Halfway Through the Trampoline Competition

After a brief but intense period of post-GOP-convention spinning by both parties, we’re beginning to see some actual data about the impact of the Tampa confab, and it’s reasonably clear it was small. Here’s Frank Newport of Gallup, an organization whose numbers have been very friendly to the GOP this cycle:

Last week’s Republican National Convention had a minimal impact on Americans’ self-reported voting intentions, with just about as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Mitt Romney as say it made them more likely to vote for him.

More specifically, the “net impact” as measured by the plurality of “more likely” over “less likely” voters was lower than for any convention of either party since Gallup started conducting “bounce” measurement polls in 1984.

Tampa’s Big Speech by Mitt Romney seems to have been a contributing factor to the small “bounce:”

Romney’s acceptance speech this year scored low by comparison to previous convention speeches going back to 1996. Thirty-eight percent of Americans rated the speech as excellent or good, while 16% rated it as poor or terrible. The 38% who rated the speech as excellent or good is the lowest rating of any of the eight speeches Gallup has tested since Bob Dole’s GOP acceptance speech in 1996.

The $64,000 question, of course, is whether the lack of post-convention movement was a product of the convention itself, or of an unusually polarized atmosphere and an unusually small number of undecided voters available to generate a “bounce.” If the latter is the case, then it’s reasonable to expect that the Democratic gathering in Charlotte will have a similarly muted effect.

There are two aspects of the convention timing that bear watching, however. The first is that to the very large extent the GOP convention (a) failed to present any cogent GOP agenda, and (b) relied for its negative case for “firing” Obama on wildly distorted misstatements about the incumbent’s record, then “going last” might have a bit more value than is usual. And the second is that the lack of a GOP bounce may indicate a fundamental inability of the Romney/Ryan campaign to make a plausible “sale” for the ticket despite exceptionally favorable external circumstances.

We’ll obviously know a lot more about the impact of the conventions a week from now. But halfway through the trampoline competition, it appears the challenger squandered an opportunity to “bounce” into a real lead.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.