Mitt Romney’s Gallup daily tracking poll numbers are now better than any presidential challenger dating back to 1936.
The Gallup daily tracking poll of likely voters released on October 26 shows Mr. Romney leading Barack Obama 51% to 46%. Mr. Romney holds the lead in the nine elections since 1936 in which either an incumbent president was defeated or there was no incumbent. Tied for second are Mr. Obama (2008) and George H.W. Bush (1988) with 50% at this point in the race, followed by John F. Kennedy (1960), Jimmy Carter (1976) and George W. Bush (2000) with 49%, Dwight D. Eisenhower with 48% (1952), Richard M. Nixon with 44% (1968), Bill Clinton with 40% (1992) and finally Ronald Reagan who actually trailed Jimmy Carter in 1980 with 39% to Carter’s 45%.
Mr. Romney is even competitive with some victorious incumbents. Mr. Romney is tied with Presidents Eisenhower (1956) and George W. Bush (2004) in their reelection bids, he is ahead of where FDR was in 1940 and 1944, and far ahead of Bill Clinton’s 40% at this point in 1996. Mr. Romney also leads Harry Truman, who at 41% trailed challenger Thomas Dewey by four points. But he is being well outpaced by victors in the blowout elections of 1936, 1964, 1972 and 1984. Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan won handily — their challengers won a combined total of 10 states.
Critics of Gallup say that this poll is an outlier and all other polls show a closer race. But in this age of poll-averaging it is important to remember that sometimes only one pollster gets it right. In 1976 only the Burns Roper poll called it clearly for Carter. In 1980, when Gallup and others showed Ronald Reagan either statistically tied with or losing to Jimmy Carter in the last weeks of the race, pollster Lou Harris vigorously defended his poll showing a substantial Reagan victory in the offing. While others hedged he predicted Reagan would be “the clear winner.” Mr. Reagan won with 50.7% of the vote and 489 electoral votes.