Coffee House

Romney narrows the gap, but Obama remains the favourite

9 October 2012

The question after last week’s presidential debate was not who had won — there was a clear consensus that Mitt Romney had got the better of Barack Obama — but how much difference it would make to the race. Going into the debate on Wednesday night, Obama was the clear favourite to win re-election, with a five-point lead in the polls. Nate Silver’s Fivethirtyeight forecast gave him an 86 per cent chance of victory. But, thanks to his strong debate performance and the President’s uncharacteristically weak one, Romney has narrowed that gap.

Different polls paint different pictures of exactly what effect the debate had on the race, though most show it moving towards Romney initially before going back slightly in Obama’s direction. Gallup’s tracker found Romney pulling even with Obama at 47-47 in the three days after the debate, from a five-point deficit in the three days leading up to it. Their daily updates are a seven-day average, and so the latest (showing a five-point Obama lead) still includes pre-debate responses, but it does tell us that Obama did better in the polling conducted on the Sunday after the debate than he had on the Sunday before it. Rasmussen’s three-day tracker had shown a 2-point lead for Obama just before the debate, which became a 2-point lead for Romney afterwards — but it now shows the two candidates level-pegging at 48-48. Ipsos had shown Obama up by around five-points before the debate, but its post-debate poll shows Obama’s lead cut to two points. RAND (which like Gallup publishes a seven-day average) has Obama’s lead narrowing only slightly, from five or six points pre-debate to four points now.


But the best number for Romney came yesterday, in a Pew Research poll that showed him four points ahead of Obama. It’s a particularly dramatic result because Pew has tended to produce some of the most Obama-friendly numbers and because it represents a 12-point swing towards Romney from their previous poll last month (which showed him eight points behind). And that was followed today by a poll from another pollster that usually produces relatively Obama-friendly numbers (this time Public Policy Polling) showing Romney leading by two points, whereas they had him trailing by four last week. On the other hand, some of the swing state polls, such as two from Rasmussen in Colorado and Iowa, actually show Obama gaining since last month.

Overall, Silver’s model — which aggregates all the national and state polls — suggests that Romney has roughly halved Obama’s lead from five points to 2.4 points (although it has yet to process today’s polls, such as the one from PPP). It’ll take a while, and a few more polls, to tell exactly what the race looks like in the aftermath of the debate. The picture has already been further complicated by Friday’s jobs figures, which showed the unemployment rate dropping to 7.8 per cent, providing Obama with some good news and possibly helping him recover slightly (as Gallup and Rasmussen seem to suggest he has). And it may soon be mixed up further by Thursday’s vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, and next week’s ‘town hall’ debate between Obama and Romney.

But with just four weeks to go before election day, Obama remains the clear favourite — albeit not as strong a favourite as he was last week. The economic fundamentals favour him, and his strong approval and favourability ratings do not seem to have been hit by his poor debate performance. Silver’s model now rates his chances at 74.8 per cent — not as good as last week, but still better than at any time before the conventions.

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  • victor67

    Isn’t it comforting that john Bolton is the the “brains” behind sh-t for brains Mitt foreign policy

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes, because I quite like Bolton and I definitely don’t like you, Mr Cuckoo.

    • victor67

      Bolton is a cross between an old fashioned American imperialist and a neo-conservative hawk. He believes US (military) power can be used to remove “unfriendly”, hostile regimes in the ME.
      These disaterous policies finnanced on a trillion $ of debt lead to US becoming a pariah state abroad and broke the economy at home. He has contempt for the UN and International law particularly relating to Israel. Like other neo-conservatives he rejects the idea of giving up land for peace and believes in the greater Israel project.

      • Colonel Mustard

        So what. You are a cross between an old fashioned European communist and a neo-leftist troll. You believe in intangible soundbites like “progressive” and “growth” and political correctness. You support Palestinian terror (I’ve seen your comments on other sites and under other versions of your pseudonym).

