AP poll narrows Obama lead to one point, 47/46

With the clock running out on Team Obama’s money advantage over Team Romney, the polls continue to look close — and perhaps edge more in Mitt Romney’s favor.  The latest poll from the AP shows the race at 47/46 for Barack Obama, a slight change in Romney’s favor from June, when the same poll gave Obama the edge at 47/44:

 For all the attention it got, Republican Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate has not altered the race against President Barack Obama. The campaign remains neck and neck with less than three months to go, a new AP-GfK poll shows.

Overall, 47 percent of registered voters said they planned to back Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November, while 46 percent favored Romney and Ryan. That’s not much changed from a June AP-GfK survey, when the split was 47 percent for the president to 44 percent for Romney.

“For all the attention it got”?  I’m not sure why the AP sounds as dismissive as this after only eleven days, especially since Ryan’s favorables in the poll are positive, although not overwhelmingly so:

After just over a week on the campaign trail, Ryan has a 38 percent favorable rating among adults, while 34 percent see him unfavorably. Among registered voters, his numbers are slightly better — 40 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable. Ryan remains unknown to about a quarter of voters.

Romney put the 42-year-old conservative chairman of the House Budget Committee on the ticket Aug. 11. The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Aug. 16-20.

The simple fact is that people don’t vote for the running mates in presidential elections.  They vote for the top of the ticket.  The choice of running mate matters as a test of judgment for the person at the top, not for a massive addition of heretofore-unrealized support.  The effect of adding Ryan will be measured over a longer period of time.  However, it’s clear that Romney didn’t damage his standing with the pick, which is really the only short-term dramatic reaction one would see.  Biden, by the way, is underwater on favorability in this poll 42/44.

The sample in this poll is also interesting.  The AP/GfK poll adds independent leaners into the mix, which produced a D/R/I of 47/41/16, or D+6.  However, they also offer a breakout that puts leaners back with independents in order to match it against other polls.  The revised partisan split is 31/23/30, for a D+8 and a serious undersample of Republicans. (They also have 17% that don’t fit in any of the categories, oddly.)  In June, when Obama had a 47/44 lead, the D/R/I was 29/22/33, very nearly the same.

Not much else has changed.  Obama’s approval is 49/49 after being 49/48 in June, with both strong approval and strong disapproval ticking up slightly.  Obama voters are slightly more certain of their vote than in June, but the two are otherwise even on that question.  The two candidates are in a virtual tie on who’s best to handle the economy (Romney up 46/45, a reverse from June), but Romney is up seven on the budget deficit, 48/41.

The economy gets low marks, but fairly consistent ones for this year at 24/65, slightly better than the 17/66 of June — but most of that gain is in leaners from the “neither good nor bad” camp. However, the percentage of people who think that the economy improved in the past month hit its lowest level in this series since October of last year, 15%, while those who think it got worse hit its highest level since August 2011, 25%.  That doesn’t bode well for Obama, especially since only 41% are optimistic about the economy over the next 12 months, and only 30% think that now is a good time to make major purchases, and only 27% expect the number of unemployed to decrease over the next 12 months.

A pessimistic electorate is not one that gives incumbents a second term.  After a summer of attempting to make Romney an irrational choice, the fall will look much different — especially with Romney’s fundraising advantage coming into play.