With 4 weeks to go until the 2012 presidential election between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the challenger has pulled ahead in the Real Clear Politics national polling average for the first time. A successful and powerful debate performance had Romney’s favorability ratings skyrocket with nearly every voting demographic. Data for the battleground states show Romney making gains and taking leads across the board. But with four weeks to go, we take a look at how Romney can sustain this momentum throughout the final stretch of the campaign and prevent President Obama from re-seizing the momentum.
Ryan VS Biden
By the time vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan takes on VP Joe Biden on October 11, the talk about Romney’s dominating debate performance will have mostly faded from the headlines (but not necessarily the voters’ minds). Ryan enters the debate in a similar situation as Romney did a week earlier, and he has a clear shot at capitalizing on the moment. Most people have an opinion about Ryan, but few have probably ever seen him in action. Unlike in the first presidential debate, polls have shown that Ryan is expected to beat Biden. But this probably has more to do with people knowing Biden’s limitations than actually having a strong opinion on Ryan.
Paul Ryan has the opportunity to do exactly what Romney did in his first debate and impress voters with his passionate grasp of the issues. The talk-show-like setting of the VP debate will likely fit the Republican’s personality and Ryan has been one of the most media-engaged presidential ticket candidates ever. He has done over 150 interviews with reporters since being named the VP nominee, so he probably needs little preparation. Biden for the most part has had little-to-no contact with the media and has the less-desirable task of slowing down and trying to reverse the Republican ticket’s momentum. If Ryan can turn heads here, it could be another week of headline gold for the conservative ticket.
Early Vote Operations
During the Republican primary, Mitt Romney made the installation of a strong early voting operation a key component of his campaign. As the date of each primary approached, Romney had already built healthy leads going into the final day in states like Florida, Michigan, and Arizona. It made it nearly impossible for his opponents to catch-up, and Romney won many early-voting states with ease. This is also what President Obama did so successfully against the highly under-funded McCain campaign in 2008. Obama ran up the score with first time voters and by election day it was almost impossible for McCain to catch up.
Early voting starts in different states at different times, but perhaps the most important state of all started early voting just as Romney saw his surge in the polls. Ohio began letting residents vote early by absentee ballot in the beginning of October, and will allow voters to cast ballots throughout the month. Both campaigns will likely be focusing heavily on the ground game during this time. One Romney advantage with early voting in Ohio is they have a lot more time to cover portions of the state that vote Republican and might be mostly ignored by Democrats, who would have less to gain in a statewide race for votes.
Rock the Final Debates
Given the excitement that was known as the first debate, expect interest to increase for the final debates. Obama and his allies have let the excuses fly for his supposedly “uncharacteristic” performance. Voters will turn in to see if Obama rebounds, or if the candidate who showed up before is just who the candidate is. As polls have turned against him, the expectations are now on Obama to win the debate and do better than the first debate, and by a long-shot. By the time the second debate rolls around, Obama might not be able to play for a tie.
As for Romney, he has remained strikingly consistent through all of the debates he has been in. Romney would love to go for a knock-out punch, and if Obama fails to match Romney once again, it could tilt the race permanently in Romney’s favor.