Pollster and political analyst Scott Rasmussen tells Newsmax that despite new polls showing President Obama pulling ahead of Mitt Romney, the race is still close and “could go either way.”
He also says poll numbers have historically shifted against the incumbent in the weeks leading up to Election Day — and predicts that this week’s debate could have a “big impact” on the election.
Rasmussen is founder and president of Rasmussen Reports and co-founder of the sports network ESPN. He has been an independent public opinion pollster for more than a decade, and most major news organizations cite his reports.
His latest book is “The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the National Debt.”
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The Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking poll for Sunday has Mitt Romney leading Barack Obama 50 percent to 47 percent. But a new Washington Times/Zogby survey has Obama ahead by 8 points, and a Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the president pulling ahead in swing states.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Rasmussen observes: “What we do know is in the last couple of elections, between the first of October and Election Day, the numbers have shifted about three points. And they generally tend to shift against the party that currently has the White House.
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“But there are a lot of events that will shake this up. There’s three presidential debates, a vice-presidential debate, two jobs reports, and there are events in the Middle East. Those will determine where the numbers move from here.”
Rasmussen describes 15 percent of voters as “persuadables.”
Asked how it is that some voters are still undecided this late in the campaign, Rasmussen responds: “Persuadables include a group of people who say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to vote for Romney but I could change my mind,’ or ‘I’ll vote for Obama but I’m not certain,’ as well as people who are totally uncommitted.
“One of the things we find, and it shocks everybody in the political world, is that among uncommitted voters, only one out of four thinks it makes much difference who wins. And the reason they believe that is they’re so pessimistic. They don’t think the economy will get better if Barack Obama wins, but they don’t know that Mitt Romney would be any better. So these are people who are really distrusting of all politicians and don’t expect good things from either candidate.”
Rasmussen does not agree with some pundits who say the Romney campaign is in serious trouble.
“The Romney campaign was perceived to be in trouble because some people said it was way behind,” he says.
“The race is close in the polls. It could go either way. There is a slight advantage for President Obama right now. Mitt Romney has not convinced people that he would be an improvement so there’s some work to be done. But at this point in time as we’re looking toward the first debate, it’s fair to say that either guy could win.”
Discussing the importance of Wednesday night’s presidential poll for Mitt Romney, Rasmussen says: “Debates rarely have much of an impact on a campaign. Four years ago, the night before the first debate, John McCain was trailing 50-45. When the debate was over he was trailing 51-45.
“So I’m not looking for this debate to create much of a change. But even a small shift could have a big impact in a close race.
“In terms of what Mitt Romney needs to do, the best potential for his campaign would be a gaffe coming from President Obama, something that confirms some of the storylines against the president that he really does favor the public sector over the private sector, or something like that. You can’t count on those things but the reality is both of these candidates are at risk of turning voters off more than they have a way to positively reach them.”
In recent weeks, a number of Republicans have come out alleging a media bias in the polls. They say polls favoring Obama are skewed.
But Rasmussen tells Newsmax: “There is not a pollster in the country, not a public pollster, not a legitimate pollster anywhere, who was deliberately skewing the polls.
“We do know sometimes reporters overstate the numbers or take things out of context to make it seem different than the polls themselves. But it’s also worth remembering that in late September, we often get some polls that seem out of whack. If you went back to 2004, there were polls showing George Bush up by eight or 10 points in Ohio and he barely hung on to win that state.”
The pollster offers his take on the presidential race in several key states:
“Iowa is very close right now, and it’s too close to call.
“In Florida, we show President Obama up by just two points. We’ll be polling there again after the debates. It’s definitely in play. This is a state Mitt Romney has to win.
“Colorado looks like it could be a good state for Mitt Romney if he makes some progress in the national polls.
“North Carolina is a state Romney should win. Obama pulled it out four years ago.
“New Hampshire is a state where polls have bounced around a little bit. I don’t think the voters there are convinced that either guy is really right for the state.
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“Nevada looks like it’s still leaning towards President Obama.
“Virginia is one of the three key states and it will go to whoever wins the national numbers. It’s way too close to call.
“Wisconsin is surprisingly competitive” and appears to favor Obama.
“Ohio could once again be the decisive state. Obama is outperforming his national numbers there. He’s doing better than expected in Ohio. I will expect to see both Obama and Romney spending an awful lot of time there, and they’re spending an awful lot of money.
“In fact, I did a radio show in Ohio earlier today and I told them I could watch an entire football game [in New Jersey] without seeing a [political] commercial, and they wanted to move to New Jersey just because of that. They are being flooded, so we have no way of knowing what will happen in the Buckeye State.”
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