Fear Not the Bump

Since I write about politics for a living, my family and friends often ask me for my opinions about matters political, and in recent days these queries have taken on an edge—not quite panic, but let's call it worry. "Romney doesn't really have a chance, does he?" one person asked me yesterday with a quaver in her voice. Well, sure he has a chance, I replied. I'm still fairly confident that Obama is going to win in the end, but Romney does have a chance.

Which brings us to this week and the Republican convention. Right now, the race is essentially tied. If you look at averages of the polls, you see anything from an Obama advantage of about a point (that's what the Pollster.com average has, as does the Real Clear Politics average) to a Romney advantage of half a point (that's what the TPM average has). On the other hand, everybody sees a substantial advantage for Obama in the electoral college. But this is a good time for liberals to prepare themselves for something: at the end of this week, Mitt Romney is going to be ahead in most every poll. Don't panic.

Romney will get a "convention bounce." We don't know how big that bounce will be; it could well be smaller than in the past, since the number of undecided voters is small. But candidates typically get a bump of about 5 percentage points out of their convention (sometimes more, sometimes less), so even if Romney underperforms that history, he'll still move ahead after his convention. And it isn't hard to see why; this is the one chance a candidate has to have the media's megaphone all to himself. For a few nights, he gets to air an hours-long infomercial about why he's a near god-like embodiment of all that is right and true about America, and why his opponent is a vile demon risen from the very depths of hell. From now until Friday, Democrats will be all but absent from the national discussion.

At the end of it all, Romney will be leading. Probably not by much, but he'll be leading. John McCain was ahead four years ago after his convention, too. And then next week, Democrats get their turn, and Obama will move back in front. So do yourself a favor and don't get too worked up when you see those numbers this weekend.

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