President Obama’s standing in the national race ticked up after a successful Democratic convention, but that’s no cause for concern, Mitt Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse said in a memo released Monday morning.
“Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” Newhouse wrote. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly.”
The memo was partially a response to polls released this weekend showing a yawning lead for President Obama in the wake of the convention — Gallup shows a 5-point Obama advantage in their 7-day rolling average, and Republican-leaning Rasmussen found a 5-point edge in its three-day tracker.
Newhouse dismisses those numbers as noise. He offered a point-by-point refutation of what seemed to be a sizable Obama bounce — especially for a race that has barely changed in months. While the memo did not cite many specific post-convention polls to justify its claims, Newhouse argued that Romney’s original strategy of highlighting the rough economy would turn things around. At times, he made it sound as if this had already happened.
“Today, there is no question: Americans are not better off than we were four years ago, and that is why President Obama has struggled in this race,” Newhouse wrote. “The truth is that some of President Obama’s allies are claiming victory, but others are acknowledging the unsustainable position in which they find themselves.”
He offered up a historical comparison to the 1980 presidential election, where “political campaign historians will recall President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan by a near double digit margin late in the fall.”
Optimistic Republicans have long compared the 2012 campaign to 1980. But here’s one reason why that explanation might be a lot less comforting today than it was just two weeks ago: Reagan’s explosion in the polls started at the convention, with huge double-digit gains. In fact many Republicans brought up that very example in August to suggest their convention would be the moment where Romney finally broke through. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, for example, openly boasted that Romney would see significant movement in the polls. But now that both conventions are wrapped, Obama is the one with the momentum.
Another key passage in the memo noted Romney’s “real advantage” in the money race as reason to lift Republican hearts. Here too there may be renewed cause for concern. Romney and outside Republican groups have outraised Obama handily in recent months. But late last night, the Obama campaign reported that it had reversed the trend and actually had a slightly bigger haul in August than Romney, $114 million to $111 million. That month included the Republican convention, but not the Democratic one. While Obama will likely be outspent overall, he’ll be able to saturate the airwaves with enough advertising to at least keep up, and a recent surge in small donors may reflect an uptick in voter enthusiasm.
While the memo did not cite many specific polls in the memo, Romney’s campaign pointed to North Carolina, where their candidate has held a lead in most polls (although Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed a 1-point advantage for Obama in a survey released Sunday night) and they claim is poised for victory. “In a state the President won by a mere 14,000 votes in 2008, all one has to do is look at the Obama campaign’s television buy in the state to understand how they view their chances there,” Newhouse wrote, citing a major drop in TV spots purchased.
But as the Romney team points out, Obama only won the southern state by a tenth of a percent over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, and it is not essential to an electoral college victory.
Newhouse also claimed a Republican enthusiasm advantage (although he cited a pre-convention poll), a major theme of 2012 that has popped up in other surveys.
“This Republican enthusiasm advantage has manifested itself in an unprecedented and historic grassroots effort that will have a significant impact on turnout in battleground states on Election Day,” he wrote.
Of course, enthusiasm numbers were also high for Sen. John Kerry in 2004, and he still lost by 3 million votes.
Newhouse’s memo elicited a swift response from Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, who tweeted, “Anyone else find it odd that Mitt’s pollster put out a state-of-the race memo this morning that was almost entirely devoid of polling data?”