Home 2012 races The Key Takeaway from Polls Showing Obama Gaining

The Key Takeaway from Polls Showing Obama Gaining


by Paul Goldman

The presidential horse race polls could easily go up and down again for many months. Thus, the head-to-head number, while always the headline maker, is actually the least important right now. What matters is this: it is clear that President Obama’s State of the Union message moved some voters into the President’s camp. This is crucial, because it answers a question some of us have had for months now: are the people still listening to this President (an inquiry fostered by the fact his numbers had seemed stuck in place)?

That is always a bad sign for a leader: namely, no one was listening to you. But the post-State-of-the-Union movement suggests Americans ARE listening. To be fair, the “scorched earth policy” of the GOP presidential front-runners is dragging both of them down, while helping Rick Santorum gain a positive image among the faithful. But hardly anyone in the GOP thinks Santorum can win in the fall.

So, as the Romney and Gingrich images go south, the President heads to higher polling ground.  

This is not to dismiss the importance of improving economic data, or the President getting tougher with Iran — such “big stick” stuff has always been good for the incumbent. Still, the bottom line is this: if the post-State-of-the-Union poll numbers had been flat, then I would have been worried about the mindset of swing voters. But the data jumped in the right direction.

Meaning: Right now, the President wins Virginia by a margin big enough to give Tim Kaine a good win too.

Of course, things could change by this time next month, depending on events. But the American people, after several months of not listening, have started to tune in their President again. He has, at the same time, honed his message, and this double whammy – along with the improving economy – has moved the polling numbers.

Meanwhile, a prolonged, nasty fight on the GOP side looks to be a significant net negative for the Republicans. In other words, Governor McDonnell might want to consider giving someone else his #2 ticket for that one-way trip on the Titanic.

  • Tom

    I think the fact that Romney has recognized that he can no longer use high unemployment or the economy overall as a campaign theme against Obama, and never could have used health care as an issue, means Romney has about run out of anything he could use to convince the general election voters that he would be a better choice than Obama. There simply aren’t any big issues left for Romney to exploit, and especially nothing he could use that wouldn’t drive away what’s left of the Tea Party extreme conservatives. Romney’s situation seems to be approaching a “perfect storm” condition where he can’t appeal to the current GOP right wing base without losing the independent and moderate republican voters, and he can’t appeal to the independent and moderate republicans without losing the hard-core right wingers.

    It seems to me that Romney has found himself trapped inside a box with no way out, and I’m not sure it makes any difference at this point who he picks as his VP running mate. No mater who is is VP choice, I suspect he will lose more voters than he will gain unless he just goes with a no-name who won’t lose many votes for him but won’t gain any votes either.

    As for Obama, I think he’s now in a very strong position to carry Virginia and Florida, no matter what Romney says or does from now to the Aug. convention.

    The pundits keep talking about which states will deliver the most delegates for Gingrich or Romney, but so far there has been very little discussion about which states Romney has a chance to win the most electoral college reps., and there just aren’t very many Romney can count on in the Nov. general election that would enable Romney to improve on McCain’s landslide loss in 2008. Personally, I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance that Romney lose by a moderately larger margin, but I don’t know which state Obama might carry that he didn’t carry four years ago.

    As Paul says, the polls could change a month from now, but I thing it would take a dramatic and unexpected disaster in the wrong direction for the polls to suddenly move significantly in favor of Romney.