Polls taken over the past several days have suggested that President Obama has received a slight bounce out of his handling of Hurricane Sandy — an event that allowed him to play the role of a bipartisan leader at a time of crisis a week before the election. For instance, Rasmussen, which had Romney slightly ahead before the storm, now has the race tied. Pew, which had the race tied, now has Obama ahead by three points. Romney was up 0.9% in the Real Clear Politics average before the storm hit, and now trails Obama by 0.4% — a 1.5 point swing. Not huge, but noticeable at this late stage. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that this average includes a Gallup poll showing Romney up by 5 that was taken before the storm hit (the company suspended polling for several days during the storm and has not published updated results in the past week). For Republicans who had been looking to national polls for refuge from disappointing state polls, this has meant further discouragement.
The question is whether the Sandy bounce — assuming there is one — is sustainable through Election Day on Tuesday. On the one hand, it may be one of those intangible things that makes fence sitters more comfortable sticking with Obama even though reason would dictate that it shouldn’t outweigh how they feel about his job performance over the past several years. On the other hand, maybe polls taken this week, at a time when many Americans may have warm and fuzzy feelings about their president in a time of crisis, may artificially inflate Obama’s popularity. Having watched Obama’s polling numbers closely over the past several years, it hasn’t been uncommon for Obama to get slight bounce out of an event that dissipates within a few days. So maybe that will happen, but pollsters — who are starting to release their final surveys — won’t be able to detect such a last minute shift.