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Today was undoubtedly a good day for President Obama. Both national and state polls suggested that he gained as a result of his debate win on Monday, state polls showed that Mitt Romney's electoral path is narrowing, and the national political story of the day impliedly aids President Obama. Here's an analysis of the day's data.
National Polls Show Movement Toward Obama
The national polls have been the centerpiece of Rom-mentum. While state polls have continued to show a modest edge for President Obama, Governor Romney has led in roughly half of national polls in recent weeks, and has at times led in the average of national polls -- most notably taking a seven point lead in the Gallup tracker. Today's national trackers, however, give some reason for Obama supporters to be optimistic, because even though they remain roughly tied, the trend line is definably one of movement toward Obama. Gallup has moved from Romney +7 to Romney +3 over three days. RAND Corporation's tracker has moved from Obama +2 to Obama +4 all on Tuesday. PPP's daily tracker, which showed Romney +2 three days ago, now shows Obama +1. IBD/TIPP showed Obama moving from +2 to +3 today. You get the idea. There is a mild cautionary note, as PPP notes that President Obama had several strong days after he won the second Presidential debate, with the data lapsing back into a narrow Romney lead over the weekend. My bottom line is that I think President Obama is moving back ahead nationally, and that judging from the gap between national polls and state polling, the President has a roughly 2% margin below tied nationally within which he would win on November 6. Today's news thus leaves Mitt Romney in the unenviable position of needing to move the needle 3% nationally in under two weeks. This is why, despite the narrowness of President Obama's lead, Nate Silver's model has him as 71% likely to win today, a probability that in September one associated with larger leads in national polling -- a narrow lead with 13 days to go is more predictive of victory than a 4 point lead, say, in early September.
Today's State Polls Mostly Good News For Obama
Ohio is most of the ballgame, which made today's polling very good for President Obama. Time Magazine showed the President leading the Buckeye State by 5 points, and with early voting running 60-30 for him. SurveyUSA showed President Obama leading by 3 points, the same as last week, and up 2 from 2 weeks ago. Notably, SUSA reported that 26% of Ohio has now voted, with the President leading among early voters by 20 points. Finally, Rasmussen, which had reported four consecutive 1 point leads for Obama over six weeks, has now shown a tie. These polls, taken together, continue to suggest that President Obama is up 2-3 points, and is deploying a ground game that Romney is failing badly to match. Romney has to win Election Day big in Ohio, and independents are breaking back toward Obama, according to the national polls in the above paragraph (for example, PPP suggests that Romney's lead among them fell from 9 to 2 after his loss in Boca Raton).
Meanwhile, Nevada keeps being a state Mitt Romney should have known better than to contest. Obama has led by 2-4 points in all 7 polls since October 9, and today pulled a +2 and a +4. Nevada, as I continue to point out, delivered a margin of 12 points, 5 points above Obama's pre-election polls in 2008 (and I predicted that margin at the time). Nevada saw Senator Reid overperform polls by 8 in his easy 2010 victory over Sharron Angle. Democrats enjoy a great registration advantage, and have been early-voting in huge numbers in Clark County. Barack Obama is going to win Nevada by 6 or more points.
Mitt Romney, meanwhile, pulled a good number in New Hampshire, which is a slightly bigger deal than it appears to be. Rasmussen reported Romney leading 50-48 there, which is slightly better than the Obama +1 Rasmussen found on October 15. Two points make me question this number modestly. First, Rasmussen also found Romney up 3 in midSeptember when every other pollster and common sense indicated he was trailing in New Hampshire. Second, UNH showed Obama up 9 just before the final debate, and UNH in 2010 was closer to predicting Kelly Ayotte's large margin of victory than any pollster, suggesting accuracy and lack of lean. Nonetheless, Romney also pulled a +1 from PPP late last week in New Hampshire and a +2 from ARG over the weekend, suggesting that he may lead narrowly there.
Taking today's polls of Ohio, and adding Ohio to the Obama electoral base of 243 EVs I discussed two pieces ago (Nevada is already in that base), President Obama would be at 262 EVs even without considering Wisconsin, Colorado, and Virginia, any one of which could then give him the election. Put another way, if Obama wins Ohio, Romney has to win Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. If Romney holds on in New Hampshire, he could then afford to lose one other swing state -- Iowa, where President Obama appears to lead and appears to be banking an early voting advantage.
Mourdock Comment Likely To Hurt Romney at Least Marginally
Today's top political news was also bad for Romney -- the statement of Indiana Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock that in the event of rape followed by pregnancy, he opposes abortion because God intends those rape pregnancies. There is a good argument that one of the seminal moments in this Presidential election was Todd Akin's "forcible rape" comment. It crystallized Democratic rhetoric about a supposed "war on women" (really, Democratic shorthand for conservatives raising contraception and abortion as issues in the GOP Presidential primaries) and gave it a noxious face, helping to solidify then-massive gender gaps in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania in favor of President Obama.
In September, much of the margin of President Obama's modest but significant lead was his strong performance among working class white women who identified as moderate or conservative. This seemed fairly plainly to be a result of Democratic campaigning on women's issues throughout the year, and the positions of a Santorum and the statement of Akin. Governor Romney did well by seeming calm, reasonable, and faux-centrist in the Denver debate, and with his strong performance reduced the gender gap, as one crucial part of drawing roughly even with the President.
Today? You can hear it from Romney himself, in the only TV commercial he filmed for any Senate candidate. He says, "This fall, I'm supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate." When, predictably, he was asked, Romney clarified that he doesn't want the commercial taken down. Romney also doesn't rescind the endorsement, which makes sense, because Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan shares Mourdock's position.
Given the legs Akin's comment had, Mourdock's rebranding of the GOP down the stretch in this year's campaign as the party of rape gaffes -- and Romney's association with it, which is already giving rise to pointed attack ads showing Romney and Mourdock speaking and laughing together -- threaten to sustain or modestly increase the gender gap Romney faces in Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa. Without rushing to overstate, if this story has any legs at all during the time when voters are already voting, coupled with Obama's strong debate performances, it threatens to bleed momentum from Romney down the stretch. Romney trails in all recent polls of Wisconsin, has led in no recent poll of Ohio, and has led very narrowly in Virginia. Any sharpening of a gender gap at this point is likely to be fatal in all of those states, and in the election overall. The Romney commercial for Mourdock may prove to be Mitt's final, fatal albatross down the stretch.
Conclusion: This Week's Discourse Friendlier to the President
The national trackers are not yet done pricing in President Obama's post-debate bounce. Rasmussen has two more nights of sampling before doing so, and the President should gain tomorrow (since this was posted, Obama did gain 1 in Rasmussen to -3). With Libya out of the national narrative, and a debate win and Mourdock in the narrative, the media will no longer be principally occupied with advancing the theme of Romney momentum. As a consequence of the more Obama-favorable discourse of this week, we should see either continued modest motion toward Obama (my expectation based on today's fairly bullish data), or at worst a holding pattern, which with 12 days left, can only help the President.