With the conventions wrapping up, we’re entering one of the most pivotal periods of the presidential race. Before the conventions, the polls are only modestly predictive. But over the next few weeks, the polls will rapidly start to provide the clearest picture of the race to date. And, of course, we’ll be tracking all of it.
The national tracking polls are pointing toward clear bounce for Obama. To catch up, check out this post on the bounce and its meaning. Let me take this opportunity to add a few caveats. The size of Obama’s bounce is still unclear at this stage and it’s quite possible that this week’s polls find a smaller bounce than was initially suggested by tracking polls. And although my post noted that Romney would be trying to do something unprecedented by winning without taking a lead after his own convention, it’s important to again emphasize that this isn't an ironclad rule. Romney could still win, but the fact that no one has done it in his circumstances suggests that it’s pretty tough to pull off.
While the national polls point toward a big bounce, last night’s state polls didn’t point to anything quite as large. PPP showed Obama leading by 5 in Ohio and 1 in North Carolina. While both numbers are decent in absolute sense, they only represent a 2 and 1 point improvement from their pre-convention polls. In comparison, initial returns from the national tracking polls conservatively point toward a bounce of at least three points, and potentially much higher. Along those same lines, it’s worth observing that Democratic-leaning PPP found less evidence of a bump than any other pollster. Last night, there was a chorus of anti-PPP chatter led by a new anti-PPP twitter account. With PPP providing the weekend's best news for Republicans, the timing seemed a little misplaced.
It’s also possible that Obama’s bounce might not be felt as acutely in the swing states. The battlegrounds have weathered more than $100 million in advertisements, so presumably their views are more entrenched. A different way to look at it: voters outside of the battleground states might have just seen Romney and Obama make their case for the first time. And Obama was over-performing in the battlegrounds relative to the nation as a whole, so presumably Obama had somewhat more room to grow nationally.
The Albuquerque Journal poll in New Mexico is peculiar, to say the least. Not only does it give Obama a modest lead of just 5 points, it gives former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson 7 percent of the vote. This is one of the better results that Romney has received in New Mexico, but neither campaign has decided to invest in the state: one of the clearest illustrations of just how much Obama shifted the Democratic coalition toward minorities and college educated white voters over the last eight years.
Odds and Ends
—The Romney campaign decided to invest in Wisconsin this weekend, a state that could figure quite prominently into the electoral calculus if it proves to be as competitive as history, demographics, and a vice presidential selection suggest. While the Obama campaign hasn’t yet entered the state, Priorities USA has joined the Badger State ad wars on the president’s behalf, which points toward mutual recognition of a close race.