Over the next few days, we will no doubt see news stories trumpeting some poll or other purporting to show that President Obama’s disgraceful attacks on Mitt Romney’s years at Bain Capital have been effective. The problem, of course, is that many polls bounce around in a more or less random manner, so it will be easy to find one or two that look as though Obama is making significant gains. How meaningful they are is another question.
I follow Scott Rasmussen’s polling more closely than others, for three reasons: 1) his track record is as good as anyone’s; 2) he samples only likely voters, which most other pollsters don’t do until the last days of the campaign; and 3) he uses a consistent methodology so that his results don’t bounce around meaninglessly in response to the composition of the respondents on a given day.
So I have watched Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking poll with interest since the latest round of attacks began. So far, Rasmussen’s numbers don’t show that the Bain attacks have had a perceptible impact. As of this morning, Romney leads Obama 46%-44% among likely voters. Here is the history of the head-to-head matchup from January 2012 to the present:
The days since Obama launched his Bain attacks don’t look significantly different from those that preceded. Rasmussen explains how consistent his polling has been in recent weeks:
Over the past 20 days, the candidates have been within three points of each other every single day. During that stretch, Romney has held the advantage 11 times, Obama has been on top four times, and they were tied on five days. Over that 20-day period, the president’s support has stayed between 44% and 46% every single day. Romney has stayed in the 44% to 47% range.
It seems reasonable to conclude that so far, at least, the Bain attacks haven’t had perceptibly more impact than everything else that has been happening in the campaign on a day to day basis. Two caveats, however, are appropriate. First, Obama has spent an enormous amount of money attacking Romney in a small number of swing states. It is possible that state-by-state polling could show more impact from the Bain attacks in a particular state. Second, most voters who are undecided at this point are low-information voters. It often takes some time for campaign themes to sink into the consciousness of such voters, so it is possible that the effects of the anti-Bain campaign could appear over time.
For the moment, however, the Rasmussen data suggest that Obama’s Bain attacks have not been especially effective in the context of everything else going on in the campaign. More broadly, Obama has spent large amounts of money on attack ads; far more than Romney has spent. Romney has been raising money and has mostly been keeping his resources in reserve for later in the campaign. So, if one wants to be optimistic, it is reasonable to conclude that Romney is surviving Obama’s onslaught quite well so far. Obama’s strategy is to “kill Romney,” but at the moment, Romney is very much alive.
UPDATE: If you haven’t been following the comments to this post, you should. They are very interesting.