Published for The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2012
It’s over. Gov. Mitt Romney’s statements last week about the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, followed by the release this week of a video of Mr. Romney at a May fundraiser, have brought the 2012 election to an early end
At least that is what you’d take away from some pundits. But this is a classic example of the commentariat investing moments with more meaning than they deserve.
Mr. Romney’s comments about Americans who don’t pay taxes were, as he admitted during a Monday press conference, “inelegant.” But every campaign has its awkward moments that the media magnify. Mr. Obama had his after saying on July 13, “You didn’t build that.” For a while thereafter, Team Obama could do little right. Then it passed.
This moment, too, will pass for Mr. Romney. More important, the past week’s events have not significantly altered the contours of the race. A month ago, Gallup had Mr. Obama at 45% and Mr. Romney at 47%. On Wednesday, Gallup reported 47% for Obama, 46% for Romney. A month ago Rasmussen said it was 45% for Mr. Obama, 43% for Mr. Romney. In its Wednesday poll, Rasmussen reported 46% for Obama, 47% for Romney.
Presidential races can look one way now but much differently on Election Day. In mid-September 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan 44% to 40% in the Gallup poll. By late October, Reagan had slumped to 39% in Gallup, while Mr. Carter had risen to 47%. Reagan won by nine points.