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Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in Politics | 6 comments

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.

Go the link and read it all.

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  • The Obama campaign is now running very effective 47% ads in swing states. It’s pretty damning: instead of Joe Power Narrator (that generic political ad voice no one trusts anymore) you have Romney’s own voice portraying his haughtiness. It’s hard to ignore it.

  • The_Ohioan

    This is not a made up or taken out of context video. It is an actual speech and while I don’t think for a minute Mr. Romney doesn’t care about or wouldn’t work for the 47% should he be elected President, the tape showed that he wouldn’t expect them to vote for him and that he was reinforcing what his audience thinks of them. Whether he actually thinks of the 47% differently only he knows. He could be the right candidate for the wrong party. At any rate, if elected he would have no chance to do all the Mass. good things for the nation even if he wanted to.

    I think the 47% voter know that and will vote accordingly; the tape simply reinforced that for them as well. I still think this is the same game changer that McCain’s erratic response to the financial crisis was. But to underestimate the things money can buy from damaging ads to paying for scandal eruptions to voter suppression antics is to be foolishly unaware.

  • rudi

    listen to Jim Webb’s campaign speech in Virgina. he takes Mittens to task, many of the 47% are veterans who are OWED by their government. They aren’t leeches looking for a handout.
    This could put Virginia into Obamama’s camp.

  • Rambie

    The key reason why the 47% comment has been so fatal is because of the campaign Romney has run.

    He’s spent years trying to be all things to all people, shifting his position on one issue after another, trying to find some sweet spot that will get him elected. All along he’s been trying to give as few specifics as possible about what he’d do beyond ‘I’m not Obama.’

    So in the back of everyone’s minds—especially independent voters—has been this lingering question: “Who is Mitt Romney, really?”

    That tape gave us the answer. Clearly, an awful lot of people viewed it and though, “Oh—THAT’S the real Mitt Romney. And he’s kind of a jerk.”

    And that’s why, in a campaign that has seen the polls so stubbornly stuck around a 0-2% lead for Obama, we’ve seen this sudden break away from Romney. I don’t see much if any of it coming back.

    The above is quoting: Elvis Mittens from California at the 538 blog. I wish more comments were as eloquently written in such a calm adult manner. I don’t know who you are Elvis Mittens, but I applaud you.

    Well said sir or madam, well said.

  • ordinarysparrow

    the 47% was final knock out punch of 1 2 3 hammer….

    1st blow…Exclusive Republican convention that appealed to worst of human nature …they came out swinging in a way that set a tone of elitism without any real substance for change… ‘no compromise’, ‘unless you are for us we are against you.’, after the convention the 47% knew clearly they were not in the Republican camp…

    2nd blow…Inclusive Democratic convention…which appealed to the 47% and to people of this country that identify more with being consciously goodhearted rather than selfishly cynical towards their fellow citizens…it was also without any real substance for what can be done to move the U.S. from limbo..which leaves us with mere likeability for the next 4 years.

    3rd blow…The video… the previous two could not of been more instrumental in setting up the knock out blow…it was such a perfect set up i have wondered if the Democratic convention planners had access to the video prior to their convention?

  • slamfu

    Honestly in the last few days, my main concern is GOP election tampering with the actual votes in these swing states with Republican state officials doing the counting and registering.

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