Bill Kristol explains
Is one way to think about the 1980 comparison not so much that the break came at the very end of the campaign, but rather that it happened after the first (and only) debate of the campaign—a debate that was won decisively by a challenger who was able to be both reassuring to undecided voters but who also presented a clear choice of ways ahead?
After all, what’s happened in the polls since last Wednesday night looks a bit like what happened in the polls after the Reagan-Carter debate. In 1980, it was pretty clear right away that Reagan had won, and that he had momentum, but it seems to have taken a few days for the lessons of the debate fully to sink in, and the bottom only fell out for Carter over the final weekend of the campaign. This year, there was a quick move toward Romney after Wednesday night, then the momentum toward Romney seemed stall out for a couple of days (perhaps thanks to the jobs report Friday), but the move to Romney seems to have resumed Monday and (perhaps) Tuesday. I know of two different private polls that showed the biggest pop for Romney so far on Monday night—and some of the public polls suggest that pattern as well. It will be interesting to see whether the momentum continued in yesterday’s polls, which will come out later today.