Just before the Oct. 3 presidential debate, conventional wisdom held that the national race had effectively ended and President Obama was on the threshold of clinching re-election. He was consistently ahead in all nationwide polls, and in every key swing state. Oh, what a difference a week makes.
With his debate performance as the catalyst propelling Republican nominee Mitt Romney back into contention, a series of new polls now shows a complete race reversal.
Eight national surveys were released yesterday and, for the first time, it is Romney who leads or is tied in the preponderance of them. Gallup, the American Research Group (ARG), Public Policy Polling, and the Investors Business Daily’s TIPP poll all post Romney to a lead of one or two points. Two studies, Ipsos/Reuters and Rasmussen Reports, project a tie between the two candidates, while UPI/CVoter and Zogby Research for The Washington Times still find the President leading by a lone percentage point.
But the national data tells only part of the story. In the most important core and secondary states of North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada, Romney has gained strong momentum and leads in several polls.
North Carolina, by all accounts a critical core conversion state, yields to a Gravis Marketing study (Oct. 6-8; 1,325 likely North Carolina voters) that projects Romney to a major 50-41 percent lead, obviously his biggest margin of the campaign in the Tar Heel State. Along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, North Carolina is in virtual must-win status for the Romney campaign.
Ohio, another of the four core states, features trends that are mixed in declaring a leader, but all polls show significant movement for Romney. The American Research Group (Oct. 5-8; 600 likely Ohio voters) gives the challenger a one-point 48-47 percent edge. Survey USA (Oct. 5-8; 808 likely and actual Ohio voters) also finds a one point difference between the candidates, but their data still has the President in front, by a scant 45-44 percent margin. Finally, in better news for Obama, the CNN/ORC survey (Oct. 5-8; 888 likely voters) gives the president a 51-47 percent lead.
In the secondary states, the places Romney would need to win should he fail to carry all four of the core states, are also turning in favorable numbers for the GOP challenger. Colorado, a state trending blue in 2008 and electing a Democratic senator in the Republican landslide year of 2010, has been showing signs of returning to the GOP column. The latest ARG poll (Oct. 5-8; 600 likely Colorado voters) gives Romney his first Centennial State lead, 50-46 percent, after following closely behind Obama even in the days when the president was beginning to break away in other places.
Staying out west in Nevada, another state showing signs of returning to the Republican fold after four years of relatively consistent Democratic voting patterns, Rasmussen Reports (Oct. 8; 500 likely Nevada voters) projects the two candidates being tied at 47 percent.
The latest swing toward Romney is actually quite consistent with voter behavior throughout this election cycle. The electorate has often moved both quickly and wildly in responding to late-breaking events. Such is the case with the Romney debate performance. It remains to be seen if this direction holds or if voters will soon snap back toward the president.
The next two presidential debates have now assumed an aura of much greater importance in determining the final outcome of this hotly contested race. Will Romney again be dominant? Will the president rebound? Is the swing toward Romney the beginning of a trend, or a mere blip? Time will soon bring us the answers.