With the Republican and Democratic Conventions now over we can take stock of where the race stands about 50 days out from election day.
Essentially the race remains a tie. In the Rasmussen daily tracking poll (9/17) Romney leads by two points nationwide and two in the battleground states. In Gallup’s tracking poll Obama is still benefitting from his post-Convention bounce and had a three-point edge coming out of the weekend. Gallup uses a RV model and Rasmussen a LV model so it is likely the race is tied considering historically that RV voter models tend to underestimate GOP support by about 3% in presidential elections.
The President continues to boast decent leads in many swing states (minus North Carolina) but again most of these leads are based on RV samples. These samples skew left. Even some state pollsters like PPP (D), which are now using LV models, have samples that lean closer to 2008 turnout levels than 2004 or 2000.
The basic fundamentals of the race have not changed. At the end of the Democratic Convention new jobs numbers from August showed tepid new hiring and over 360,000 people quit looking for work. The labor participation rate also dropped to its lowest rate since the Great Depression. Basically, the economy remains a noose around the President’s neck. All Romney has to do is find a way to squeeze it tight.
Recent events have also intruded on the presidential race. The Middle East is in an uproar over an US made video that mocked Islam and Mohammad. The ongoing turbulence in the Middle East has caused the death of the US ambassador to Libya and several marines. Embassies across the region remain on high alert.
Romney’s response to the crisis has largely been panned by foreign policy analysts and the oh so unbiased media. But the President’s response has been meek as well. It is unclear how these events have shaped or could shape the presidential contest. The Obama campaign has hammered Romney for his knee-jerk response to the attack while the Romney camp has hit back saying the President’s response has been one of “doing nothing.”
Both campaigns are buying up airtime in key battleground states and focusing even more heavily on voter turnout efforts. As the Romney camp prepares to unleash a barrage of new attack ads on Obama they worry that voter fatigue could mitigate their cash advantage in the closing days of the campaign. Beyond just attack ads the Romney campaign is trying to settle on a decisive theme for their campaign. In the last few weeks it has oscillated. The Romney camp is also unveiling a new set of ads which would explain that Romney does have a plan if elected to office. The ads reportedly will focus on job creation, energy independence, repealing Obamacare and eliminating burdensome regulations on small business.
The Obama campaign seems to have settled on a campaign strategy of defining Romney as unacceptable to be in the White House. But in turn it seems that Obama may get dragged down in the mud with Romney and that seriously damages the likeability advantage he enjoys. Before the Conventions a flurry of new polls echoed this trend.
In short, with 50 days to go until the election it could go either way. Both Romney and Obama are finalizing campaign strategy and the race remains close. On November 6th, we could be in for a late night.