10 September 2012
In a weekend Conversation piece I argued that the polls coming out of the DNC could be very revealing:
"On average, the presidential candidate gets about a five point boost in the polls after their party convention. But, as political scientist Larry Sabato points out, the size of the bounce can vary rather dramatically. Sometimes a convention can greatly alter the shape of the race and sometimes it can have almost no impact whatsoever.
In the current era, you’re probably better off betting on the latter. Nowadays, voters are much more set in their political beliefs and party allegiance. A couple of speeches or negative campaign ads aren’t going to convince someone to abandon their beloved Republican Party or vice versa.
This phenomenon is well-illustrated in this year’s race. We keep waiting for something – be it the Bain attacks or Romney’s VP selection – to shift the momentum in one direction. But, through all the turmoil, the polls have remained fairly stable. Obama maintains a very narrow lead in the national race with a slightly bigger advantage in the key swing states.
True to form, the Republican convention didn’t generate much Mittmentum. Most of the major polls had either no change or only a modest boost for the Republican nominee.
But, it’s not as if Romney and Ryan deserved a huge popularity spike from the Republican convention. It wasn’t a total flop,but, but the Republicans never achieved the highs we saw this week in Charlotte from the Democrats. And Mitt Romney’s speech received the lowest marks of any presidential convention address since 1996.
As such, the polls that follow the Democratic convention should be revealing. Did the Republicans fail to get a bump because their convention was merely average? Or, do deeper structural factors mean neither of these conventions was ever going to change the race?
Given, party entrenchment; even a small boost could be significant. If Obama opens up a slightly bigger gap in the polls it could be very difficult for Romney catch him."
Obama has gotten the bounce he was looking for and opened up his biggest lead since March. Yes, this obviously could and most likely will recede somewhat before the election. But, nevertheless, the fundamentals of this race are starting to tilt towards the incumbent. Romney just had three days to pitch his message directly to the American people and could barely move the polls.
The economy is still bad and we just got a lousy August job's report. But, while it's a major policy problem it dosen't seem to be dooming the president's re-elections chances. The economic forecast through to election day is more of the same. Slow economic growth with an employment rate above 8%. If these kind of figures aren't pushing Romney into the lead in September it's unclear why they would in October or November.
Listen, this race is far from over. But, it's not as close as many claim. Intrade currently gives Obama a 58.2% chance of being re-elected. At that price, I'd be snapping up shares.