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Obama Opens Lead, But Both Camps See Tight Race

Obama Opens Lead, But Both Camps See Tight Race

By Scott Conroy - September 11, 2012


As the post-convention smoke began to clear over the weekend, a handful of polls released Monday showed that President Obama has taken a small lead over Mitt Romney.

Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls each showed the incumbent with a five-point advantage over his Republican challenger, and a CNN/Opinion research survey had Obama ahead by a similar margin of 6 percent. (An automated Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor survey had Obama leading Romney by a smaller margin of 2 percent.)

With the media narrative gelling around the notion that the Democratic National Convention provided a significant boost to Obama’s re-election hopes, the Romney campaign on Monday pushed back forcefully. Political Director Rich Beeson said the echo chamber was the same one that perpetuated a series of off-the-mark assumptions during the GOP primaries. Beeson pointed to three states that the president won easily in 2008 but where polls continue to show a tossup, suggesting that the Obama campaign’s rosy assessment of the electoral map did not jibe with reality.

“They do this smoke screen all the time of talking about states that are out of reach,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that they’re nervous as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs over Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire. And they know if they’re losing states like that, they’re going to be losing in a lot of other places, so that’s why they’ve built this Maginot Line around Iowa, because if the magic is gone in Iowa, it’s gone all over the place.”

Romney pollster Neil Newhouse released a memorandum warning reporters not to get “too worked up about the latest polling” and arguing that the “basic structure of the race has not changed significantly.”

Newhouse cited the underlying weak economy, Romney’s financial advantage, and several other key factors to suggest that reporters and commentators were guilty of wrong-headed groupthink that has solidified inside the Washington bubble.

“The stakes are very high in this election, and voters understand the future of our country is on the line,” Newhouse wrote. “This may be lost on those living within the hyper-political world in and around the Beltway, but it is not lost in communities in battleground states.”

Obama campaign officials were heartened by the response to their convention in Charlotte last week and were particularly buoyed by the well-received speeches that Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton delivered on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

But while the president’s re-election campaign says it has a “small but important lead” in key states, they agree that their current advantage could be fleeting.

“It’s more in the media than among our supporter base,” a senior Obama adviser said of the perception that the president has opened up a sizable lead. “I think our supporters have seen how difficult the past few years have been, and they’re not going to take a week of particularly good coverage and sit this thing out. Everybody understands this is going to be close.”

Obama’s post-convention bump of about four points in most polls is only a mediocre lift compared to recent presidential cycles, and it mirrors the boost he received after his 2008 convention in Denver.

But in a tight general election race that for months has largely been static, movement in the polls this late in the game is indeed noteworthy.

And for the first time since April, the president’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee narrowly outraised their Republican counterparts last month, a surprising fundraising victory that might keep the Romney camp’s overall financial advantage in check.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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