TAMPA– After a brutal July and early August, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has begun to gain on his opponent, President Barack Obama.
For the past couple of weeks, the president’s lead in the national polls has shrunk and the two now appear nearly even.
Over the last seven days, the president’s lead over Romney has fallen by two percentage points in Real Clear Politics’ compendium of national polls; it’s now a mere 1.4%. His approval rating also has slipped by 0.5% during that time. The red and blue lines on Real Clear Politics’ polling chart appear to be converging.
And Intrade, the online prediction market, now gives the president a 55.8% chance of being reelected, a pretty sharp 2.3-percentage-point drop over the past week.
More importantly, RCP has moved two key states—Michigan and Wisconsin—from “leaning Obama” into the toss-up camp. If that remains the case, Romney would have succeeded at widening the electoral field on which the president has to compete, costing the incumbent precious resources.
What’s going on? I think the president’s attack ads on Romney were successful in driving up the challenger’s negatives and raising questions in voters’ minds about whether he really would do a better job.
But with the advent of the conventions, the campaign moves into a new, more serious phase in which Romney will get another opportunity to introduce himself rather than let Team Obama define him, as he had all summer.
In this regard, his selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate appears to have caught voters’ attention and shown them Romney wants to run a campaign based at least partly on policy. The polls haven’t moved that much in response to the Ryan choice, but I suspect that below the surface something’s going the challenger’s way
Romney will need to capitalize on this new momentum with a strong acceptance speech at the convention followed by a tsunami of advertising he can unleash once he’s officially the nominee.
The president continues to have an easier path to 270 votes in the Electoral College and he vastly outpolls the former Massachusetts governor on the key question of whether he is likely to look out for “people like me.”
And Romney still has the millstone of Republican extremists around his neck, as we’ve seen in the brouhaha over Rep. Todd Akin’s asinine comments about rape. But at least now he has a fighting second chance.