More on the Bounce

More nice Bounce analysis from Nate Cohn (what is it with guys named “Nate” anyway?):

 The critical question is whether it’s possible to learn any lessons from the bounces themselves, even before we learn whether they endure. In my view, the answer is “yes.”

In contests involving an incumbent president, the candidate with a higher share of the vote following his convention in Gallup polling has won every election since 1964. We can go further: no modern candidate has won the presidency without taking a lead after his own convention. And there is a strong relationship between the incumbent’s share of the vote and their eventual finish in November.* To take a recent example, Bush peaked at 50.4 percent in the RealClearPolitics average after the RNC, and eventually won 50.7 percent of the vote…

But even right now, the other three empirical findings suggest Romney’s chances are in jeopardy. Although the race is close by historical standards, it has been remarkably stable and remarkably clear: Romney has never led in the RealClearPolitics average and, no, a candidate has not won the presidency without holding a lead in the polls by early September. If Obama approaches fifty percent of the vote, as Gallup and Rasmussen suggest, that would clearly repudiate the view that a majority of voters are unwilling to reelect the president, which is the entire basis for Romney’s case for a come-from-behind, Reagan-esque sweep of undecided voters.

In that sense, 2008 is very different than 1980. Yes, Carter took a lead after his convention. But Carter never strayed far from 40 percent, which should have been a sign that he wasn’t even close to commanding the support necessary to win reelection. In contrast, Reagan surged to fifty percent of the vote following his convention, mirroring his eventual finish…

This election’s unusual stability makes Obama’s potential movement even more significant. For two years, Obama’s approval ratings hewed within just a few points of 47 percent and the entire summer elapsed without any discernible movement toward either candidate. Romney wasn’t able to secure any post-RNC bounce, and Obama’s gains represent the first decided movement toward either candidate since Romney won the Republican nomination. Put differently, we now know there are voters open to voting for the president beyond the initial 47 percent he held in summer polls, but Romney has not demonstrated similar upside.

The fact that a president facing this economy seems to be in the driver’s seat (though, far from a sure thing) really is pretty amazing.  And, to stick with the driving metaphor, suggests to me that the Tea Party and friends are basically driving the Republican Party off a cliff in an election year that should’ve been theirs for the taking.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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