Heading into first debate, Obama still holds slight edge
CNN released its latest poll Monday afternoon, showing a three-point lead for President Barack Obama at 50 to 47 percent. This is within the margin of error, but even more significant is the partisan sample in the CNN poll made up of 37 percent Democrats, 34 percent Independents and 29 percent Republican.
That split is highly unlikely to occur on election day; Democrats aren't expected to lead Republicans in turnout by eight percentage points. In 2008, a highwater mark for Democrats, their advantage was seven points, according to exit polls. In 2004 and 2010, the parties were even.
Most analysts expect something in between. Scott Rasmussen predicted last week that the Democrats would enjoy between a two- and four-point advantage in November, Byron York at the Washington Examiner reported.
In the CNN poll, Romney leads by a comfortable 49-41 margin among independents, which would be necessary to overcome a presumed Democratic edge. But that Romney tilt with independents casts further doubt on the poll's bottom line.
Rasmussen's own daily tracking poll, which showed Obama up by three Monday, tipped back toward a tie Tuesday, with the president up 48 to 47 percent.
Gallup's daily tracking poll, which surveyed registered, as opposed to likely, voters, continued on Monday to show a four-point lead for the president, as of Monday.
A Washington Post/ABC poll showed the race within the margin of error among likely voters nationally, but showed a huge 52-41 percent Obama lead among swing states.
The disparity evoked some skepticism on the right, given that swing states should be very close to overall national results.
"The big gap on swing states makes less sense, though," wrote Ed Morrisey at Hot Air. "The biggest nonswing states should favor Obama — California, New York and Illinois, with Texas being the only large nonswing state that is firmly in the Republican column. Romney will win the South easily, but Obama gets the whole West Coast and most of New England, too. Without a chance to see the samples in each state and the demographic breakout, I’m a little skeptical that Romney could be losing by 11 in the swing states but only by two nationwide."
Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post unpacked the numbers, and they were pretty weak. Turns out the swing-state numbers were based on a subset of the larger poll, and only canvassed 160 voters. Margin of error: eight points.
"So, yes," Rubin noted, "there may be a difference between swing-state and national numbers, but the gap might be very small or it might be big."
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.