The media dogs have been salivating for more than a week over the 'secret' videotape released by Mother Jones on September 17th showing Mitt Romney disparaging the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income taxes as 'victims' who are 'dependent upon government' and will support President Obama's reelection effort. Never mind that 40% of those freeloading moochers are Republicans, among them low income senior citizens, hard working, low wage workers, and valiant members of the U.S. military who put their lives on the line for all of each and every day. Never mind that more than 7,000 of those 47% are millionaires. No, none of that really matters. The statements by Romney mean one of two things: 1) Either it reflects his deeply held belief about people who vote for Democrats, in which case he's dead wrong, or; 2) It reflects the thinking of the millionaires he was appealing to for money, in which case he was simply doing what politicians do, pandering for money by telling an audience what they want to hear. In either case it is offensive but I'd like to think Gov. Romney was simply being a crass politician rather than an ideological idiot.
But, the bigger question is whether or not Romney's statement and subsequent scurrying to lessen the blow of the video will have any measurable effect on his share of the vote on November 6th. At this stage of the race I estimate that it might cost him a few votes among swing voters in some states. It is possible that the loss of those swing voters will be offset by Republicans and Republican leaners who are more likely to vote for him as a result, but that is far from certain. There is no state level evidence of any shift yet but there is some evidence of this from a new Gallup Poll showing that 44% of Republicans say they are more likely to vote for Romney in the wake of his comments than before the comments. Not that they were Obama supporters previously but more likely lukewarm towards Romney. Meanwhile, 29% of independents say they're less likely to vote for Romney as a result while 15% say they're more likely to vote for him, a net change of 14%. In a close election, that shift could be devastating. However, unless Romney doubles down on the comment it is likely to be all but forgotten by Election Day, though don't be surprised when it reappears in the debates next month.
Presidential Polling Aggregate--Six Weeks Out
The chart below reflects the latest national polls from reputable polling organizations. The polling data consistently shows the president with a lead in nearly every poll conducted since the Democratic National Convention. Some of this is likely due to convention bounce, though that typically fades away 2-3 weeks after the conventions so the polls reflect the actual state of the race. Yet, the presidency is not determined by the nationwide popular vote so these should be taken with a grain of salt. For a deeper state by state analysis see Nate Silver's 538 blog. As of today, the president is a 78% favorite to win a 2nd term according to Silver's model forecast. That's a tad bit higher than Intrade, the internet trading site that allows the purchase or sale of 'shares' predicting the outcome of many events. President Obama is currently a 72.7% favorite among the speculators there.
The truly amazing thing about this chart is that neither candidate has moved the polling numbers much since March. The first poll in the dataset is an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama at 50% and Romney at 44%. The last poll is an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released September 17th placing Obama at 50% and Romney at 45%. Six months of campaigning, mudslinging, seizing on out of context statements, and two party conventions has left the race pretty much exactly where it was in March. Will the next six weeks be any different?