Will Obama Bounce Back or Fall Below His Floor?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama is pictured as he delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House in Washington on July 9, 2012

In early June, shortly after President Obama stumbled in a press conference by saying, “the private sector is doing fine,” his senior White House and campaign aides began an e-mail chain among one another. It listed all the other times over the past six years that the media had declared Obama on the ropes, like the time in 2008 that footage leaked of Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright and the time the debt-ceiling deal blew up. As the message bounced from inbox to inbox, the list of setbacks got longer, and the point was unmistakable: everyone needed to keep a little perspective. The previous two weeks in June — with a bad jobs report, a dipping stock market, a teetering E.U. and Obama’s own gaffe — were just a passing phase. Team Obama knew how to bounce back.

It was a morale-building exercise that would have been appropriate to repeat in the past two weeks, since Obama’s disastrous debate in Denver, which has demonstrably shifted both national and swing-state polling in Mitt Romney’s favor. But there were other lessons from that June swoon that can be applied as well. At the time, a senior Obama adviser told me that whatever bad things happened, they could take comfort in one thing: the campaign had polled enough in the swing states to know Obama had a high minimum level of support. He could dip, his campaign believed, but he wasn’t going to collapse.

The past two weeks seem to have borne that out. The slide in support for Obama appears to have leveled off in most of the polls (see here, here, here) right around their June low points. On Wall Street, this floor is called a support level — the point at which demand will prevent further price declines. If one looks at the long-term polling trend in the presidential race, there are two clear stories: Romney has been making gradual gains, and Obama has yet to fall behind enough to clearly prevent him from winning re-election.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 5–11)

That sets the stage for a grand finale. The big questions for the next three weeks are twofold: first, do the final two debates or external events do anything to shift Obama’s support levels or return him to a comfortable lead? And if not, the second question: Is Obama’s floor in swing states, combined with his turnout operation, enough to counteract the Republican enthusiasm advantage and the traditional last-minute boost that challengers get when undecided voters finally make up their minds?

Romney campaign advisers are counting on a late break to drop Obama’s floor. That has been their theory of the race all along, and it is based on historical patterns. In difficult economic times, when many Americans view the country as moving in the wrong direction, undecided voters tend to break at the last minute against the incumbent. The Romney case is hurt by the fact that economic indicators have been improving over the past few months, though they are coming off historical lows. Consumer confidence is up. Home prices are inching back. The number of Americans who think the U.S. is back on the right track is up. The unemployment rate is down slightly. All of these are small gains, but they are all good news for Obama.

The Obama campaign argues the first debate flub will not do lasting damage. After all, the President has rebounded from a poor performance before. The clearest example is the dip that his approval rating took in August and September of 2011 after the debt-ceiling debacle. Obama polled around 40% approval for a few weeks, a reflection of his seeming inability to solve the nation’s problems. His approval rating rebounded when he went on offense in the fall, selling a jobs plan that put Republicans on defense. The hope of the Obama campaign is that the second presidential debate will allow for another comeback. By showing up to fight, and demonstrating that he wants the job again, Obama might eliminate the doubts that now have him scraping his own polling floor.

So keep this in mind as you tune in Tuesday night. It’s a debate that will matter.

73 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
danram
danram

"Will Obama bounce back or fall below his floor?"

I'd guess neither. I expect that he'll give a better performance than he did in Denver two weeks ago and won't lose any more ground. But unless Romney commits a major gaffe or gives an unexpectedly poor performance in answering the things that Obama is likely to throw at him (Bain Capital, tax returns, the 47% comment), I don't think that this debate will have anywhere near the impact that the first one had.

The primary impact of the first debate was that it influenced the swing voters who really aren't all that enthusiastic about the prospect of four more years of Barack Obama in the White House but who also weren't sure that Romney wouldn't be even worse.  The first debate established Mitt Romney as a plausible, acceptable alternative to these voters, totally destroying the caricature  of a cold, stiff, greedy "vulture capitalist" that the Obama team has spent the last six months promoting.

What we're now seeing in the polls is undecided voters starting to break for Romney, just as they usually tend to break for the challenger late in an election. Obama's job approval rating is still stuck in the high 4o's, and incumbent presidents tend to poll at least 1-2 percent below their job approval ratings on Election Day.  Joe Biden's clown act last Thursday night certainly didn't help Obama's cause among independent voters, especially independent women voters, which is where Obama has seen the most serious erosion in his support.

