Last week some fellow editors and I were joking about how the media would spin the August jobs report. It seems one of their chief responsibilities during this campaign is to put a positive spin on any bad economic news. Its turns out, however, the jobs report was too awful to spin. For every job created, almost 4 people gave up and left the labor force. So, the media has struck a different tack: go ahead and just declare Obama the winner.
With the exception of John Kerry, every presidential candidate comes out of their convention with at least a modest bounce. The media are using Obama’s modest–and normal–convention bounce as a sign that his reelection is inevitable. They are treating the two conventions as equal propositions and, since Obama is leading national polls, he “won” the convention round.
It should be noted that, prior to 2008, the political conventions were usually a week or two apart, allowing the candidate whose convention was first to fully develop their bounce. Romney’s bounce, like Obama’s in 2008, was blunted by the immediate start of the other party’s convention. Coming out of the RNC convention in ’08, which was after the Democrats’ gathering, McCain had a five point lead and continued to lead through most of September.
But, there is a deeper problem with the media’s narrative that Obama is the favorite; the campaign is just getting started. Voters are coming out of the summer holiday season and only now beginning to pay attention to the campaign. The summer months were basically the pre-season, interesting to watch but not entirely reflective of who will win the season. Last year, the Redskins were 3-1 in the pre-season, but finished the regular season at a dismal 5-11, for example.
Moreover, for many voters the campaign pre-season was a one-sided conversation. Obama opened his war-chest and dominated the air war. His campaign spent more than it took in and enjoyed an around 4-1 spending advantage over Romney. The media lent a powerful assist by concentrating its political coverage on issues like Romney’s tax returns and social issues where Republicans are perceived to have a disadvantage.
And yet, even after this all-out assault and both party conventions, Obama leads Romney by two points in the RealClearPolitics average. His lead in Rasmussen and Gallup, whose polls are mostly post-conventions, is five points. Tracking polls of the battleground states, however, show the race essentially tied.
So, when the smoke cleared from Obama’s attack, Romney’s line still held. And, now, Romney can tap into a huge reserve force. The close of the conventions means Romney can now dip into his own general election war-chest. With considerably more cash-on-hand than Obama and the Democrats, he will never again suffer a campaign spending disadvantage. He may even be able to significantly outspend Obama for the duration of the campaign.
One could argue that current polling represents the high-water mark for the Obama campaign. He will no longer be able to dominate the conversation with voters.
In addition, Romney still has three powerful advantages, which the conventions did nothing to diminish. Over 60% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track. Romney, even now, continues to lead among independents. And a solid majority of voters trust Romney over Obama to better handle the economy. As long as Romney continues to lead on the voter’s top issue he will remain in a formidable position.
I realize it is something of a parlor game among conservatives to always anticipate electoral doom. Many people I know are subscribing to the manufactured media narrative that the election is slipping away from Romney. But, that’s like getting the ball on the 15 rather than 20 yard line at kick-off and deciding the game is lost.
The game has just begun. With about nine weeks to go, the race is very close, but Romney retains a strong edge.