A week is a lifetime in politics. Just seven days ago, even some Republicans were writing off Mitt Romney’s chances of being elected president. But as the latest polls taken since his victory in Wednesday’s debate show, the race is up for grabs again. Even more significant, the altered political environment that stems from the puncturing of the Obama balloon of inevitability may be having some effect on other races as well.
The first polls after the debate showed a dramatic movement toward Romney in swing states. The national tracking polls also showed either a reduced margin for Obama, as in the case of Gallup, or an Obama lead being turned into one for Romney, as Rasmussen reported. But the key swing state of Ohio showed not only movement in the top ballot race but in the one below it. Rasmussen’s latest survey of the Ohio Senate race between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Josh Mandel indicates that this crucial battle has changed from one in which Brown had a strong lead into a flat-footed tie. That not only alters the odds about that seat, but with Ohio moving from leans-Democratic to tossup on the national Senate map, it means control of the upper house may once again be back in play this year. While the youthful Mandel has been running a surprisingly strong underdog effort, it can only be supposed that a surge for him is not unconnected to the boost Romney got in Ohio in the days after the debate.
It’s possible Romney’s post-debate bounce may not last. Liberal efforts to spin the contradictory results of Friday’s federal jobs report may spin the needle back in the president’s direction in the next few days. But it is also possible that all the debate has done is correct the post-convention Obama surge that turned what had been a tight race all year into one in which he had a small edge.
Romney’s September swoon hadn’t just hurt him but also lowered the chances of the Republicans taking back the Senate this fall, as many had assumed they would earlier in the year. The problem wasn’t just Missouri, where Todd Akin’s idiotic comments about pregnancy and rape turned a sure GOP victory into a likely loss to Claire McCaskill. In the past few weeks, some races that had been thought to be easy GOP victories, like the ones in Indiana, Arizona, Montana and North Dakota, became toss-ups. Scott Brown also lost ground to liberal icon Elizabeth Warren.
But the past few days have shown that just as Romney has gotten himself back in the game, he may be helping Senate candidates too. While Democrats will scream that Rasmussen is a Republican outlier, if Mandel is tied with Brown now that has to be seen as an indication that Republicans are on the upswing in Ohio. While Brown, like Obama, must still be considered the favorite, the idea that Ohio has drifted from a toss-up to a Democratic leaner must now be thrown out. With Democratic seats like the one in Connecticut and Ohio now looking better for the GOP, Romney can now look forward to a stretch run in which he not only has given himself a chance to win, but also allowed his party to dream of a sweep of both houses of Congress as well as the White House.