most likely to settle where they have been consistently all year, within the margin of error. Which is to say, Obama may be crashing on InTrade, but that crash says more about the wisdom of InTrade than any sharp shift in the fundamentals.

–Political reporting always errs on the side of overselling shifts in the race. If there is a media bias, this is it. How many times this year has one candidate or the other been on the ropes, in crisis, losing ground, gaining ground, failing, fumbling, etc. It’s not that mistakes didn’t happen. It’s just that their import was oversold so that the press had something to talk about. A stable race never sold many newspapers. But that is pretty much what we have had, despite hundreds of millions of spending and many sleepless nights. Don’t believe the day-to-day hype.

–In a close race, the ground game matters. For the most part, the ground operations of both campaigns are a black box. Reporters don’t have access to the real data. But judging simply from time, investment and historical patterns, Obama as the incumbent should have an advantage here.

(MORE: Fact Checking And the False Equivalence Dilemma)

–In a close race, enthusiasm matters. Given external headwinds, the enthusiasm should be on the challenger’s side. In the last week, polls have begun to reflect that. But Romney needs to sustain it. And Obama has a lot of time between now and Election Day to remind voters that he is not the guy who showed up (or didn’t) at the debate in Denver.

–External events matter a great deal. The terrorist attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens clearly hurt Obama’s foreign policy rating. Another attack could hurt more, just as a special forces strike against the people who killed Stevens could give the president a boost. Economic confidence is up significantly from its August doldrums. Obama’s job approval has yet to dip from his debate failure. Americans’ views of whether the country is on the right track or the wrong track have dramatically improved since August. When all is said and done, it’s possible–but by no means certain–that the September jobs report had a bigger impact on the election than the first debate did. By the same token, any major economic swoon between now and November could undermine Obama’s chances.

(PHOTOSPolitical Photos of the Week, Sept. 28 – Oct. 4

–The Romney campaign is doing what it always said it would do: Turn the debates into the single most important moment of the campaign. The fact is that the Obama campaign is now playing on the Romney field. The future performance of both candidates will be crucial.

This may not be enough to settle anyone’s stomachs. But that’s how elections go. Democracy is not supposed to be predictable. Victory is supposed to be earned. And the people are allowed to change their minds right up until election day.

MORE: Lessons Learned from Watching the Presidential Debate–On Mute

68 comments
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decmocratsrcommunits
decmocratsrcommunits

in a few weeks Americans are going to gut the obama regime like a stuck pig; one has to wonder where its hick supporters will hide in the aftermath

carolerae
carolerae

The Debate was only bad b/c of the Press Hysteria obviously continuing.  So what now?  If it were Obama, I'd LIVE in Ohio where he has a six pt lead; where they sucessfully defeated the antiUnion Bill by referendum that Kasich passed.  Rombot wants a nonunion US.  Ohio is not interested.   I'd make sure the Bastard Mitt had to run his butt of trying to win.

ahandout
ahandout

Hmmm...remember 7 days ago when the MSM tried to sell their story that "debates don't make a difference"?  They do when you have an epic failure, and Obama gets beaten badly by someone that doesn't cry about having to do his homework.

decmocratsrcommunits
decmocratsrcommunits

add to that the real private polling data, the epic failure of the grinning half wit biden in the VP date and it spells landslide in just a few weeks

Poppersci
Poppersci

I have to ask: do the people who are giving this post-debate bounce to Romney know who Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are? Do they know what the Democratic and Republican Parties are? It's a little frightening that one TV appearance can dramatically gloss over in people's minds the vast contrasts between the two candidates, their biographies, their policies, and the policies of the parties they represent. You might as well skip the laborious time of any future campaigns, and just show two guys on TV for one night, and then hold an election.

ERenger
ERenger

OMG! The polls! I'm on an emotional roller-coaster! 

Pull yourselves together, Democrats! The truth is we always knew it would be close. It looked like things were breaking wide open for Obama, but now they are just returning to where we thought it would be at this point --- very close, and coming down to a few swing states. Obama is still favored to win, and there is plenty of time to undo damage from the first debate. Get yourselves back in the game! 

sacredh
sacredh

I agree. Mitt has had a good, bordering on great, week. Obama had great months. People supporting Romney should be happy. Mitt clearly won the 1st debate. It was only one debate out of three though. The next debate is a town hall style forum. Who knows what is going to be asked? I seem to recall Mitt flubbing up quite a bit when he had to take questions he was unprepared for.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Joe's No Help

Biggest meltdown in presidental history is taking place right before our eyes.

Bye, bye Obama.

