In an attempt to build his post-debate momentum, Mitt Romney gave a speech on foreign policy this morning. The overall consensus is that it was a whole lot of nothing new: Writing at Foreign Policy, Daniel Drezner notes that there is “almost no new policy content” in the speech. Indeed, it was mostly the usual laundry list of complaints against President Obama for lacking “resolve,” while Romney pledged to pursue the same policies that have defined the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy.
This weekend, the questions for everyone tracking the election was straightforward: Has Mitt Romney received a bounce in the polls on the strength of his debate performance? And has it turned the race into a toss-up? The national pollsters have yet to release their live-interviewer surveys from the last several days, but swing-state polls show signs of improvement for the former Massachusetts governor.
For the last two weeks, I have argued—consistently—that the debates don’t matter for the outcome of the presidential election. And now that we’ve had the first debate, I still think that’s true.
Which is not to say that this wasn’t interesting. For the first time since he began running for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney looked comfortable. During his debate with President Obama, he took command, clearly explained his points of disagreement, and offered a little humanity with stories of the unemployed and suffering.
If you were feeling generous, you could call Monday the beginning of Mitt Romney’s “comeback.” Not only has he gained ground in national polls—he's pulled within 2 points of Obama in the latest survey from ABC News and the Washington Post—but there’s been positive movement in several swing states. Gravis Marketing now has Florida as a toss-up, and Public Policy Polling shows a tie in North Carolina, echoing the close race of 2008.
We are another week closer to the presidential election, and Mitt Romney is still behind. While American Research Group shows Romney in a tight race for Virginia, its track record over the course of this year is not good. If you want a better sense of where the race in the commonwealth stands, you should look to the polling averages, which show President Barack Obama with a consistent lead.
This is incredible: According to the most recent Bloomberg national poll, President George W. Bush—the man whose administration left us with two wars, crushing debt, a broken economy, and a tattered reputation—is more popular than Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Bush receives a favorable rating from 46 percent of those surveyed, and an unfavorable rating from 49 percent. By contrast, Romney receives a 43 percent favorable rating, and a 50 percent unfavorable. This makes Bush more popular than Vice President Joe Biden (42–45) and the Republican Party as a whole (41–46).
Two observations: First, if this result is accurate—and given Mitt Romney’s low favorability ratings across polls, there’s no reason to think it isn’t—then it’s partly a reflection of current conditions. The economy is worse now than it was at any point during the Bush administration. Even if Bush bears plenty of responsibility for the economic crisis, voters still look to the past as a better time, because in a narrow sense, it was.Still, this is a remarkable result. In the final month of his presidency, Bush's job approval averaged 30.5 percent and his disapproval averaged 64 percent. His favorability wasn't much better—in a Gallup poll taken before Obama took office, Bush earned 40 percent approval and 59 percent disapproval. Bush left in 2009 as one of the most unpopular men to ever occupy the Oval Office.
President Obama’s margin in national polls hasn’t diminished at all this week—he still maintains a strong position among registered voters and likely voters. What is interesting, however, is his position in Nevada and Arizona.
If you were to judge them against the records of previous Democratic presidents, it’s clear that President Obama is the most liberal president since Lyndon Johnson. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act prevented a second Great Depression and invested billions in education, clean energy, and future technologies. The Affordable Care Act has put the United States on the path toward universal health coverage, and a more sustainable health care system. Dodd-Frank is the most important piece of financial regulation in a generation. It’s not perfect, but—all things considered—it’s pretty good.
At a certain point, it’s a little boring to say that Mitt Romney is suffering in the polls. But here we are, and Mitt Romney is still losing support nationwide. As always, the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls show a much tighter race than the larger surveys commissioned by media outlets. Bloomberg has President Barack Obama up six among likely voters, compared to the tie registered by Rasmussen. Gallup also has Obama ahead by six, but this is among registered voters; his margin is certain to narrow once Gallup screens for likely voters.
Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson built his reputation as a moderate, policy-oriented Republican. But in his Senate race against Democrat Tammy Baldwin, he has had to go through the same uncomfortable shift to the right faced by other Republicans who made their names in a less dogmatic GOP. To wit, this video—filmed in June—shows Thompson telling a Tea Party group that he is best suited to “come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare,” as the conservative governor who pioneered welfare reform in the 1990s. Take a look:
I wrote yesterday that President Obama is building a solid margin over Governor Romney in the state. The picture is similar in Ohio—where Obama has led in every poll since the Democratic National Convention—and Nevada, where he's led in almost every survey since the beginning of the year. Tuesday's polls reinforced both trends, and highlighted the extent to which Romney is on something of a downwards trajectory.
Mitt Romney has a few paths to victory, some more likely than others. He could repeat George W. Bush’s performance in 2004 and carry the White House with wins in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio. He could cede Virginia to Obama and take Colorado and New Hampshire. He could give up Colorado and New Hampshire but win Wisconsin and the single electoral vote in Omaha, Nebraska. He could lose Ohio and make up for it with Virginia, Colorado, and Wisconsin.