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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Has Romney\'s Rise in Polls Stopped?

Is there Ro-mentum, or is it faux-mentum?

A debate has been raging among polling analysts and commentators about whether Mitt Romney is still gaining ground, as he did after the first debate, or if his bounce has slowed or stalled. But while some Republicans say that they still have the wind at their backs, several polling analysts weighed in recently to argue that the data suggests there is no longer a Romney surge.

Mark Blumenthal, the senior polling editor of the Huffington Post and the founding editor of Pollster.com, wrote a piece this morning with the headline: “Presidential Polls Counter Romney Surge Myth.”

“While Romney gained significantly in the wake of the first presidential debate in early October,'' he wrote, “the lack of a continuing trend over the past two weeks helps counter a theme in some campaign coverage that Romney's support continues to ‘surge' nationwide.”

Sam Wang, who analyzes state polls at the Princeton Electio n Consortium, wrote this week that the Mr. Obama's plunge after the first debate had stopped with him still ahead, and delivered the following verdict: “Indeed the race is close, but it seems stable. For the last week, there is no evidence that conditions have been moving toward Romney. There is always the chance that I may have to eat my words - but that will require movement that is not yet apparent in polls.”

Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog in The New York Times, wrote Thursday: “Mr. Romney clearly gained ground in the polls in the week or two after the Denver debate, putting himself in a much stronger overall position in the race. However, it seems that he is no longer doing so.”

With the race so close in so many places, it can be difficult to assess the true state of play.  

Most major national polls, with the exception of a few tracking polls, have shown the race to be essentially tied for mon ths. Some polls in crucial swing states where Mr. Obama has been leading have tightened between the two candidates since the first debate, including Ohio, which is closer than it was a month ago. And now is the point where many voters pay more attention to the election, which can move the polls. But even with the proliferation of polls and the increased reliance on aggregated polls - lumping or averaging many polls together - it can be difficult to get a realistic picture on any given day in the closing weeks, given that some polls do not reach voters who use only cellphones, and many polls have struggled in an environment where fewer people want to respond to questions.

There is no question that Mr. Romney tightened the race considerably after the first debate, when his aggressive performance was received much better than President Obama's low-energy one. But is he still gaining ground, or has that bounce peaked? Politico reported Monday that “Obama is currently on the ugly end of Big Mo.”

Jonathan Chait countered in New York magazine that “Romney is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

But many Republicans still say that the Romney campaign is picking up steam. Karl Rove wrote of Mr. Romney's “growing momentum,” and William J. Bennett, the conservative commentator, wrote on CNN's website that “Mitt Romney now carries the momentum into the home stretch.”

Over at The Washington Post, The Fix asked the question “Is Mitt Romney's momentum real or fake?”

“What we do know is that Romney and Obama are in a dead heat nationally and the once-clear edge the incumbent held in a series of swing states has narrowed considerably,” Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake wrote this morning. “What we don't is whether Romney has peaked or not. But it's tough to argue that there hasn't been re al movement toward him in the past three weeks.”