Despite Isaac’s best efforts, there will be a GOP convention in Tampa this week.
The most recent Gallup polls show a 46-46 tie, leaving many to wonder if the southern shindig could help break the deadlock. Both candidates know that you could count the remaining game-changing opportunities on one hand – the convention, the debates, and the (possible) October surprise. Since the convention is the most controlled of the three, it follows that Romney’s best shot at claiming a solid lead in the race will be Thursday night, when he’ll deliver his acceptance speech before an audience of millions.
That’s not to say that Team Obama won’t be able to respond with an electrifying performance of their own. Contrary to the “teleprompter-reading robot” routine many conservatives associate with the President, Obama has a knack for giving the right speech at the right time. In 2008, his acceptance speech sealed the deal on a successful Democratic National Convention.
The same, however, could not be said of Hubert Humphrey. In 1968, his convention unraveled into an unparalleled disaster – police beatings, violent riots, and bickering factions dominated the news coverage.
Looking at the marked difference in outcomes, it’s safe to say that a convention done right can carry a candidate over the finish line, and a convention done wrong can break his kneecaps. Which kind of convention will we see out of Tampa? We could know as early as Friday if we watch these qualities:
- National Polls: Most polls show a bounce for a candidate following his convention (positive media has its merits!). The historical average is about 5%; anything else is sort of an embarrassment. Of course, Romney experienced a delayed bounce even when he picked his VP, so poll-watchers might have to wait a few more days for the final verdict.
- New Conversations: Lately, social issues have been stealing the economy’s limelight in media reports. This is mostly Todd Akin’s fault. If the convention resets the debate back to the economy – or even debt or entitlements – it will have been a success.
- Romney’s Likability: Obama’s approval rating has hovered in the mid-to-upper 40’s. His likability has bolstered his numbers because voters feel they can relate to him. Romney’s been held back by the opposite phenomenon, so humanizing him is important. If new likability polls show a Romney spike, he’ll likely see more support at the ballot box.
For Republicans, missing out on these potential improvements will make the path to 270 much more narrow. With so few big opportunities remaining, the margin of error is infinitesimal. But cashing in on the convention’s benefits doesn’t always equate to success either. In 1980, Jimmy Carter received a 10-point bounce in the polls following a successful convention. Carter went on to lose the election 489-49 to Ronald Reagan.