President Obama came out of his nominating convention surging in the polls, both nationally and in key states he will need to carry to win in the Electoral College — but the high already is beginning to fade, and pollsters said he didn’t fundamentally alter what’s still a neck-and-neck race.
“This is standard ups and downs,” said John Zogby, who conducts polling for The Washington Times. “I had suggested this was a no-bounce year, and I guess maybe I was wrong. Obama clearly got a bounce from his convention. But I’m starting to get questions about, ‘Is it all over?’ Of course not.”
Already the big lead Mr. Obama opened up over Republican nominee Mitt Romney is beginning to shrink.
Gallup’s seven-day tracking survey, which showed as much as a 7-point lead for Mr. Obama in the middle of last week, is down to a 3-point lead as of Saturday.
That’s in line with the Real Clear Politics average of polls, which gave Mr. Obama a 3.1-point lead this past weekend. Still, every post-convention poll shows the president in the lead, save for one by Rasmussen Reports that gives Mr. Romney a 1-point advantage.
Still, pollsters across the board said Mr. Obama did make clear and sustainable gains over the past month, particularly with some demographics such as women, young voters and Hispanics.
“With the Romney campaign reeling on issues unrelated to the economy, the President enters the fall campaign in a much stronger position to sustain a lead, bolstered by the dynamics of the race,” James Carville and Stan Greenberg, who together run Democracy Corps, said in a memo Friday outlining the parameters of the race.
Both parties went into their conventions trying to win over women voters, and on that score Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenberg said the president “won hands down.”
“Obama is ahead with white women, 50 to 46 percent —an 18-point net gain since August,” they said.
Mr. Obama also has made headway with independents, according to Mr. Zogby’s latest polling, though 19 percent of them remained undecided.
Mr. Romney’s campaign argues nothing has changed in the fundamentals of the race.
“There is a reason that elections aren’t held the Tuesday after conventions, and a bounce is a bounce,” said Stuart Stevens, senior adviser to the Romney campaign. “The race is very stable, and I think Democrats missed an opportunity to present a second-term agenda at the convention.”
In a memo last week, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse argued that the post-convention polling reflected “a bit of a sugar-high” for voters impressed by the Democrats’ show, but said that the basic issue of a bad economy “will reassert itself.”
Indeed, there are a number of precedents for bounces evaporating, particularly in recent campaigns where the flood of news coverage of daily events can quickly change how voters see the race.
Mr. Zogby pointed to 2000, when there were several times then-candidate George W. Bush would go up by 5 or 6 percentage points, only to see it swing back the other way toward Democratic nominee Al Gore.
Then there was the 2004 campaign, where Mr. Zogby said Democratic nominee John F. Kerry never got a bounce and consistently polled about the same, with the election depending chiefly on how voters viewed then-incumbent Mr. Bush.
In the key states that will decide the election, Mr. Obama holds leads nearly across the board, including significant leads in Ohio and Colorado. And if the election were held today, the president would easily win re-election, according to Real Clear Politics’ projections based on polling averages.
But Mr. Obama’s lead in many of those states is thin, and Mr. Romney has put new states in play, including Wisconsin.