Political Animal


September 03, 2012 10:35 AM Halfway Through the Trampoline Competition

By Ed Kilgore

After a brief but intense period of post-GOP-convention spinning by both parties, we’re beginning to see some actual data about the impact of the Tampa confab, and it’s reasonably clear it was small. Here’s Frank Newport of Gallup, an organization whose numbers have been very friendly to the GOP this cycle:

Last week’s Republican National Convention had a minimal impact on Americans’ self-reported voting intentions, with just about as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as say it made them more likely to vote for him.

More specifically, the “net impact” as measured by the plurality of “more likely” over “less likely” voters was lower than for any convention of either party since Gallup started conducting “bounce” measurement polls in 1984.

Tampa’s Big Speech by Mitt Romney seems to have been a contributing factor to the small “bounce:”

Romney’s acceptance speech this year scored low by comparison to previous convention speeches going back to 1996. Thirty-eight percent of Americans rated the speech as excellent or good, while 16% rated it as poor or terrible. The 38% who rated the speech as excellent or good is the lowest rating of any of the eight speeches Gallup has tested since Bob Dole’s GOP acceptance speech in 1996.

The $64,000 question, of course, is whether the lack of post-convention movement was a product of the convention itself, or of an unusually polarized atmosphere and an unusually small number of undecided voters available to generate a “bounce.” If the latter is the case, then it’s reasonable to expect that the Democratic gathering in Charlotte will have a similarly muted effect.

There are two aspects of the convention timing that bear watching, however. The first is that to the very large extent the GOP convention (a) failed to present any cogent GOP agenda, and (b) relied for its negative case for “firing” Obama on wildly distorted misstatements about the incumbent’s record, then “going last” might have a bit more value than is usual. And the second is that the lack of a GOP bounce may indicate a fundamental inability of the Romney/Ryan campaign to make a plausible “sale” for the ticket despite exceptionally favorable external circumstances.

We’ll obviously know a lot more about the impact of the conventions a week from now. But halfway through the trampoline competition, it appears the challenger squandered an opportunity to “bounce” into a real lead.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Varecia on September 03, 2012 10:51 AM:

    Based on the News Hour's focus group's responses, they weren't satisfied that they heard any real substance to Romney's speech. But it also could have been that chilling moment when viewers saw an old rich guy look at the audience of old rich folks and tell them with a vengeance, "We OWN this country!"

  • Ron Byers on September 03, 2012 10:53 AM:

    My question is what does the press assume these the external conditions are extremely favorable for Romney.

    The economy, while not great, has been steadily improving over the last 2-3 years. (We are about due for a recession, but none is in sight.) The President is well liked. He hasn't committed any major blunders.

    There is a reason Mitt Romney is the GOP candidate. His competition was made up of clowns on book tours. The other professional politicians took 2012 off waiting for 2016 when conditions might actually be favorable for a change agent.

  • bleh on September 03, 2012 10:53 AM:

    ...it appears the challenger squandered an opportunity to “bounce” into a real lead.

    Sorry, but I disagree, because I don't think such an opportunity existed.

    I buy the "polarized electorate" theory, which means (1) no bounces, and (2) a strategy focused on (a) maximizing turnout among your own base and (b) depressing turnout among the other guy's. The latter in turn suggests an intensely negative campaign on the part of the Republicans -- lies, hatred, and outright viciousness aimed at turning off potential undecideds and restricting turnout to the hard core.

    They can spend their general election money now, and that no doubt means carpet-bombing the swing states with ads. The tone of those ads -- beginning during the Democratic convention -- will be telling, and I will be surprised if they are not extremely negative.

  • sjw on September 03, 2012 11:00 AM:

    If Obama can make a good case for himself in Charlotte, with lots of specifics about what his second term would look like (along with pointed specifics as to what a Romney presidency would look like), then we might well see a Democratic bounce. (Andrew Sullivan made a somewhat similar argument last week in his blog. In particular, he contended that Obama ought to embrace Bowles-Simpson.)

  • c u n d gulag on September 03, 2012 11:01 AM:

    The poor, poor, Rebublicans.

    No bump.

    What more could they do?

    I mean, they threw every single stinking minority that they could find onto the stage in front of the TV camera's!

    All except that cross-eyed motherfecker, Ron Christie, who was too busy on cable TV shows, spinning his usual web of deceit and bullsh*t.

    Oh, and Michael Steele, who was another in a long line of persona's non-grata's.

    And they even had Hollywood represented there!

    And guess what - "The Man With No Name" didn't mention "The President With No Name" either.


    Poor W and Dick.
    No love for you boys.
    And after all you did to ruin this country!
    Still, no love...

  • Gandalf on September 03, 2012 11:07 AM:

    What I want to see and hear from a candidate is what they're going to do and how not just that the other guy is a dick and he's screwing up. What the american people want to see is a winner from american idol. Given that Romney and Ryan come off so tight that to quote a famous movie slacker if you stuck a lump of coal up their asses in two weeks they'd turn em into diamonds.

  • jcricket on September 03, 2012 11:40 AM:

    Why shouldn't the polls reflect no bump? The whole production was lame. From an apparantly drunken Reince Priebus to prominent speakers mentioning Romney only in passing, to Eastwood's awkward (nicest word I could think of) schtick with the chair. Romney didn't help matters when he spoke nothing but nostalgia for an America that only existed as a childhood memory, with none of the flaws of reality. Where was smart policy presented to the general public? This was the opportunity to make the case for their ideas.

    Only the kool-aid drinkers would think any of that was praise worthy.

  • schtick on September 03, 2012 1:46 PM:

    The only bump they got was from the liar's club which they own. If they would have gotten up there and at least had just a touch of truth about anything they said in their speeches, they might have seen people other than the ignorant rich and koolaid drinkers from Faux cheer.

  • Doug on September 03, 2012 7:51 PM:

    I saw a headline for a recent Pew poll which said that this year the majority of voters are more concerned about what's IN the platforms.
    I, stupidly, didn't click and read the article, but what I found interesting just in the title was the assumption that, usually, voters don't care what's in the party platforms! Now, IF the candidates are going to campaign on what's in the platform, giving speeches about how they're planning on putting the platform into effect, that doesn't matter.
    So, what are the Republicans going to campaign on? All they have is an empty chair onto which they can pile all their fevered imaginings about what President Obama has/hasn't done or will/won't do. That will ensure the base votes, but I really doubt its effectiveness with anyone else. They dare not run on their own platform or Mr. Obama and the Democrats will make 1936 look like a squeaker.
    So I'm going with lies, 24/7...

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