He may have taken a political and psychological whack from Friday’s dismal employment numbers and the less-than-rave reviews for his convention speech, but President Obama is increasing his advantage over Mitt Romney in the presidential race.
Obama is inching ahead in the polls – apparently building on a post-convention “bounce” that eluded Romney a week earlier.
Weekend polls where Obama is gaining include Gallup, Reuters/Ipsos, and Rasmussen. The differences between the two candidates are small here – single digits – but the trend at this point is in Obama’s direction.
“The question now is not whether Mr. Obama will get a bounce in the polls, but how substantial it will be,” writes statistician and poll watcher Nate Silver on his New York Times FiveThirtyEight blog. “Some of the data, in fact, suggests that the conventions may have changed the composition of the race, making Mr. Obama a reasonably clear favorite as we enter the stretch run of the campaign.”
Ipsos also shows Obama increasing his lead over Romney in certain favorable characteristics. He’s “more eloquent” by 50-25 percent, and he’s ahead of Romney in being “smart enough for the job” (46-37 percent). Obama leads Romney in a dozen such favorable characteristics, Ipsos reports, including “represents America” and “has the right values.” The one such category where Romney is ahead is in being “a man of faith.”
"The bump is actually happening,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark told Reuters. “I know there was some debate whether it would happen … but it's here.”
The next major event in the race will be Oct. 3 in Denver, when Romney and Obama debate domestic policy. Until then, the campaign just keeps escalating in intensity as each side looks for daily pressure points.
On Sunday, it was Romney’s chance to show his stuff in a non-Fox News media venue – NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Down in the battleground state of Florida, Obama was touting a study showing that Medicare recipients would have to spend a lot more on health care under the Romney/Ryan plan.
Among other things, Romney needs to say more about why he failed to mention the war in Afghanistan – the longest war in US history – in his convention speech. (The most memorable reference in Tampa came in Clint Eastwood’s bizarre performance when the actor called for bringing home all US forces immediately – which brought a roar of Republican approval.)
“Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney's silence, and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama,” wrote William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. “What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we're fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we've been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?”
Romney also needs to smooth out the apparent differences he has (or at least has had) with his GOP ticket partner Rep. Paul Ryan.
He says abortion is OK in cases of rape or incest, which Ryan has opposed. The two took opposite positions on the auto industry bailout, and Romney has criticized the automatic cuts in defense spending that Ryan voted for as part of last year’s debt ceiling deal.
“I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it,” Romney said recently.
Some Republicans have been less than thrilled with the Romney campaign so far.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former congressman from Florida, is one.
"Romney will lose if he doesn't dramatically change his strategy," he tweeted Saturday night. "Negative ads won't substitute for conservative ideas."
"Romney has been clear he will avoid specifics on balancing the budget and shrinking government. Not the Reagan and Thatcher way," he wrote. "The truth is that Thatcher would have lost in 1979 and Reagan would have lost in 1980 if they had run as timid a campaign as Mitt Romney."
Some GOP insiders are worried as well.
“Their map has many more routes to victory,” a top Republican official told Politico.
Still, there are 58 days until the election, and Romney has at least two major advantages: The ability to raise and spend more money, particularly on the negative advertising that has come to mark both campaigns; and a faltering economy that’s continued under Obama’s watch.
The all-important debates – not to mention two more monthly jobs reports before Election Day – could decide it all.