The polar extremes of largely unmerited optimism and pessimism bordering on self-parody are both, in my best guess, off of the mark.
The bad news? That belief will remain merely an opinion for at least three or four days, because it will be that long before a critical mass of data to tell us what, if anything, can be gleaned from round #1 in the three-round verbal joust that will end up with one guy as president and the other guy as a footnote in history. Today, though, we did get one set of data that may well prove instructive.
More on that later. For now, though, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama 49, Romney 45DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (Ipsos-Reuters "Post-Debate" Poll): Obama 48, Romney 43 (LV); Obama 47, Romney 42 (RV)
NATIONAL (McLaughlin and Associates--R): Obama 49, Romney 45
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama 49, Romney 47
NATIONAL (YouGov): Obama 49, Romney 44 (LV); Obama 49, Romney 41 (RV)
COLORADO (McLaughlin and Associates--R): Romney 50, Obama 46
CONNECTICUT (Quinnipiac): Obama 54, Romney 42
MISSOURI (Rasmussen): Romney 49, Obama 46, Others 2
MISSOURI (Wenzel Strategies for the Akin campaign--R): Romney 50, Obama 40
CT-SEN (Quinnipiac): Linda McMahon (R) 48, Chris Murphy (D) 47A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
HI-SEN (Benenson Strategy Group for the Hirono campaign): Mazie Hirono (D) 54, Linda Lingle (R) 37
MO-SEN (Wenzel Strategies for the Akin campaign): Todd Akin (R) 49, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) 47
WA-SEN (Rasmussen): Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) 57, Michael Baumgartner (R) 37
WI-SEN (WPA Research for Now-or-Never PAC--R): Tammy Baldwin (D) 48, Tommy Thompson (R) 45
MO-GOV (PPP): Gov. Jay Nixon (D) 54, Dave Spence (R) 35
NC-GOV (Rasmussen): Pat McCrory (R) 54, Walter Dalton (D) 38
AZ-02 (OnMessage for the McSally campaign): Rep. Ron Barber (D) 47, Martha McSally (R) 47
CA-10 (Momentum Analysis for the Hernandez campaign): Rep. Jeff Denham (R) 45, Jose Hernandez (D) 43
KY-06 (Public Opinion Strategies for the Barr campaign): Rep. Ben Chandler (D) 49, Andy Barr (R) 46
NJ-03 (Stockton Polling Institute): Rep. Jon Runyan (R) 49, Shelley Adler (D) 39
VA-02 (Benenson Strategy Group for the Hirschbeil campaign): Rep. Scott Rigell (R) 49, Paul Hirschbeil (D) 40
VA-02 (Public Opinion Strategies for the Rigell campaign): Rep. Scott Rigell (R) 54, Paul Hirschbeil (D) 32
Ipsos-Reuters, in a pretty shrewd decision, elected to do a "post-debate" poll by taking their daily tracking numbers and extracting a pre-and-post debate analysis from it.
The firm is unique in that their (often controversial) method of polling (using an internet-based panel) helps them in this endeavor, and lets them beat traditional pollsters to the punch. That is because, if you have noticed, Ipsos-Reuters releases their daily tracking poll somewhat late in the day. The reason is that, unlike other pollsters, they include same-day data in their tracking poll.
What this means, for our purposes, is that they have a reasonable enough sample of people that responded to their daily tracking poll either last night or during the day today to provide a post-debate "tracking poll".
There is plenty in there to digest, so let's look at it from the binary perspective of "things that are good news for
John McCain Mitt Romney and things that are good news for Barack Obama.
Good news in the Ipsos/Reuters poll for Mitt Romney:
1. This is the third poll that very clearly judged Romney to have won the debate. The margin here was not as obscene as the CNN poll, but this was a legitimately weighted sample, as well. The margin here, however, was still pretty broad (50-28) in favor of the challenger.
2. The topline numbers also showed a pretty decent bump in his favor. The pre-debate sample favored Barack Obama by a nine-point margin (48-39). The post-debate margin was nearly halved, with Obama in the lead by a more modest 48-43 advantage.