However well he might perform in tonight's debate, Obama can't erase the facts of an extremely sluggish economy, anemic job growth, astronomical budget deficits, and a health care overhaul that 60% of the American public doesn't want. 

Then there's the whole Libya thing.

As long as Romney is effective in pointing out these facts and can avoid making any major gaffes in the next 21 days, he will likely win on Nov. 7th.

Geonew
Geonew

And who deregulated the banking industry???  And who said that "deficits don't matter".  And who got us into two unfunded wars?  etc.  The Democrats aren't perfect, Obama hasn't been as a good a president as one could hope, but our country is still here and there is an economy, as weak as it is.  You may get you wish and Romney may win.  Let us both hope he is the Moderate Romney as he is now portraying himself.  God save us, if the Radical Right takes power.

mhd52
mhd52

Obama bounce back!!??

DREAM ON!

bebo
bebo

Michael.  Don't forget to bring that Obama picture home with you.  Put  it under your mattress.  It might come in handy.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Poor bebo. Guess you fellow opponent of women's rights and sexual equality will not be elected. So much for your dreams of a new American Theocracy.

RomneyRyan2012
RomneyRyan2012

"Obama polled around 40% approval for a few weeks, a reflection of his seeming inability to solve the nation’s problems"Let me fix that :"...a reflection of  his absolutely proven four year record of being unable to solve the nation's problems"

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 You mean the problems that were caused by Republican policies identical to those proposed by Romney/Ryan? Why would anyone in their right mind want to go back to the dark days of 2008?

sacredh
sacredh

I can't stand it any longer. I have to say this. How the HELL was Abba so popular? Some of their songs were catchy, but I thought their greatest hits album was mediocre. There. I've said it.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Miners Fight Back Against Obama TV Ad: "Absolute Lies"

One more proof that Obama and his campaign are the ones doing the lying.

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

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 The same miners that were forced by their boss to attend a Romney rally and docked a day's pay in the process?

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Have your cats been telling you these lies, Mr Veterinarian ?

Tarrop
Tarrop

Don't look now, but your ignorance is showing.  He is a veteran, not a veterinarian.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

The media wants red meat and Obama will have to give it to them for them to say he did well.  In the first go around he relaxed and let Romney hang himself on the issues but because Romney swung with style and aggression the media crowned him the winner and the voters being polled seem to have followed.  So yes, if Obama gets down into Romney's mud he probably earn the media's praise and thus the "likely voters" as well.

sacredh
sacredh

Sometimes the perception is more important than the reality.

smooth edward
smooth edward

I feel sorry for Obama, and all of the pressure  he is facing tomorrow night. He has the misfortunate of governing a nation of angry, simpletons, who so badly want a fix to problems 40 years in the making, they seem capable of putting someone in the White House who is ready to do the same things that got us into the mess in the first place. If my own well-being wasn't riding on it I would be content to let them stew in their willful ignorance.  Considering what Obama faced he has done about as good a job as anyone could expect. Mitt Romney's business experience can not reinvent economic laws and change the glacial pace of our recovery. Giving more money to billionaires won't create the jobs we need to get moving again, either. Only demand for goods and services on a mass scale will accomplish that. Tax and other forms of economic stimulus must be received on a mass scale, not to a pittance of the population.               

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Thanks for joining the Swampland fray, Edward.

You are definitely channeling your inner Joe Klein at this moment.... ;) 

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

The results of the second debate will replace those of the first.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Obama will have a slight uptick and then it will come down to an aggressive ground game in the swing states in particular OH (of course), IO and NV and then CO, NH, VA and FL.

bebo
bebo

Time continues the Obama love affair with that zenith of all vanity shots?  Is he running for president or appearing  in Vegas?  You people just won't let go. The first debate image will stick.  What ever he does in the next debate,  will all be the result of  extensive, someone else coaching  If he gets into trouble that "Mama Cass"  liberal  CNN moderator will manipulate things.   Please take that obnoxious, propaganda, eyes closed down.  Much to your dismay, a good number of Americans believe "2017" so at this point -- glam shots are useless.   They went out with Bobby Kennedy.

Geonew
Geonew

This guy is a prime example of the Right Wing mentality and the reason we need to vote for Democrats or moderate Republicans.   The danger of willful stupidity on a mass scale can lead to great loss to our own lives and to the downfall of our country.   History has many sad tales.  And don't think it can never happen here....

romerjt
romerjt

 Your snarky half baked analysis is underwhelming.

bebo
bebo

You have all the wit of a Granola eater who needs Viagra.

tommariner
tommariner

Michael -- whether our President gets a bounce out of tomorrow night in Long Island depends on you. Most debates are really chances for voters to see how candidates behave vs. how they have been painted by their opponents (or their deeds) and are therefore fairly even. But they provide enough images and "facts" that give guys like you who are hyper-partisan a chance to yell something. (Of course there are yelling heads on the other side of the argument as well.)

