Democrats are counting on President Obama getting some kind of a bounce in opinion polls as a result of the fact that he did better in the second presidential debate than he did in the first one. But looking at the latest round of polls of the presidential race, he had better hope so. The latest Gallup tracking poll that measures opinion over the period of October 11-17 shows the president trailing Mitt Romney by a shocking seven points at 52-45 percent.
This is the biggest Romney lead in any poll all year. That will cause Democrats to dismiss it as an outlier. But it should be remembered that liberals spent most of the spring, summer and the early fall praising Gallup as the more accurate of the two most well known national tracking polls since it had consistently produced more favorable results for Obama than Rasmussen. But right now they are praying that Rasmussen, rather than the old favorite Gallup, is the more accurate since currently it shows Romney holding only a two-point lead. The assumption is that Obama’s better debate showing will improve these numbers in the coming days. But he’s going to need a sizable bounce and sustain it by besting Romney in next week’s foreign policy debate if he’s going to be re-elected. If the bounce is less than the one that Romney got for his far more one-sided victory in the first debate, then pundits may begin to conclude that the arc of the campaign has already been decided. Nothing less than a major shift by next week will indicate that Romney has seized a lead that he may never relinquish.
The key point about the Gallup poll is not just the size of Romney’s lead but the fact that it puts him over 50 percent for two consecutive days (he led by 51 to 45 percent for the period of Oct. 9-16). That should alarm the Obama campaign since it demonstrates not only a widening gap between the two candidates but Romney’s ability to break through into a solid majority of the national vote. If he manages to stay at this level, it is almost certain that his heretofore-shaky poll numbers in many of the important swing states will begin to show similar improvement.
Those counting on an Obama bounce this week should be worried about the fact that their hopes for an improvement in the president’s standing in the aftermath of the debate last week between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan were disappointed. It was assumed that Biden would, at the very least, stop the Democratic bleeding since the first Obama-Romney debate and stabilize the race. But the vice president’s supposed victory (at least in the eyes of the Democratic base that cheered his boorish behavior) did no such thing as the Republican lead has grown rather than shrunk. Unless the president has fundamentally altered the arc of the campaign with his performance on Tuesday, it’s going to be a long and depressing slog to November 6 for his followers.