While there is a massive pile of data here to try to merely digest, much less make sense of, the clearest indicator out of today's numbers is that we are, once again, on the brink of a time when the national polls and the state polls in the presidential election look like they come from two different elections.
Can Mitt Romney really be leading nationally, but trailing in Florida? Can Barack Obama be down by three points nationally (as one tracking poll states today), and really be up a half-dozen points in Ohio? It is hard to come up with a rational explanation for how that could be. Fortunately for us, some of our brightest minds in the polling game have some excellent theories, and I have a few of my own.
More on that later. For now, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Romney 48, Obama 47 (LV); Obama 48, Romney 46 (RV)DOWNBALLOT POLLING:
NATIONAL (IBD/TIPP Tracking): Romney 47, Obama 46
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Romney 47, Obama 44 (LV); Obama 44, Romney 43 (RV)
NATIONAL (Monmouth University): Romney 46, Obama 45 (LV); Obama 46, Romney 43 (RV)
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama 48, Romney 47
NATIONAL (UPI/CVoter): Romney 49, Obama 46
CALIFORNIA (Pepperdine School of Public Policy): Obama 54, Romney 33
CALIFORNIA (SurveyUSA): Obama 53, Romney 39, Others 4
COLORADO (CBS News/Quinnipiac): Romney 48, Obama 47
FLORIDA (Mason Dixon): Romney 51, Obama 44
FLORIDA (NBC News/Marist): Obama 48, Romney 47 (LV); Obama 49, Romney 45 (RV)
ILLINOIS (Chicago Tribune/WGN): Obama 55, Romney 36
MASSACHUSETTS (PPP): Obama 55, Romney 41
MICHIGAN (Glengariff Group for Detroit News): Obama 49, Romney 42
MICHIGAN (Gravis Marketing--R): Obama 46, Romney 44 (LV); Obama 47, Romney 42 (RV)
NEVADA (Dane And Associates--R): Romney 49, Obama 46
NEVADA (Suffolk): Obama 47, Romney 45
NEW JERSEY (Philadelphia Inquirer): Obama 51, Romney 40
NORTH CAROLINA (Rasmussen): Romney 51, Obama 48
OHIO (Gravis Marketing--R): Romney 46, Obama 45 (LV); Obama 46, Romney 45 (RV)
OHIO (NBC News/Marist): Obama 51, Romney 45 (LV); Obama 50, Romney 44 (RV)
OHIO (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring PAC--R): Obama 48, Romney 47
OHIO (Rasmussen): Obama 48, Romney 47
PENNSYLVANIA (Philadelphia Inquirer): Obama 50, Romney 42
PENNSYLVANIA (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring--R): Obama 47, Romney 45
VIRGINIA (CBS News/Quinnipiac): Obama 51, Romney 46
VIRGINIA (McLaughlin and Associates for the Allen campaign--R): Romney 51, Obama 44
VIRGINIA (NBC News/Marist): Romney 48, Obama 47 (LV); Obama 47, Romney 47 (RV)
VIRGINIA (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring PAC--R): Obama 48, Romney 48
WISCONSIN (CBS News/Quinnipiac): Obama 50, Romney 47
WISCONSIN (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring--R): Obama 50, Romney 46
AZ-SEN (GS Strategy Group for the NRSC--R): Jeff Flake (R) 47, Richard Carmona (D) 41A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
CA-SEN (Pepperdine School of Public Policy): Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) 48, Elizabeth Emken (R) 31
CA-SEN (SurveyUSA): Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) 54, Elizabeth Emken (R) 35
CT-SEN (National Research for the Chamber of Commerce--R): Linda McMahon (R) 42, Chris Murphy (D) 39
FL-SEN (NBC News/Marist): Bill Nelson (D) 52, Connie Mack IV (R) 39 (LV); Bill Nelson (D) 53, Connie Mack IV (R) 36 (RV)
MA-SEN (PPP): Elizabeth Warren (D) 50, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 44
MA-SEN (Rasmussen): Elizabeth Warren (D) 49, Sen. Scott Brown (R) 47
MI-SEN (Glengariff Group for the Detroit News): Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) 50, Pete Hoekstra (R) 38
MT-SEN (Montana State University-Billings): Denny Rehberg (R) 43, Sen. Jon Tester (D) 40, Dan Cox (L) 6
NV-SEN (Dane And Associates--R): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 47, Shelley Berkley (D) 41, David VanderBeek (IAP) 5
NV-SEN (Suffolk): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 40, Shelley Berkley (D) 37, David VanderBeek (IAP) 7
NV-SEN (SurveyUSA): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 47, Shelley Berkley (D) 39, Others 8
NM-SEN (Rasmussen): Martin Heinrich (D) 52, Heather Wilson (R) 39
OH-SEN (NBC News/Marist): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 52, Josh Mandel (R) 41 (LV); Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 51, Josh Mandel (R) 41 (RV)
OH-SEN (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring PAC--R): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 48, Josh Mandel (R) 43
PA-SEN (McLaughlin and Associates for the Smith campaign): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 46, Tom Smith (R) 44
PA-SEN (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 44, Tom Smith (R) 41
PA-SEN (Rasmussen): Sen. Bob Casey (D) 49, Tom Smith (R) 45
VA-SEN (CBS News/Quinnipiac): Tim Kaine (D) 51, George Allen (R) 44
VA-SEN (NBC News/Marist): Tim Kaine (D) 47, George Allen (R) 46 (LV); Tim Kaine (D) 47, George Allen (R) 45 (RV)
VA-SEN (McLaughlin and Associates for the Allen campaign): George Allen (R) 47, Tim Kaine (D) 44
VA-SEN (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring PAC--R): George Allen (R) 47, Tim Kaine (D) 44
VA-SEN (We Ask America): George Allen (R) 46, Tim Kaine (D) 41
WI-SEN (CBS News/Quinnipiac): Tammy Baldwin (D) 48, Tommy Thompson (R) 46
WI-SEN (Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring PAC--R): Tammy Baldwin (D) 47, Tommy Thompson (R) 45
MT-GOV (PPP): Rick Hill (R) 43, Steve Bullock (D) 42, Others 8
ND-GOV (Mason Dixon): Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) 62, Ryan Taylor (D) 24
CA-09 (Tarrance Group for the Gill campaign): Ricky Gill (R) 46, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) 45
IL-08 (We Ask America--R): Rep. Joe Walsh (R) 48, Tammy Duckworth (D) 45
MN-08 (SurveyUSA): Rick Nolan (D) 46, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) 45
MN-08 (Victoria Research for the Nolan campaign): Rick Nolan (D) 48, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) 44
NV-03 (WPA Research for the Heck campaign--R): Rep. Joe Heck (R) 48, John Oceguera (D) 37, Others 4
NM-01 (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Lujan-Grisham campaign): Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D) 55, Janice Arnold-Jones (R) 40
OH-06 (Anzalone-Liszt for the Wilson campaign): Charlie Wilson (D) 49, Rep. Bill Johnson (R) 43
As habitual readers of the Wrap know, we have been this way before. For much of the summer and early Fall, there appeared to be a strange disconnect between what the national polls showed (a dead heat) and what the state polls showed (a comfortable, though far from secure, edge to the president).
With less than four weeks to go, it seems, we are back there again.
If one only looks at the national polls, for the third straight day the narrow edge goes to the challenger. Mitt Romney's average lead in the six polls released today sits at 1.3 percent, up from 0.8 percent yesterday. Even at that, the movement was irregular. The IBD/TIPP tracking poll went sharply in the direction of the president (with Romney's lead sliding from 5 points all the way down to a single point), but Gallup, Ipsos/Reuters, and UPI/CVoter all went somewhere between 1-4 points in the direction of Mitt Romney. Trying to draw firm conclusions from the national polling is virtually impossible, although it can be said that the enthusiasm gap clearly matters. Three polls which give Mitt Romney a lead among likely voters flip back to President Obama when all registered voters' opinions are tallied.
The state polls, if anything, are even more perplexing. There are over two dozen of them today, and when coupled with yesterday's poll, they are almost impossible to figure out. Over the last few days, we can conclude that Florida is either edging towards re-electing the president (O+4 in the Univ. of North Florida poll) or sharply moving towards the GOP (today's eye-popping Mason-Dixon survey showing R+7). Similar wild swings exist in new polls in Virginia (where the range is an even wider 12 points between today's polar extremes) and Ohio (with a seven-point range). Given the 60 electoral votes at play in those three states alone, one can see how the disparate polling can paint two dramatically different pictures of the state of play.