Pew: Biden viewed more unfavorably than Ryan

A new Pew survey released ahead of tomorrow's debate finds that registered voters are not that hot on Vice President Biden.

Of the 90 percent who expressed an opinion, 51 percent view him unfavorably.

His GOP counterpart, Paul Ryan, on the other hand fared a lot better. Only 40 percent of the 84 percent who expressed an opinion viewed him unfavorably.

The poll also found that Republicans are more confident that Ryan will win the debate than Demcrats are about Biden's chances.

"Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) Republican voters say Ryan will do the better job in the debate," Pew wrote in its analysis. "Fewer Democrats (62%) expect Biden to do better."

The lower expectations could make it easier for the vice president to exceed them, but with his boss's lackluster performance last week, Biden may have to do a lot better than exceed them to reset the race in Obama's favor.

Read more about: Polls, Vice Presidential Debate 2012

http://www.politico.com/politi...

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

PollDateSampleMoERomney (R)Obama (D)SpreadRCP Average9/28 - 10/9----48.047.2Romney +0.8Rasmussen Tracking10/7 - 10/9   1500 LV3.04847Romney +1Pew Research10/4 - 10/7  1112 LV3.44945Romney +4Gallup Tracking10/2 - 10/8  2721 LV2.04947Romney +2IBD/TIPP Tracking10/2 - 10/8  797 LV3.54745Romney +2

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

To be fair, we should also hear the Mormon side of the story, guys.  I was able to locate a short one minute interview where a top official of the Mormon Church Prophet Hinkley explains the teaching about black people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Private Pyle
Private Pyle

 Why does Romney keep changing his mind about everything?  He is pro choice one week, then pro life, then pro choice, I dont trust the guy

Palladia
Palladia

The current story is that Romney says that he's like the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  That may be "subject to revision," though.

Nicodemuus
Nicodemuus

What I find odd about Mormonism is that whenever you bring it up they call you a bigot, even if you are just asking questions about The Mark of Cain, The Planet Kolob or the White Horse Prophecy

Deacon Blues
Deacon Blues

 That polygamy thing and eliminating planned parenthood must be why he is so popular with women.    Hmmmmmm... does that make any sense?

Private Pyle
Private Pyle

It makes about as much sense as saying the President lost the debate for acting calm.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Pyle,

The president lost the debate for looking stupid and totally unprepared.

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

Thanks for cluing me in about The White Horse Prophecy.  What is even scarier than the prophecy is why haven't we heard anything about this on the news?

Private Pyle
Private Pyle

 I found a short clip where Romney talks about the teachings on blacks.     I have seen absolutely nothing about this on the tv news and I watch every day.   Why the secrecy about his religion?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

ERenger
ERenger

I'm not a Romney supporter, but doesn't it seem like this was a reasonable answer to the question he was asked? 

Private Pyle
Private Pyle

Wow.  I googled the white horse prophecy.   I thought at first you were making all this stuff up.  This should be front page news.  Why arent black people freaking out about the Mark of Cain thing?

Phaerisee
Phaerisee

 Because whenever it is brought up, the tactic is to scream bigotry even though it is all written down in black and white in their doctrine.  I think the media is afraid to say anything because their Church is famous for using it's tithe money for litigation against anyone that dares ask any questions about their religion.

Palladia
Palladia

Sort of like Scientology?

Private Pyle
Private Pyle

 It reminds me of scientology.  They teach that we are all descendants of an ET race from a planet called Kolob in the Pleiades Star system.  That aint christian to me

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

I'll probably insult multiple people with this, but from my perspective, the only significant difference between Mormonism and Scientology is that the former is a much older cult. Islam is older still, Christianity still older, with Judaism back at the beginning of time.

Weird belief system aside, every Mormon that I have known has been an admirably hard working person, and they have a community culture that is incredibly supportive of its members.

Phaerisee
Phaerisee

Mormons teach that black skin is a curse from God known as "The Mark of Cain."  They also teach that we will all be judged by by Joseph Smith, Jesus (who in Mormonism is not part of the Holy Trinity)  and someone they call Elohim, an entity they have chose to call "Jesus's father."   This is all written down in their doctrine.   When you corner them about it, they either outright lie or deny it.   What is up with that?

kiwiage
kiwiage

Ok, so now your beloved savior is tanking, you have to revert to bigotry. Pretty lame don't you think? And that's just as bad as racism. You and your kind had no problem with Harry Reid as long as he agrees with you. I Love everyone ("no to hatred")....as long as they agree with me! Pathetic.

Palladia
Palladia

Absolutely nobody who favors President Obama thinks of him as a "beloved savior."  That is a wholly specious notion made up in mockery, and spouted repetitively by those who want Anybody But Obama.

