Currently, it seems like President Obama got a substantial bounce upward in his poll numbers from the Democratic National Convention. Gallup’s tracking poll now gives Mr. Obama a 5 point edge over GOP nominee Mitt Romney, up from a 1 point lead prior to the Charlotte, N.C., festivities. This morning's Rasmussen Reports' tracking poll shows Obama with a similar 5 point lead – his largest margin in that survey since March 17.
But there’s a reason a post-convention poll gain is called a “bounce.” Bounces go up, and (usually) they come down. Where the polls will be when the numbers settle, nobody yet knows.
“As with all bounces, it remains to be seen how long it will last,” concludes Rasmussen’s daily poll report.
Thus on Monday the Romney camp began pushing back against the notion that the conventions represented a break point in the campaign and that it’s now time for the GOP to panic. Among other things, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse released a memo urging supporters to remain calm about the latest polling numbers.
“While some of the voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly,” argues Mr. Newhouse.
By that, Newhouse means that the nature of the economy remains unchanged. Twenty-three million Americans remain out of work, and unemployment has topped 8 percent. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps.
Obama’s favorability ratings have actually dropped in some polls in recent days, notes Newhouse. He says the number of battleground states has expanded to include Wisconsin and perhaps New Mexico. Romney/Ryan has lots of money it can now start spending on the general election, and Republicans still have an edge over Democrats in enthusiasm for the upcoming vote, according to polls.
“Mitt Romney will be the next president,” concludes Newhouse.
Well, that’s certainly possible. But in essence Newhouse’s argument is not about the polls per se, but a restatement of the Romney campaign’s underlying theory of the race. That theory is this: The election will be a referendum on Obama’s performance, and the sour economy will sink him.
Democrats argue that the recent poll numbers show that this theory isn’t coming true. Obama got a bigger bounce out of the Democratic convention than Mr. Romney received from the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., they say. And the latest polls may contain some details that spell danger for Romney.
Gallup’s tracking poll now has Romney leading Obama by only 53 to 41 percent among white voters, writes the left-leaning blogger Greg Sargent today at his Plum Line blog at The Washington Post. By some estimates, Romney needs to take 60 percent of whites to counter Obama’s large majorities among minority groups. Romney’s edge among college-educated whites is even smaller, at 49 to 46 percent.
“Keeping it close among these voters is key to Obama’s hopes of denying Romney the share of white voters he needs, given the President’s struggles with blue collar whites,” writes Sargent.
The pace of national polling should increase in coming days, with the conventions now over and the general election race fully underway. That means by the end of the week we should have a better idea as to whether Obama’s bounce marks a campaign break point, or whether it is indeed only a short-lasting sugar high.