No, but he is behind and time and circumstances are against him.
The latest Pew survey has Democrats on Cloud 9, as it gives the president an 8 point lead among likely voters. My sense from reading Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls is that it is probably half that. If the lead were really that big, there would be some reflection of that in the rolling averages. Rasmussen’s three day aggregation would almost certainly show a far bigger lead for the president (currently Obama 47, Romney 45) if the Pew survey was close to being accurate.
But Pew surveyed from 9/12 - 9/16 — before Romney’s producers/takers comments came to light. That’s another reason to distrust the margin for the president from that poll. Gallup found Romney’s comments were received negatively by a larger number of voters than those who saw them in a positive light (36% - 20%). But a strong plurality — 43% — said that it made no difference, so Democrats who declared the race “over” better go back to the drawing board.
But Romney has other troubles, most notably, he trails in several key swing states. The national numbers may not be too bad, but he is significantly behind in Virginia and Colorado while he is closer in Ohio and Florida, but still trails the president.
The reason the race is close nationally is fairly simple; states that the president won by double digits in 2008 are giving him far less support in 2012. For example, Wisconsin (+14 in 2008) and Michigan (+16 2008) show the president with a lead in single digits in both states. Wisconsin may be in play but Michigan is almost off the board. Those electoral votes will add to the president’s total exactly the same as in 2008 no matter what his margin of victory.
Romney may have been wrong in his “47%” comments, but he was right about something else:
“I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he added. “What I have to do is convince the 5 percent to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful.”
He’s right that however far he is behind, the universe of persuadables is incredibly small. The overwhelming majority of voters have had their minds made up at least since mid-summer, leaving the two candidates to fight over that last 5-10%. So a 5 point lead for Obama in Virginia is significant. To overcome that lead, Romney must persuade about 6 in 10 of the remaining undecideds to pull out a victory. Given how close the race is, that’s a tall order indeed.
Not surprisingly, the right is in denial about the polls and many are convinced that the race isn’t even close — that Romney is far ahead and that he will win in a landslide in November. One example of dozens:
People fancy me a politico, and I’m approached by anxious Romneyites who see a tight race and wonder if Mitt’s going to be abe to pull it out. It happened on Sunday, in the halls at church. A guy pulled me aside and asked, with a note of panic in his voice, “Can Mitt really win this?”
My answer, which I now share with you, is yes. Yes, he can win this. Yes, he will win this. What’s more, he will win big. Landslide big.
This is neither bluster nor cockiness. It is a cold-eyed assessment of the facts.
“But the polls, Stallion!” I hear you cry. “The polls show a tight race!”
No, they don’t. The polls show that this would be a tight race… if exactly the same people showed up who showed up in 2008. Almost all the neck-and-neck polls presume that just as many Democrats as showed up when Obama was hardcore hopey changey will turn out this time around. In fact, some of them oversample Democrats, presuming that more Democrats will turn out in 2012 than showed up last time.
Um…no, that’s ridiculous. This fellow obviously never heard of sample weighting. He also is ill-informed about the new turnout models prepped by all the major polling outfits. Those models are based on current polling data and have very little to do with 2008 turnout.
And as far as enthusiasm is concerned, that gap appears to be narrowing. Gallup:
Voter enthusiasm in these states has grown among members of both political parties; however, Democrats’ level has increased more. Thus, whereas equal percentages of Democrats and Republicans were enthusiastic in June, Democrats are now significantly more enthusiastic than Republicans, 73% vs. 64%.
Independents’ enthusiasm also jumped substantially over this period — up 18 points, similar to the 20-point gain among Democrats; however, independents’ enthusiasm still lags behind that of both partisan groups.
Others on the right are far more dismissive of the polls, with some claiming there is a cabal of media out to discourage GOP voters from going to the polls by publishing skewed surveys showing Romney behind. This ignores the reality that if pollsters were deliberately cooking the books, they wouldn’t stay in business for long. Witness the fate of the polling outfit Research 2000 who cooked the books while polling for Daily Kos. Kos sued them and won a substantial settlement.
In this day and age, it’s just too easy to check the work of pollsters. Methodology is usually published along with each poll (although some algorithms and other means of statistical analysis are proprietary and are kept secret). A reputation for accuracy and honesty is all that recommends one polling firm over another. It would be beyond belief that Gallup, or Rasmussen, or any other nationally recognized pollster would risk it all to please partisans.
Many on the right have been asking why the race is close to begin with. They cite the dismal economy, the unpopularity of Obamacare, the still depressed housing market, and other factors that they believe should have Romney up by plenty.
So why is Obama doing so well in the polls, if increased public dependency on government isn’t the answer?
For starters, the public at large isn’t as convinced as conservatives that he has been a dismal failure. Most people cut him some slack because of the economic crisis that began under a Republican president and kept unfolding as Obama took office. They know that the economy has changed direction. Some people think the economy has done about as well as it could have under the circumstances.
Another reason Obama is doing well might have to do with the weakness of the Republican economic message. Republicans dwell on the heroic entrepreneur held back by taxes and regulation, which must be part of the story that a free-market party tells. But most people don’t see themselves in that storyline, any more than they see themselves as dependents of the federal government. They don’t see Americans as divided between makers and takers.
To the extent Republicans do, they’re handicapping themselves.
Has anyone on the right really looked at Romney’s agenda? It should look very familiar because it’s the same one that Reagan offered in 1980. Cut taxes, cut the budget, strong defense, deregulation — I can hear Reagan talking about it now. Romney has dressed up this 30 year old agenda but it still sounds old and tired. New realities demand new answers and the GOP isn’t supplying any.
Neither candidate will realize a landslide unless a monumental gaffe occurs in one of the debates. Both men are pretty good on their feet so that doesn’t appear likely at this point. A larger possibility is that the big bad world outside intervenes to flip the election. Which candidate would benefit if Israel attacked Iran or attacks on our embassies worsen, or the euro falls is unknown, but a potential game changer from abroad cannot be ruled out.
The president is ahead and Romney is running out of time. That’s where the race is as I see it closing in on 40 days to go.