Is the 2012 election tilting toward Democrats?

September 20, 2012

Either we're at a turning point in the 2012 election, or a lot of pollsters are getting it wrong.

The question for the past week-plus has been whether President Obama's convention bounce and a series of stumbles for Mitt Romney have recast the 2012 race.


Some national polls say yes, and a few say no. But more and more, the data at the state level point to some real movement in Democrats' favor. At least for now.

As we wrote Tuesday, Gallup polling shows that the bump Obama got from the Democratic convention two weeks ago has subsided. And another new poll, released Wednesday by the Associated Press and pollster GfK, shows basically the same picture, with 47 percent of likely voters supporting Obama and 46 percent backing Romney -- a tie ballgame nationally.

But almost every state-specific poll in the last few days has shown progress for Democrats -- both at the presidential level and in the very important contest for the Senate -- with some showing unprecedented leads for the blue side in the the most important states.

Swing-state polls from CBS News, the New York Times and Quinnipiac University released Wednesday morning in three key states -- Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin -- showed Obama either gaining since last month or, in the case of Virginia, holding his lead.

And Fox News polls released Wednesday evening showed Obama with a solid lead in the three biggest swing states; he's up by seven points each in Ohio and Virginia and five points in Florida. The results confirm polls from NBC News and Marist College in the same three states last week.

Washington Post poll released Tuesday confirms the movement in Virginia, with Obama up by an unprecedented eight points. And a Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday supports the idea that the race in Wisconsin has shifted, with Obama leading by an astounding 14 points.

Even if some of these margins seem a little big, just consider that even the best polls for Romney haven't shown him with that kind of lead in these states -- or really anything close to it. In fact, Nate Silver points out that, of the 16 live-interview swing state polls conducted in the last two weeks, Obama is leading in all of them except Colorado by at least four points.

Prior to this week, it was rare that polls showed Obama leading by five points or more in any swing state; in those 16 states, he leads by an average of 5.8 points.

And just as much as the presidential race, the battle for the Senate appears to be moving toward Democrats.

As The Fix's Sean Sullivan reported Wednesday, multiple polls in top Senate races in Massachusetts, Virginia and Wisconsin in recent days show the Democratic candidates in those states gaining big -- larger shifts than any we've seen so far this cycle. If Democrats can win even two of those states, it will put a sizeable dent in the GOP's chances of gaining the three or four seats they need to take control of the Senate -- an outcome that was very attainable for Republicans at the start of the cycle.

The question from here is whether these swing-state and Senate polls reflect a momentary bounce and spike in enthusiasm among Democrats or whether they show a more lasting shift in the electoral landscape. Only time will tell.

What's clear to this point, though, is that the movement has been significant in the states that matter most.

Chamber launches ads in four states: The Chamber of Commerce is going up with new ads in four states -- including a couple where other Republican groups aren't running ads.

The new ads will run in Hawaii, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. The first two states are blue states where national Republicans either haven't run ads (Hawaii) or have pulled their advertising (New Mexico).

Scott Reed, a media consultant working with the Chamber on the ads, said the name of the game is expanding the field of play.

"Our strategy all year has been to try to grow the map and get more Senate races to be competitive," Reed said. "These are markets that where we think we can move some voters using brand of the Chamber."

The ads (which can be seen here) focus on former Virginia governor Tim Kaine's (D) energy record, former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle's (R) business record (a positive spot), Rep. Martin Heinrich's (D-N.M.) ties to Washington and Rep. Tammy Baldwin's (D-Wis.) vote for Obamacare and its Medicare cuts.

The Chamber declined to say how much it was spending in each state, but it noted that the buy in Virginia, for example, is big and will cover all markets in the state.

Fixbits:

A new Romney ad in Florida features Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who disagreed with Romney's "47 percent" comment, clarifies that he still supports him for president.

In contrast to a series of polls showing him losing ground, a new UMass/Boston Herald poll shows Brown leading by four.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) says his opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), is the "most unethical, corrupt person I’ve ever met."

A Democratic super PAC's ad quotes former senator George Allen (R-Va.) out of context.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the Texas to use its interim maps for the 2012 election.

Must-reads:

"Mitt Romney shifts focus to Obama’s ’98 comments on ‘redistribution’" -- Ed O'Keefe and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

"To claim Virginia, Obama's hopes rest on women" -- Karen Tumulty and Scott Clement, Washington Post

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Sean Sullivan · September 19, 2012