Something has happened, but is it a turning point?

Something has happened after the Republican and Democratic conventions. There’s talk of a turning point, but I am not sure about that.

It is clear, however, that President Obama has expanded his lead over Mitt Romney in all the polls. In the latest Gallup, for example, Obama has increased his lead from 47 to 46 percent before the conventions to 50 to 44 percent now.

We don’t know if this new trend will hold, but nervousness seems to have increased among Republicans. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson in the Washington Post:

“With less than two months until the election, Romney is left with dwindling opportunities to reshape the dynamic of the race.”

No reason to worry, pleads conservative National Review in an editorial, in which it admits that Obama and the Democrats had a better convention:

“Romney is nonetheless in the hunt, and he may even enjoy the great advantage, in politics as in life, of being underestimated.”

And in today’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank describes a press conference with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, to which the party’s vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan belong, where Romney’s name never even came up. Not once. Symptomatic of Romney’s problems?

Even wise, independent political observer Charlie Cook at the National Journal points to a number of problems in the Romney campaign, which have resulted in a campaign that should not be this close with such a weak national economy.

So something has happened. Is it permanent? Probably not. There is too much left of the campaign and too much, like now in Libya, can happen. Meanwhile, all eyes are on October 3 and the first of three televised debates between Obama and Romney.

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Obama’s poll numbers up says Gallup

The first preliminary Gallup poll numbers are in after the two conventions, and the numbers are up for president Obama.

Obamas approval rating has jumped to 52 percent, the highest since May 2011, and he increased his 47 to 46 percent lead over Mitt Romney to 48 to 45 percent among registered voters in the election tracking.

The latest figures don’t include last night’s speech by Obama. They also don’t include today’s negative job numbers. By the middle of next week, we will be able to see if these new figures are a blimp or part of a longer, and for Obama,  positive trend.

A “bloviating ignoramus” upstages Romney’s victory

When Mitt Romney yesterday, through his victory in the Texas republican primary, reached the required 1,144 delegates to capture the Republican nomination at the convention in Tampa at the end of August, it was a victory without a victory speech, without fanfares and jubilation. He had defeated Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and all the rest after a hard and long campaign. And it was historic – the first Mormon ever to become one of the two major political parties’ presidential candidate.

One would think that to be worth celebrating, but it didn’t happen because Romney’s campaign had somehow, inexplicably and clumsily, planned it so that Romney was not even in Texas yesterday but at a fundraiser with multi-millionaire Donald Trump at his hotel in Las Vegas.

A more stupid strategy is hard to imagine, for it was Trump who got the attention, not Romney, by continuing to express his doubts that Obama was not born in the United States. Many questioned why Romney is even associating with Trump, now a leading spokesman for the totally discredited “birther” movement. Leading conservative columnist George Will was not pleased: who will vote for Romney because he is seen with Trump, this “bloviating ignoramus.”

Good question. This association, for someone who needs to make substantial inroads among independent voters to have a chance to win, can’t be conducive to that effort, and the Obama campaign will surely use this against Romney in the remaining five months to November 6.

Today, the race is even between the two candidates. Obama leads by an average of two percentage points over Romney and, according to Real Clear Politics, by 243 electoral votes to 170 for Romney. 270 are needed to win and the final victory depends on the 125 electoral votes in ten swing states, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In 2008, Obama lost in only of these ten states, Arizona and Missouri.

First debate tonight — where are all the candidates?

Tonight, in Greenville, South Carolina, the first debate with Republican presidential candidates will be held. But they are such a weak group that the debate might as well be canceled.

Of the five participants, only former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is potentially a serious candidate. The other, former head of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain, two libertarians — former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and Texas congressman Ron Paul, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, are not serious contenders.

All of the better known names — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann – are absent. None of them have yet to enter the contest full-heartedly. Some of them are sort of half the candidates, others are waiting. Their reluctance has increased the uncertainty in the Republican Party about who will be the party’s candidate against Obama next year. With growing uncertainty comes increasing nervousness.

Osama bin Laden’s death has not made things any easier for the Republican candidates, quite the contrary. Bin Laden’s death is a huge security policy success for Obama, perhaps the biggest victory in years for a democratic president, writes Dan Gonyea on National Public Radio’s website.

This week’s poll numbers also point to an upside for the president. The Washington Post / Pew Research survey increases support for Obama by 9 percent, from 46 to 55 percent. Other polls indicate smaller gains, as FiveThirtyEight reports in its analysis of the political mood in the country.

American voters now have a new perspective on Obama as a forceful foreign policy leader. However, that does not automatically translate into a victory next year. The economy is still too fragile and unemployment too high – those issues determine elections, not foreign policy. Remember: “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Perhaps this gives hesitant Republican candidates some hope, but it is also a fact that they now have an even more formidable opponent than they had just a few days ago.