Remember all that happy talk from the media last month that Obama had the election in the bag and debates wouldn’t really make a difference? In the real world, Romney trounced Obama in their first debate and has been gaining momentum in both national and state polls. Ahead of their debate tonight, Romney enjoys his biggest lead of the election in Gallup’s daily tracking poll of likely voters. Today’s tracking poll finds Romney 4 points ahead of Obama. The poll also finds that Romney has hit the critical 50% threshold, leading Obama 50-46.
Worse news for Obama, though, is that, in virtually every national or state poll, he continues to be stuck in the mid-40s. A general rule of thumb is that any incumbent consistently polling in the mid-40s is in trouble. Everyone knows the incumbent and has at least a general opinion of his performance. Once an incumbent fails to win the support of a majority of voters, it is very hard to claw his way back. When more than half the voters don’t support you, its hard to build a winning coalition.
Biden’s performance in his debate against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) last week clearly didn’t reverse the damage Obama did to his campaign in Denver. If anything, Romney’s momentum has increased since the VP debate. Obama needs a very clear and convincing knock-out tonight to blunt Romney’s growing support.
With only three weeks to go, momentum becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. One that increasingly points to a Romney victory in November.