A Caveat About Romney’s Current Poll Surge

There appears to be no denying that Mitt Romney has gotten a statistically significant bump in the polls out of his performance, and indeed the President’s lack of performance, in last week’s debate. We’ve already seen one poll showing Romney in the lead. However, it’s worth noting we’ve seen this before. Let’s take a look at the RealClearPolitics comparison of the race as it is today, and the 2004 race as it was as of this day eight years ago:

Now, obviously 2012 is not 2004, and the margin between Obama and Romney as of today is much closer than the margin was on this day eight years ago between Bush and Kerry. Nonetheless, it’s worth taking history into account.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, 2012 Election, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    Also, lopsided debates may disproportionately affect polls that are especially sensitive to voter enthusiasm (usually reflected in either who responds to the survey or who gets pegged as a likely voter).

    Republicans who watched Kerry thump Bush in their first debate were likely to be in a funk, with Democrats feeling energized.

    The roles have reversed themselves in 2012.

    Amongst the ancient Mayans, the losing side would have to watch the king they revered as a god get sacrficed on the same altar where they used to worship him.

    That had to suck.

    Part of this will wear off with time. Part of it will depend on producing new moments–will Romney stumble, will Obama inspire, etc.

    Democrats need to have a different image/memory in their head than that of their champion being pummeled by the enemy.

  2. Fiona says:

    When Nate Silver starts upping Romney’s chances to 50 percent, then I’ll get worried. It’s certainly possible, but I think it will take a while for the polls to settle and show how much of a bump Romney actually got.

  3. Geek, Esq. says:

    Silver’s model and what Silver actually thinks are two different things. Polls a week from now should tell us more.

    The other three debates should not be nearly as consequential. Obama’s task in the next two debates for himself is not to take Romney down, but to get his own side fired up again and show people that yes this is a guy who’s got the fire in the belly and the drive to succeed. He has to look like a winner.

  4. Buzz Buzz says:

    It looks like Inside The Hive ™ has decided to embrace the “poll truther” philosophy now that the poll numbers aren’t looking so good for Obama.

    But will the drones be able to tear themselves away from their frantic “denial of reality” orgies on the other recent poll threads to even see Doug’s latest “ignore the polls, they no longer mean anything!” message?

  5. Fiona says:

    @Buzz Buzz:

    Dream on dude. Doug is saying the same thing he said about the post-convention bounce in Obama’s polls–wait a few days to see if it sticks. That hardly counts as poll denialism. Doug’s hardly in the bag for Obama.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Buzz Buzz:

    Oh, look: you’re wrong. Again.

    I waited for the dust to settle after both conventions and again after the 47%. Because that’s what you do with any bounce. You want to watch the trackers, you want to watch the swing states, and of course you do as well want to watch the snapshot polls. It’s all data.

    Further: I said the debate would hurt Obama bad. It has. So no denial. I am now waiting to see if Romney has momentum, or whether it’s a bounce that sticks, or whether it’s a bounce that fades, and if so how much.

    So, see, again: not denial.

    Face it: we aren’t you. We live in reality.

  7. Herb says:


    “Doug’s hardly in the bag for Obama.”

    Or Romney.

    I think this caveat holds, not only for its prudence, but because the context demands it. Romney’s primary pain, his gaffes, “incumbents usually win,” Obama’s likability, you name it. In other words, celebrate the win if you want, but as the saying goes…..well, we all know the saying.

    It starts with “Let’s not all start sucking ” and ends with “just yet.”

  8. mattb says:

    One key thing to note is that Romney’s percentage has risen far more than Obama has dropped (nearly 50%). While that’s a lot of movement, it also shows a potential weakness for Romney. At best what he seems to be doing is grabbing more undecideds (or Republicans/Conservatives that were previously not voicing support).

    The key question is whether or not he can keep those votes AND pick up more/convert existing Obama leaners. Without that its going to be difficult to win.

  9. The Q says:

    Sorry, we libs are a little delusional here. If Obama does average in the debate, coupled with the jobs report, we win in a landslide.

    That debate was HUGE for Romney. No doubt, that unless Obama recovers dramatically in the second debate, this election is gonna be close. Perhaps a re-run of 2000, with Obama playing the bush electoral winner, but losing the popular vote.

    I hope that happens because it will be so sweet to watch the wingnuts simmer in their own hypocritical juices as they have to bit their tongues in supporting the “Constitution” against all who will clamor that Romney really won.

    I can see it now from Florack and Manning, “the will of the people is done and according to our sacred Constitution, Obama is the legitimate President, so please stop the court actions and recounts as we rally around our duly elected President and wish him well.”