Why Obama Supporters Should Not Freak Out

President Barack Obama speaks at the
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Coming on the heels of a Pew poll that showed Mitt Romney up by 4 points, a new PPP poll conducted for Daily Kos/SEIU in the days after the debate has Romney leading President Obama by 2 points, even despite a sample of 40 percent Democrats to 37 percent Republicans.

This is not going to help calm the nerves of worried Obama-backers like the Daily Beasts’s Andrew Sullivan, who wrote a post last night called “Did Obama Just Throw the Entire Election Away?“:

Look: I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last wee

A sitting president does not recover from being obliterated on substance, style and likability in the first debate and get much of a chance to come back. He has, at a critical moment, deeply depressed his base and his supporters and independents are flocking to Romney in droves 

I’ve never seen a candidate self-destruct for no external reason this late in a campaign before 

I’m trying to see a silver lining. But when a president self-immolates on live TV, and his opponent shines with lies and smiles, and a record number of people watch, it’s hard to see how a president and his party recover.

A little later, Sullivan added in a new post, “This race is now Romney’s to lose. Not just because Romney is shameless liar and opportunist. But because Obama just essentially forfeited the election.”

Well now. Obviously it’s a bit jarring to see the polls, which had shown a fairly stable Obama lead for more than a month, flip nearly overnight. But Sullivan and his fellow Obama supporters need to step back and look at the big picture. Or let Nate Silver do it for them:

[The] exact math is probably not as important as the broader conclusion: that the economy is [in] line with Mr. Obama being a very modest favorite.

In Denver … Mr. Romney presented himself as an acceptable and competent alternative. Challengers also generally profit from the first debate: in 8 of the 10 election cycles since 1976, the polls moved against the incumbent, and a net gain of two or three percentage points for the challenger is a reasonably typical figure.

At the same time, incumbent presidents just aren’t that easy to defeat. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are now hovering around 50 percent and don’t seem to have been negatively affected by his performance in Denver 

In some ways, then, the election might not be quite so unpredictable as it appears. There was reason to believe that Mr. Obama’s numbers would fade some after his convention — and the first debate has quite often been a time when the challenger drew the race closer.

In other words: While Obama clearly shit the bed last Wednesday night, none of this is totally unexpected, and the fundamentals of the race aren’t quite as dire as the bounce-driven polls.

Not to mention: There are still two presidential debates left. Just as quickly as the first one shifted the polls one way, the second two can shift the polls back another way. And does anyone expect Obama to be the same passive, unfocused empty chair that was the first time around?

So, take a deep breath, Obama supporters. Stop refreshing the Real Clear Politics polling page every twelve seconds. Get some perspective. Be patient. And step away from the edge.