Since the Democratic National Convention ended, there has been clear movement in the polls, and President Obama is winning. Nate Silver, who usually urges caution when reading poll results, made this point earlier today, when he wondered if observers were understating the degree to which there’s been clear movement in the presidential race:
[T]he polling movement that we have seen over the past three days represents the most substantial shift that we’ve seen in the race all year, with the polls moving toward Mr. Obama since his convention.
How far will Mr. Obama’s numbers rise, and how long will his bounce last? We don’t know that, of course. But the range of possible outcomes reads pretty favorably for him.
None of this is to say that Obama will win in November, but it’s increasingly clear that he’s winning. And while it may not seem like it — given the ups and downs of the campaign season — this has been true for most of the year. Yes, the race has been close since April, when Mitt Romney wrapped up the Republican presidential primary and consolidated the bulk of GOP voters. But since then, Obama has maintained a small but persistent lead over the former Massachusetts governor. Indeed, Romney has never held a lead in the averages calculated by Pollster or Real Clear Politics. It’s possible that this will change — Obama’s convention bounce could dissipate and voters could finally move to Romney — but given the contours of the race, that seems unlikely.
As Greg has been pointing out, it’s clear that the Romney campaign is governed by a crude economic determinism — “as long as the economy is bad, all we have to do is show up, and voters will reward us with the presidency.” Hence Romney pollster Neil Newhouse’s declaration that “the basic structure of the race hasn’t changed.” This is true, but not in a way that helps Romney. Simply put, the “basic structure of the race” still favors President Obama. The economy is poor and job creation is sluggish, but growth is on an upward trajectory, and according to most election models, this makes Obama a slight favorite for reelection. That the Romney campaign fails to see this explains everything from Romney’s refusal to provide policy detail to his team’s inexplicable decision to cede summer advertising to the Obama campaign.
The simple fact is that voters aren’t making a crude economic calculus based on objective conditions — they’re weighing context and evaluating both candidates’ plans for the future. And when it comes down to it, they’re not necessarily convinced that Obama has completely failed to fix things. If Romney can’t overcome and account for that, he’ll lose.