However, all is not yet lost, nor is all yet won. There is some extraordinarily simple, and somewhat convincing, evidence that what we have seen in recent polling is a combination of two extraordinarily poor polling days for President Obama, followed by days that looked very much like what we have seen before.
The question, going forward, is whether Romney has permanently shifted the window of this election, even if by only a few points, or whether all of his apparent gains in today's data can simply be chalked up to the way voters felt on October 4th and October 5th.
More on that later. For now, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (American Research Group): Romney 48, Obama 47, Others 1DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (IBD/TIPP Tracking): Romney 47, Obama 45
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters): Obama 45, Romney 45 (LV); Obama 45, Romney 42 (RV)
NATIONAL (PPP for Daily Kos/SEIU): Romney 49, Obama 47
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama 48, Romney 48
NATIONAL (UPI/CVoter): Obama 48, Romney 47
NATIONAL (Zogby/Washington Times): Obama 46, Romney 45, Others 2
COLORADO (American Research Group): Romney 50, Obama 46
CONNECTICUT (Rasmussen): Obama 51, Romney 45, Others 1
INDIANA (McLaughlin and Associates for the Mourdock campaign--R): Romney 55, Obama 39
LOUISIANA (Magellan Research--R): Romney 59, Obama 36
MASSACHUSETTS (MassINC for WBUR): Obama 52, Romney 36, Others 2
MASSACHUSETTS (YouGov for Univ. of Massachusetts): Obama 55, Romney 34, Others 2 (LV); Obama 55, Romney 30, Others 3 (RV)
MINNESOTA (PPP): Obama 53, Romney 43
NEVADA (Rasmussen): Obama 47, Romney 47, Others 3
NEW HAMPSHIRE (Univ. of New Hampshire): Obama 47, Romney 41
NORTH CAROLINA (Gravis--R): Romney 50, Obama 41
OHIO (American Research Group): Romney 48, Obama 47, Others 1
OHIO (CNN/ORC): Obama 51, Romney 47 (LV); Obama 53, Romney 43 (RV)
OHIO (SurveyUSA--link updated): Obama 45, Romney 44, Others 3
CT-SEN (Rasmussen): Chris Murphy (D) 51, Linda McMahon (R) 46A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
IN-SEN (McLaughlin and Associates for the Mourdock campaign): Richard Mourdock (R) 45, Joe Donnelly (D) 42, Andrew Horning (L) 4
MA-SEN (MassINC for WBUR): Sen. Scott Brown (R) 48, Elizabeth Warren (D) 45, Others 1
MA-SEN (YouGov for Univ. of Massachusetts): Elizabeth Warren (D) 48, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 45 (LV); Elizabeth Warren (D) 48, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 43 (RV)
MN-SEN (PPP): Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) 57, Kurt Bills (R) 31
NM-SEN (GBA Strategies for the Heinrich campaign): Martin Heinrich (D) 51, Heather Wilson (R) 39, Jon Barrie (IAP) 8
IN-GOV (McLaughlin and Associates for the Mourdock campaign--R): Mike Pence (R) 53, John Gregg (D) 39
NC-GOV (Gravis--R): Pat McCrory (R) 50, Walter Dalton (D) 33
MN-08 (Global Strategy Group for the DCCC): Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) 42, Rick Nolan (D) 42
NV-03 (Benenson Strategies for the Oceguera campaign): Rep. Joe Heck (R) 45, John Oceguera (D) 40
NY-18 (Global Strategy Group for the Maloney campaign): Rep. Nan Hayworth (R) 44, Sean Patrick Maloney (D) 42
NY-19 (Grove Insight for the Schreibman campaign): Rep. Chris Gibson (R) 43, Julian Schreibman (D) 41
PA-12 (Public Opinion Strategies for the Rothfus campaign): Keith Rothfus (R) 42, Rep. Mark Critz (D) 40
Were it not for a couple of respectable late polls (the CNN poll in Ohio and the UNH poll in New Hampshire), today's data set would've likely driven many Democrats into a state of pure dejection. Today's national polls, when averaged together, gave Mitt Romney his first advantage in months. While that average lead is extraordinarily tiny (a 0.6 point edge, when averaged over all eight national polls), it is a pretty marked change from a week ago, when the seven national polls yielded an average Obama lead of 3.6 points. That would imply a "debate bounce" for Mitt Romney of a little over four points, which seems about right.
