With less than 100 days before the election, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney should get a useful bump in the polls shortly after he announces his choice for a vice presidential running mate, if history is any guide.
Whether he settles on a predictable and safe choice – such as Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – or a more daring choice such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Romney is almost certain to get up to a five-point boost in his standing against President Obama, according to an analysis of Gallup polling dating back to 1996.
In a race so excruciatingly close, any minor advantage can help. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last week found Obama holding a modest 49 percent to 43 percent lead over the former Republican Massachusetts governor, a gap mirrored precisely in four other Journal/NBC polls over the last year. According to the latest Gallup tracking polling, Obama and Romney are deadlocked, 46 percent to 46 percent.
Over the weekend, Romney sought to beef up his modest foreign policy credentials by meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials while one of his senior foreign policy advisers said Sunday that Romney would support a unilateral military strike by Israel against Iran to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapon capability. At the same time, the Obama campaign held thousands of events across the U.S. aimed at mobilizing volunteers.
The final three months of the campaign will be heavily influenced by a number of events besides Romney's vice presidential choice. Those include the two campaigns running hundreds of millions of dollars worth of negative TV ads in 10 or so key battleground states, the two national conventions scheduled around Labor Day, three nationally televised presidential debates, one vice presidential debate beginning in early October, and four monthly Labor Department reports on the unemployment rate before Election Day on Nov. 6.
Almost every Republican and Democratic presidential nominee going back at least 16 years received a bump in the polls immediately after announcing his choice for vice president.
Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, saw his numbers jump by four percentage points after he picked Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in 2004. Four years earlier, then Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush enjoyed a three-point bounce after hand picking former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate. And then-Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas scored an extraordinary nine point bump after choosing former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp as his vice presidential running mate in 1996. That proved to be Dole’s high water mark in his unsuccessful campaign against Democratic President Bill Clinton.
Jeffrey Jones, managing editor of Gallup polls, said last week that vice presidential picks have generally proven to be an overall plus for a presidential nominee, regardless of party. “I think the dynamic is that it becomes the dominant news story and people look favorably on the presidential candidate for making the choice in most cases,” Jones told The Fiscal Times. “So that positive attention definitely helps.”