After the Republican National Convention, the pundit consensus was that Mitt Romney "did what he had to do." After the Democratic National Convention and three tracking polls showing a significant bounce for President Obama, the pundit consensus has shifted, to "Actually…" and "On second thought…" Monday has brought other bad news for Romney: Obama raised more money in August, after Romney had outfundraised him for three months straight. And some conservatives are not just pessimistic about Romney's campaign but about the American electorate's perhaps permanent greedy immorality. Here's an overview of how the doom set in.
Gallup, Reuters/ Ipsos, and Rasmussen have all found a 4 to 5 percentage point bounce for Obama after the DNC. In Gallup's seven-day tracking poll -- meaning some of the interviews included happened before the DNC began -- Obama is leading 49 percent to Romney's 44 percent. Rasmussen finds Obama leading Romney 49 percent to 45 percent. The Reuters/Ipsos four-day tracking poll finds Obama leading 47 percent to 43 percent.
Another factor that makes those numbers more interesting: Rasmussen is a right-leaning pollster. And this election, the racial makeup of Gallup's polling sample has tended to be more white than the population at large. As Mark Blumenthal explained at The Huffington Post, that's meant that Gallup has found Obama's approval ratings to be slightly worse than other pollsters. Romney's campaign expects only 74 percent of the electorate to be white, but Gallup has shown a higher percentage of whites.
Other polls have posted findings the Obama campaign will like. 61 percent of likely voters think the election is a choice between Romney and Obama -- what Obama wants -- rather than a referendum on Obama's first term -- which is what Romney wants -- according to a poll by The Hill. (On the other hand, a majority say their view of Obama has gotten worse over the last four years.) And in the eight to ten swing states that will decide the election, Romney has a lot of ground to make up. The Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling finds Obama beating Romney in Ohio by 50 percent to 45 percent. The only swing state where Romney is beating Obama is North Carolina. Pennsylvania looks pretty solid for Obama. "Their map has many more routes to victory," a "top Republican official" told Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen.
Aside from numbers, another way to figure out the state of the race is to look how conservatives are explaining Romney's standing to themselves. Some are optimistic. Others are apocalyptic. Some reasons offered:
- Romney is too wimpy. "When a challenger merely appeals to disappointment with the incumbent and tries to reassure voters he’s not too bad an alternative, that isn’t generally a formula for victory… It’s not enough to float like a butterfly. You have to sting like a bee. No sting, no victory," The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol writes.
- Romney is too wimpy because he doesn't want to be called racist. "They're afraid to attack him, they don't want to be called racist, because any time you say anything bad about Obama, you get called a racist," birther king Donald Trump said on Fox News Monday.
- Romney is a Democrat Lite. The National Review's Andrew McCarthy says, "It has always been possible to run against elite opinion and win — if you make a compelling counter-case. Today’s Republicans do not...Their argument is not that the welfare state, deficit spending, federalized education, sharia-democracy promotion, and the rest are bad policies. Their argument is not that Washington needs to be dramatically downsized. It is that progressive governance is fine but needs to be better executed."
- Ann Romney didn't humanize her husband enough. "The more you think about what could have improved the convention outcome for Romney, the more salient this piece seems," the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus tweeted, linking to a Daily Beast story saying Ann Romney should have offered much more explicit details about how her husband helped her through MS.
- Americans are hooked on welfare. "My father, the least cynical of men, used to quote a political philosopher to the effect that democracy will work until people figure out they can vote themselves money. I fear that time may have come," John Hinderaker writes at the conservative blog PowerLine. "I am afraid the problem in this year’s race is economic self-interest: we are perilously close to the point where 50% of our population cares more about the money it gets (or expects to get) from government than about the well-being of the nation as a whole."
Finally, a third way to understand how the conventional wisdom has shifted is to look at the ways people are suggesting Romney could turn the race around. Both Time's Mark Halperin and The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll seem to have less faith that Romney can turn things around on his own than that God will intervene and offer the Republican a gift.
Halperin says a "major Obama gaffe," some better poll numbers, or "some sort of economic crisis could turn the race around." Carroll, one of the more optimistic conservative bloggers Monday morning, suggests Romney could be saved by showing "he is a human, likeable and competent guy" in the debates, plus another bad jobs report and a whole bunch of Republican attack ads.