The Campaign Spot

Obama ‘Wins’ Debate, But Somehow Romney Wins the Undecideds

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Surprise: Independents, Likely Voters Loved Monday Night’s Stay-Puft Marshmallow Romney!

After Monday night’s debate, I was among those who thought that Mitt Romney’s performance was simultaneously likely to be effective and not what I wanted to see – too focus-grouped, too safe, often hesitating to really tear into the president’s record and almost dovish. But who am I to argue with a closing sales pitch to those few remaining undecided voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa?

Apparently, Team Romney knew what they were doing:

President Obama scored a modest win in the third presidential debate, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll, but it’s Republican Mitt Romney who moved the needle among likely voters — including independents — with his debate performances.

Overall, the contest remains unchanged from Tuesday, with 49 percent of likely voters nationally backing Romney, and 48 percent supporting Obama. But as was the case after the first and second debates, more voters say they have better, not worse, opinions of the former Massachusetts governor when assessing the three debates.

Most say the president’s debate performances did not change their views of him, a continuing challenge for an incumbent stuck with an approval rating in dangerous territory: 50 percent of likely voters approve of how he’s handling the job, 49 percent disapprove.

Looking at handling the economy as a broad issue, Romney’s lead among independents has swelled to 56 to 39 percent in the new poll, an advantage that helps him to a sizable, 12-point lead over Obama when it comes to their voting preferences. Obama won independent and other voters by eight percentage points in 2008.

B. Daniel Blatt notices the math: “A 12-point advantage among independents yields only a one-point overall advantage.  Hmmm. . . . the poll only gave Democrats a four-point advantage (34-30).”

Meanwhile, Bob Krumm looks at the national polls and concludes that most pollsters have wildly high estimations of how many respondents are “likely voters” – from about 70 percent for Rasmussen, to about 80 percent for the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, to about 85 percent for the ABC News/Washington Post poll and Gallup, to an unfathomable 93 percent of the IBD/TIPP poll. Historically, the percentage of registered voters who actually cast ballots is in the high 60s, low 70s; the percentage of the voting age population who casts ballots is usually in the 50s. It hit 62 percent in 2008.

He concludes, “From this small sample it appears that Rasmussen is not the outlier it is often accused of being.  Instead, other polling organizations in the current RCP Average employ a likely voter screen that removes only 7% to 14% of registered voters from the sample pool, when we know that about 30% of likely voters are not going to show up to vote.”

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