State polls showed similar movement over the past couple of days, but through it all, the key stat to know has not been the toplines, or even the trendlines, in the Obama-Romney head-to-heads.
The key stat to know has been the dates that the poll was in the field.
What seems evident, at this point, is as follows: if a poll has Thursday or Friday in the sample, it will be a weak poll for the president. If it has both Thursday and Friday, it is liable to be an awful poll for the president. President Obama, quite clearly, had two of his worst polling days of the cycle last Thursday and last Friday.
The bulk of the Pew and Daily Kos/SEIU (PPP) national polls were in the field on those two fateful days, which would help to explain why those national polls, in particular were so favorable for the challenger.
However, there is also at least some evidence that Romney's bounce was both very strong, and very transient.
For graphic evidence, check out this breakdown of Gallup's national tracking poll (among registered voters):
This statistic is verified by other pollsters, as well. PPP confirmed via Twitter that their various surveys had Obama's numbers returning to somewhere near pre-debate levels by Saturday. Today's release in Minnesota, which was largely conducted after the Thursday-Friday Romney "surge", would seem to bear this out. So, too, oddly enough, would Rasmussen's polling, which has edged a couple of points in Obama's direction since the weekend.
It is also worth noting that Obama's best poll of the day, the CNN/ORC poll in Ohio, did not include Thursday in its sample (it did include Friday). This would also seem to confirm that Obama's numbers recovered a bit over the weekend.
So, does that mean that Obama has weathered the debate storm, as I asked in yesterday's Wrap? The answer, which will presumably please few of you, is that it is far too early to know. If Obama's numbers recover markedly in the daily trackers (and we have a new one of those, as Investor's Business Daily and TIPP are back in the field, as they were in 2008), and other polling that does not include the 48 Hours of Hell for team Obama, then we can call the Romney debate boost a very temporary one.
However, there is simply not enough "late polling" to make that determination. What little data exists is a little contradictory. Today's Rasmussen polls were late weekend polls, and they were pretty weak for Obama (O+5 in Connecticut, and tied in Nevada). Likewise, even though Friday dropped off of their three-day national tracking poll, the margin did not budge. PPP has three polls in the field right now (Montana, Nevada, and Massachusetts). They may prove instructive down the line.
In other polling news...
- In a sign that the pro-Obama Priorities USA SuperPAC is very aware of today's polling "freakout", they issued a very interesting statement (via email to Politico) today:
Priorities USA Action polling after the debate in NV and WI shows President Obama still leading and still at or above 50% in both states. And while President Obama's lead is similar to where the race was in our pre-debate polling, Romney still trails by wide margins on traits like standing up for the middle class.A nice bit of counterpoint, though they did hold the actual numbers close to the vest. As I said earlier, however, we will get concrete numbers out of Nevada, courtesy of PPP, as early as tomorrow.
- Republican pollsters Magellan came out from an extended hiatus (saw their numbers a ton in 2010, but very sparingly here in 2012), in order to rebut last week's narrative about a potential single-digit contest in nominally red Louisiana. The GOP firm sees a lopsided Romney lead (even bigger than the 2008 GOP win), and, for added benefit, they also show that, if he is so inclined, Sen. David Vitter could return home and be elected governor, albeit narrowly, over New Orleans Mayor (and former Lt. Gov) Mitch Landrieu. Of course, that election is still over three years away, so to call this data "preliminary" would be the mother of all understatements.
- Today's House polling, from where I sit, is kind of a pile of "meh". It is getting a little bit late in the cycle for internal polls where the prevailing theme is "yeah, we're still behind, but hey...check out those trendlines, baby!" Especially when those trendlines aren't all that great, when compared to other polls for other partisan outlets (party committees/SuperPACs, etc.). Indeed, in MN-08, the polls for Nolan are actually a little bit worse than polls conducted back in August, albeit incrementally so. Absent some really good polling in the very immediate future, finding a Democratic net gain in the teens, to say nothing of the 25 needed to reclaim the speaker's gavel, is going to get harder and harder to find.