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Poll bounces offer Romney camp a shot at vindication


If Mitt Romney were going to win this election, this is how he would do it.

Throughout the summer and well into the fall, the Republican nominee’s campaign dismissed handwringing over the candidate’s missteps and his inability to overtake President Barack Obama.

Their theory of 2012 has always emphasized keeping the race close enough heading into its homestretch, allowing Romney to use the debates and voters’ underlying frustration toward the economy to catapult past Obama.

And now, Republicans say Romney’s well-positioned to do just that.

The presidential candidates have descended into Ohio, a vital state – especially for Mitt Romney. If Romney loses that state, he will have to win six of the remaining seven swing states. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

Two new, national polls released this week showed Romney with the lead over Obama, an achievement the GOP hopeful had rarely managed this general election.

Gallup’s daily tracking poll showed Romney leading Obama, 49 to 47 percent, in its rolling average of respondents contacted between Oct. 2-8. That span of time includes both last Wednesday’s debate as well as last Friday’s jobs report, showing the unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8 percent in September.

The Gallup results followed a Pew poll released Monday and conducted entirely after the debate, which showed Romney leading Obama among likely voters, 49 to 45 percent.

Lynne Sladky / AP

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, waves as he arrives with his wife Ann at a campaign rally, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

“This is a campaign that’s never gotten too high when things are good, too low when things are bad,” Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters traveling with the candidate on Tuesday. “I think you can’t put too much stock in this idea of momentum. I think it’s a very elusive thing. We still believe that this is going to be a campaign that’s very close, and but we do see a lot of enthusiasm from a lot of our core supporters, and we do see a lot of undecided voters that are taking a new look at Gov. Romney.”

But if Romney were to sustain his burst from a successful first debate and beat Obama, it would represent a vindication of a strategy that’s been openly questioned in the media and among fellow Republicans for months.

During the worst moments for Romney – his opaque responses to the administration’s actions on same-sex marriage and immigration, his response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care, the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney’s tax returns and record at Bain, Romney’s error-riddled foreign trip, his quick response to a terrorist attack in Libya – its leadership maintained a zen-like confidence in Romney’s ability to win according to their gameplan.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior advisor for the Romney campaign, talks the current ground game for the GOP presidential candidate following his post-debate bounce in the polls.

"The public polls are what the the public polls are. I kinda hope the Obama campaign is basing their campaign on what the public polls say," Romney political adviser Rich Beeson told reporters a few weeks ago, when polls weren't treating the campaign as well. "We don’t. We have confidence in our data and our metrics ... I feel confident where we are in each one of our states. I have great faith in our data.”

Criticism peaked with the release of a surreptitiously-recorded video last month of Romney speaking in May at a fundraiser, at which he essentially dismissed 47 percent of voters, who he said were “dependent” on government.

“It seemed like people were ready to write the obituary. But the strategy has always been to never get too high and never get too low,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

President Obama's latest campaign pit stop was San Francisco while an invigorated Mitt Romney drew support in Virginia. Both candidates are striking hard on foreign policy after two national polls show a volatile race following last week's first debate. NBC's Peter Alexander reports.

But he acknowledged that Romney’s position had improved as a result of the debate: “We'd rather be sitting where we are today than we were two weeks ago.”

Of course, if Romney does execute this turnaround, it wouldn’t come a moment too soon. His campaign had also counted on Romney’s vice presidential selection and his nominating convention to move things in the Republican’s direction, though neither appeared to accomplish that goal.

The task now for Romney now involves sustaining the uptick in momentum he’s apparently received as a result of last week’s debate. Even if the bump for Romney is a temporary sugar high, the GOP hopeful now has his chance to convert this surge in energy into sustained momentum.

One of the biggest keys for Romney is to turn in two more solid debate performances on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, and hope that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan ably handles himself versus Vice President Joe Biden during their lone matchup on Thursday.

Will Mitt Romney's surge in national polling translate into gains where it matters – the battleground states of the Midwest – Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd reports.

The more significant – and practical – challenge for the Romney campaign involves erasing Obama’s heretofore advantage in most swing states. While national polls offer a good sense of the trajectory of each candidate’s momentum, the election is, after all, a race to 270 electoral votes.

To that end, Romney is heading to Ohio for the next few days to concentrate his efforts in the Buckeye State. He was set to make a joint appearance with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the trip.

Ohio is a particularly challenging state for Romney, whose personal approval ratings sunk over the course of the summer as the Obama campaign and supportive super PACs pummeled Romney over his private sector career, accusing him of having pioneered the practice of outsourcing during his time at Bain Capital.

Ohio’s status as a presidential kingmaker is well-established, too: no Republican has won the White House in recent history without the state in their column. Moreover, Obama would only need to win an additional 15 electoral votes from all of the remaining battleground states if he were to win Ohio, complicating Romney’s path to victory.

“Ohio is in play; it’s an important battleground state,” Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said this afternoon on MSNBC. “We feel that we have an enthusiasm edge working in our favor.”

To that end, another poll released Tuesday by CNN/ORC showed Obama ahead of Romney among Ohio's likely voters. The president would beat his Republican foe, 51 to 47 percent, if the election were held today.