There's been some consternation lately about the race getting tighter. What's the polling say? The national numbers the past two months:
Yes, Pres. Barack Obama is off a point from his early-August high of 47.5 percent. Mitt Romney is up a point from his low two weeks ago of 44.5 percent. On the other hand, today's Gallup daily tracker numbers were the first in several weeks in which Romney didn't lead (it had been stuck at 47-45 for seemingly forever), and Rasmussen is still unable to fake a Romney lead like it used to do pre-Paul Ryan selection.
A few more results like that from Gallup and Rasmussen should open up the gap again, because they are the only reason the race looks that close. Take them out, and Obama's got a much nicer 47.4-45 lead.
But who cares about the national polling. I don't. Let's look at the states that actually matter.
Missouri suddenly tightened last week thanks to a SUSA poll that had the state 45-44 Romney. No other polling has confirmed it, and the same PPP poll that gave Todd Akin a one-point lead against Sen. Claire McCaskill (helping to convince him to stay in the race) also gave Romney a 52-42 lead in the state.
Nevada hasn't seen much polling lately, so the numbers tightened thanks to a single SUSA poll showing Obama's lead at 47-45. It was SUSA's first Nevada poll of the year, so we have no trends to compare it to.
Wisconsin has legitimately tightened as the Republican ticket gets a hometown boost from Ryan's addition.
That's the bad news. Now the good news.
Obama's lead in Ohio continues to slowly stretch out. Quinnipiac has Obama winning the state 50-44 compared to ... 50-44 a month ago. Being stuck at 50 is great news for Team Blue. A University of Cincinnati poll just pegged the race at 49-46. Rasmussen and the conservative folks at Purple Strategies are keeping the trendlines closer than would otherwise be the case. Take them out, and it's Obama 49.1-44.6.
Pennsylvania is as competitive as Missouri, which is to say, not very. Virginia and Florida are both tight, but things continue to look encouraging.
A couple of additional points:
- Republican groups outspent the Democrats 3-1 in television last week. Perhaps without this spending disparity the numbers would be much different, with Obama winning easily, but I suspect that wouldn't be the case. I continue to believe that TV Super PAC spending at the presidential level (and Senate level too) has been wasted.
- Romney continues to suffer from low numbers -- something no Super PAC can help him with. He hits 46 percent in just six of the 13 states above. Obama hits 46 in 11 of the 13. And while Romney hits 48 percent just twice, Obama hits that number in nine of the 13 states.
- Unless there's a rash of new polling out Friday (not a popular poll dump day) or over the weekend (very rare), consider this the pre-GOP convention baseline. We'll have Gallup and Rasmussen trackers to gauge the GOP's convention bounce, as well as inevitable snap polling from other outfits. I doubt even Rasmussen will be able to pretend to meet the Romney campaign's expectations of an 11-point bounce.
Don't expect much in the way of state-level polling until after the Democratic convention, during the second week of September.
So do this week's numbers tell us? That the only place the Romney ticket got a legitimate Ryan bounce was in his home state of Wisconsin. Other than that, there's little here to be worried about, and plenty to be excited about.