Was Romney’s 47% Comment a Major Campaign Blow?
Was Mitt Romney’s (in)famous comment about the 47% in the “secret” fundraiser video a major campaign blow? Nate Silver — who has a great track record in analyzing polls — this it was. He has an analysis but here are his key points:
After a secretly recorded videotape was released on Sept. 17 showing Mitt Romney making unflattering comments about the “47 percent” of Americans who he said had become dependent on government benefits, I suggested on Twitter that the political impact of the comments could easily be overstated.
“Ninety percent of ‘game-changing’ gaffes are less important in retrospect than they seem in the moment,” I wrote.
But was this one of the exceptional cases? A week and a half has passed since Mr. Romney’s remarks became known to the public — meaning that there’s been enough time to evaluate their effect on the polls.There’s a case to be made that they did damage Mr. Romney’s standing some.
He looks at data, analyzes it and then concludes:
By Sept. 17, the date when the video of Mr. Romney’s remarks was released and received widespread attention, the momentum from Mr. Obama’s convention appeared to have stalled (although not necessarily reversed itself). Mr. Obama led in the popular vote by 4.1 percentage points on that date, according to the “now-cast.”
Since then, however, Mr. Obama has gained further ground in the polls. As of Thursday, he led in the popular vote by 5.7 percentage points in the “now-cast,” a gain of 1.6 percentage points since Mr. Romney’s remarks became known to the public.
It’s hard to tell whether this recent gain for Mr. Obama reflects the effect of the “47 percent” comments specifically. But the most typical pattern after a party convention is that a candidate who gains ground in the polls cedes at least some of it back.
Instead, the more pertinent question seems not whether Mr. Obama is losing ground, but whether he is still gaining it.
What we can say with more confidence is that Mr. Romney is now in a rather poor position in the polls. In three of the four national tracking surveys published on Thursday, Mr. Romney trailed by margins of six, seven and eight percentage points. He also trailed by five percentage points in a one-off survey published by Fox News. The exception was Thursday’s Rasmussen Reports tracking poll, which showed the race in an exact tie, although that was improvement for Mr. Obama from a two-point deficit on Wednesday.
The overall story line, however, is fairly clear: Mr. Romney is at best holding ground in the polls, and quite possibly losing some, at a time when he needs to be gaining it instead. Further, it’s increasingly implausible for Mr. Romney to attribute the numbers to temporary effects from the Democratic convention. Mr. Obama’s probability of winning the Electoral College advanced to 83.9 percent in the Nov. 6 forecast, up from 81.9 percent on Wednesday.
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