By Jonathan Easley - 09/11/12 11:23 PM EDT
The Obama campaign has been flush with good news since the Democratic National Convention, leaving both it and its Republican counterpart scurrying to deal with the altered dynamics of the race.
President Obama and Mitt Romney entered the conventions statistically tied in the polls.
Monday’s daily tracking polls from Gallup and Rasmussen showed Obama with a 5-percentage-point lead after last week’s Democratic gathering in Charlotte, N.C., and a CNN-ORC poll released late Monday, the first major poll to come out after the completion of the convention, showed Obama with a 52-to-46 percent lead over Romney.
Perhaps the best news for the Obama campaign is that those polling numbers include reaction to last Friday’s weak job report, which showed employers added only 96,000 jobs. Economists had expected upward of 150,000 new jobs last month.
The polling bounce wasn’t the only positive development for the president this week.
On Monday, the Obama campaign announced it had raised $114 million in August, the largest monthly haul for either presidential campaign in the 2012 cycle. Romney, who raised $111.6 million in August, had beaten Obama in each of the prior three months.
And while Friday’s troubling job data will be a source of concern for the Obama campaign going forward, it came with some sunny economic news.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday closed at its highest mark since December 2007, and as the Democrats gathered in Charlotte, Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index surged 11 points to its highest level since January 2008.
It was the largest one-week gain for the index, surpassing the 10-point bump following the killing of Osama bin Laden. The largest swing the index ever recorded was a 15-point drop during the financial crisis in September 2008.
“The convention appears to have given Democrats and, to a lesser degree, independents, fresh optimism about the economy,” wrote Lydia Saad at Gallup. “There was no comparable shift in Americans’ views of the economy, either overall or by party, during the prior week spanning the Republican National Convention … This could reflect renewed confidence in the economy per se, or heightened enthusiasm for the Democratic Party generally.”
The confluence of events had the Romney campaign on the defensive Monday, with pollster Neil Newhouse releasing a memo cautioning supporters against reading too deeply into the latest polling numbers and calling the Obama bounce a “sugar high.”
“Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse wrote in the memo. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race.”
By Tuesday, there was already evidence that this might be the case. Obama’s 5-point lead in the conservative-leaning Rasmussen poll shrank to 3 overnight.
“Today’s data suggests that the president’s convention bounce has started to fade,” Scott Rasmussen wrote.
And a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday showed Obama with 49 percent support to Romney’s 48 among likely voters, a 2-point boost for Obama and a 1-point bump for Romney since the same poll last month.
While the Romney campaign sought to diminish the perceived Obama gains, the Obama campaign sought to temper expectations by reminding voters that the final eight weeks of the campaign would be defined by three debates, with the first taking place at the University of Denver on Oct. 3.
Obama for America communications director Ben LaBolt talked up Romney’s preparation and experience in a Monday conference call with reporters, increasing expectations for the GOP nominee.
“Gov. Romney participated in more than 20 debates last year,” he said, referring to the nearly two dozen debates that took place during the Republican primary. “He’s obviously doing a lot of preparation. He was a sharp debater last year, and so we certainly expect him to bring those skills to all of the debates.”
Meanwhile, the Newhouse memo cited historical precedent for a comeback, reminding supporters that “President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by a near-double-digit margin late in the fall in 1980.” Obama is nowhere close to a double-digit lead, and even during his 2008 Electoral College romp only managed 53 percent of the popular vote.
Rather, the applicable historical precedents could involve other recent elections.
Like 2000, when Al Gore held a small lead after the Democratic National Convention, and 2004, when John Kerry entered the convention tied with then-President George W. Bush, the 2012 election still appears likely to be decided by a handful of swing states where the contest is essentially within the margin of error.