If I were a trite television talking head, I would begin the Tuesday edition of the Wrap with the statement that, if today's smattering of polls prove anything, it is that Mitt Romney "needs a game changer" in tomorrow night's opening debate.
While Republicans will cling to NBC/WSJ's "tightening" poll (and I will explain after the jump why that "tightening" meme is paper-thin), the balance of the polling looks pretty middling, at best, for the GOP contender. Worse still for Romney, the national polls look positively boffo compared to the state polls, which today are pretty much a universal disappointment for the Republicans (Texas would seem to be the only poll that they could stick on the refrigerator).
The GOP can point with some happiness downballot, but even there we can see a lot of potential disappointments for the red team coming in five weeks.
More on all of that after the jump. For now, on to the numbers:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama 50, Romney 44
NATIONAL (Ipsos/Reuters Tracking): Obama 46, Romney 41 (LV); RV not available at press time
NATIONAL (NBC/Wall St Journal): Obama 49, Romney 46 (LV); Obama 51, Romney 44 (RV) Obama 48, Romney 43, Others 5 (LV w/Full Candidate Slate); Obama 48, Romney 41, Others 6 (RV w/Full Candidate Slate)
NATIONAL (Quinnipiac): Obama 49, Romney 45
NATIONAL (PPP for Daily Kos/SEIU): Obama 49, Romney 45
NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking): Obama 48, Romney 47
NATIONAL (United Technologies/National Journal): Obama 47, Romney 47 (LV); Obama 49, Romney 44 (RV)
FLORIDA (Suffolk University, with leaners): Obama 48, Romney 45, Others 3
LOUISIANA (Southern Media and Opinion Research): Romney 45, Obama 39
MISSOURI (We Ask America--R): Romney 48, Obama 45, Others 2
NEVADA (We Ask America--R): Obama 53, Romney 42, Others 2
NEW HAMPSHIRE (PPP for the PCCC): Obama 51, Romney 44
NEW MEXICO (Rasmussen): Obama 51, Romney 40
NORTH CAROLINA (SurveyUSA): Obama 49, Romney 47
RHODE ISLAND (Fleming and Associates): Obama 57, Romney 33
TEXAS (Texas Lyceum Poll): Romney 58, Obama 39
VIRGINIA (Roanoke College): Obama 47, Romney 39, Others 5
FL-SEN (Suffolk University): Sen. Bill Nelson (D) 40, Connie Mack IV (R) 34, Others 5
ME-SEN (GS Strategy for the NRSC--R): Angus King (I) 37, Charlie Summers (R) 34, Cynthia Dill (D) 17
MO-SEN (We Ask America--R): Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) 46, Todd Akin (R) 45
NV-SEN (We Ask America--R): Sen. Dean Heller (R) 45, Shelley Berkley (D) 45
OH-SEN (PPP): Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) 49, Josh Mandel (R) 41
RI-SEN (Fleming and Associates): Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) 56, Barry Hinckley (R) 30
TX-SEN (Texas Lyceum Poll): Ted Cruz (R) 50, Paul Sadler (D) 24
VA-SEN (Roanoke College): Tim Kaine (D) 47, George Allen (R) 37
NH-GOV (Univ.of New Hampshire): Maggie Hassan (D) 38, Ovide Lamontagne (R) 36
NC-GOV (SurveyUSA): Pat McCrory (R) 51, Walter Dalton (D) 39, Barbara Howe (L) 3
WA-GOV (SurveyUSA): Jay Inslee (D) 48, Rob McKenna (R) 42
RI-02 (Fleming and Associates): Rep. Jim Langevin (D) 53, Michael Riley (R) 29, Abel Collins (I) 9
UT-04 (Dan Jones and Associates): Mia Love (R) 49, Rep. Jim Matheson (D) 43
WI-08 (Normington Petts for the Wall campaign): Rep. Reid Ribble (R) 47, Jamie Wall (D) 41
A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump...
The Wall Street Journal, desperately trying to preach to their right-of-center choir, trumpeted the tightening race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Is the race tightening? Only by the most charitable of definitions.
