He leads Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by three percentage points in the latest Gallup and CBS News/New York Times polls, by five points in the Fox News poll, and by six in the most recent CNN poll.
The president also has moved close to or actually at a 50% approval rating in several recent polls (including conservative Rasmussen Reports) — a key threshold that often points to an incumbent’s re-election.
More importantly, the president has jumped ahead in some key battleground states that will determine the election. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed President Obama leading Romney by at least five percentage points in the three critical states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida. Romney needs to win at least two of them to secure an Electoral College victory.
Tellingly, Intrade’s online prediction market now shows the president’s odds of reelection at 66% – the highest since May 2011 and a huge spike from around 58% going into the convention.
Clearly the president had a bigger bump from his convention than Mitt Romney did from his.
President Obama didn’t make a great sales pitch for himself, but 37 million people watched his speech and he at least did a credible job. But former President Bill Clinton may have closed the deal the night before, saying: “No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”
He also attacked Republican policies with the kind of zingers President Obama could only envy: “We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”
Which brings us to the second reason behind the president’s surge: Mitt Romney’s poor performance since the RNC. Romney has gotten increasing heat, even from the Republican elite, for not being more specific about his economic plans. His premature criticism of the president in the early hours after the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya and his disastrous performance at a news conference the following morning didn’t make him look presidential — especially since Americans already have a favorable view of President Obama on foreign policy.
Finally, the economy, while not strong, is showing some improvement in housing and consumer confidence, while job growth has been tepid but not negative. Not great but maybe good enough, while Romney just isn’t cutting it. That’s the “secret sauce” behind the president’s latest surge.
Howard R. Gold is a columnist at MarketWatch and editor at large for MoneyShow.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardrgold and read his coverage of the 2012 election on www.independentagenda.com.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
Want to share your own views on money, politics and the 2012 elections? Drop us a line at email@example.com and we might reprint your views in our InvestorPolitics blog! Please include your name, city and state of residence. All letters submitted to this address will be considered for publication.