Op-Ed

When four major polls move in the same direction, it’s no mirage. The Romney campaign found new momentum in last week’s debate, and the Obama campaign hasn’t stopped it yet.

President Obama, right, speaks during his debate with Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who greets the audience at the conclusion in Denver, Colo. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images / October 3, 2012)

By Doyle McManus
October 10, 2012

Last week’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney was an even bigger win for Romney than it appeared at the time. That’s what the polls are telling us.

The debate, it seems, prompted swing voters to take a second look at the GOP candidate, and it also boosted Republican voters’ resolve to get out and vote.

As a result, a presidential election that once appeared to favor Obama is now razor close again, and heading toward an unpredictable finish.

Four national polls released their first post-debate findings this week. The Pew Research Center reported that Romney had moved into the lead among likely voters, 49% to 45%. The Gallup Poll reported that Romney held a narrow lead, 49% to 47%. The Rasmussen Poll, which sometimes appears to favor Republicans, was kinder to Obama this time; it reported a tie at 48% each. And Reuters/IPSOS reported a tie at 45%.

The usual words of caution apply: These numbers are fallible snapshots of public opinion, not predictions of election outcomes. All polls come with a margin of error; the Pew survey’s margin of 3.4% means that Romney’s apparent 4-point lead could be either an even-larger advantage, or a virtual tie.

But when four major polls move in the same direction, it’s no mirage. The Romney campaign found new momentum in last week’s debate, and Obama hasn’t yet stopped it. Moreover, the Pew poll included fascinating data that suggest some of the reasons for Romney’s advance.

One was a swing toward the Republican candidate on the issue of jobs, a word Romney used over and over in last week’s debate.

When Pew asked voters which candidate would do better on jobs, 49% named Romney against only 41% for Obama. Last month, when Pew asked the same question, the two candidates were tied. And when voters were asked whether they think Obama knows how to turn the economy around, most said he does not, 54% to 44%.

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