Neil Newhouse, the pollster for the Romney campaign, spoke with National Review Online this morning about the state of play in Ohio and the Obama bounce.
Costa: What’s your take on the Obama bounce?
Newhouse: You’re already seeing the bounce fading away. I don’t think there is much question about that. The bounce is melting. You see it in the Rasmussen data and we are seeing it in our own data. He got a nice little sugar high from the Bill Clinton speech and from the Democratic convention, and it’s beginning to fade.
Newhouse: I think once we get past this week, you’re going to see the same tightness and the same dead heat, similar to how we went into the conventions. We’ll come out of convention season the same way we went into it.
Costa: What’s the story in Oho? Obama has a three-point lead in the Real Clear Politics poll average, and according to Public Policy Polling, he’s up by five.
Newhouse: Ohio is going to be a very tight race. There has been some stuff written about us pulling out of the race there, or something like that. My response: When hell freezes over. We feel confident that we’re going to win the state. Make no mistake, it’s tough sledding, and we understand that it’ll be a challenge. It’s a difficult state for us. But we pull out when hell freezes over.#more#
Costa: From your perspective, what are Romney’s strengths in the state?
Newhouse: It’s not just about our strengths; it’s about Obama’s weakness. Obama is trying to take credit for Governor Kasich’s success, and that just doesn’t cut it.
Costa: What about Kasich’s low approval numbers? They’re at 41 percent in the latest PPP poll.
Newhouse: Quit looking just at PPP. If you look at the Quinnipiac poll and other stuff, he’s basically at 50 percent. What you see is the mood of the voters, about the direction of the state, is quite positive. And John’s numbers have improved significantly. It’s his policy. If it were President Obama’s policies that were making a difference in Ohio, then why hasn’t the rest of the country moved accordingly? You can pinpoint pretty clearly in Ohio that it’s what Kasich has done that has improved the economic climate in that state.
Costa: If you look at the Real Clear Politics average in Ohio, you’ll see that Romney has never reached 50 percent in any Ohio poll. Does he have a ceiling there in the high 40s?
Newhouse: We’re the challenger and it’s a swing state. I don’t think you’re going to expect us to hit 50 percent in any of this polling. The number you have to look at is how Obama has never broken 50 percent. That’s more of an indictment of his presidency and his record than anything it says about Mitt Romney.
Costa: Moving forward, what’s your outlook on Ohio?
Newhouse: We have one of the strongest ground operations in the country in Ohio. The state party is strong there under Chairman [Robert] Bennett. We’ve got a good cast of congressional candidates in the state and incumbents who are going to run very good campaigns.
This is already a very tight election in the state. We feel good. If you look at the PPP numbers, you’ve got to remember that they polled on the heels of the Democratic convention, and showed their guy up by five points. Nationally, Obama got a three-point bump. So, if he also got a three-point bump in Ohio that puts the race within a couple of points. If the best they can do is five points after their convention, where they got a national bump of three, we feel that this is easily within the margin-of-error, and we’ve got eight weeks to go, which is several political lifetimes.