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Brooks and Marcus on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - September 14, 2012

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who is filling in for Mark Shields.

Welcome to you both.

And, so, before we start, let's share some new poll numbers out there in the last few days.

Among likely voters across the country, CBS and The New York Times finds the president with 49 percent to Governor Romney's 46 percent. And FOX News finds the president with 48 percent to Romney's 43 percent.

Separately, though, in three key battleground states, an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll finds Mr. Obama ahead in all three by 50 percent to 43 percent in Ohio, and by an identical 49 percent to 44 percent in both Florida and Virginia.

So, David, recognizing that these polls are just a snapshot, the elections weeks away, what do you make of that?

DAVID BROOKS: I think Romney's -- his concession speech should be this evening at some point.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: No, he's behind.

If you take the average of all the national polls, he's probably behind by about 3.5, 3.6.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal, the swing state polls should be more troubling to him. It is an excellent poll. It's a poll that is widely respected by the professionals in the field.

And it shows him behind in all three states that he really needs to win. And if you look at all the swing states, whatever it is, however many you are going to count, he is pretty much behind in all of them, usually by much smaller margins.

And to me, what is most interesting about the poll movement in the last week is that Romney is this. Romney is going down. And so the president is up a little, but the president had a bounce, and his bounce is pretty much over. But Romney's going down.

And so -- and if you look at where the movement happened, Bill Clinton was an important turning point and then maybe this week. It's hard to believe this week will help him. But there is clearly a sense, certainly among Republican circles, that Romney is behind.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see all this?

RUTH MARCUS: Kind of the same.

Romney's pollster, Neil Newhouse, put out a statement early in the week saying that nobody should pay -- get too flustered by these polls, that they kind of reflected a sugar high after the Democratic Convention.

I think it's looking more like one of those protein shakes that can keep you going for a while.

I think David's totally right. The polls that should make the governor and his team most nervous are those polls from the three most important battleground states.

Because if you play around with those really fun interactive Electoral College maps, you cannot get to 270 electoral votes for Gov. Romney without at least two of those states. And you can get there for President Obama without them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you account for this, though? What is the behind this?

RUTH MARCUS: A bunch of things, a squandered convention by Gov. Romney. What do we remember from it? Empty chair and Clint Eastwood.

A very well-orchestrated convention for President Obama. What do we remember from it? The explainer-in-chief, President Clinton, whose poll numbers are through the roof, dismantling and unpacking and rebutting every Republican argument against the incumbent president and vouching for him.

Then you had some bad jobs numbers. They didn't seem to trouble the president. Mitt Romney first got pummeled with his "fill in the blanks, details to follow" economic policy. I think we're going to hear more about that, especially in debates.

And then I think he had a -- you were very kind to him about this week. I think he had quite a disastrous week. Other than that, things are going great for the Romney campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And if you're look at who is moving, it's independent voters who voted for Obama in '08, who drifted away, and now, faced with the alternatives they see today, they are drifting back toward Obama.

RUTH MARCUS: And more than that, it's the movement, but there aren't a lot of folks left to move.

One of the things that is striking when you look at these polls, in the internals of these polls, very, very few people are undecided, and even fewer say they are apt in any way to change their votes.

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