I said before the Republican confab that we really need to wait until a week after the Democrats disperse to really get much from the polls.
I’ll stick with that. But I do think there’s one thing we can increasingly say for sure: The Republicans surely didn’t do any significant damage to Barack Obama. Indeed, looking at Gallup, President Obama has been stuck in a range right around 46 percent approval or so for most of the year, and nothing in Tampa pushed him any lower than the bottom of that range. But today, based on calls made Tuesday through Thursday (in other words, almost entirely before his speech), Gallup has Obama up to 52 percent approval. That’s beyond the range he’s been in all year, and while it certainly could prove to be just normal variation, it certainly means he didn’t get hurt badly by Tampa.
More broadly, Pollster’s polling average, placed on the most sensitive setting so that it reacts strongly to short-term trends, shows Obama’s approval ratings actually bottoming out at the end of July and then increasing gradually, with no apparent change to that positive trajectory last week.
As far as head-to-head polling is concerned, Gallup has Obama’s lead increasing to three points now (48 percent to 45 percent), but the Pollster average has had Mitt Romney gaining on Obama for a few weeks, with the two of them dead even right now. So the question now becomes whether Gallup – and remember that its head-to-head numbers are based on a full seven days of polling, so mostly before the Democrats even got started – is a hint of what we’re about to see, or again just random movement. There’s no way to know yet.
One thing, however, we can say. Gallup is high-profile; most news organizations pay it the second-greatest attention, after, of course, their own in-house operation, if they have one. And even if it turns out down the road that today’s numbers were just a fluke, they’ll have the effect for now and into the weekend of tending to convince reporters that the Democratic shindig was successful. And if reporters are convinced that it was successful, they’re present it that way, with sound bites and clips to match. All of which can actually create the effect they thought they were reporting on.
Of course, that’s not going to be true if other polls knock down Gallup soon. And I don’t know what’s going to be released over the next 48 hours, if anything. But we do know that these things tend to build on themselves, so today’s Gallup numbers are a bit of good news for Team Obama, whatever else happens. And of course, if there really is a significant convention bounce in the making, then it’s very much good news for the president.