Today Is Obama Voter Freak-Out Day

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2012 1:49 PM

Today Is Obama Voter Freak-Out Day

The long holiday weekend delayed the impact and soul-killing implications of Mitt Romney's poll bounce. Look! There's the Gallup tracking poll, which gives Romney a 49-47 lead! Look! There's the RCP average, which gives Romney his first lead since the summer! Look, there's the CNN Poll of Polls, which sounds legit, even though it includes the all-over-the-map American Research Group. It comes with this disclaimer: "The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error." Good enough for me.

Nate Cohn heads to the front of the parade route and tells us that alllll is wellllll:

While a persistent likely-registered voter gap isn't good for the president's chances, it's worth remembering that this is about the same difference that Gallup found at this point four years ago. As you can see, Gallup initially showed a 6 point gap between likely and registered voters, which shrunk to just a couple of points by Election Day.
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It's not in the nature of a Democrat to get optimistic about a presidential race. I remember panicky Democrats worrying about 2008 all through the last weekend, when no polling gave John McCain a chance to win. (Listen to the pre-election Political Gabfest at this site for a reminder.) And yet, in September, the successful Democratic convention and Romney's "47 percent" monologues gave them perfect confidence that they were beating Mitt Romney by miles. You saw it in SNL commentary, which mocked Romney and Ryan as fools who were blowing the election. You saw it on InTrade, a harvest festival of complete morons who buy stock in candidates based on what the polls say, then short it when the polls look bad, then get called geniuses, because there are blog posts that need cheap data, fast.

The Obama hyper-optimism never made sense to me. Mitt Romney's favorable ratings and issue ratings were cosmically low, because the Obama campaign's stated strategy—for 13 months!—was to make them low. The candidate was never going to show up to the debates as gaffe-prone and soulless as he seems when media pick the gaffes out of 30-minute speeches and circulate the awkward moments on YouTube. The anger at Obama's debate sleepwalk makes sense. But why were liberals so confident that their pre-debate lead was set in adamantium?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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