The past two debates have been unusual in that they actually did something. An unprepared President showed up to face a guy who took the debate seriously. And on Wednesday, all of us viewed the strangest display a public official has ever given. That split screen made it look like a sitting Vice President was cackling at disastrous events for our country -- somebody should have announced ahead of time that Crazy Joe was going to exaggerate his disdain for a nominated opponent with a bad acting job.

The President will not make the unprepared mistake again, and will not disrespect the American people by trashing the dignity of his office as the clown who shares the West Wing did. Romney will be in-control Romney -- his demeanor will be measured whether he is posing with Girl Scouts in the Oval Office or taking the phone call there that Iran just nuked Israel. So the next two debates will be Mr. Scherer picking the clips that support his chosen candidate and let him declare victory.

Just_Another_Psycho
Just_Another_Psycho

I said before and I say it again. Here is my receipt for president Obama to win this thing. President Obama needs to go out there and keep repeating what everybody knows:

1. Keep telling that we are on the right path, but we need more time

2. Repeat again and again that Mitt Romney will say anything to get elected

3. Mitt-Romney-Bain-Capital style is not what we need right now

4. Romney is compulsive liar - don't call it flip flopping, fact checking, etc.

5. We don't need another war - he can still argue defense budgets, foreign policy, etc. but keep saying the magic words "we don't need another war"

6. Call the super rich for fiscal/social responsibility to keep money and jobs in the country

7. Tell firmly how anti-American is to keep offshore accounts and ship jobs overseas as Romney does...

8. Don't discuss health care reform too much. Talk about other achievements...

9. Again keep telling that Romney is hiding money overseas and outsourcing jobs..

10. Stop talking as a lecturer - show that you're a guy with guts who really wants the job

tommariner
tommariner

You can do those 10 Democrat talking points in an attack ad, but it doesn't work in debates. The President's job is to look like a President. And Romney's job is to look like a President. David Axelrod's job is to exaggerate on talk shows -- the President has a day job called running the country -- if he acts like he has that job, he might get to keep it.

But cheap-shot it tomorrow night and it will make the first debate look even.

filmnoia
filmnoia

That's a lot of markers to hit in 90 minutes, especially when you have voters asking questions, and Willard trying to run out the clock in one of his long winded lying answers that doesn't even address the question. For Ohio voters alone, Obama needs to bring up the auto bail out. If Obama can hit on four of your points on domestic policy he'll be OK, and then when they have the foreign policy debate he can demolish him, making it the second coming of what Smoking Joe did to Frat Boy.

Just_Another_Psycho
Just_Another_Psycho

He doesn't need to elaborate on every single point. Again, those are truths everyone knows but no one says. They are also catch phrases to take away....voters and the media will pick them up....

filmnoia
filmnoia

Maybe truths  for many of us who post blog comments,  but tomorrow night the questions are going to be asked by supposed undecided voters, so, yes, some elaboration is necessary. Many of these voters are low info, so catch phrases used over and over again will have an effect to some degree. The Right has been doing this successfully for decades.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

According to impartial pundits, Obama is already bouncing back, as Nate Silver discussed today.

bebo
bebo

Everyone thinks they're getting the same thing for Christmas, but it won't be an Obama doll.

romerjt
romerjt

Considering your first comment it's not surprising that you are the first to send this comment stream out for recess to the playground of childish  crap.  Grow up!

sacredh
sacredh

It's sport for me too. Happy to play.

bebo
bebo

You'll follow anything.  Even a comment stream.  So, you support Obama as well.  This is sport for me.  Happy to upset you so easily.

sacredh
sacredh

Is it going to be the Mitt doll that changes position every few minutes?

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Romney:  

♪ I'm a Venture Cap'list short and stout,  

Here is my handle, here is my spout (!)....,

Pnnto
Pnnto

Just like Willard, just more life-like.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

Dan, you are messing with the Holy Narrative. That is just not done.

sacredh
sacredh

Sue_N, I have to thank you again for showing me the easy way to link. I've been having fun with it.

