After the balloons drop in Tampa, how much of a bump in the polls does Mitt Romney need to get to be on a competitive footing with President Obama going into the final laps of the 2012 campaign?
A plurality of the Republican operatives believe that their standard-bearer needs to come out of his convention with at least a modest boost, but Democrats suspect that the Republican nominee needs a bigger liftoff. Those are the findings of National Journal’s Convention Insiders Poll, an anonymous survey of Democratic and Republican elected and party officials, grassroots activists, consultants, fundraisers, lobbyists, and allied interest-group leaders.
Asked, “How big of a bounce in the polls does Romney need out of the GOP convention to put him in a good position for the fall campaign?” a plurality (40 percent) of the 174 Republican Convention Insiders surveyed on Wednesday thought that Romney needed to gain 3 to 4 percentage points. “We need to hit a triple, not a home run,” said one Republican Convention Insider. “Get swing voters to see that Romney is not the rich-guy caricature Obama has painted and sharpen the economic critique of Obama.”
Several said that with the Democratic convention to follow the GOP gathering in Tampa, Romney needed to pad his lead to offset the improvement in the polls that Obama is likely to see from his party’s confab in Charlotte. Romney “has got to be ahead before the Democratic convention in order to make the debates a tipping point,” said one Republican Insider.
Almost a third (30 percent) of the Democratic Convention Insiders concurred that Romney needed to move the polling needles by 3 or 4 points. “He needs to change the dynamics of the race,” said one Democrat. “A solid bounce of 3 to 4 points shifts the narrative.”
But a majority (58 percent) of Democratic Convention Insiders thought that Romney needed to score at least a 5-point gain in the polls — not only to be on an equal footing with Obama in September, but also to change the perception that the president is still the favorite in the race. “Obama is narrowly, but clearly leading and will likely be leading after Charlotte,” said one Democratic Insider. “Romney needs a real bounce to change the dynamic, and 5-plus points would mean he’s finally helped to sell his candidacy.”
Roughly one out of six (17 percent) of Republican Convention Insiders agreed with Democrats that Romney needed something substantial coming out of Tampa. “He needs enough to offset the inevitable bounce the president will get out of Charlotte next week,” said one GOP Convention Insider.
But 25 percent said that Romney didn’t need any bump from the Tampa confab to be competitive with Obama in the fall, but many felt that way because they believe that conventions are no longer events that transfer voters into a candidate’s column. “A bounce by definition comes back down,” observed one GOP Convention Insider. “I doubt a compelling case can be made for a convention that has determined the general-election outcome.”
Eighteen percent of the Republican Insiders felt that Romney would only see a slight bounce of 1 to 2 points in the polls after the delegates leave Tampa, because the media’s attention was bifurcated by Hurricane Isaac this week. “I don't see him getting a big bounce out of convention due to all the competing news stories,” said one GOP Convention Insider. The nation’s polarized electorate with relatively few undecided voters—who are more likely to wait until the presidential debates to make up their minds—could also temper any bounce for Romney. “This campaign is World War I trench warfare and [there’ll be] no bounce on either end,” predicted one Republican Convention Insider. “I think first debate is most critical political event held in America since the October 1980 debate between [Ronald] Reagan and [Jimmy] Carter.”
Only 8 percent of the Democratic Convention Insiders thought that Romney could get by with such a modest gain, and just 5 percent said that he didn’t need any bounce to remain competitive with Obama.
For a list of the Insiders, please visit nationaljournal.com/2012-conventions-insiders.