New polling released Monday by USAToday/Gallup shows Governor Romney taking a four point lead over the President in 12 swing states, including the crucial state of Florida. The poll also shows that the gender gap has closed, with Romney and Obama each garnering 48 percent of the women's vote among likely voters.
The new USAToday/Gallup poll is one of several recent polls that show Romney taking a narrow lead in Florida since his dominant debate performance October 3rd. The Real Clear Politics average of polls currently has Romney with a 2.5 point advantage over Obama. That includes on outlier poll that has Romney up 7 -- but also one poll showing Obama ahead by 1.
Romney's strong performance in the new polls is all the more striking because, prior to the debate, President Obama seemed to have a small but steady advantage. Again, looking at the RCP average, Obama led 11 of the 13 polls taken in the second half of September. His best poll during that period had him with a 9 point advantage.
The USAToday/Gallup poll also shows a shift among likely women voters. Earlier in the race, Gov. Romney's lagging success with women was seen as a major handicap, one that could be decisive. The new poll still shows an 8 point gap among likely women voters in non-swing states, however in the critical states that will decide the election, the race is tied with both men receiving 48 percent support from women likely to vote.
Much of the recent shift is certainly the result of the 1st presidential debate, watched by nearly 70 million people. However, it's also the case that President Obama had two other lackluster appearances just prior to this. He appeared on 60 Minutes juxtaposed with Gov. Romney on September 23rd. Romney's answers in that appearance were focused and crisp while the President sometimes wandered.
Obama also appeared on Univision September 20th and seemed to struggle with the questions. As Molly Ball points out, Obama was "unsteady, equivocating, lacking in forcefulness or punch" in all three events. This means his poor debate performance was not a fluke but merely revealed what was already the case, i.e. the President has been off his game for weeks. The consequences in Florida have been disastrous, and he is quickly running out of time to undo the damage.