Good post-debate numbers for Obama but will it last?

The first quick polls after the debate last night pointed to a victory for of Barack Obama against Mitt Romney, 46 per cent to 39 in the CNN survey, 37 per cent to 30 of CBS’s survey and 48 per cent to 31 in the Google Consumer Surveys among registered voters.

It was a new Obama that showed up last night, compared to the Denver debate two weeks ago: tough, aggressive, committed, concentrated, eloquent. Unlike in Denver, Obama did not give way on a single point, constantly counterattacking and repeatedly stating that what Romney said was not true.

You could almost hear the sigh of relief among Democrats. It was a new ball game. The strangely absent president in Denver was a distant memory — “Obama was back!”

Romney was also clearly not as strong as in the first debate, forced on the defensive by Obama’s unwillingness to budge an inch. Several of his answers, on tax policy and women’s issues, but especially on Libya, were weak. On Libya, Romney had to stand corrected by the moderator as to what the president said after the deadly attack on the American consulate.

In addition to these first positive poll numbers for Obama, the fact that the media almost unanimously pointed to Obama’s strong debate will greatly influence public opinion in the next days.

Conclusion: Obama seems to have regained the initiative in the election campaign after the Denver debacle. The question is how much will the debate move the head-to-head polls between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama?

Nate Silver has a warning on his FiveThirtyEight blog:

“Actually, the instant reaction polls may not be very much help in answering that question. The relationship between the quick-reaction polls and their contingent effect on the horse-race polls has historically been very modest, and has sometimes even run in the opposite direction of what the initial polls suggested. Debates sometimes look different in the rear-view mirror, depending on news media coverage, YouTube and cable news highlights, word of mouth, and subsequent developments on the campaign trail. “

He continues:

“But if you want my best guess: Throughout this election cycle, you would have done very well by predicting that the polls would eventually settle in at an overall lead for Mr. Obama of about two percentage points.”

Silver now puts Obama’s chances to win the election at 64.8 per cent, while the betting site Intrade sets the number at 64.9 per cent, up from 61.7 before last night’s debate.

The third and final debate will take place next Monday. It will be on foreign policy — Obama’s strength and Romney’s weakness — both of which were underlined again in the Libya debate last night.  That speaks to Obama’s advantage, but much can still happen as the campaign moves to a final decision on Election Day.

Obama’s second debate with Romney could decide the race

In view of the many ups and downs in the U.S. presidential election campaign lately — a disastrous performance by president Obama in his first debate with Mitt Romney followed by an offensive rescue mission by vice president Biden in his debate with Paul Ryan — Tuesday evening’s second debate between Obama and Romney could be decisive.

Helped by Biden, who said everything to Ryan that Obama did not say but should have said to Romney, and who instilled new hope among despondent Democrats, Obama needs to step up and do well and, thereby, re-take the initiative and the lead in the polls that he lost after his debacle.

All indications are that the race has tightened and that Obama’s poor performance let Romney back in the race. But the polls also show that although the race is even nationally, it has not changed that much in the battleground states, particularly the key state of Ohio, where Obama still leads, although less so, by 2,2 percentage points according to RealClearPolitics. No Republican presidential candidate has ever won without winning in Ohio, so much depends on the Buckeye State and its 18 electoral votes.

The winner on November 6 needs a minimum of 270 electoral votes. In 36 of the 50 States, the outcome is already decided – Romney will win in 22 and Obama in 14. But since Obama’s victories will come in more populous state, he is ahead in the battle for electoral votes.

The outcome of the election will be decided primarily in nine states with a total of 110 electoral votes.FiveThirtyEight, the New York Times blog, recently described the situation in these nine states as following: Colorado (9) even; Florida (29) even; Iowa (6) leaning toward Obama; Nevada (6) leaning toward Obama; New Hampshire (4) probably Obama; North Carolina (15) probably Romney; Ohio (18) leaning toward Obama, Virginia (13) even; and Wisconsin (10) probably Obama.

On the betting site Intrade, 62.8 percent predict an Obama victory. Let’s see what they say after Tuesday’s debate!

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.

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.

Mitt Romney’s “disastrous” foreign trip: son like father?

Mitt Romney is back from his foreign trip to London, Israel, and Poland, a trip that is generally considered to have been a “disaster.”

Romney managed the impossible, writes veteran Michael Hirsh in National Journal, who cannot think of anything like it since the father, George Romney, came home from Vietnam and said that the U.S. military there had “brainwashed” him. That spelled the end of George Romney’s presidential candidacy.

The question now is whether Mitt Romney’s candidacy is heading towards the same fate as his father’s did. His “gaffes,” described in detail by John Cassidy on his blog in The New Yorker, will likely not have the same impact. But it is clear that Romney’s foreign trip has not strengthened his presidential candidacy, and it will be interesting to see if and how this is reflected in the next polls.

Already before the trip, the latest figures today from Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News show that Obama has strengthened his position in key states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Obama’s lead in Pennsylvania is very large, 11 percent, while the lead in the other two is 6 percent.

Oh, those Danes…still the most content

Oh, those Danes…they continue to be the most satisfied with their lives in the whole world, according to the recent worldwide Gallup survey on quality of life in 146 countries. Denmark has had the top spot since 2009.

On average, Gallup asked 1,000 people in each country and divided the responses into three categories, “thriving,” “struggling,” and “suffering.”

Seventy-four percent of the Danes said they “thrived,” according to Gallup, followed by Canada and the Netherlands with 66 percent, and Sweden and Israel with 65 percent. Of the world’s largest countries, the United States landed on 12th place with 56 percent sayng that they thrived, while the numbers for Russia and China were only 22 and 18 percent, respectively.

In 87 countries, less than one quarter of the population said they were satisfied, with Cambodia in last place with 2 percent. In Europe, only 5 percent of the Bulgarians said they thrived. Numbers were also low in Italy (23 percent), Greece (16 percent), and Portugal (14 percent).

The biggest positive change since 2010 has taken place in Ghana, where those answering that they now thrived had increased by 19 percent, while the largest negative change occurred in El Salvador, minus 22 percent.

Romney can expect a big victory in Florida

The uncertainty and excitement are gone ahead of tomorrow’s Republican primary in Florida. All opinion polls have Mitt Romney in the lead, some by as much as 20 percent, and political statistician Nate Silver on his blog FiveThirtyEight writes that Romney has 97 percent chance of winning and is expected to capture nearly 45 percent of the vote.

So, a big victory for Romney, according to Silver, well ahead of Newt Gingrich’s 29 percent, Rick Santorum’s 13 percent, and Ron Paul’s 11 percent.

If Silver’s predictions come true, Gingrich will have serious difficulties to continue his campaign. He is already short of money and a big loss in Florida will make it much more difficult to raise more funds, while the situation for Romney would be the exact opposite.

Romney is also the favorite in most of the contests in February — in Nevada and Arizona because of their substantial Mormon populations, and in Michigan because Romney was born there and his father was once its governor.

The road ahead for Gingrich after the expected loss in Florida tomorrow is not easy. However, he has already said he intends to continue until the party convention in Tampa, Florida this summer. But we have heard such declarations before during this campaign, and they have often been followed by a somber press conference with the candidate giving up and going home.

The two remaining candidates, Santorum and Paul, have barely campaigned at all in Florida, and it is hard to understand why they are still in the race, other than to continue to promote their ideas and to make PR for themselves. For Santorum, there might also be with something else in mind, such as a cabinet post if Romney beats Obama, or another attempt to represent Pennsylvania again in the U.S. Senate.