The race for the presidency is getting closer and closer by the day. While last week it looked like it could be a runaway victory for President Obama, new polls show that Governor Romney cannot be counted out.
The polls from this week give Obama a four point or less lead. The latest CNN poll gives Obama a three-point advantage. The Quinnipiac poll has Obama with a four-point edge, but Rasmussen’s daily tracking numbers give him just a one-point lead. The Real Clear Politics average has Obama at a +3.3 advantage, down from +3.8 at the end of the last week.
To be sure, Obama still holds a swing state advantage. However, compared with last week, the picture has changed. Take Ohio for instance, where Obama had a 10-point advantage in the Quinnipiac poll. Yesterday’s PPP poll for Ohio has Obama ahead, but only by four. Similarly, Obama’s lead has been reduced in Florida. While he was ahead by nine points last week, he is only leading by one in the latest Gravis Marketing survey. Though this result is most likely underestimating Obama’s lead in Florida, the President is likely to be less than five points ahead as opposed to leading by close to double digits.
What we are seeing now is a shift in the individual state numbers towards the national figures. They are shrinking, which continues to give Obama an advantage, but not by much.
While I would argue that Romney continues to struggle overall, he has been able to get a platform with Obama on the subject of the Middle East. This has indeed affected the public’s perception of Romney, at least on this issue. He has managed to make himself a player and is in the process gaining more visibility and respect.
That said, there are two main issues that continue to dog Romney: the economy and his likeability. Despite months of interviews on the economy, Romney has yet to give the American people a clear and definitive plan for how he will fix the economy. Although Obama has not done this himself, it is crucial that Romney addresses this issue tomorrow night in the debate. An economic program will go a long way to help his chances.
And Romney’s favorability numbers remain poor. In the latest ABC/Washington Post poll 51 percent of voters said that they view him unfavorably. This is an increasingly difficult issue for Romney to contend with as he continues to make gaffe after gaffe that further alienate him from the American electorate.
As I have argued before, the debate tomorrow night is crucial for Romney. Although polls do not tend to move much because of debate outcomes, with the exception of Reagan’s performance in the 1980 debate, Romney is facing his one chance to address the 50 million viewers that will be tuning in and to change the dialogue to his issues themes and vision. He must make sure that he is specific about his policies and plan for the country. It is doubtful that he will win in likeability, but he can at least reveal himself to be thoughtful and focused.
The upshot of all this is that Obama is still in the lead, but the race is tightening. Last week’s narrative of an insurmountable lead for Obama has been washed away to reveal a much closer race than many wanted to confront.
We will surely know more about the state of the race after tomorrow night’s debate. But as it stands, this election is far from over.