Have The Conventions Changed The Race?

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 8 2012 @ 3:34pm

Yes, the ad blitz is coming; yes, the debates will be crucial, yes, turnout matters a huge amount too, anything can happen, blah blah blah. But right in front of our noses is some compelling data that in the first real skirmish of the campaign proper, the Romney-Republicans blew it.

Gallup's tracking poll of Obama's job approval has shifted more dramatically than in a long time – and we won't see the full impact of the DNC – especially Obama's speech – for a while. But Gallup is striking, especially, because, as I've noted before, this election it has tended to be more Republican-leaning than other polls:

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A nine point lead yesterday is a ten point lead today. It looks as if the Democrats told a more convincing story than the Republicans. Even Rasmussen, a fully-fledged GOP-leaning outfit, shows Obama's ratings going from 46 – 54 disapprove to 49 – 50 disapprove in the last three days – a big swing toward Obama of seven points.

What does this mean for the race? It's still too early, but it's beginning to look as if the RNC may have brought down the prospects of the Republican nominee. Here's Gallup's tracking poll of the race in August through to today:

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If Obama gets to 50 percent and stays there, this is a changed race, affected by the parties' presentation of their candidates and their core messages. I.e. GOP-FAIL. Sam Wang who analyzes state polling and thereby the electoral college vote has a fascinating graph of the shape of the race for the past few weeks. Here's how his Electoral College measurement has moved:


What you see is how effective the Bain ads were in the swing states in July, how the selection of Ryan helped reboot Romney, wiping out the Bain damage, then how from Akin onwards through the GOP convention, the Democrats gained almost 25 electoral college votes. Here's Nate Silver's Electoral College predictions over the last few months:

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Again, you have to be blind not to see a serious shift in the race toward Obama from the GOP Convention onwards. It's as if there was one Democratic convention for two weeks, with Romney's negative bounce intensifying as the second week, and Bill Clinton's evisceration, continued.

Here's Sam Wang's reading:

It appears that the race shifted towards President Obama by 6-15 EV, or about 1.0% of Popular Vote Meta-Margin. From an analytical perspective, a negative bounce is quite remarkable because all the talk in recent weeks has been of bounces being smaller or zero, but always in the hosting party’s favor. It is all the more remarkable because of the relatively small number of state polls over the last week, so that the Meta-analysis’s inputs have not fully turned over (for discussion see comments). So the negative bounce may be larger than what is shown in the graph. Such an event would have been missed in past years (and even this year) because national polls don’t have the best resolution.

Rasmussen's GOP-leaning data also found this:

Perhaps more significantly, Democratic interest in the campaign has soared. For the first time, those in the president’s party are following the campaign as closely as GOP voters. Interest in a campaign is typically considered a good indicator of turnout.

I think the Democrats just won the argument's first round by a knockout. Now the air-war, the debates and the turn-out. But something shifted these past two weeks. My guess is that the "choice election" Obama wanted and Romney resisted has really begun to hit home.