The presidential race remains remarkably stable, which is good news for President Obama and Democrats and bad news for Mitt Romney and Republicans. This race is certainly not over; with three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate to go and two upcoming unemployment reports — and all against a backdrop of a very unstable world — it’s not hard to conjure up scenarios that could change the trajectory of this election. But a change of the trajectory is exactly what would have to happen for Romney to win; his current one simply doesn’t intersect with Obama’s before Nov. 6.
Leading Democratic and Republican pollsters and strategists privately say that the Obama lead is around 4 or 5 points and is neither widening nor narrowing. The convention bounces have dissipated, but Romney’s negatives remain quite high and are not diminishing. In the Gallup three-week super-samples—almost 10,000 interviews—the percentage of Democrats saying that they will definitely vote has moved up to the point that it is now virtually tied with Republicans.
North Carolina and New Hampshire are the two closest of the 11 battleground states, and both are about even. In the Tar Heel state there are unpublished numbers ranging from Romney ahead by 2 points to Obama by 3 points. Just call it a draw right now, though most bets are on the state falling into the Romney column.
Pollsters vary on exactly where Virginia is; some are saying Obama is up by just a point or so, others say by as many as four. The margins that campaign pollsters are getting are tighter than some of the public polling is showing.
In Florida, poll results range from even to Obama ahead by 4 points. Obama’s lead in Nevada seems to be between 2 and 5 points, in Colorado the president is up by between 2and 6 points, and in Iowa between 3 and 6 points. In Wisconsin, Obama is up anywhere between 2 and 6 points, and the gap between him and Romney may be widening.
Finally we get to the three biggest headaches for Republicans: Ohio, where Obama seems to be ahead by between 5 and 8 points; Michigan, where Obama leads by 6 or more points; and Pennsylvania, where the Democratic candidate is enjoying a lead in the high single digits. It’s not impossible for Romney to win without Ohio, Michigan, or Pennsylvania, but it is very, very difficult. One pollster, who is polling in some of the most important swing states, concluded that rather than simply judging Obama, this has become a choice election — a losing proposition for Romney.
On Friday morning, when the University of Michigan releases its national Index of Consumer Sentiment, note whether it is consistent with the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence numbers released on Tuesday morning, which were at their highest levels since February. Both indexes showed increases last month and mirror public polling showing “right direction” numbers up and “wrong track” figures down. While there are plenty of reasons to believe that the economic situation is not getting much better — taking one step forward, one back — the public seems to be thinking that things are getting better, and in terms of politics, voters count more than economists.
Again, this election isn’t over and could still change. But there are no signs that it is changing today.