3. On the ten "big issues" polled by Reuters, Mitt Romney gained ground on Obama in all ten of them. Where Obama had wide gaps, he narrowed them. Where Obama had more modest gaps, Romney either closed them or took the lead.
4. There was a marked difference in how the debate "changed perceptions" of the candidates. By an eight-point margin, respondents said they had a more positive assessment of Romney post-debate than a more negative one. For Obama, it was a two-percent margin of those who felt more negative than positive about the president.
5. Overall, Romney's fav/unfav ratio improved from a net negative to a slight net-positive as a result of the debate. He was 46/54 going into the debate, and 51/49 coming out of the debate.
Good news in the Ipsos/Reuters poll for Barack Obama:
1. While his topline margins might have eroded a little bit, his topline support didn't budge. He remained at 48 percent, suggesting that Romney might've snagged the low hanging fruit of conservative Republicans and Independents who were unsure of Romney and thus undecided pre-debate.
2. Obama actually saw solid gains in his favorabilities with Independent voters (from 46/54 to 54/46), in contrast to Romney, whose numbers with Independents flatlined pre-and-post debate. Romney's net gain came from a marked increase with Democrats, and a larger increase with Republicans.
3. The "changed perceptions" stat cited earlier is a bit overblown, because the biggest response was the perceptions weren't changed at all. Only 34 percent of voters had their perception of Obama changed for better or worse. The same was true of just 46 percent of voters as it related to Mitt Romney. This gives some credence to the theory that the debate isn't going to move the needle dramatically.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The most essential stat of the Ipsos-Reuters poll? Despite some positive movement for the challenger, he still trailed by five in the post-debate sample. And that was after a night of fawning coverage in the press, and excoriations across the board of Obama's performance. It is not likely to get better, as the press (and the Obama campaign) begin to divert their attention to the substance of the debate, as opposed to the energy level, preparation, and style. One thing that was a common take across the media world today was that if Obama accomplished anything last night, it was that he didn't give the GOP an easy soundbite to bludgeon him with. But, as Mark Murray of NBC News noted this morning, Romney gave Obama some material to work with. Whether he uses that material, and the skill with which his campaign uses it, will determine whether last night was a game-changing moment, or a bump in the road.
In other polling news...
- Releasing internal polling data is always a judgment call, and I am really on the fence with one of today's releases. Early in the day, a news article in south Virginia revealed that a poll for freshman Republican Rep. Scott Rigell showed him up by a slightly ridiculous 20+ point margin. Apparently pressed into a reaction, Hirschbeil's campaign released their own recent polling data. And while it showed a considerably closer race, it also showed Rigell at 49 percent, and up 9 points on Hirschbeil. On one level, I get having to rebut a poll with a huge margin, and I've always advocated not letting a bad poll go unrebutted. But it also becomes harder to make a case for a path to victory when your opponent is one point shy of a majority, and up by nine. Tough, tough call.
- Speaking of debating releasing an internal poll, one today on which there should be no debate is the decision of right-wing PAC "Now or Never". Why in the name of all that is good and holy would a right-wing PAC release a poll showing the Republican losing in a race that most consider to be a tossup, with perhaps the slightest of leans to the Democrat? I could see releasing a Baldwin +3 poll if there had been a raft of recent polling showing her up double digits. But the most recent poll, released just the day before, had her up by four points. Sorry, kids, I don't get that decision. Not even a little bit.
- Missouri remains the real enigma of the campaign. Todd Akin reveals his own internal polling (to the right-wing Washington Examiner) showing him up a couple of points over incumbent Claire McCaskill. However, the same poll gives Mitt Romney a 10-point lead over Barack Obama. If you look at past polling, that would seem to be a bit optimistic for the GOP, though no one doubts that Romney is ahead. One thing remains clear, though: as horrific a campaign as Akin has run, he is still has a legitimate chance of scoring the win. The wild card is a Libertarian candidate that only PPP has bothered to poll. It is not inconceivable that his absence from other polls creates a skew, given that there have to be a few Republicans assured of not supporting McCaskill but uneasy about a loose cannon like Akin.