Romney's Wrong Right Move

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at D’Evelyn High School in Denver, Colorado over the weekend.

Once it became clear that President Barack Obama received a significant bounce from the Democratic National Convention, the next question was whether this bounce would translate to an enduring advantage for his campaign.

On Friday, polls from National Journal and Reason magazine gave Obama a 7-point lead over Mitt Romney, 50–43 and 52–45, respectively. Saturday was a quiet day for national polling, but Sunday saw the release of two tracking polls by Rasmussen and Gallup. Rasmussen was unchanged from the last few days; Romney and Obama remain tied with 46 percent support, though Obama’s job approval has ticked down: 48 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove.

Obama began last week in a similar position with Gallup, but both his approval—and performance against Romney—improved in yesterday’s tracking poll. He now earns 48 percent support to Romney’s 46 percent and has a job-approval rating of 51 percent, with 43 percent disapproval. This morning, a set of national polls from Zogby and Politico/George Washington University show Obama with a decisive lead in the race. The Politico poll finds Obama leading Romney by 3 points among likely voters, 50 percent to 47 percent, while Zogby has Obama up 8, 49 percent to 41 percent.

These results should be considered with polls released last week—from NBC News and the Pew Research Center—that show Obama above 50 percent against Mitt Romney. Relative to his post-convention bounce, Obama’s position has declined, but overall, he’s unquestionably stronger than he was before the conventions. Here is a chart to illustrate the general change over the last three weeks.

As you can see, Obama’s position has sloped downward since the beginning of last week, but Romney's has also declined, leaving them in the same rough position.

If there’s an upside for Romney, it’s that Gallup and Rasmussen show a neck-and-neck race. But that’s the extent of the positive news for the former Massachusetts governor. Indeed, if we move our attention to state-level polling, the picture looks even worse for the Republican nominee. In the most critical state for Romney, Florida, his position has deteriorated. Public Policy Polling gives Obama a 4-point lead in Florida, while Mason-Dixon puts him ahead by 1 percent. If you’re unwilling to put Florida in the “leans Obama” column—on account of Romney’s 1-point lead in Friday’s Purple Strategies survey—then the most you can say is that Florida is a toss-up that tilts in Obama’s favor.

There’s no way in which this isn’t terrible news for Romney. Without Florida’s 29 electoral votes, there is no way for him to reach 270 without winning two states from the “leans Obama” column, like Wisconsin and Michigan. At most, he gets 256 electoral votes—and that’s if he wins every other swing state on the map.

Here’s where Romney stands: He consistently trails Obama, hasn’t held a lead in national polls, and is nearly 5 points way from the 50 percent mark in most polling averages. His support is collapsing among core demographics like older voters, and he has lost his advantage on the economy. Doubling-down on conservative positions might build enthusiasm among his base, but it won’t help him catch up with Obama; both sides are winning the vast majority of their respective partisans and partisan leaners.

In other words, unless Romney can win undecideds and convert Obama voters, he simply doesn’t have a path to the victory.