WASHINGTON (written by Susan Page/USA Today) - Forget the pundits: Three national surveys released Sunday show President Obama getting a noticeable bounce in the wake of the Republican and Democratic conventions, opening a small lead in a race that has been essentially tied for months.
Bounces by definition can dissipate as quickly as they arrive, and it's possible that the disappointing jobs report released Friday could dampen movement toward Obama.
At the moment, though, the president leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points in the Gallup Poll and by 4 points in the Reuters/Ipsos and Rasmussen polls. That reflected a swing of 4 to 7 points from their standing before the Democratic convention opened Tuesday.
What's more, Obama's job-approval rating in the Gallup Poll on Friday and Saturday rose to 52%, the highest it has been since it was boosted by the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. On Sunday, it dipped to 50%, generally considered a crucial threshold for presidents seeking re-election.
Both campaigns say the race continues to be very close.
"I think we're making real progress," Romney said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. "We had a convention and I got better known... and that allows me to continue to hammer away on what I'd do to get America on the right track. And I have, really, two months to be able to convince people I can do a better job than the incumbent. I think I can do that. So I'm in a better spot than I was before the convention."
Senior White House adviser David Plouffe said the Democratic convention succeeded in energizing the president's supporters - which should help boost voter turnout - and making his case to independents.
"We've always assumed that presidential elections in our country tend to be very close; we don't think this one's going to be any exception," Plouffe said on CBS' Face the Nation. "But we think in the battleground states right now - Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, in Florida - where we are today, we've got a small but important lead, and we think that was enhanced coming out of both of our conventions."
The stability of the race and the polarization of the nation's politics had raised questions about whether the conventions would show any discernible changes in the presidential campaign. The latest polls show some movement:
•The Gallup Poll, based on a seven-day rolling average, put Obama at 49%, Romney at 44%. Before the Republican convention began, Romney had led 47%-46%.
•The Reuters/Ipsos Poll, based on a four-day average, gave Obama a 47%-43% lead; Romney had led narrowly before the conventions began.
•The Rasmussen Poll, based on a three-day average, gave Obama a 49%-45% lead, a 6-point swing from before the Republican National Convention.
A jump of 5 points would be the median for the bounces seen after conventions for candidates since 1964, according to a Gallup analysis. This time, Romney's standing did not improve after the Republican convention.
Time may be fleeting. A study by political scientists Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezien found that the candidate who led in national polls two weeks after the political conventions has won the popular vote in the past 15 presidential elections.
"Two weeks from now, we're going to have a very good idea of who is going to win," Wlezien said.