Geonew
Geonew

Obama hasn't done that bad of a job.  The damage done to this economy from Right Wing theory came close to being a fatal crash.   Why would anyone allow these people to have their hands back on the steering wheel?  If the Republicans learned, adjusted their theories to fit facts, became truly conservative in their beliefs, then they would be worth reconsidering, but nothing has changed, they are the same, the same Neocon advisers of Bush, the same old theories on steroids.  In fact, anything that helps people, builds infrastructure, improves education, advances science, enhances innovation, protects and gives a hand up for the unfortunate is called socialism.  The only government they would allow to be is a military and police state, protecting the 1% elite from the rest of us as they shift all the American wealth to China, India, and Cayman Island bank accounts.

Larry Kelly
Larry Kelly

Not even Obama believes what you are saying about republicans (campaign directors excluded).

Do you get your news and information from campaign slogans and "Occupiers"?

danram
danram

Sorry, Geonew, but that's total BS.

The housing bubble came about because of the fact that the government was made the ultimate guarantor of hundreds of thousands of home loans made to obviously unqualified buyers. These buyers are what pushed up housing prices to the stratosphere.  Had the US government NOT guaranteed those loans, they never would have been made, the housing bubble would have never inflated, and we wouldn't be dealing with the aftereffects now.

And just who was it who repeatedly protected agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at every turn in exchange for generous campaign contributions?

Democrats, that's who. Specifically Chris Dodd and Barney Frank.

The administration of George Bush can certainly be faulted for not paying enough attention to the housing bubble as it was inflating and not taking decisive action to stop it. But the actual policies that enabled the inflating of the bubble were Democratic attempts at social engineering. "Every American should be able to own a home." was their justification, remember? Whether or not they could actually afford to make the payments was an afterthought.

Rocky Chambers
Rocky Chambers

The failed policies of the past are the same as those failing us in the present...they are ALL Big Government policies.

Affordable Housing policies created the housing bubble which Fannie and Freddie infalted until it burst collapsing the economy.

The Stimulus act was $830 billion in wealth re-distribution that went mostly to Democrat special interests.  Fact is the economy was recovering (recession officially ended June 09) prior to the stimulus package spending 1 dollar.  The stimulus act STALLED the recovery, we have seen the recovery go slower and slower.

ObamaCare looms on the horizon threatening to take us back into recession or worse.

Prior to FDR the government spent less than 7% of what the Private Sector generated (GDP).  Now that number is greater than 40% and headed towards 50%.  This is unsustainable...what can not go on forever WILL STOP.  THOSE are the facts!

The choice is this.  How will it stop?

Will it stop because we had the courage to collectively stop it by spending less, expecting less from government...or...because as cowards we went over the cliff demanding our faith share?

In a couple of weeks we'll choose HOW the spending will stop...either way...IT WILL STOP.

Geonew
Geonew

 Economists stated that the stimulus act saved thousands of jobs, at least what I read, but no one can deny it was a major pork barrel scheme, which both Republicans (Ryan) and Democrats wallowed in.  The shame of it is this act discredits the necessary investment in infrastructure our country needs.

Big government isn't going away since government grows equally under conservative or liberal administrations.  It is a reality of the modern world and an unfortunate necessity, because everyone is against big government except when programs are named.   The conservatives hate big government but love farm subsidies, a huge military and military presence in the world (read Eisenhower's warning), etc. but loathe building infrastructure in this country.

The redistribution of wealth is at present leaning more towards the wealthy then the poor.  The wealth disparity between the bottom and the top is growing fast.  A country of mass poor and a few intensely wealthy people doesn't function well, becomes dysfunctional, becomes a cycle of crazy socialists and right wing generalissimos (Latin America).

This whole process is going to get much worse because of the next technological revolution.  It will explode over the next couple decades making jobs for most people obsolete.  That is, super computer intelligence and robotics.  In a sense people will become superfluous.  How could a society function where 60 - 70 - 80 percent of the population is left in permanent ghettos of unemployment.  A possibility???

Why I reject the Republican philosophy is the Libertarian (the Ayn Rand version) amoral attitude towards people.  Medical care isn't just some new set of clothes or a fancy car, medical care is life.  The most socialist health system in the world is more efficient than our mess.  Why can't America do better?  The stark contrast between the Repubs and Dems is this, does human life matter or not?  Is there some fundamental moral value of human existence? Other than in the womb, Repbus say no.  (Let them have vouchers).   Dems say yes.

The GDP can't continue as it is however.   Hard choices ahead. 

bebo
bebo

Oh yes, this is TIME.  Going between right and left sites is confusing.  Hasn't "done that bad a job."  Now that's astute analysis.