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What to Make of Romney's Dip in the Polls? 5 Takes What to Make of Romney's Dip in the Polls? 5 Takes

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Election Analysis

What to Make of Romney's Dip in the Polls? 5 Takes


Mitt Romney pauses as supporters cheer to remarks during a rally Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Las Vegas.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

With seven weeks to go until the election, Mitt Romney is slipping. Or so says the polls. The latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor survey has Obama leading Romney 50 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. These voters are feeling more optimistic about the country, and that optimism seems to be carrying over to Obama's numbers.

But it’s not just the polls that are favoring Obama. As Alex Roarty reports, Romney’s fundraising engine appears to be losing steam. Although Romney has a larger bankroll overall, counting efforts from the Republican National Committee, he has around $40 million less cash on hand than Obama has at his disposal.


These headlines, coming after a week of criticism over the “secret” videos leaked by Mother Jones, which came quickly after Romney’s ill-received comments on the Mideast protests, do not paint an optimistic picture for his chances come November. 

Is it too soon to call the contest? Gathered here, are five recent pieces from National Journal writers on what to make of the horse race.

Not So Fast


George Condon reminds us that Romney hasn’t lost the race yet, and there are still many chances to make a sizable comeback. Not to mention, Republicans aren’t giving up any time soon.

In a Twitter world, six weeks -- with four debates -- is an eternity.

Undeniably shell-shocked by two weeks that seemed to bring bad news on each day, Republicans are trying to regain their footing and start challenging what they fear is a growing consensus that Romney is blowing his challenge to a decidedly vulnerable president. Their message: not so fast. Not so fast with talk of Romney gaffes; not so fast with talk of falling behind in the polls; and not so fast with plans for Obama’s second inaugural.

Explaining the Uptick

Charlie Cook parses the polling data, finding increased confidence in the economy, and Obama’s handling of it, to be one reason for Obama's bump the in the polls.


Three sets of numbers in other questions might explain the uptick. In the key “right direction/wrong track” question, called the “Dow Jones indicator of American politics” by the late Dick Wirthlin, President Reagan’s pollster, the “right direction” jumped up 7 points since August, from 32 percent to 39 percent; the “wrong track” dropped 6 points, from 61 percent to 55 percent.

Obama’s job approval on handling the economy ticked up 3 points to 47 percent, while disapproval dropped 3 points, to 51 percent, perhaps driven by stock-market gains and more optimism about housing. …

When asked, “During the next 12 months, do you think that the nation’s economy will get better, get worse, or stay about the same?” the percentage of respondents saying they expected the economy to get better increased 6 points, to 42 percent; the “get worse” remained the same at 18 percent; and the share saying “stay about the same” declined to 32 percent.

An Uncertain Electorate

Gwen Ifill looks behind the polls to find the underlying mood of American voters. And voters seem to be enthusiastic, somewhat optimistic, and looking for a reliable leader.

It’s tough--and a bit arrogant--to call the election in mid-September, before a single debate has been held or vote cast. It’s far smarter to try to use this trove of survey information and figure out what it tells us about the American electorate. …

Taken together, these polls show an uncertain electorate, and uncertainty seems to benefit the incumbent unless the challenger can prove he would be able to do any better.

The Original Sin

Editorial Director Ronald Brownstein traces Romney’s current problems to a tactical decision he made during the primary season. The candidate steered too far right, and in doing so, turned off key demographics.

Romney’s biggest general-election problem is that he did not believe he could beat a GOP primary field with no competitor more formidable than Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich without tacking sharply right on key issues. Romney repeatedly took policy positions that minimized his risks during the spring but have multiplied his challenges in the fall. His fate isn’t sealed, but the choices he made in the primaries have left him with a path to victory so narrow that it might daunt Indiana Jones. “To secure the nomination, they made … decisions about immigration, tax cuts, and a whole host of other issues that had no strategic vision,” said John Weaver, a senior strategist for John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “So he’s now trapped demographically and doesn’t even seem to understand it.”

What Happened to Romney’s “Competence?”

Managing Editor for Politics Jill Lawrence contends Romney has lost control of his  campaign’s narrative. Why is a “proven leader” fumbling through a political campaign?

Although the trains may run on schedule in RomneyWorld, the message has often gone off the rails. The topline examples were when he offended the British and Palestinians on a trip abroad; when he let Clint Eastwood hijack a key convention moment; when he neglected to mention U.S. troops and the Afghanistan war in his acceptance address; and when he attacked Obama as a tragedy unfolded in Libya. Then came the unfortunate videotape of a closed fundraiser this year in Boca Raton, Fla., in which Romney said that 47 percent of Americans expect government handouts and “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility” for their lives.

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