The days after Hurricane Sandy brought a small bump in President Obama’s numbers against Governor Romney and in job approval. This was easily explained by the positive television coverage Obama received about his initial statements on relief efforts and with his flyover of New Jersey with Chris Christie.
But the underlying reason for Obama’s small bounce was his movement among independents. In all of the tracking polls, Romney saw his lead with independents shrink from double digits to just about even. On Saturday, the Washington Post tracking poll showed a tie, and Rasmussen dropped to just a three-point advantage for Romney. For the most part each candidate has held their base steadily, but Romney’s lead with independents had explained how he could remain tied or leading with polls showing high Democratic turnout.
Over the last few days the independents have been returning back to Romney, however, indicating that the final vote Tuesday might revert back to polling from the days just before Sandy made landfall. Rasmussen has seen Romney’s lead with independents jump from three points to fifteen. The Washington Post tracking poll moved from a tie with independents on Saturday to a three-point lead for Romney on Sunday.
In the national non-tracking polls, Romney has continued to enjoy leads with independents as well. The Pew poll taken in the days after Sandy has Romney up three among independents while the NBC/WSJ poll released yesterday that showed Obama up one point overall has Romney up seven with independents. A CNN national poll released last night has a tied race, but Romney is up 22 points with independents.
One of the keys to victory for Romney tomorrow is to win big with independents. In 2008, Obama beat McCain among independents by eight points. If Romney wins independents by eight points this year, Obama’s win in 2008 drops from 7.2 points to 2.6 points, even with a repeat wave-election turnout for Democrats. If the crowds Romney drew in Ohio and Pennsylvania are any indication, GOP enthusiasm is going to surprise a lot of pundits tomorrow, and they should they erase the seven-point turnout advantage Democrats had in 2008. If both of those things happen, Romney is not only in position to win, but has a chance to win big.