For the first time in months, presidential campaign polling is beginning to indicate a break in the deadlock between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. A series of recent polls, following the two party conventions, have indicated Obama has the edge both among voters nationwide and in key swing states.
A new CNN/ORC International survey shows Obama leading Romney 52 percent to 46 percent among likely voters, up from a 48-48 tie in a similar poll taken after the GOP convention but before the Democratic convention in Charlotte.
Another new poll, conducted by The Washington Post/ABC News puts the race closer, with Obama leading by just one-point among likely voters. However, Obama leads 50 percent to Romney's 44 percent among registered voters. That means the Democrats have a lot to gain by maximizing turnout.
On Monday, a pollster for the Romney campaign sought to dissuade reporters from making too much of the slightly changing dynamic.
"Don't get too worked up about the latest polling," wrote Neil Newhouse, in a memo distributed to the press. "While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly. The reality of the Obama economy will reassert itself as the ultimate downfall of the Obama Presidency, and Mitt Romney will win this race."
It is very likely if the polls are reflecting a convention bounce for Obama, his lead will dissipate in coming days. But the Romney campaign should be worried about other factors, including improving economic optimism and Obama's narrow advantage in the swing states that will determine the election.
According to Gallup, economic confidence jumped up 11 points over the previous week, marking an unexpected burst in optimism, particularly in light of a poor monthly jobs report last Friday. And compared to February 2009, about when Obama first took office, there has been marked improvement in key economic factors such as satisfaction with the direction of the country, belief that the standard of living is getting better and the job creation index.
"The most substantial gains on these measures mainly occurred early in [Obama's] administration, with trends mixed since then, particularly the downturn on all measures in the late summer and early fall of 2011 during the debt ceiling crisis," wrote Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief, on Tuesday in a release accompanying the survey results.
"The two measures that show more straightforward gains during the Obama administration are the Job Creation Index, which has risen fairly steadily from a -5 when he took office to today's +19, and the standard of living measure, which has gone from 35 percent who say their standard of living is getting better to 48 percent today," he wrote.
Newport added that while Obama's job approval rating, another important predictor when it comes to re-election, has hovered in the mid-40's for much of his term, it improved to 50 percent following the convention.
RealClearPolitics.com swing state polling averages show Obama with the slight edge in Colorado, Florida Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. The website shows Romney with a slight lead in North Carolina and the two candidates tied in Iowa.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.