Mitt Romney gets post-debate boost in the polls. Will it last?
Mitt Romney is moving ahead in the first public opinion polls taken since his debate with President Obama. But there are two more debates and a month to go until Election Day, and the race remains close.
Asked if they felt better about the candidates after Wednesday nightâs debate, 30 percent of those surveyed said âyesâ about Romney compared to just 14 percent for Obama.
The Rasmussen polling organizationâs first post-debate survey has Ohio a virtual draw with Obama holding just a one-point lead. Rasmussen also has Romney moving into a two point lead in Florida.
In the 11 key states Obama won in 2008 (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), which provide more than half the electoral votes needed to win the election, the president is ahead 50-45, according to Rasmussenâs daily tracking poll. Still, âRomney now earns his highest level of support this year.â
In Colorado, according to figures out Friday by the Gravis Marketing research firm, Obama went from a 4.7 point lead (50.2 to 45.5) last September to a position 3.4 points behind Romney (45.9 to 49.3) after the debate.
For all the morning-after critique of the contendersâ first debate, Democratic strategist James Carville probably said it best: âRomney looked like he wanted to be there. Obama didnât.â
But it wasnât just the body language that was judged to Romneyâs advantage, but his message.
Romney, who declared himself âseverely conservativeâ during the primaries, has tacked sharply leftward into the moderate middle â at least the moderate middle allowed in todayâs GOP as molded and fashioned by social conservatives and the tea party.
Those who, in fact, are consistently and for the most part severely conservative donât seem to mind Romneyâs new-found moderation.
âI am certainly a partisan and certainly a committed activist, but getting rid of Obama overwhelms everything,â he told Politico. âWe canât worry now about the nettlesome aspects of Romneyâs positions on some things.â
In three key areas, Romney has moved to position himself as a centrist: He says he wouldnât deport young illegal immigrants given a chance to stay in the United States by Obama; heâs playing up the health care program (with its individual mandate) that was his signature accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts; and rhetorically at least, heâs backed away from his own tax plan.
He even acknowledged that government regulation âis essential.â
âI mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work,â he declared (as if heâd been saying it all along).
In a rare display of contrition, Romney also told Fox News Thursday that his comment about the â47 percentâ of the electorate he seemed to write off in a private meeting with campaign donors was âcompletely wrong.â
The question between now and Nov. 6 is whether independent and undecided voters (especially suburban women) see all this as the logical and expected shift from primary season base-building to general election campaigning or as an insincere flip-flop.
It wasnât long ago that conservative columnist Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal was calling the Romney campaign âincompetent,â then revising that to term it a ârolling calamity.â
How does she see things after this weekâs debate?
âThe impact of the first debate is going to be bigger than we know,â she wrote. âIt's going to affect thinking more than we know, and it's going to start showing up in the polls, including in the battlegrounds, more dramatically than we guess.... this whole race is on the move again, it's in play again, and it's going to get fun.â
The one bright spot for Obama this week came with the September jobs figures, including an unemployment rate that dipped from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent.
Will it make a difference?
Carter lost his re-election bid to Reagan in 1980 as unemployment climbed from 6 percent in October 1979 to 7.5 percent in October 1980; four years later, Reagan won re-election with a jobless rate of 7.3 percent in September of that year, after dropping from 8 percent nine months earlier.
âIt gives Obama a talking point, something to get peopleâs attention off his debate performance,â Bruce Bartlett, an economist in former president George H.W. Bushâs administration, told the AP. âAs long as people are seeing improvement, at least some voters are going to say to themselves, âWell, best not to switch horses in the middle of the stream.ââ