NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd, often one of President Barack Obama's biggest defenders and apologists in the mainstream media, conceded on Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Obama's internal poll numbers have shifted so dramatically for the worst that, if Obama has another poor debate performance, he may not be able to overcome his "deficit" in the polls.
Todd said something happened in the campaign after Romney decimated Obama during the first presidential debate, and there "has been a structural change" in the race, and the advantages Obama had in the battleground states are gone.
Todd said according to the "private data I have heard about," the race is tied and swing states like Florida, Iowa, and Colorado are trending toward Romney.
Todd said if Obama "doesn't show up" to Tuesday's town hall debate, he could face a deficit he may not be able to overcome.
Todd was nebulous about the "structural changes" in the race, but a new Politico/George Washington University poll spelled it out. After the debate, Romney has closed the likability gap with Obama, which had been Obama's greatest strength. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Romney while 44% did not. Fifty-three percent viewed Obama favorably while 45% did not. Last month, 49% viewed Romney unfavorably, and his likability score was underwater.
"Converting those who hold an unfavorable view into those who hold a favorable view is one of the hardest jobs for any campaign," Ed Goeas, the Republican pollster who was a part of the bi-partisan polling team wrote.
And yet, Romney was able to accomplish this difficult feat during the debate. According to the poll, 77% of those who watched the debate thought Romney won and 34% of those surveyed said they were more likely to vote for Romney after the debate. Meanwhile, 25% of those surveyed said they were less likely to vote for Obama after the debate:
It is hard to see that the president had any positive impact at the debates with anyone other than his base. If the rest of the debates have a similar level of influence and impact, then Governor Romney might start to break away in this very tight race.
This analysis is consistent with Todd's comments, which can be seen below: