Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Good news for Romney gets better

  • Print

Last week's debate between U.S. President Obama and Mitt Romney was an even bigger win for Romney than it appeared at the time. That's what the polls are telling us.

The debate, it seems, prompted swing voters to take a second look at the GOP candidate, and it also boosted Republican voters' resolve to get out and vote.

As a result, a presidential election that once appeared to favour Obama is now razor close again, and heading toward an unpredictable finish.

Four national polls released their first post-debate findings this week. The Pew Research Center reported Romney had moved into the lead among likely voters, 49 per cent to 45 per cent. The Gallup Poll reported Romney held a narrow lead, 49 per cent to 47 per cent. The Rasmussen Poll, which sometimes appears to favour Republicans, was kinder to Obama this time; it reported a tie at 48 per cent each. And Reuters/IPSOS reported a tie at 45 per cent.

The usual words of caution apply: These numbers are fallible snapshots of public opinion, not predictions of election outcomes. All polls come with a margin of error; the Pew survey's margin of 3.4 per cent means Romney's apparent four-point lead could be either an even-larger advantage, or a virtual tie.

But when four major polls move in the same direction, it's no mirage. The Romney campaign found new momentum in last week's debate, and Obama hasn't yet stopped it. Moreover, the Pew poll included fascinating data that suggest some of the reasons for Romney's advance.

One was a swing toward the Republican candidate on the issue of jobs, a word Romney used over and over in last week's debate.

When Pew asked voters which candidate would do better on jobs, 49 per cent named Romney against only 41 per cent for Obama. Last month, when Pew asked the same question, the two candidates were tied. And when voters were asked whether they think Obama knows how to turn the economy around, most said he does not, 54 per cent to 44 per cent.

The poll also reported a notable swing toward Romney among women. In a Pew poll last month, Obama had an 18 per cent advantage among women voters; this week, women were evenly divided, 47 per cent to 47 per cent.

The news wasn't all good for Romney, though. When voters were asked which candidate connects well with ordinary Americans, Obama was still far ahead. But on criteria that have often been more important to voters, such as whether a candidate is a strong leader or knows how to fix the economy, Romney appeared either even or ahead of the incumbent.

And pollsters reported last week's drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent didn't appear to help Obama much if at all.

It's tough to know exactly what's driving the shift in momentum we're seeing in the polls. But here's a working theory based on conversations with ordinary voters and strategists in both campaigns.

All summer long, the Obama campaign waged an effective blitz of advertising that made Romney into a caricature of a wealthy conservative with overseas bank accounts and secret tax records.

And Romney, unaccountably, pitched in to help. He delayed the inevitable release of his tax returns for months. He staged a Republican convention that reaffirmed his conservative credentials but offered thin gruel for swing voters. And he was caught on videotape dismissing almost half of Americans as people without a sense of personal responsibility.

That made the Obama campaign's task seem easy: Keep driving Romney's negatives up.

But once the two candidates met on an equal footing in Denver, many voters were amazed to meet a Romney who seemed like an earnest businessman looking for ways to fix the economy -- a Romney who insisted that, contrary to his previously stated positions, he didn't want to cut taxes for the wealthy, abandon health-care reform or reduce education spending (issues that polls find especially important to female voters).

Equally important, voters saw an incumbent president who, after reading last month's lopsided polls in his favour, appeared to think he didn't need to refresh his year-old talking points or break a sweat in his rebuttals.

The result was a debate that not only showed Romney at his best but reminded voters of Obama's biggest vulnerability: that the economy is still ailing nearly four years into his term.

And that's what produced this week's remarkable poll numbers, and a reprieve from conservative conspiracy theories charging that the pollsters were cooking their numbers to make Obama look good.

Before last week's debate, historians and pundits warned that debates rarely change the course of a campaign. This time turned out to be one of the exceptions. Obama needs to hope next week's rematch also defies expectation and changes minds -- this time with him as the beneficiary. But to do that, he's going to need more than just crisper rebuttals to Romney's best zingers.

He'll need to remind swing voters why they once admired him.

He'll need to make his economic plan sound fresh and promising.

He'll need to present himself in a way that makes swing voters take a second look.

In other words, he'll need to do just what Romney managed to do in Denver.


Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.


--Los Angeles Times


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2012 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets this week with Tim and Gary in Anaheim

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goose sits in high grass near Marion Friday afternoon for cover -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 18 - May 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google