Tips For Coaxing Your Local Obama Supporter Back From The Ledge
Obama supporters are notorious overreactors, and sure enough one just asked me if “they’ve managed to steal another one,” they meaning Republicans and another meaning election. All this is based on Romney’s post-debate poll bounce, which was admittedly sizable. So if you need to coax your local Obama supporter back from the ledge, here are a few talking points:
1) Romney’s bounce is already dissipating. Obama’s post-convention surge in the polls never fell back to earth (and therefore wasn’t actually a bounce), but became the new reality of the race. But daily tracking shows Romney’s numbers trending downward the farther we get from the debate; Gallup, which has a noted right lean, found Obama back up by five points today, exactly where he was before the debate, completely erasing any Romney bounce. That’s one poll, but significant since it’s Gallup. Romney will emerge at best with a +1.5 gain from the debate, a good get in a close race, but nothing game-changing.
2) The PEW poll that shows Romney up by four points nationally—the best he’s ever polled, per Nate Silver—appears to be an outlier. (PEW also showed Obama with an outsized lead of +8 before the debate. I blame this on the fact that PEW employees listen to Lulu.) Silver has commentary, and Dave Brockington has the numbers in detail here.
3) Most important: the bounce is not coming from independent voters, but from Republicans. Jon Cohen breaks it down in a much linked-to article at WaPo:
Who moved in Romney’s direction?
Well, not political independents, for one. There was no meaningful change in their support for Obama or Romney in either poll.
All of the change in both polls came from the composition of each sample. In pre-debate interviews by Gallup, self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by five percentage points, according to Gallup’s Jeff Jones. By contrast, in the three days following the debate, the balance shifted in a GOP direction, with 34 percent of registered voters identifying as Republicans (two points up from pre-debate), 33 percent as Democrats (four points down).
So voters who had been denying their Republicanism due to either the GOP’s noxiousness or Romney’s uninspiring existence were energized by the debate to reclaim their party affiliation. Long story short: Romney’s performance motivated his base. That’s good news for Romney, as they were about to sleep through the election, and it certainly improves his chances in swing states.
But it doesn’t change the underlying electoral math. There aren’t enough Republicans in swing states to get Romney to 270, which is why his and Obama’s campaigns have been fighting so hard over undecided voters/independents/whateveryoucallem. And as Cohen notes above, there was no shift in independent voting trends, which means Romney’s debate didn’t change anybody’s mind, but merely awoke his own somnolent party. Sure enough, polls in swing states show the race tightening some, but not changing. For a couple weeks there, Obama looked to be running away with Ohio; now he’s only four points ahead. Those four points all but keep him in the White House.
This makes sense historically. Debates have rarely had anything close to a cataclysmic effect, but instead served to rally base support. More proof that that’s what we’re seeing: Romney had his highest favorability rating so far in an ABC News poll—but so did Obama, even after his woeful debate performance. And Romney still has not crested the 50% where Obama now regularly resides.
To be sure, Romney has some wind at his back right now. If Paul Ryan turns in a good debate performance (not bloody likely), perhaps momentum really could shift. But as of right now, the forecast still favors Obama. Tell your local Obama supporter to calm the eff down. (Or, as Obama said at a campaign rally the other day, “Don’t boo. Vote.”)