On average between the four polls, it appears that Mr. Obama must have held about an eight-point lead since Mr. Clinton’s speech in order to have gained so much ground so quickly.
To revisit Gallup after today's new number:
The lead over Romney is now larger than it has been since April: 5 points. Silver's chart of likely electoral college outcome has a similar feel to it:
Rasmussen, designed to give a GOP-leaning result, finds the same: as of today, Obama's lead has gone to four points. On August 31, Rasmussen had Romney ahead 48 – 44, Now, Rasmussen has Obama ahead by 49 – 45. That's a huge shift in a week or so – giving Obama a record lead in Rasmussen's polling. What are the precedents for this kind of 4- 5 point lead if it lasts more than a few days? Nate:
Since 1968, the largest post-convention polling deficit that a challenger overcame to win the race was in 2000, when George W. Bush trailed Al Gore by about four points after the Democratic convention but won the Electoral College — although Mr. Bush lost the popular vote.
Silver notes what I noted yesterday: Romney has never been ahead of Obama this year in the poll of polls. Not once. He has equaled him but never really pulled away. This is unusual:
John McCain held occasional leads in 2008; John Kerry led for much of the summer in 2004; and Michael Dukakis had moments where he was well ahead of George H.W. Bush in the spring and summer of 1988… The cases where one candidate led essentially from wire to wire have been associated with landslides: Bill Clinton in 1996, Ronald Reagan in 1984, Richard Nixon in 1972 and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956.
Silver dismisses the idea that this could happen this time, because of deeper polarization. He's probably right. Objectively, given the economy and the closeness of the race thus far, Romney has remained the narrow favorite in my mind up till now, as I fought against my own epistemic closure. But subjectively, I couldn't see how Romney's arguments – more war in the Middle East, more tax cuts while allegedly trying to cut the deficit, turning Medicare into a premium support model option, banning abortion and marriage equality in every state in America, denying climate change, etc – could possibly best Obama's. So Romney's enduring polling strength impressed me, given how far out there he is on policy, and how unappealing he is personally.
Well, it has also occurred to me that most sane Americans may not have been obsessing about this election until around now, when attention is paid. What we may have seen so far is a very stable default election, in which low-information voters are essentially backing their party in reserve before truly focusing. They've been putting a partisan marker down. But now that the actual policy comparison has been made, and Romney agreed to a choice election with Ryan, and the GOP bungled its message in Tampa so badly and the Dems did so well in Charlotte … well, we see the first true shift of any magnitude since Romney became the nominee.
The logic of the Obama argument – so pellucidly laid out by Bill Clinton last week – is so compelling, the GOP positions so extreme, the Republican brand still so tainted if it isn't merely a protest vote (as in 2010) … that a landslide is possible, if still unlikely. Anything is possible. But, trying not to get too excitable about this, it cannot be encouraging for the Republicans that after the first real apples-to-apples focus on the choice, Obama has surged.
And you wonder why Romney is now saying he wants to keep parts of Obamacare. If that doesn't depress his base, what would? His own shape-shifting could now alienate his core voters and still lose the center that Clinton won for the Democrats on Wednesday night.
No, I'm not predicting anything. Just looking in front of my nose. Which now atops a slowly widening smile.