This race has always been close. And the release of the new Pew poll, which gives Romney a 4-point lead, hasn’t changed that. Before the debate it was close, with a slight edge in the president’s favor. And now it is still close, but with the advantage going to Romney.
This has been a race of extreme narratives. Before last Wednesday’s debate, commentators were confident of an Obama victory. Now, the media have gone from riding high on Obama to previewing a Romney win. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan, for instance, is arguing that Obama may have forfeited the election with his debate performance.
Sullivan is certainly right that the numbers from the Pew poll show a reversal of fortune for Obama. The president suffered a 12-point swing to Romney, sapping his 9-point advantage. Romney’s favorables are above Obama’s now. And the two candidates are tied among women.
But while these numbers are painful for Obama supporters, the election is close to a tie overall. The Pew survey is just one poll, capturing one moment in time. Consider Monday’s Washington Times/Zogby poll, which showed Romney and Obama in an effective tie, with Romney slightly ahead by 45.1 percent to 44.5 percent. If you factor in libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Obama is actually ahead by half a point, 45.5 to 45 percent.
Meanwhile, Rasmussen’s tracking numbers also show a tie, with both candidates at 48 percent. The Gallup numbers put Romney only slightly ahead at 49 to 47 percent. And yesterday, Rasmussen reported that 55 percent of likely voters still think Obama is probably going to win in November.
The electoral map also continues to shape up in the president’s favor. Although Romney is ahead by 1 in Ohio, according to the latest ARG survey, he trails by 3 in both Pennsylvania (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).
To be sure, the Pew poll is meaningful. And it is definitely possible that Obama will lose the election. If that happens, his debate performance will have contributed to his loss.
But the dust has barely settled since the debate, and there are two more to go. Not to mention Joe Biden and Paul Ryan’s VP debate tomorrow, where there is no doubt Biden will say everything the president failed to say last week in Denver. In other words, we are not looking at an assured Romney victory. We are looking at a very, very close race.