Nate Silver is the most reliable assessor of political polling in our country. His latest column seems to indicate that President Obama is in pretty good shape. Here are some highlights
This is probably about the last week, for instance, in which Mitt Romney can reasonably hope that President Obama’s numbers will deteriorate organically because of a convention bounce…
First, the polling by this time in the cycle has been reasonably good, especially when it comes to calling the winners and losers in the race. Of the 19 candidates who led in the polls at this stage since 1936, 18 won the popular vote (Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 is the exception), and 17 won the Electoral College (Al Gore lost it in 2000, along with Mr. Dewey).
There has not been any tendency, at least at this stage of the race, for the contest to break toward the challenging candidate.
Instead, it’s actually the incumbent-party candidate who has gained ground on average since 1936. On average, the incumbent candidate added 4.6 percentage points between the late September polls and his actual Election Day result, whereas the challenger gained 2.5 percentage points.
The last point seems the most salient. Political races often become self-fulfilling prophecies in the last few weeks. The stench that Romney is a loser grows and so contributions slow down.
But Mr. Romney’s grass-roots fund-raising is not nearly so robust as Mr. Obama’s. In order to match Mr. Obama dollar for dollar, as he intends to, Mr. Romney must therefore spend more time than the president at big donor events, at a time when challengers might traditionally spend more time on the road campaigning.
The conventional wisdom was that Romney would not need to raise as much money as Obama because he had the mighty Super-Pacs behind him. In a little noted article, the Wall Street Journal reported that Karl Rove and company are not have the influence they thought they would.
But signs are few that super PACs have had the major impact that both supporters and critics predicted. The flood of spending doesn’t appear to have significantly influenced voter opinion in key states in the presidential contest or in top congressional races.
On the presidential front, conservative outside groups backing Republican candidates say they already have played their most significant role, and that their influence will fade as the candidates themselves present their closing arguments to voters.
I believe this is because at a certain point there are diminishing returns to carpet bombing ads, especially for a product that people don’t want to buy like Mitt Romney. So now the remaining danger for the Democrats is overconfidence. If Obama can use what Nate Silver calls the “tendency of the contest to break towards the incumbent” and run a “throw the bums out” campaign (chart above) against a “do nothing congress” in the last month, then we really might have a choice election.