Camp Romney issues sweetener as Obama edges ahead in polls

Pollster brushes off the President's four-point lead as he urges supporters to stay calm
  • @dusborne

A clearly anxious Mitt Romney campaign deployed its chief pollster yesterday to reassure supporters that signs of slippage behind President Barack Obama in the wake of both parties' nominating conventions is a temporary phenomenon – or a "sugar high" – that should not discourage them.

The release of a memo authored by pollster Neil Newhouse served to put Camp Romney on the defensive as the two campaigns began the last sprint towards election day on 6 November. The message seemed clear – keep calm and carry on, even as national tracking polls show President Obama sitting on a four-point lead.

"While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly," he wrote. "The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race."

Most worrying for the Republicans is state-by-state polling which, for now, indicates Mr Romney doing no better than a statistical tie in the eight or so vital battleground states with the exception of North Carolina where he enjoys a slight edge. In the vital state of Ohio, Mr Obama seems to be extending a lead. The small polling bounce for Mr Obama, fed apparently by the Democratic convention in Charlotte last week, which featured a widely-lauded speech by former President Bill Clinton, may not last. Even so, it is striking that it has materialised notwithstanding poor jobs numbers released after the convention closed.

"It's a paradox," the Harvard University historian Niall Ferguson, writes in the latest issue of Newsweek. "The economy is in the doldrums, yet the incumbent is ahead in the polls. According to a huge body of research by political scientists, this is not supposed to happen. On the other side of the Atlantic, it hardly ever does. But in America today, the law of political gravity has been suspended."

Fresh from his Charlotte triumph, Mr Clinton will campaign for the President today and tomorrow in Florida and later in Ohio. His philanthropic organisation, the Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile revealed that both candidates have agreed to speak at its annual conference in New York later this month.

The growing pressure on Mr Romney may also explain a partial row-back of his pledge to scrap Mr Obama's signature healthcare overhaul. The promise, repeatedly rehearsed at the Republican convention in Tampa, is red-meat to conservatives. But with an eye on undecided voters, he indicated that there are parts of the reforms that favours and would aim to keep in place.

"I'm not getting rid of all of healthcare reform," he told an interviewer, saying that once Mr Obama's programme was repealed he would replace it with his own. "There are a number of things I like in healthcare reform that I'm going to put in place. One is to make sure those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage."

Mr Obama spent all the weekend on a bus tour through Florida that included an encounter with a Republican pizza parlour owner who decided to show him some love with a bear hug that saw the Commander-in-Chief briefly lifted from the floor. "Man, are you a power l ifter or what?" he told Scott Van Duzer after an encounter that surely did not meet with the approval of his Secret Service detail.

Mr Obama's campaign also revealed yesterday that it had slightly outrun the Romney camp in fundraising for the month of August, raking in $114m. It was the first time it has raised more than the opposition since April.