Commentary: Obama's Path to Victory Is Clearer

President Obama is riding high after the DNC and recent poll numbers give him a boost. A look at Obama's political landscape.

Posted: 09/10/2012 12:32 PM EDT
Commentary: Obama's Path to Victory Is Clearer

Mitt Romney is running out of time. His campaign had hoped to take off after he won the nomination. That didn't happen. Then he hoped to get a boost after his overseas trip. That didn't work out either. Next he hoped his selection of Paul Ryan would be a "game changer." Didn't happen. Then he put his hopes in the Tampa convention. That failed, too.

That leaves just one major opportunity for Romney -- the debates. But don't underestimate the former Massachusetts governor on this point. Romney is actually a better debater than a campaigner or public speaker, but he's hampered by his unwillingness to offer any specifics for how he would create jobs, balance the budget, or differ from the policies of George W. Bush. If he can figure out how to answer those questions convincingly, he has a shot. If he can't, he's toast.

Meanwhile, President Obama is riding high. The convention in Charlotte was a huge success. Michelle Obama wowed America with a soft sell on Tuesday. Bill Clinton made the hard sell on Wednesday. And President Obama closed the deal on Thursday.

As a result of the Democratic National Convention, Obama got a bounce in the polls that eluded the Romney campaign after his convention. The president's approval rating jumped to 52 percent in a Saturday Gallup poll, his highest rating since the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The number settled down to 50 percent on Sunday, but that still puts him in a position where an incumbent needs to be to win re-election.

Also over the weekend, a new Gallup poll showed Obama leading Romney by 5 points in a head-to-head matchup. A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Obama leading by 4 points. And even the Rasmussen poll, which tends to favor Republicans, showed Obama now ahead by 4 points, his biggest lead among likely voters since March 17.

What's worse for Romney is he's trailing in the key swing states that will decide the election. A new poll released on Sunday showed Obama ahead by five points in Ohio (50 percent to 45 percent), his largest lead since May, in a critical state with 18 electoral votes. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. And even in more conservative North Carolina, Obama has taken a slight lead in the latest poll from Public Policy Polling.

On top of all that, Romney is now losing the money war for the first time since April. Last month, President Obama outraised Romney, taking in $114 million compared to Romney's $111 million. That's still a lot of money for both candidates, but the new numbers put Obama in a strong position going into the final stretch of the general election campaign.

Then there's that jobs report that came out on Friday. Republicans were practically praying for bad unemployment news to undermine President Obama's anticipated post-convention bounce from the night before. That didn't happen. While observers were disappointed that job growth failed to meet expectations, some key silver linings helped to mitigate any significant damage to Obama.

The unemployment rate dropped from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent. Critics blame the drop on workers pulling out of the labor force, but the only number Americans will see and remember is a falling unemployment rate.  

Then there are a few other underreported facts that put the jobs numbers in context. August marked the 30th consecutive month of private sector job growth under President Obama, and the economy has now added 4.6 million new jobs. The jobs numbers were also the best August jobs report in six years, with 96,000 new jobs created. In contrast, the total number of jobs created in all August reports during the entire Bush administration (from 2001-2008) was actually negative 5000. That means Obama's August 2012 report beats all of Bush's August reports combined.

At this point in the campaign, unemployment numbers won't change the perception of the economy unless there's a dramatic shift up or down. That means the poll numbers we've seen reflect the public's perception of the candidates with 8.1 percent unemployment. And Obama is still leading.

None of this means President Obama is guaranteed to win re-election. And Republicans are still trying to block the vote, although they've been losing that fight in court battles lately. Ultimately, this race will come down to turnout on November 6. If Obama's supporters don't show up to vote in big numbers, he may still lose. But if they do turn out, he's the heavy favorite to win.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes political commentary for BET.com each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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