How Romney flipped Obama’s narrative

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows a huge shift in voter sentiment following the presidential debate. Last month, Pew had Obama leading Romney by 8 points among likely voters. Now, Romney leads with this group by 4 points.

This huge swing corresponds in part to a change in the extent to which self-identified Republicans and self-identified Democrats are represented in the samples. Democrats had a plus-10 advantage in the poll showing Obama ahead by 8 points. In the new poll showing Romney ahead by 4 points, Republicans have a plus-5 advantage.

Did the debate cause a huge number of voters to re-brand themselves as Republicans? Or was one or more of the two samples skewed towards a particular party (Democrats in the first case; Republicans in the second)? Perhaps the answer to both questions is “yes.”

Personally, I doubt that the debate produced a 12 point shift in voter preference. But I also doubt that it needed to in order for Romney to pull even or slightly ahead of Obama. A shift half the size of what Pew found would likely do the trick.

Although Pew may show an exaggerated swing, its findings are interesting nonetheless. For example, last month Romney trailed by 18 points among females likely to vote (56-38). Now, according to Pew, the two candidates are tied at 47-47.

I doubt that Romney ever trailed among women by 18 and I’m not convinced that he is tied now. But it’s easy to believe that the debate moved more female than male voters. For many months, Obama has been painting Romney as at “war” with women. Romney could barely have lived up to this billing if he had appeared for the debate disguised as Bluebeard.

And Romney appeared as anything but a monster. Although “womens’ issues” weren’t debated, the issues of most concern women — jobs, the economy, and health care — were. When Romney discussed them compassionately and knowledgeably, the carricature Team Obama had served up to women for months was largely erased within an hour.

Moreover, Romney enjoyed a huge advantage over Obama in terms of body language. Though few voters found favor with Obama’s facial expressions and downward gaze, I suspect that women were put off by it to a greater extent than men were.

Pew also shows that Romney also made huge strides with young voters. Among those 18-29 years old, he is now viewed favorably by 42 percent, up from 32 percent last month. By contrast, Obama’s favorability with this cohort has slipped from 65 to 58.

The shift is even more pronounced in the 30-49 year old group. Here, Obama’s favorability rating has slipped from 57 to 45, while Romney’s has jumped from 47-56.

Members of this group are old enough to have both feet in the job market and to have families of their own. But they are young enough in most cases to have no clear idea of what their future holds. Anxiety should be running highest within this age-band. Thus, it’s a group among which Romney should be beating Obama. Now, at least according to Pew, Romney is.

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