What seems to be reasonably clear is that the Romney debate performance has yielded him something larger than a temporary and retractable "bounce" in his support. Even though Obama still has polling showing him ahead in virtually all of the key battleground states, there are also plenty of polls showing those leads in various states of erosion. The net result? A lead, albeit a fairly precarious one.
What also seems clear is that there is a marked distinction between the post-debate climate nationally and in the key battleground states. TNR's Nate Cohn (who you will notice I reference quite often) has the breakdown:
At this stage, it appears that Romney made smaller gains in the battleground states than he did in the national polls. On average, Romney gained 2.1 points in battleground state polls, even though he picked up an average of 5.5 points in the 11 national surveys conducted after the first presidential debate.While some polls after that article defy that trend (most notably the Mason-Dixon Florida poll), it has been largely the case all week that Romney's fortunes in national and non-swing state polls has improved at a clip that is demonstrably better than his performance in the swing states.
That could be owed to a very simple explanation, of course. Those swing states have been treated to a showering of attention the likes of which we have not seen elsewhere. Therefore, given the deluge of advertising and the multiple in-person candidate and surrogate visits, the opinions of those in the battlegrounds might be a little more baked-in than the rest of the nation, for whom the debates might have been one of the few times where their focus has been thrust on the forthcoming election.
It could also be, as some conservatives openly hope, that state polls are a lagging indicator, and will catch up to the national numbers soon. In the past, that might've been the case. However, with the advent of IVR polling, the classic "lag time" between the conducting of national polls and state polls has largely disappeared. Many of the state polls today were in the field over the past two or three days, for example.
There is still quite a bit of time left in this election cycle, of course. For the moment, it would appear that the race for president has been, to some extent, recalibrated. Even as polls are in the field during time periods further and further removed from the immediate post-debate period, we are seeing some retention (varying by polls) of the Romney post-debate bounce. The good news for Obama: it does appear to be smaller in the states that will matter the most on November 6th. The bad news for Obama: it is not a complete reinstatement of Romney's weak pre-debate numbers. Where this seems to have left this race is in a position where Obama's path to 270 electoral votes is easier to define than Romney's. However, Romney's coalition is far easier to envision now than it was 10 days ago.
In other polling news...
- If ever there was a polling memo worthy of mockery, it is the first effort from the Suffolk University polling unit after the Paleologos-on-O'Reilly debacle. While their new poll in Nevada showed President Obama up by a pair on Mitt Romney, Obama was only at 47 percent. And if anyone heard that most enlightening interview the other night, they know what that means: curtains for Obama in the Silver State!
Snark aside, if Barack Obama's fortunes are cast because the incumbent is at 47 percent, what the heck would Paleologos have to say about Republican Senator Dean Heller, who Suffolk's own poll pegged at just 40 percent of the vote? Well, you might just be surprised:
“VanderBeek’s supporters, along with the undecided voters, are equally important to both Heller and Berkley and may be the key to whether this seat ends up red or blue,” said Paleologos.Nah...on second thought, you aren't surprised at all, are you?
- Speaking of bad polling memos, check out this gem from GOP-affiliated We Ask America, who seems awash in self-doubt at their own numbers showing George Allen up five on Tim Kaine. Setting aside for the moment that this is a ledge that not even Allen's own internal polling was not willing to join W.A.A. on, the firm nevertheless needs you to know that they are right, and everyone else is wrong:
In our opinion, those who try to shape their samples based on the 2008 presidential mix are missing the boat. While digging into the reasons our numbers are different–and out of curiosity–we weighted the raw numbers out of Virginia based on that 2008 presidential ratio. Lo and behold…it moves Kaine AHEAD by four points, about the same lead the the Real Clear Politics average is showing in this race. That doesn’t mean that other pollsters are using the wrong mix, but it makes us wonder.Boys? You don't have to wait for "future polls". Both Quinnipiac and Marist had Kaine ahead. And if you average their two margins together, you get...four points. Looking forward to that self-report, team!
In the Virginia Senate race, we’ll take our lumps if we’re wrong and we’ll self-report if future polls show we’re off the mark. But we think others ought to jump into this one and see if Mitt Romney’s sudden surge is having some coattails here.