Is it really bigotry to point out that some things about Mormonism are sort of. . . out there?  These aren't things that opponents are making up, like the "beloved savior" business, these are things that Mormons claim as their very own.

In truth, NO religion, viewed from outside, really makes sense.  Without the suspension of disbelief, they're pretty much all somewhat odd.  In order to be an adherent of any religion, one must first accept as true things that are very unlikely.

Deacon Blues
Deacon Blues

 It is like the guy said earlier, whenever you try to find out about their doctrine they yell bigot.   The cool part is that it only takes people two seconds to google the truth.   The internet has taken away the power of many to deceive others.   That White Horse Prophecy is nuts.  People should spread the word about that, especially people of color given that whole Mark of Cain thing.

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

 I agree.    If you have a prophecy that says a Mormon President will establish a Mormon Theocracy in the USA, I definitely think it is pertinent to the conversation.    Why is this never spoken of by the news media?

Palladia
Palladia

The White Horse prophecy may not be "official," but it's part of the story, though, isn't it? 

kiwiage
kiwiage

Just goes to show you can't believe everything you google. Unless, of course, you're an idiot. The white horse prophesy is not official doctrine and has never been stated as such by the church.

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

 nothing bigoted about stating Mormon doctrine that it takes two seconds to google.  Nice try

Nicodemuus
Nicodemuus

 You think that is disturbing, google The White Horse Prophecy.    It blows my mind how many christians are being decieved, but it does say it will happen in the Bible.

ahandout
ahandout

 Contradict yourself much? ...if it says it will happen, then it's Biblical, right?  By the way, care to share exactly what you are talking about?  Or is it part of the secret cult of your basement clan?

Moronee
Moronee

 I googled it.   The White Horse Prophecy is a Mormon teaching that a Mormon President will establish a theocracy in the USA.    A theocracy is a government where one religion is allowed.

ahandout
ahandout

 Do you believe in Mormon Prophecy?  How about this prophecy:

Louis Farrahkan says, "You are the instruments that God is going to use

to bring about universal change, and that is why Barack has captured the

youth. And he has involved young people in a political process that

they didn't care anything about. That's a sign. When the Messiah speaks,

the youth will hear."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Palladia
Palladia

For months, there had been a PR campaign on TV which showed verious people doing various things, looking very fulfulled and happy.  The tagline would be the person giving a name and sying, ". . .and I am a Mormon."

Then it disappeared.  Now, one of two things strikes me: either the LDS don't want to remind people too sharply about Mitt's Mormonism, because they suspect it might turn off a lot of voters, or perhaps one of the reasons Mitt's not forthcoming about his income tax filings is that he's not giving the LDS all they think they should have coming, so they're not really supporting him.

Either way, it's interesting that the campaign stopped when it did.

filmnoia
filmnoia

C'mon people, enough. This is nuts. There is about as much chance of a Mormon establishing a theocracy than there is for all of us to fall under Sharia law. Get back to the subject at hand - Willard's pathological lying.

Nicodemuus
Nicodemuus

They also teach that we are the descendants of extra-terrestrials from the Planet Kolob in the Pleiades Star System.   And that we are all called to become Gods. (The Bible warns about this) 

Who is like unto God?    No one is like unto God.

Phaerisee
Phaerisee

Something smells fishy.  It felt the same way during the GOP primaries.

kiwiage
kiwiage

Yes, all is good and well (with polls front and center) when BO is winning. Now that the tide has changed, CNN, Time, and all the other Dem cheerleaders are suddenly questioning the validity and importance of the current polls. Hilarious!! You can't have it both ways people!

In response to the "Romney Lied When..." hysterics, BO has a list so long of lies and deception that the word limit will be exceeded long before that list is complete. Hope is not a strategy and the public is finally getting it. The white house has run out of ideas and is desperately clinging to....Big Bird????

Darrel K.Ratliff
Darrel K.Ratliff

Mr mixer  Mitt  the everything to everyone is proving to be nothing to any of the middle class..  A slick salesman that sells Sand to the Arabs in the midst of a sand storm  is a good for bottom line salesman.  but that type of sales is how we got all the debt to start with..  hes selling giving everything away that we don't have to start with and wanting  to let it slip past you the bottom line bill  IF he got in office  we need mitt in office like we need to triple the national debt by Over funding the Military  war division and cutting off the veterans  that are left holding the bag with all the harm they have taken on in the past 12 years.. Pet the doberman till the chain is tight on his neck and then  you can walk free..  hand the public  soft soap  sales  till  November  then turn and  do what ever is his real agena.. that has yet to be expressed in any detail  except  that Trust me ..  the coin of the realm has on it "in God We Trust"  All others pay Cash.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Obama's Rocky Mountain horror show

Is the 44th president no more than a mediocre political talent who’s had one of the greatest runs of luck in history? And did that luck begin to run out in Denver last Wednesday during the homestretch of his final campaign?

