In my most recent post for the Economist, I argued that both Mitt Romney and President Obama were likely to fall short of the 5% average convention-driven polling bounce received by presidential candidates in prior years, although I expected Romney to get a very slightly bigger bump than the President. This was for two reasons. First, neither candidate is polling much lower than one might expect, given the fundamentals. So there’s not a lot of room to grow polling support based on the convention alone. Second, because the Democratic convention, which starts tomorrow, follows so closely on the heels of the Republican convention, which ended last Thursday, the two events are likely to cut into each other’s bump somewhat. However, because Obama is the better known of the two, I thought Romney had slightly more polling upside because some people would use the convention as their first opportunity to assess his candidacy.
So far, the post-convention polls – and there haven’t been very many as yet – are consistent with the first part of my argument: Romney has received a smaller than average polling bump. In Rasmussen’s three-day tracking poll, Romney appears to have gained 6% from its pre-convention figures. However, that is based on a starting poll that probably was something of an outlier among Rasmussen’s recent tracking results, since it showed Obama leading Romney by 2%. For most of the last few weeks, however, Rasmussen has had the race tied or Romney slightly ahead. If we adjust the starting point to the more typical Rasmussen tracking poll results showing the race a dead heat, it appears that Romney gained perhaps a 2-3% polling bounce, rather than 6%. That’s pretty much what I expected.
Meanwhile, in its seven-day tracking poll, Gallup is showing no polling bump for Romney; the race remains essentially a dead heat, with Obama up 47-46%, about where it has been for a couple of weeks now. Of course, the 7-day average only includes two days of polling for the period after the RNC ended, so it may not be picking up the full convention impact. Gallup may have a better gauge tomorrow, when a full four days of post-convention polling is available.
In the RealClearPolitics composite polling average, Obama’s lead has shrunk from 1.4% on the day before the convention to .3% today. At Pollster.com, Obama pre-convention polling lead has barely budged, from .7% before the convention to .1% today. Of course, both composite polls include the Rasmussen tracking poll in their composite results, and not much else, so I wouldn’t read very much into either one.
Inevitably, some pundits are going to blame the lack of a polling bump on Dirty Harry’s – er, Clint Eastwood’s unscripted and sometimes rambling 10-minute address during the Convention’s last night, a speech that culminated with the crowd repeating one of Clint’s more iconic lines:
Not surprisingly, reactions to Clint’s speech broke down neatly along partisan lines. Obama supporter Steven Benen pointed out that Clint’s speech mocked Obama’s decision to first increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan before drawing down American forces, rather than withdrawing troops at the start of his presidency. Unfortunately, a troop drawdown is not Romney’s position either. The National Review’s Mark Steyn, on the other hand, thought Clint’s chair-talking effectively targeted undecided voters who might have tuned into the RNC event. Steyn concludes, “Incidentally, I’m not generally in favor of what Rob Long would call “working blue,” but, if you’re going to do it, doing anatomically impossible sex-act cross-talk with an invisible presidential straight-man in front of the Republican Convention is definitely the way to go.”
I’m not sure Clint’s performance moved the needle in either direction, but it surely got people talking about the convention, which is typically an eminently forgettable event. For that alone, I think Clint’s speech was a hit. Still, given what was at stake for Romney, more than one critic is wondering why he allowed Romney to appear on stage without first vetting Clint’s speech. I think the answer to that one is pretty obvious:
You got that, punk?