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.