Debate damage: Romney ties or leads in new polls

October 9, 2012

In at least one poll released Monday, five days after last week’s presidential debates, GOP nominee Mitt Romney is beating President Barack Obama by four points.

So, please, Obama supporters, tell me again about how it was all a trap to set Romney up for future failure, about how the president spoke directly to the people, how voters saw through Romney’s lies, how the post-debate fact checking destroyed the Republican’s seeming advantage.

In the days after my post-debate story, it seemed that was all I heard about. My assertion that Romney won and that there would be consequences to that victory didn’t go over all that well.

But here’s exactly what I sad:

“Obama supporters can console themselves all day long by saying debates don’t matter, that history proves that. They can also tell themselves that first debates usually help the challenger.

“But here’s what history also tells us: Debates provide a bump of anywhere between 1 and 3 percentage points in the poll.

“And in a race divided by just about 4 points, that means Romney — and there does seem to be agreement both among pundits and early polls that he won this one — can pull himself up to within the margin of error nationally and quite likely lead in states such as North Carolina (where the president had forged ahead by a fraction), Colorado, Florida, and maybe even Iowa and Virginia.”

And here’s where we are today: A number of polls came out Monday that show a tightening of the presidential race. Nearly all show a Romney surge. The Pew Research Center, which has usually shown a lean toward Obama, put Romney four full points up.

In other words, Romney’s performance — whatever we might think of its substance — potentially garnered him considerably more than a mere historical bump. If you believe the Pew poll, Romney’s rocketing.

To make matters worse, Politico/George Washington University’s Battleground Tracking Poll showed Romney up by one point in a statistical tie, and a growing enthusiasm gap, with the Democrats down.

And in the states I mentioned last week? According to RealClearPolitics' poll aggregator, Romney now leads by a fraction of a point in North Carolina (where Obama was pre-debate). It’s a dead heat in Colorado (where Obama actually went up two points) and Florida (where Obama dropped a few points). Iowa and Virginia remain more or less unchanged, with the president barely leading in statistical ties.

Lastly, on Intrade, Obama’s chances of winning have dropped two points to 64.4 from the morning after the debate. That’s a slow drip, but it’s still downward motion.

Keep in mind that pre-debate, Obama was ahead and moving in these states (and on Intrade). And consider how much worse these numbers might look if the president’s performance hadn’t been blunted by the jobs report last Friday, which showed unemployment at 7.8 — the first time under eight percent in the entire Obama presidency.

Believe me, I’d like Obama to win this race, but merely wanting it won’t make it so. The president did real honest to God damage, perhaps the worst so far to this campaign, with his performance  — or lack thereof  — last week.

No, Romney won’t repeat his performance style again, but Obama simply can’t repeat his either. Not if he actually intends to win a second term.