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Daily Breakdown: Obama’s Lead Grows?

Is Obama beginning to open up a bigger lead? The race has been static since Romney won the nomination, but recent polls suggest that Obama might be pulling further ahead. 

After recent polls from NBC/WSJ, Pew, Democracy Corps, and Reuters all gave Obama their best tallies since Romney won the nomination, Fox and CNN also showed Obama making big gains in new polls released this afternoon. The RCP average now gives Obama a 4.4 point lead, his largest lead since April. But while Obama is making big gains in traditional monthly surveys, the weekly and daily tracking polls don’t show similar movement. In fact, while PPP and YouGov/Economist once showed Obama with a sizable lead in May, Obama’s now locked in a dead heat. So not only do the tracking polls show a tighter race, they also don't show the same movement as the other public pollsters. 

Why are the trackers and traditional pollsters diverging? One possibility is the interview method. Of the four trackers, three aren't traditional live interview pollsters, while the non-tracking polls are all conducted by live interview. There's a thorough debate about the merits of live versus automated polling, which, in my view, was never been decisively resolved one way or the other. But the distinction could explain diverging results and movement. It's worth noting that cell phones throw a new wrench into the live vs. automated debate, since there are federal regulations on robots calling your cell phone. To compensate, the automated pollsters seek out cell phone voters on the internet. With respect to Gallup, the one live interview tracker, it's worth noting that Obama would probably lead by four or five points if their surveys were appropriately weighted by race, which would be more in line with the other traditional pollsters. None of this should be interpreted as an authoritative explanation for the difference in the results, but there does seem to be a difference, it does warrant an explanation, and the results seem to correlate with distinct methodological choices.

The bottom line: despite the stable trackers, it's tough to argue that Obama's lead isn't growing. He's now up over 48 percent in the RCP average, and that puts a heavy burden on the Romney campaign to stop the bleeding, and soon.

Odds and Ends

--A few weeks ago, my housemate couldn’t watch jeopardy without hearing Mitt Romney singing America The Beautiful. Now, it turns out that the Obama campaign’s most aired advertisement is about Mitt Romney’s stance on abortion and health insurance coverage for contraception. The ad represents 22 percent of the spots run by the Obama campaign, and assuredly an even higher share in socially moderate media markets, like Denver, Raleigh, and Washington, where voters can expect to hear Romney say he’ll “get rid of” Planned Parenthood plenty of times between now and election day. These ads are clearly targeted at socially moderate women, who alone could probably provide Obama with enough additional votes to secure the presidency, were they to break Obama’s way.

--The large number of independent voters in Colorado all but ensures a close race, at least for now, but the Obama campaign doesn’t seem to be treating the state quite as seriously as the other plausible tipping point states. According to NBC/First Read, the Obama campaign pushed just 650 GRP’s into the Denver media market, compared to 1,000 in most other battleground markets and 1100 by the Romney campaign. Now, the Obama team is heavily invested in the Colorado Springs media market, but their relatively light footprint in Denver could be interpreted as a sign that the Obama campaign is feeling pretty good about their chances in Colorado. Given that Colorado essentially constitutes one whole route to the presidency for Obama—perhaps their most credible one based on the '08 results—one would expect the Obama campaign to invest a little more in a market that covers the whole state.