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Obama sees post-convention poll 'bounce'

Brad KnickerbockerThe Christian Science Monitor

Early returns are in, and it looks like President Obama got more of a poll bounce right after his party’s convention than Mitt Romney did out of the GOP’s big event. Gallup’s daily tracking poll for Friday put Obama's job approval rating at 52 percent, the highest it’s been since the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama has also moved to a three-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters (48-45 percent), up from Obama's one-point margin over the last nine days.

“It is possible that these upticks are short-lived and that the race will devolve back to a parity by next week,” Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport wrote in his morning-after analysis. “On the other hand, if Obama builds on and sustains his higher job approval rating and lead over Romney, it could signal a possible resetting of the presidential race as it enters the remaining three-and-a-half weeks before the first debate on Oct. 3.”

By comparison, Romney’s standing bounced not at all after last week’s Republican convention.

Morning-after convention polls can evaporate pretty quickly, and Friday’s grim jobs report just hours after Obama’s convention speech Thursday night may hasten that. Plus, post-convention bounces going back to 1964 have averaged a healthier five points. Still, an upticked three point plus for Obama in a very close race can make the difference between a second term in office and packing his bags for Chicago come January.

A fuller picture of recent polls brings a mixed picture for Obama (and for Romney).

An Ipsos/Reuters Poll sees “the beginning of a convention bump for the President.” Obama is up 2 points to 46 percent and Romney down one point to 44 percent among likely voters.

In addition, according to Ipsos/Reuters, Obama’s ratings on his personal attributes have increased across some metrics: “Tough enough for the job” is up 4 points to 42 percent; “Represents America” is up 4 points to 44 percent; “Will protect American jobs” is up 4 points to 40 percent; “Can be effective in Washington” is up 4 points to 38 percent; “Presidential” is up 3 points to 45 percent; “Understands people like me” is up 3 points to 44 percent; and “Has the right values” is up 3 points to 44 percent.

Note that all of those figures are in the 40s – not great marks.

Meanwhile, a new poll for The Hill newspaper finds that a majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago (52 percent) and that President Obama does not deserve reelection (54 percent). The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows Romney ahead of Obama among voters nationwide by one point (46-45 percent).

On the other hand, RealClearPolitics has Obama ahead by just under one point, but – perhaps more significantly – ahead at least slightly in 10 of 12 battleground states. (All except North Carolina and Missouri.)

Another measure of convention performance – Obama’s acceptance speech – has gotten mixed reviews at best. Too low-key, some are saying, not enough detail or forward-looking ideas for a second term.

Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky (no great fan of the Romney/Ryan ticket) didn’t hold back: “Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase.”

But Howard Kurtz, Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief says he’s found out why “the president deliberately dialed it down, stopping well short of the altitudes he is capable of reaching.”

“While the pundits are generally calling the president’s Thursday night address mediocre, Obama and his advisers had taken great pains to avoid soaring rhetoric that might have been derided as empty,” Kurtz writes on Newsweek’s Daily Beast website. “Indeed, they extensively tested the president’s speech in dial groups, a type of focus group where voters twist dials to register approval or disapproval of specific passages, and say it tested off the charts. The reaction, they say, was more positive than to Obama’s 2008 acceptance speech in Denver.”

Election Day two months from now will tell whether or not that ploy paid off for Obama.