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Great Expectations?

TAMPA, FL -- How much of a bounce in the polls can Mitt Romney expect coming off his official acceptance of the GOP nomination this week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa? 

It depends on whom you ask in Romney World. Indeed, two Romney advisers have given two different answers to this question in the past month.

This morning on a campaign flight from Boston to Tampa, senior strategist Stu Stevens faced a question about the predicted bounce, and replied with these four words: "I have no idea."

Stevens attributed the uncertainty to the extraordinary nature of this convention, including the truncated program thanks to Hurricane Isaac, and the opening of the Democratic National Convention immediately following the upcoming holiday weekend.

"Of course, this convention is different because of the hurricane. I mean, conventions are different now. They’re much later now than we were having them. The way that you’re having back-to-back conventions."  

"We’ve never come into a convention after another campaign has spent half a billion dollars. Plus the outside groups. So I just think all bets are off about any kind of past performance being a predictor of the future," said Stevens, a veteran of multiple past Republican presidential campaigns. 

But on Aug. 10, at a briefing with senior staff and advisers to the Romney campaign, one top campaign official suggested that if history is any guide, Romney stood to gain more political ground from his convention than President Obama would from his. 

The senior Romney adviser cautioned that this convention would be unlike any in recent history because of how close the two conventions run to one another, but added that if history was a guide, Romney should get a substantially bigger bounce than President Obama following the two conventions.

Displaying a power point slide, the Romney adviser showed two sets of historical polling dating back to 1976, and explained:

"The incumbent averaged a minus-four on the ballot going into the convention and came out plus three. The challenger, because the challenger is less well known and not as well defined, came in at minus-four and came out at plus seven. So they picked up about 11 points. So the challenger picks up more points than the incumbent does, which makes sense."

"In terms of image, the incumbent's image on average before and after their convention went up nine points. The challengers image on average went up 18 points," the adviser continued, explaining that while it would be nearly impossible to get a good measurement on a possible Romney bounce before the DNC begins but that history seems to suggest, as the lesser-known challenger Romney could see a big swing in the polls after the convention gavels closed. 

"It just gives you an idea of potentially the convention should be of more benefit to Mitt Romney and our campaign than it will be to Barack Obama because Barack Obama is already pretty well defined," the adviser said.