Election 2012

Gallup: Romney’s historic debate victory has shifted the polls

Gallup: Romney’s historic debate victory has shifted the polls

Gallup is one of numerous polling organizations showing a very solid “bounce” for Mitt Romney after his victory in the first presidential debate.  Gallup said this was the most commanding debate victory they have ever recorded: “Gallup has assessed opinion on who did better in most past presidential debates; some of these polls were conducted the night of the debate with pre-recruited samples of debate watchers immediately after it concluded, and some were conducted with more general samples of Americans in the days that followed the debate. Across all of the various debate-reaction polls Gallup has conducted, Romney’s 52-point win is the largest Gallup has measured. The prior largest margin was 42 points for Bill Clinton over George H.W. Bush in the 1992 town hall debate.”

Interestingly, even Democrats polled by Gallup thought Romney won the debate, by a margin of 49-39.  Independent voters gave Romney the win by a margin of 70-19.

This produced enough poll movement to swiftly erase President Obama’s lead, leaving the race a 47-47 tie in Gallup’s poll of registered voters.  (There’s that number “47” again!)

Gallup’s analysts theorize that buzz over the “good” Friday unemployment report “may serve to blunt some of Romney’s post-debate momentum,” which is both unlikely and deeply insulting to the intelligence of American voters.  Any “excitement” generated by that weird jobs report had pretty much evaporated by the end of the weekend, and even if the numbers weren’t dubious – and downright awful in many important categories, especially America’s ongoing transformation into a part-time workforce – America has not been subdued enough by four years of Obamanomics to celebrate 7.8 percent unemployment.

There seems to be a general consensus among pollsters that Romney’s debate victory was good for about five points’ worth of poll movement so far.  The big question will be whether it’s an enduring shift, or a temporary “bounce.”  Many analysts have pointed out that losing the first debate isn’t always fatal, especially for incumbent Presidents.

What Romney needs, and Obama desperately wants to avoid, is validation of that debate victory – which would most likely come from another solid Romney win at their next meeting, although events on the campaign trail seem to be solidifying the Romney victory already.  This particular debate feels like a momentum shift.  It’s uncorked a lot of anguished wailing among Democrats, delivering a kidney punch to the pumped-up enthusiasm among their base.  Democrats who weren’t really enchanted with Obama, including some who criticized him from the Left, are feeling emboldened to complain about him… and less excited about fighting tooth and nail to keep him in office.

That could all be turned around by the Obama campaign, but at this point they’re probably more dependent upon a serious Romney misstep that a brilliant Obama performance.  (Defending a record like Obama’s is very difficult, after all.)  A sign of their desperation is the murmured hope among Democrats that Joe Biden will somehow rescue the campaign at the vice-presidential debate.  Even leaving the relative strengths of Biden and Paul Ryan out of the equation, that’s rather unrealistic given the generally modest import of veep debates.

It has been noted that Biden is a better debater than his clumsy reputation for weird, off-putting campaign appearances would suggest.  But he’s likely to deliver a lot of carefully rehearsed attack dog lines, and make emotional appeals of the “I met a lady in Ohio who told me…” variety, and that’s really not the medicine the Obama campaign needs right now.  Expectations have been lowered so much that the press can eke out a few “Biden did better than expected” pieces as long as he doesn’t actually fall off the stage, but that’s not going to be good enough to reverse Obama’s fortunes.  This has become an election about competence.  That’s why Romney blew Obama away last week, and it’s very unlikely that Paul Ryan is going to say anything to ruin that winning narrative.

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