President Obama remains narrowly ahead of Mitt Romney and the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan has done little to help the GOP ticket, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal released Tuesday.
Obama’s 48 percent to 44 percent lead is little different from the 49-43 advantage he held last month, within the poll’s margin of error. The president has held a narrow advantage throughout the year in NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys, and the Ryan pick has given little “bounce” to Romney.
In fact, the poll showed 23 percent of people were “less likely to vote” for Romney because of the selection of Ryan, while 22 percent were more likely. In contrast, in September 2008, 24 percent said they were more likely to vote for Obama because of Joe Biden’s presence on the ticket, while only 16 percent said they were less likely. Back then, 34 percent of people said they were more likely to vote for John McCain because of Sarah Palin, while 25 percent said they were less likely. Among Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Biden and Palin, Ryan is the only recent vice-presidential choice who generated more opposition than support in the first weeks after his selection.
To be sure, the majority of voters (54 percent) said Romney’s pick of Ryan had not changed their vote.
In positive news for the Romney camp, Ryan’s selection has at least not yet damaged him among seniors, even as Democrats have highlighted controversial changes to Medicare that Romney and Ryan support. Among voters over 65, Romney has a 50 to 41 advantage, little different from the 52 to 43 advantage he held last month.
Obama remains ahead by more than 90 points among blacks and 30 points with Hispanic voters. In fact, the poll shows President Obama is beating his Republican opponent among black voters by a whopping 94 percent to 0 percent. (NBC and the Wall Street Journal survey about 120 black voters each month, and Romney usually gets only about two or three supporters among them. The fact that he earned zero of them is likely more chance than an indication Romney’s already low black support is actually zero)
At least so far, the Ryan selection has not altered the basic dynamics of the race: Obama has large leads among minorities and voters between ages 18 and 34, while Romney is ahead among older voters, white men and white women.
The stability of Obama’s lead points to a major challenge for Romney. His selection of Ryan over more conventional choices, like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, was an attempt to shift the dynamics of the race and chip away at Obama’s advantage. The vice-presidential selection, each party’s conventions, when millions of voters start tuning into the campaign for the first time, and the presidential debates are traditionally the biggest moments in each campaign, the times when candidates can gain or lose a few points.
If the Ryan pick has not at all moved the numbers, it puts even more pressure on Romney to persuade voters at the GOP convention in Tampa next week or in the debates. It also suggests that the electorate may have few swing voters left, and that Romney will have to win nearly all of them to reach 50 percent of the vote, as Obama is near 48 or 49 percent in most surveys.
At the same time, Obama still faces challenges. The poll found 49 percent of Latinos rated themselves as “very interested” in the election, compared to 82 percent of blacks and 68 percent of whites, suggesting Latinos may not vote in high numbers. (The high energy among blacks, while important, may not change the dynamics of the election much. Obama must have sky-high support among blacks to overcome expected losses among whites) Obama still only has about 40 percent of the white vote, compared to 43 percent in 2008.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr