The Washington Post

Why Romney isn’t licked yet, in two charts

People who are writing Mitt Romney's political obituary right now have a short memory.

In fact, the last two presidents, before winning their first terms, both trailed in the post-convention phase of the race.

While all of us remember President Obama's big victory in 2008, many of us forget that, in early September, he actually trailed in most national polls.

In much the same way that Obama rose in early September, so did Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) For a one-week period between Sept. 5 and Sept. 12, Obama led in just two of just 12 national polls, according to Real Clear Politics, while other polls showed McCain up three, four, five and even 10 points.

Here's a handy chart from Gallup showing that McCain bump, which eroded just as quickly:

Similarly, in 2000, Gallup polling in early-to-mid-September showed Al Gore leading George W. Bush by as many as 10 points.

Just weeks later, Bush took a double-digit lead of his own, and then the race wound up in a virtual tie.

(One difference between this year and 2000/2008: Bush and Obama led for much of the year even though they trailed in September. Romney, in contrast, has trailed for the vast majority of the year.)

The lesson from all of this: Things change. And they can change quickly.

The political events of one week can consume the news media so wholly that the impact of a major news story will often be overestimated. 

Plenty of things will happen over the next 45 days. Obama has a good start -- especially in the swing states -- but it's totally reasonable to think this race will shift again. It almost always does.


Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
He says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything in the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.