If only Mitt Romney could have convinced Congress to muster the votes for a law moving Election Day to Sept. 1, there's a very real chance he could have walked away with this contest.
As expected, the Republican convention was good for a small boost in Romney's standing, bringing the race to a virtual tie in the polls. (Romney leads, well within the margin of error, for the first time since early August.) Now he has to hold that ground as attention turns to Charlotte.
Polls since August 5
Sources: HuffPost Pollster
Unfortunately for the challenger, there's a catch. The standard poll question asks something like, "If the election were held today, who would you vote for in the presidential election?" Polls create a snapshot of how the election might play out under present conditions. This envelope in time between the conventions will soon expire, and many more factors will materialize between now and Nov. 6.
The real test is where things will stand a week from today. If President Barack Obama can match even the small Republican bounce, he will be several points ahead pulling out of the conventions. That is why he is 62 percent likely to win in our prediction model, despite being slightly behind in the polls.
At the same time, his Thursday night speech will be followed immediately by a monthly jobs report release on Friday morning. This report could go either way, but we do not expect it to have a major impact on the race. The two parties and the media—including us—hold that there is diminishing impact of economic data at this point in the election cycle. Economists expect that the economy added about 130,000 to 140,000 new jobs in August. If the true value is anywhere near that, the cacophony of responses will cancel themselves out. If the number is significantly higher or lower, the impact could be meaningful.