What the Polls tell us one day before the first Presidential Debate

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-abortion President Barack Obama and Pro-life Mitt Romney

It’s amusing to watch President Obama’s media supporters try to figure out what exactly is the proper spin before tomorrow’s first presidential debate. For the most part they’ve settled on the Mitt Romney is so good a debater that Obama will be lucky to come within hailing distance.

This is, of course, intended to set expectations so high that no matter what Mr. Romney does, he will be said to have “failed.” Obama is actually quite good, in a passive-aggressive, how-dare-you-disagree-with-me? sort of way.

But there is one indisputable truth, I believe: for many Americans, tomorrow will be their formal introduction to a man whom they now largely know only by caricature. This means that if Mr. Romney is half as good Wednesday night as he was during the Republican primary debates, he will do just fine. He is cool under pressure which he will need when the media types asking their questions try to do a number on him.

So, with that as backdrop what are the polls telling us? More and more interesting.

#1. The latest CNN poll released Monday mirrors the results of a number of recent polls—Obama is ahead by 2-4 points. In this case, Obama is up 50% to 47% among likely voters. (Three weeks ago Obama was up 6 points.) “In the CNN/ORC poll, the national horse race stands pretty much where it was just before the two back-to-back party conventions in late August and early September,” CNN writes. Gosh, I thought Romney was so far behind he ought to have forfeited.

#2. As we’ve talked about umpteen times, if Romney is ahead among Independents (in CNN’s poll he is ahead 49% to 41%), the only way Obama can be ahead is if the pollster surveys more Democrats than Republicans. Let me be clear: that is acceptable, if there is any reason to believe that is who the electorate will be in five weeks.

At best you might conclude that slightly more Democrats than Republicans may vote in November, although that does not square with the greater enthusiasm Republicans have demonstrated for months and months. However there is NO reason to accept CNN’s partisan breakout: 37% Democrat, only 29% Republican, and 34% Independent. That is a greater Democratic advantage than they enjoyed in 2008!

#3. There are lots of possible explanations for why the “bump” Obama enjoyed after the Democratic National Convention has vanished—why his advantage has been halved–but they are all outside our single-issue focus. It could be as simple as what John Hinderaker wrote about at powerlineblog.com yesterday: Democrats were still oversampled in CNN’s latest poll but not as egregiously as before.

Three weeks ago, the “partisan gap” was Democrats +12. This time it was Democrats +8 and, surprise, surprise, Mr. Romney improves by 3 points.

#4. Fourth and finally, as Ed Morrissey noted, not only is Romney ahead among Independents (by 8 points) but more Republicans say they are voting for Romney (96%) than Democrats say they are voting for Obama (93%). Why is this critically important? Because every contested primary—regardless of party—means there are bruised feelings that must be soothed. That has happened and there is now every reason to believe Republicans are united behind Mr. Romney as the election enters the homestretch.

As we’ve written for weeks, (a) stay focused on the basics, (b) don’t believe the nonsense the increasingly partisan “mainstream media” is spewing, and (c) don’t be surprised in two weeks or so if we aren’t told, geez whiz, maybe this race really CAN go either way.

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