Is It a Bounce?

Let me start with the usual caveat that tracking polls are not only notoriously unstable; they are that way largely by design. What’s more, convention bounces are often ephemeral. But we’re beginning to see real signs of a significant bump for President Obama coming off last week’s convention.

Before looking at the numbers, I would make one point. Whatever we learn about an Obama bump, I think the bigger issue isn’t whether Obama got one but that Romney seems not to have gotten one. And he’s the one who needed it.Yes, the race is very close. But the one thing more striking about this campaign than the closeness of the race has been President Obama’s small but consistent lead.

Romney is the one who really, really needed the convention to shift the campaign conversation and start convincing undecided and tenuous Obama voters to switch to his side. That seems not to have happened. And that’s a big deal.

So, to the numbers.

Of the three current tracking polls, today we had: Gallup O+4, Ipsos O+4 and Rasmussen O+2.

Now let’s look at the movement over the past two days. Gallup has moved from O+1 to O+4 — a 3 point move to Obama. Ipsos and Rasmussen have both moved 5 points in Obama’s direction over the last two days.

That’s a rapid move and very consistent across three separate polls. But the key to understanding these numbers is to remember that these are tracking polls. So a significant amount of the data in each is from calls prior to the big speeches at the Democratic convention, especially for Gallup which has the longest collection interval. Nate Silver calculates that to get the numbers to move that quickly Obama has likely been up between 7 to 9 points since the Clinton speech. Meanwhile other pollsters currently in the field suggest they’re seeing numbers that look similar to 2008.

What does it all mean? Significant caution is definitely in order. But it’s starting to look possible that the convention helped the President in a big way.