Among likely voters, what was an Obama lead of 50-45 is now a lead of 49-46. So, by that standard, sure...there has been some movement. But, among the larger pool of registered voters, the movement was in the other direction. What was a 50-44 lead for Barack Obama is now a 51-44 lead. That seven-point edge among registered voters is actually the largest lead the president has enjoyed over his Republican rival in an NBC/WSJ poll in 19 months (a February 2011 poll gave him a double-digit edge).
What's more, when the other candidates are thrown into the mix, the margin among likely voters is...five points. Which would indicate no movement at all, actually.
As for the other national pollsters, the movement is far from uniform. PPP moved a single point in Romney's direction (from Obama +5 to Obama +4), while Quinnipiac moved a single point in Obama's direction (from Obama +3 to Obama +4). National Journal's movement cannot really be tracked accurately, because their previous poll (in April) was of all adults, where this survey has a (ridiculously large) likely voter screen.
As for the trio of daily trackers, the day-to-day movement was equally muted. Ipsos/Reuters didn't move at all (holding steady at Obama +5), Rasmussen went two points in Romney's favor (from Obama +3 to Obama +1), and Gallup went two points in Obama's favor (from Obama +4 to Obama +6).
Again, as we noted yesterday, if there is a "tightening" of the race nationally, it is incremental, at best.
At the statewide level, though, if you wanted to score the ten polls released today based on whether they'd be viewed as "good" for either candidate, at best you would score the day 8-2 Obama. And that is giving Romney credit for Rhode Island, where he still trails by 24 points. Texas looks good for Mitt, as well, but beyond that, the numbers are sitting at various levels of awful for the GOP. Suffolk, whose polling this cycle has been typically upbeat for the GOP (witness last week's Virginia poll), had Obama up three points, with a fairly limited number of undecideds with which to close the gap. We Ask America, a GOP-affiliated pollster, piled on, putting Obama within striking range in Missouri (a place where no one seems interested in placing on the target list) and way ahead in Nevada (that one qualifies as today's "probably too good to be true" poll for Democrats). Add to that Roanoke's Virginia poll and SUSA's poll in North Carolina, and the projected electoral vote total for Barack Obama still looks to be north of 300 electoral votes.
And, in the eye-popper of the day, a Southern Opinion and Media Research poll had Obama within six points...in Louisiana. It is safe to assume, however, that the Democrats aren't going to bite on targeting the Pelican State.
In other polling news...
- If you ever wondered about why Todd Akin stubbornly decided to stick it out in the Show-Me State, today's We Ask America poll helps explain it. It is hard to dismiss the poll as too rosy for the GOP (Romney only leads by three points, as we noted), and yet incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill only leads Akin by a single point. A sign of how catastrophic Akin's moment was politically lies in the fact that an incumbent with such low job approval numbers still holds a lead, at all, over a month after the utterance. But there is still a month to go, and this thing is pretty clearly back to a tossup.
- If there is one state in the Union where Mitt Romney's coattails are evident, it is Utah. And it might knock the lone Democratic member of the Beehive State's delegation out of office in five weeks. A new Dan Jones poll gives Republican Mia Love a six-point edge. This is a shift of over 20 points since the last Jones poll of the Utah 4th. It also means that (oh, waiter! One order of crow!) Love's own internal polling last week, which showed a 30-point swing, was not totally crocked. Matheson is not dead yet, of course. He's down single digits, and he has had a tendency in the past to poll a little worse than he actually performs on Election Day.
- Speaking of polls that look totally crocked, I am having a hard time buying the new GOP-sponsored poll in Maine, where the GS Strategy survey out today is claiming that Charlie Summers has moved within the margin of error on Independent Angus King. Though, it might explain the GOP doing a bit of clever chicanery by running ads which indirectly boost Democrat Cynthia Dill. Unlike the UT-04 race, we have a lot of recent independent polling here, and none of it shows this as a single-digit race. One thing is clear, though: with their prospects of a Senate majority in peril, the GOP is making the conscious decision to try to salvage Maine.