The GOP convention is (finally) off and running followed next week by the Democratic gathering. With Obama and Romney closely matched at the start of these two quadrennial events, as they have been since Romney emerged as the presumptive GOP nominee, what should we expect poll number-wise once the final gavel goes down in Charlotte?
Post-convention bounces are often dissected for any hint that the character of the contest has changed. Yet, typically 5% has been about all a candidate can count on, and that advantage often quickly dissipates.
Don’t be surprised this go-around if the Romney and Obama bounces are even smaller. Simply put, there’s far fewer persuadable voters to reach. The “undecided” and “”those who might vote differently” groups now are about half the size of recent election cycles.
Part of the explanation has to do with the relative lateness of these conventions. The summer is practically over. Part of the explanation resides in the polarization that divides the electorate. Most voters have already picked sides. Part of the explanation is the result of limited network coverage for these increasingly staged events.
Nonetheless, the two conventions are important for Romney and Obama. Romney has to solve his likeability problem. Obama has to address why any shortcomings of his first term are likely to vanish if he is re-elected. And, both camps are keen on rallying their respective bases. Enthusiasm doesn’t show up in tossup numbers or poll bounces, but it is likely to determine who takes the oath of office in January.