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Why Mitt Romney trails in polls, as presidential debates begin (+video)

President Obama got a bounce from the Democratic National Convention, and Mitt Romney has been struggling to play catchup since. There are many reasons – and the '47 percent' comment is only one possibility.

By Staff writer / October 3, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. Rob Portman (R) of Ohio, center, make an unscheduled stop at a Chipotle restaurant in Denver, Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Washington

Mitt Romney heads into the first presidential debate Wednesday night facing higher stakes than President Obama. Mr. Romney is trailing in national polls by between 3 and 4 percentage points – and more in the battleground states. The debate in Denver presents a huge opportunity, before millions of TV viewers, to change the trajectory of the race.

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes has three suggestions for Mitt Romney's presidential debate preparation.

Why is Romney in this predicament, after running almost neck-and-neck against Mr. Obama for much of the general election campaign? The latest polls provide clues.

“Voters remain overwhelmingly pessimistic about a still sluggish economy, yet appear poised to reelect President Barack Obama because of perceptions that he understands their lives better than Republican nominee Mitt Romney and would do more to favor the middle class rather than the very wealthy,” writes Mark Blumenthal, senior polling editor of the Huffington Post.

The latest Quinnipiac national poll, released Tuesday, shows Obama ahead by 4 percentage points. The Gallup tracking poll shows Obama up by 6 points; Rasmussen has him up by 1, within the margin of error.

On Sept. 5, Obama and Romney were exactly tied in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, at 46.8 percent each. After the Democratic National Convention, which ended the next day, Obama registered a small bounce and has never looked back.

“After their convention, the Democrats closed the enthusiasm gap in most polls with Republicans, which would then give Obama a boost,” says Karlyn Bowman, an expert on polling at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington. “Though I still think it’s a close contest.”

All along, she says, the Obama vote has been more pro-Obama than anti-Romney, whereas the Romney vote has been more anti-Obama than pro-Romney.

Analysts see additional reasons for the shift in the race:

There are simply more Democrats than Republicans. That was already the case in 2008, and as the nation becomes increasingly diverse ethnically and racially, that builds the Democratic base, since these minority groups tend to vote Democratic. African-Americans will vote nearly totally for Obama; Hispanics, the fastest-growing minority group in the country, back Obama 2 to 1, as they did in 2008.

In short, the Republican Party has a demographic crisis on its hands, which will only get worse if serious action isn’t taken. If Romney loses, watch for a period of soul-searching about minorities after the election.

Voters tend to “come home” as Election Day nears. As expected, people who don’t consider themselves solid Democrats or Republicans but lean in one or the other direction are starting to make firm decisions about their vote – and they’re reverting to their usual choice.

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