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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Romney Rising

Mitt Romney greets audience members at a campaign rally in St.Petersburg, Florida on Friday. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

When Scott Pelley of CBS asked him how he would turn this campaign around, Mitt Romney confidently told him, "Well, it doesn't need a turnaround."

Whether the Republican nominee for president needed one or not, things certainly have turned around in the last few days. Romney went from trailing Obama by two points, 47% to 49%, in the Rasmussen tracking poll to leading him by the same margin. He's cut the president's lead to two points in the latest Politico/GWU/Battleground survey, and the two are tied at 47% in National Journal's Congressional Connection poll. Last month, Obama led Romney by seven points in their survey.

One of the most interesting findings to note is that, for the first time that I've noticed, in both the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls, Obama's poll position is lower than his approval rating. That can either be good news for the president (because it shows he has room to grow) or for Romney (because it shows that even voters who approve of the president's job performance aren't supporting him). 

Of course, the national popular vote won't decide the election, but state polls show the Romney-Ryan campaign surging in crucial territory.

In Florida, President Obama's lead over Mitt Romney is down to just one point in the NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey; last month, they had the president up five points, 49%-44%. Other pollsters have the Republican ticket opening up a lead in the Sunshine State. Romney leads Obama by two points, 49%-47%, according to a survey conducted on Thursday by Rasmussen Reports. Last month, Rasmussen had Obama ahead in the state, 48%-46%. WeAskAmerica finds an even larger shift toward the Republican ticket: their latest poll of Florida voters shows Romney leading Obama by three points, 49%-46%; that mirrors the results of their Florida poll last month, which found the president on top by the same margin. 

In Virginia, the shift is even more stark. A Marist poll conducted for NBC and the Wall Street Journal finds Romney trailing the president by two points, 46%-48%, but that's narrower than the five-point lead Obama enjoyed in their last survey of Virginia voters, conducted less than a month ago. Romney leads Obama in the commonwealth, 49%-48%, according to Rasmussen Reports; that result mirrors the state of the race in their last poll of Virginians, which had Obama up by the same margin. We Ask America shows a six-point swing toward Romney in Old Dominion; he leads the president by three in their latest poll; last month, they had Obama up three points on Romney in Virginia.

Out west, the poll numbers are more muddled. Romney leads the president by three points in Colorado, 49%-46%, according to a Gravis Marketing survey; last month, they had Obama ahead in the state, 50%-46%. A poll conducted by the University of Denver, however, gives the president a four-point lead among Colorado voters, though we don't have an earlier survey they've conducted to compare those results to. In Nevada, where the president has enjoyed a small but consistent lead all year, Gravis Marketing has him ahead by just one point, 49%-48%. The RealClearPolitics average of the latest Nevada polls pegs Obama's lead in the state at 4.6 percentage points. 

Finally, in the all-important swing state of Ohio, it's a one-point race, according to American Research Group, Rasmussen Reports and WeAskAmerica. ARG and WeAskAmerica both have Romney up one point in the Buckeye State, while Rasmussen reported that Romney was down one point there. Last month, Obama led Romney by one point in an ARG survey of Ohio voters, and other surveys gave him as much as a ten-point lead in the state.

It would be easy to credit this marked surge in the Republican ticket's poll numbers to Mitt Romney's rout of Obama in the first presidential debate, but nearly all of the aforementioned polls were conducted, in whole or in part, before Wednesday night's debate. The conclusion is inescapable: the Romney surge began before he cleaned the president's clock last Wednesday in Denver.

What could explain this sudden shift in momentum in a race that, let's be honest, appeared to be slipping away from Romney as recently as last weekend? Perhaps the Libya fiasco is finally taking its toll on the president, but then why hasn't his approval rating dropped along with his poll numbers? Maybe the fundamentals of a race that should have been Romney's to lose all along are finally catching up with Obama, but if that's the case, then what took so long? Maybe those TV ads that feature Romney just sitting down and talking into the camera are resonating with voters in a way that those earlier, business-presentationy commercials with the fancy graphics didn't. Whatever the cause, it now appears to be the Obama campaign that's in desperate need of a turnaround.

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