Romney’s slight swing-state surge

August 23, 2012

Swing state polls are swinging -- ever so slightly -- toward Mitt Romney.

Romney, who has generally performed better in national polls than in swing state polls, has seen that disparity begin to disappear. And in fact, recent polls in several swing states show Romney asserting a lead or closing the gap in a way he hadn't before.


(Getty Images)

Today's trio of swing state polls from Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times are the latest to show a little movement toward Romney.

Here's a recap:

- Wisconsin: Romney trailed by three points in a Marquette University poll released Wednesday and led in two automated polls conducted last week -- his first lead in the state since mid-June. And the new Quinnipiac poll shows him reducing a six-point deficit from earlier this month down to two points in his new running mate's home state.

Florida: Romney has led in every poll conducted this month except today's Quinnipiac poll, and that poll showed him cutting a six-point deficit in half.

Colorado: A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month showed Romney registering his first lead in the state.

- Nevada: A new automated SurveyUSA poll showed Romney trailing by two, which is tied for his smallest deficit in any poll.

Ohio: An automated Purple Strategies poll last week was the first since May to show Romney leading. (Though today's Q poll shows Obama's six-point lead remains intact).

- Virginia: The Purple Poll was the first poll since April to show Romney leading.

- Pennsylvania: Franklin and Marshall College, which showed Romney down by 12 points in early June, last week showed him closing to within five points in this blue-leaning state.

Remember: these are the states that will decide the presidency. National polls are fun/important and worth keeping an eye on, but as November approaches, the battle in this handful of states is what really matters.

Romney still trails in more swing state polls than he leads in, and a USA Today/Gallup poll released this week showed his performance in swing states (trailing President Obama 47 percent to 44 percent) continues to lag behind his performance elsewhere (ahead 47 percent to 45 percent)

But as Nate Silver pointed out Wednesday, it's not nearly as lopsided as it used to be. Silver notes that, in June and July, Obama led in about four times as many swing state polls as Romney did.

That had Democrats claiming that their attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain Capital were working. After all, they argued, the swing states are the places where those ads are running.

If that was the case, then it appears the GOP's ramped-up advertising -- or maybe the bad economic news or Paul Ryan's selection as Romney's running mate -- has brought things back near even. And while the Obama campaign has spent heavily early on, Republicans are expected to significantly outspend Democrats down the stretch.

In the end, it's not surprising to see the swing states begin to reflect the national race a little more. We live in a highly polarized country, where half of people are very much on one side and half are on the other. Swing states are supposed to reflect the national mood.

There's no big sea change in these polls -- most changes are within the margin of error -- and every poll is a snapshot in time.

But the preponderance of evidence -- to borrow a legal term -- suggests a race that is getting more competitive in the states that will decide the next president.

Ryan keeps dodging abortion questions: Ryan continues to deflect questions about his personal views on rape and abortion exceptions.

Asked during a local TV interview in Pittsburgh whether he believes in an abortion exception for rape -- he has previously said he supports only an exception for the life of the mother -- Ryan emphasized that Romney's position is the one that matters.

And asked about legislation he co-sponsored with Rep. Todd Akin that used the words "forcible rape," Ryan again declined to explain what those words mean to him.

"Rape is rape, and there’s no splitting hairs over rape," Ryan said.

This seems to be another instance of Ryan's paper trail running up against his newfound status as the GOP vice presidential candidate.

Republicans have handled the first instance -- the cuts to Medicare contained in his budget -- well by emphasizing that it's Romney's proposal that takes precedence. In this case, though, that argument is a little harder to make, because personal convictions about social issues are generally less malleable than economic policy preferences.

In other words, it will be hard for people and the media to simply accept the line that Romney's policy is what matters.

As for the "forcible rape" stuff, it's likely to be something Ryan gets asked about until he provides a more satisfactory answer.

Fixbits:

A new Obama ad features Bill Clinton.

More good news for the GOP in Nevada: A federal judge has struck down the law that requires a "none of the above" option on the ballot. Republicans worried that some anti-incumbent voters might pick that option over Romney, helping Obama.

A new poll suggests that Romney's ad questioning Obama's character is a winner.

Romney tries to return the focus to the economy.

Republicans' convention theme is "We Built This." Unfortunately for them, it will take place in a building that was constructed with public funds.

The same Nevada poll shows Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) leading Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) 44 percent to 39 percent.

The Club for Growth endorses Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) in the Florida Senate race.

Must-reads:

"Recession imminent if ‘fiscal cliff’ of tax hikes, budget cuts not averted, CBO says" -- Steven Mufson and Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

"Akin’s agenda wins loyalty of Christian groups" -- Stephanie McCrummen and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

"Racial Comment by Republican Official in Ohio Rekindles Battle Over Early Voting" -- Ray Rivera, New York Times

"Polygamists See Themselves In Romney, Obama Family Tree" -- McKay Coppins, BuzzFeed

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Sean Sullivan · August 22, 2012