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Has Romney Won Any New Voters? Does It Matter?

The latest NBC/WSJ poll shows a tied race at 47/47 among likely voters. Romney has picked up a couple of points and Obama lost a few since before the debates.

What’s fascinating, though, is that Romney’s support from all registered voters hasn’t budged. At all. Since January. 

Romney began the year with 43 percent support. In March it soared to 44 percent, only to plummet to 43 percent in July and bounce back, with a vengeance, to 44 percent in August. And September. And October . . .

Obama began the year with just 49 percent support and in these last weeks before the election finds himself plummeting all the way down to . . . 49 percent of the vote.

Check out this visual:

It appears that Obama might have gained some votes going through September, when John Sides shows Obama’s dominance in the ad wars at a peak.

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Obama caught a slight bounce after the summer, but the debate debacle brought him back to where he began. And Romney’s vote has moved more than a point up or down.

All that’s really moved in the NBC/WSJ poll is the “likely voter” population. Combined with the ad war PocketTrial™ experiment that we ran, it seems this is a fundamental aspect of the race . . . Romney is at a disadvantage when it comes to shifting vote preferences, but at an advantage when it comes to shifting enthusiasm. 

From my new piece at Forbes:

The impact on vote preferences looks grim for Mitt Romney. Obama’s ads drive up support for the president and drive down Romney’s support. Romney’s ads, however, don’t move swing voters.

But winning an election isn’t just a function of who pulls in more undecideds. Many are marginal voters who won’t show up on Election Day. That’s why polls now use a “likely voter” screen, which considers voter enthusiasm and other questions to determine whether a respondent is likely to turn out to vote.

On the “likely voter” front, Romney is winning the ad war. Our experiment found that both the Romney and Obama ads increase enthusiasm among likely Romney voters, but not Obama voters. Romney’s ads are impacting marginal, decided voters, increasing the likelihood that voters who say they prefer him will actually turn out to vote.

The open question is whether Obama can get those few points of marginal voters back to his side and to the polls Election Day with his advertising impact. And will it outweigh the boost in enthusiasm on Romney side?

You can hear more here in an interview on the state of the race.