Swing state polls: Is Mitt Romney running out of time?
President Obama's edge in key swing states appears to be growing. And while he may only hold single-digit leads, it's getting harder to see how Mitt Romney can reverse the current trajectory.
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Adding to the cake-is-baked dynamic is the fact that early voting is actually about to begin in many swing states. In Ohio, for example, early voting begins Oct. 2 – and roughly a quarter of the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll respondents in Ohio said they planned to vote before Election Day. In North Carolina, absentee ballots are already available, and they will become available next week in Virginia and Wisconsin.Skip to next paragraph
Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.
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But what about the debates? Can’t Romney turn things around with a surprisingly strong performance – or maybe some well-timed zingers?
The short answer: probably not. As a piece by John Sides in the Washington Monthly notes, history shows that debates tend to have very little effect on the trajectory of a presidential race. At most, they have appeared to move the needle a point or two. Significantly, all those famous debate “moments” – Gerald Ford saying there is “no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe”; Michael Dukakis saying he would still oppose the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered; George H. W. Bush looking at his watch – had almost no impact whatsoever on the polls.
As Mr. Sides writes: “Scholars who have looked most carefully at the data have found that, when it comes to shifting enough votes to decide the outcome of the election, presidential debates have rarely, if ever, mattered.”
Obama's advisers have actually been trying to lower expectations for the debates, saying they expect Romney will do well, and may even get a bounce. And going in as an underdog – and one who, as we saw during the GOP primaries, is capable of very strong debate performances – may give Romney an advantage.
But for Romney to catapult into the lead in the polls based on the debates alone would be a historical anomaly. Sure, being perceived as the "winner" of the debates might help, a bit. Among other things, it would give the Romney campaign – and its supporters – a psychological lift.