A week later, many Democrats fear that it did.

One of Steven Spielberg’s box office hits was the thriller Poltergeist, where a young girl stares at a television screen and let’s out a blood-curdling scream in the form of a question: “What is happening?”

That same question was shouted at TV sets across America last week by Democrats, Obama supporters and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews as they watched in horror at President Obama’s Denver debacle.

For four years, these faithful followers of the president have seen him as a man who is a rare combination of eloquence, brilliance and showmanship. Everything has always seemed to come easy to Barack Obama.

He won his U.S. Senate seat without a fight. He won the presidency with little experience. And he won the Nobel Peace Prize simply because he wasn’t George W. Bush. Maybe that blessed narrative is why his adoring fans in and out of the national media really believed their guy could follow through on his promise to heal the Earth, stop the seas from rising and make Washington work again.

It is possible that the political class has overestimated Barack Obama’s talents for too long. But I suspect Wednesday night’s outcome was more the result of an arrogant campaign underestimating a former Massachusetts governor. That proved to be a pretty dumb thing to do to a guy who breezed through Harvard, revolutionized Wall Street, saved a Winter Olympics, signed a landmark health care bill with Ted Kennedy by his side, raised five gifted boys, and retains the love and respect of a woman he first met in elementary school.

One bad debate may be a temporary bump in the road, but another collapse could create a narrative that could sweep Barack Obama right out of the White House and back to Chicago.

Because let’s be honest: Obama didn’t look like he wanted it last week. Now the question is whether he can prove he’s more a master of fate than a child of good political fortune.

http://www.politico.com/news/s...

Magik13
Magik13

Romney botched his campaign. Not once...but many many times.  Some people are fooled by Romney's false self persona yet know one really knows who Romney is....even Mitt Romney. All of a sudden people are turning to Romney after 1 debate? This reflects the fickleness and reactive nature of the electorate and nothing more. Romney's gain in the polls is a temporary bounce only.  Bush got his clock cleaned 3 times by Kerry in the debates but still managed to win.  More people identified with the simpleton Bush than with Kerry. 

The electorate in the USA is given way too much credit. Americans are overall not an intelligent people and have an average IQ of 94 , which is 28th in the world. Most Americans have no clue about American politics or the issues. Most Americans vote based on projection and delusion. Because they are psychologically ignorant and lack discernment, they are poor judges of character. This is especially true in the republican party who elected Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.

kiwiage
kiwiage

Fickleness? How about this for fickleness: Voting for someone based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Had BO been white, he wouldn't even have made it to the senate. He had no experience whatsoever to run a seven-eleven...let alone the country! The electorate is finally waking up and realizing that hope is not a strategy.

Palladia
Palladia

Perhaps you should look up the word, "fickleness" in a dictionary.  I don't think you've quite got the meaning.

Actually, traditionally, not being white is sort of a disqualification in many people's minds, rather than a leg up.

I think the electorate is wide awake, and I expect President Obama to be re-elected.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Romney up huge with independents

Fueling his current polling surge, Mitt Romney's numbers with indies are just getting remarkably good.

a. IBD/ITP poll released today: Romney 52% Obama 34%.

b. Pew poll, released yesterday: Romney 46% Obama 42%.

c. Politico/GW poll, released yesterday: Romney 51% Obama 35%.

d. CNN, released last week: Romney 49% Obama 41%.

e. National Journal, released October 3: Romney 49% Obama 41%.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I thought you guys didn't believe in the polls.

outsider2011
outsider2011

3x never said that - just Paulie, and Rusty did.

And, to be fair, 3x has supported Romney since the primaries. He didn't come to the party lately.

Also, and most importantly to me, he took up the bet and expanded the time. Romney is in the lead, and 3x has every reason to be happy.

Not that it'll matter come Nov when he leaves the swamp for a year - but he does have the right to be happy until then.

Palladia
Palladia

They didn't, so long as polls showed President Obama  in the lead.

It's like the unemployment figures: so long as they were above 8%, they trumpeted that they reflected badly on the administration.   When they dropped below 8%, well, clearly, they were cooked. 

Phaerisee
Phaerisee

 Romney's numbers with Indies remarkably good... yeah I am sure they are excited about more trickle down economics which is the reason they can't get jobs in the first place.  That is like saying blacks are going to vote for Romney.  Mormons teach that black skin is a curse from God called

"The Mark of Cain"