Not So Fast

10.02.12

The Obama-Romney Gap Is Narrowing

The gap between Obama and Romney is narrowing, say Douglas Schoen and Jessica Tarlov.

In terms of the presidential race, last week feels more like months ago. As of last week, President Obama appeared to have a sizeable lead over Mitt Romney. Several polls showed the gap at five, six, or seven points.

Today, however, the mainstream-media-driven narrative that Obama is running away with the election appears to be exaggerated. The latest CNN poll gives Obama a three-point advantage; Washington Post/ABC and Politico both have the gap at two points this week, while Quinnipiac and PPP have the gap at four.

To be sure, Obama still holds a significant swing state advantage. But again, compared with last week, the picture has changed. Take Ohio for instance, where Obama recently had a 10-point advantage in a Quinnipiac poll. This week’s PPP poll has Obama ahead in Ohio, but only by four.

The gap also appears to be closing in Florida. The Quinnipiac poll had Obama with a nine-point edge, and while the more recent Gravis Marketing survey may slightly underestimate the Obama lead in Florida at a one-point advantage, the gap is much more likely to be under five than it is to be close to double digits.

Based on these figures, it is clear that Obama's swing state advantage is not nearly as large as previous numbers have indicated. The newest figures are much more in line with the national numbers, which taken together still indicate an Obama advantage, but not by much.

What accounts for this shift? It’s hard to say for sure. Romney continues to struggle in both outlining his economic platform and in terms of likeability—51 percent of voters in the latest ABC/Washington Post poll view him unfavorably—but it may be that the latest events in the Middle East have given him an opening.

Wednesday’s debate offers Romney possibly the one remaining chance he will have to change the dialogue to his issues, themes, and vision. He will certainly have to address the fact that more than half of the American electorate doesn’t like him—a difficult task but one he must tackle head-on.

Finally, Friday’s jobs numbers will certainly affect an already important week in this election. The economy still shows signs of slowing, and unemployment has been over 8 percent for 43 months straight.

It is not up for debate as to whether Obama is still in the lead—he most certainly is. But we are seeing a tightening in the polls on both the national and state level. What we’ve said before appears to be validated by the numbers: this thing isn’t even close to over.