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.
Republican Sen. John McCain’s choice of then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin four years ago did not provide him with an instant surge in the polls, but he ultimately benefitted after a successful Republican National Convention.
So far, voter response to the choice of Ryan has been relatively tepid – although only time will tell what sort of impact the Ryan pick will have, particularly after Tampa. On average, state and national polling conducted since the August 11 announcement has shown a one-point gain for Mitt Romney in his hard-fought challenge against President Obama. Polling by the Gallup organization had the two candidates tied, 46 percent to 46 percent, the day before Romney announced his choice of Ryan in Norfolk, Va. – then showed Romney moving ahead, 47 percent to 45 percent, over the next seven days.
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Moreover, Ryan received the lowest reviews of any vice presidential candidate since Dan Quayle in 1988 in a USA-Today/Gallup poll released two days after Romney announced his choice. The poll found that 39 percent of respondents think Ryan is a good or excellent choice for Romney, compared with 42 percent that think he's a “fair” or “poor” choice.
“I think there has been a very modest effect – it’s very, very small – maybe like a point gain, but it’s been fairly consistent,” said Jeffrey Jones, managing editor of Gallup Polls. “If you look at the day-by-day internals [of the polling], when Romney named Ryan initially, there didn’t seem to be much. But a couple of days after, it looked like a pattern was developing where he had a mini bounce there for a few days, which is dissipating now.”
The importance of a Ryan bump, however, may matter more on a swing-state level than it does nationally, since the election will likely come down to turnout in a handful of closely split states that could tip either way. Both Ohio and Virginia are leaning more toward Romney since Ryan joined the campaign, according to a monthly survey of likely voters released last week by the consulting firm Purple Strategies.
The Republican ticket leads Obama in Ohio by 46 percent to 44 percent, reversing the 48 percent to 45 percent lead that Obama held in the Buckeye State last month, according to Purple Strategies. The Romney-Ryan ticket is now up by three points in Virginia, a key battleground state where they were previously trailing by two points. Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden have gained ground in Colorado and Florida since the Ryan pick, but Purple Strategies noted this was a small bump. “Nonetheless, it is also the first sign of positive momentum for the Romney campaign that we’ve seen in the Purple Poll in the last few months.”
Assessing the political impact of the choice of a running mate can be a challenge, especially when the announcement comes shortly before the national convention. Jones of Gallup thinks that if Romney further enhances his showing in the polls during the week of the convention, it will because he gives a powerful acceptance speech or scores a breakthrough with a national audience that will tune in nightly for an hour of prime-time convention coverage by the major television networks.
Zogby said he suspects Romney has already received most of the bounce he can hope to expect from his choice of Ryan – and that he shouldn’t expect to move the needle much more during the convention week. “Tampa will be a right-wing fest and not anything that the few undecided voters who are in the middle will likely become excited about,” Zogby said.
Josh Boak of The Fiscal Times contributed to this report.