The Romney-Ryan campaign and independent Republican pollsters are buoyed by the indisputable and near universal polling fact in the presidential race: Mitt Romney is winning big among independents. The conservative polling and research firm Resurgent Republic released its final batch of polling, finding Romney leads President Obama among Independents by a 51 to 39 percent margin nationally. By comparison George W. Bush won independents by 2 points in 2000 and lost independents by one point in 2004.
Resurgent’s polling guru Whit Ayres tells me that what turned it around was the debates. After an onslaught of negative ads, “The debates were the first time tens of millions saw something different,” he said. Moreover, the debates greatly amped up Romney’s favorables and enthusiasm among Republicans. (He went from 88 favorable/9 unfavorable to 96/4.) That enthusiasm advantage is still holding (76 percent of Republicans are very enthusiastic vs. 66 percent of Democrats).
Interestingly, although Republicans think the CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll in three key swing states is too heavily skewed toward Democrats (and that with 96 percent of registered voters making it through to “likely” voter status is also off kilter), Romney also leads among independents in that survey. (He is up 5 with independents in Florida, by 6 in Ohio and by 11 in Virginia.)
Republicans feel comfortable that with a significant lead among independents and sky high enthusiasm from Republicans, Romney will come out ahead. If the electorate resembles 2008 ( with a Democratic advantage of 8 points), that won’t happen. However, early voting numbers, shifts in registration and enthusiasm levels among Republicans give the Romney-Ryan team confidence that the electorate will be far less Democratic than it was in 2008. (In the Resurgent poll, a D +4 electorate gave Romney the win.)
The media has focused, not surprisingly, on the traditional bellwether state of Ohio. Republicans insist it is a dead heat and that GOP enthusiasm will be the difference on Election Day. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe there are other states that are easier “gets” than Ohio and would in combination yield as many or more electoral votes. With the boost from the Des Moines Register, Republicans feel they are close to bagging Iowa. (Rep. Paul Ryan will be there later in the week.) They are likewise extremely bullish on Wisconsin. (Romney and Ryan will both be going there this week.)
Also in this tier of very gettable states from the Republicans’ perspective is Nevada. Jon Ralston reports that Republicans’ performance in early voting is much stronger than 2008, putting that state in play as well.
David Axelrod promises to shave his moustache off if Romney wins Pennsylvania, Minnesota or Michigan, but despite the bluster the Obama campaign is being forced to appear and spend money in those places. More interesting is that the moustache challenge did not include Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada or Ohio (where he refused to say if Obama is leading among independents).
The election is winnable by either side. But in the final days the Romney-Ryan team feels the wind is at their backs. One wild card: Those October jobs numbers, which will be released on Friday morning.