Almost all of the opinion polls taken in the week following the Democratic National Convention have all pointed in the same direction: Barack Obama has a small, yet significant lead in his battle for re-election. These polls have depressed many Republicans and nothing the Mitt Romney campaign has been able to do in the past few days has relieved the sense of gloom in certain precincts of the right or diminished the glee being expressed in much of the mainstream liberal media.
At the root of this conservative depression is a sense that this is an election they couldn’t lose and they have reacted to the strength being shown by the Democrats with shock, disbelief and by tossing blame at the Romney campaign. These unrealistic expectations have endowed the president’s lead with a greater importance than it might otherwise have since even the most optimistic evaluations of his chances for re-election still put the race within pollsters’ margin of error. Yet rather than wasting time carping at Romney’s Boston headquarters or the candidate’s supposed missteps, the GOP needs to realize that all along they’ve been looking at this race through the wrong end of the binoculars. Instead of being shocked by the results, they ought to be somewhat encouraged or at least not be dejected by the numbers. Contrary to the right’s skewed view of the election, the president has huge advantages that, despite his failures, always gave him a leg up. The wonder is not that Romney isn’t ahead by 10 points, but that even liberal pollsters show him virtually even with Obama.
Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.
While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.