        You have an agenda too. Therefore you are just an alternative voice to Bolton’s. That doesn’t make you correct or good – except in your own mind. Like most of the leftist trolls operating here you confuse your political agenda with superior morality. Who judges that? Do you have a divine right?

  • Daniel Maris

    I can’t really believe that the Americans will be idiotic enough to choose someone as shallow as Romney…but you never know…

    • Colonel Mustard

      The best thing about a Romney win for us here in Britain will be to witness the shock-horror and extended mourning of the leftist cabal when their surrogate messiah goes down. To see the hubris and triumphalism dented, even slightly. What unmitigated joy that will be.

    • Faceless Bureaucrat

      Oh I don’t know – after all, they chose ‘Obama-Lama-Ding-Dong’ last time around…

  • Steerage

    Listen to the Tories and the media going into reverse gear over Romney – a thoroughly likeable chap with English heritage too.
    And watch the liberal, left and metrosexuals in the Spectator and Guardian’s world distressing and emoting.
    The BBC will close for two days of national mourning.

  • Augustus

    Some people have said that Obama is, and always has been, something of a bandwagon candidate. “A major theme in 2008 was always that supporting Obama enabled the voter to be a part of history, encouraging others to join in the process. But for that theme to work, the perception had to be that Obama was, in fact, going to win.”
    The trouble with Obama’s bandwagon approach is that it doesn’t work when people see folks jumping off.

  • Drew Douglas

    After jj’s admission that he is a limpdem and barry groupie, surely no one takes his pathetic recycling of better blogs seriously. Mitt crushed Barry utterly, and is now highly likely to win. BO cannot defend his record, which is lamentable, cannot offer a vision for the second term, and after the first debate has now lost any traction with his campaign strategy, which was to trash his opponent. My sources in Florida, a key battleground are saying that Mitt went over huge.

  • anyfool

    The polls in the Presidential race have always been a lot closer than the MSM state, there is to much interpreting polls to reflect what they want as opposed to the reality of the situation, a bit like the polls in the UK showing that bunch of con artists in the Labour party miles ahead. the Jeremy Kyle audience must be the only ones not working for the state that they ask.
    Does anyone know a person who has been polled.

    • telemachus

      You may be right but nonetheless I do hope that they are right in predicting a win for Obama
      The right wing message of Romney is truly frightening
      For a start how many families are totally ruined just because one is unfortunate enough to become chronically I’ll
      At least Obama has begun to address this

      • anyfool

        Obama does not deserve to win he is useless, the one achievement to his name was getting elected,
        The death rate in UK hospitals from dirt, lack of care and plain bad surgical practice is truly horrendous,
        What is right wing about wanting to put your country right

        • telemachus

          He vows to cancel Obamacare the most useful leap forward in health in the US in a generation

    • bloughmee

      The pollsters call our house constantly. We don’t answer, or hang up on them.

      Polling is getting less and less reliable, I’m gathering. The pollsters are out to trick up the numbers, and the legitimate pollsters find it hard to get enough reliable participants.

  • Right On

    “The economic fundamentals favour him” – em….I think you might have miscalculated a bit. Unemployment is shockingly high, his “recovery” may be redefining anaemic and he has absolutely no agenda for a second term. His whole plan was disqualifying Romney and that looks to be in trouble as their demonising bares little resemblance to what people seen last Wednesday.

    Oh and most sensible people use the RCP average not Nate Silver!

    • bloughmee

      Yes, Silver is a leftist hack.

      86% chance Obama to win? That’s a hoot, baby!

      I’d suggest you Spectator fellows get your nose out of the NY Times and get out into the real world. You might learn something.

  • HooksLaw

    Its the same for both but in the end Obama only needs to hold on to win by just 1 electoral college vote. The national popular vote is not necessarily an indicator.

    Equally Obama might just win but if the Republicans to well enough to win the House and Senate then he will be an extremely limited President. If Romney avoids gaffs and campaigns in a half-decent way then the Republicans might do just that.

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