If you’ve been following the 2012 presidential campaign much at all, you’d have been struck by the kind of questions being asked of Barack Obama on the Sunday afternoon talk shows. Just… wow. A completely different scene.
Prior to last Wednesday’s debate, the plot of the media narrative centered around how many seats Romney’s inevitable loss would cost Republicans in the Senate. But surprisingly, Obama’s debate performance has dramatically altered the story. From Bill Maher to David Gergen, commentators on both sides of the aisle have been wondering the same thing – was that guy on the stage in Denver really the Barack Obama we’ve heard so much about?
Apparently, voters are asking the same question, and it’s finally starting to show in the polls.
Make no mistake – before Wednesday, this election was slipping further and further away from Team Romney. Anyone who wants to win the presidency needs 270 votes in the electoral college to claim victory on election day. According to most polls, Obama already had a lock on 265 – putting him one state away from re-election. But a quick check of RCP this morning verified my suspicion that Romney’s “masterful debate performance” (and those are Robert Gibbs’ words, not mine) basically reset the play field.
A quick run-through of the post-debate swing state polls reveals the extent of the turnaround:
- Before the debate, Romney trailed in his running mate’s home state of Wisconsin by 11 points. After Wednesday, a new survey by the Democratic polling agency PPP now gives Obama a mere 2 point lead – 49 to 47. Romney gain: 9 points.
- Another pre-debate poll from Suffolk/WSVN in Florida had Obama up 46 to 43. That’s now become a 49-47 lead for Romney, according to a Rasmussen survey taken in the days following the debate. Romney gain: 5 points.
- And Romney also leads by 1 point in a recent WeAskAmerica poll in all-important Ohio. That’s a big change from the 51% to 43% shellacking Obama was putting on two weeks ago in a WSJ/NBC/Marist poll. Romney gain: 9 points.
All in all, Mitt’s managed to carve out 2 more states and pull 2 more from the “Lean Obama” to the “Tossup” column. That’s cost Obama 47 votes and puts another 22 into play. It’s amazing how much a two-year-long campaign can change in 90 minutes!
Now, Romney’s bounce is probably a temporary boost from what I genuinely think was a rare under-performance by Obama, and the polling averages still give the president enough votes to keep the White House. But you’ve got to be some kind of partisan hack to claim Romney isn’t surging. The question now becomes “How does Romney maintain his momentum, and what will Obama do to stop it?”
The answer to that question remains to be seen.