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Daily Breakdown: National Polls Show A Tight Race; Isaac Update


Let’s start with the national polls, which tend to depict a tight race heading into the convention. The ABC/Washington Post survey is unique: it’s just the third firm to show Romney leading among registered voters over the last few months, and it shows Romney gaining an additional point after switching to a likely voter model. While this is a good result for Romney, it doesn’t represent a substantial shift from the last ABC/Washington Post survey, which showed the race tied. And other national polls continue to show Obama with a slight edge among likely voters, including Rasmussen, which shows Obama up three, and two prominent and well-respected Republican polling-firms showing Obama with a 1 point edge. 

The ABC/Washington Post survey is sure to get an outsized share of attention, but when viewed in the aggregate, the most recent national polling data isn’t inconsistent with the advantage Obama’s been holding for months, and that’s especially true once you factor in the state polling. CNN/Opinion Research found Obama up by 4 points in Florida and Romney up by just 1 in North Carolina, which CNN continues to mischaracterize as “lean Romney.” A Philadelphia Inquirer survey showed Obama up by 9 points and above 50 percent in the Keystone State.

There were still good numbers for Romney in the Midwest. Perhaps the most credible news for Romney was a Mason Dixon poll showing Romney up 7 in Missouri, which ought to dispel premonitions that the state might be newly competitive in the aftermath of Akin. The Columbus Dispatch released a survey in Ohio, showing a tied race in the Buckeye State. While this is one of Romney’s better results over the last few months and the result shouldn’t be outright discounted given a decent track-record, the poll was conducted entirely by mail.

The polling in Michigan has been a little unusual so far this cycle: Pollsters that don’t conduct surveys outside of Michigan have conducted almost all of the surveys, and they’ve shown a pretty tight race. That trend continued today with Mitchell Research poll finding a renewed dead heat in Michigan, but unbelievably it also found Stabenow trailing in her bid for reelection to the Senate. The few national pollsters to weigh-in have shown Obama faring somewhat better, with Obama leading by 6 points in the most recent Rasmussen survey and 14 points in PPP. The behavior of the candidates suggests that Michigan isn’t a true toss-up, so I’m inclined to assume that Obama retains a modest advantage.  

Odds and Ends

--Tropical Storm Isaac started to strengthen this afternoon. Hurricane Hunter aircraft found an emerging eye, winds just short of Hurricane status, and the pressure dropped to 982 mb, which is typically indicative of a Category 1 Hurricane. Isaac is an extremely large system with Tropical Storm-force winds extending more than 200 miles from the center of circulation. Combined with the storm's relatively slow speed, Isaac's size promises to pose a significant rainfall and storm surge risk to the northern Gulf Coast. By sitting over the Gulf with a large wind radius, Isaac will put more water in motion than a faster moving and smaller storm of similar intensity. And by moving more slowly, Isaac promises to inundate a wide area with heavy rain for a prolonged period of time. As a result, the exact point where Isaac makes landfall is not especially relevant: Heavy rains and storm surge will be a problem far away from the storm's center. Of course, the media will be much more concerned with the storm's exact path, which could take Isaac near New Orleans around the seventh year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

While the top concern is obviously the safety of persons along the Gulf Coast, there are secondary considerations for the RNC, as I discussed this morning. Recent reports suggest that the RNC is considering a variety of possible responses, including a curtailed convention with a shortened non-political acceptance speech by Romney. These plans hinge, at least to some degree, on the intensity and path of Isaac as it heads toward the coast. A stronger Isaac will attract more media attention and could require evacuations from New Orleans--the type of story that would trump the RNC. While Isaac's exact track and intensity are still uncertain, the current forecast calls for Isaac to make landfall as a Category 2 Hurricane in southeastern Louisiana. If the forecast comes to fruition, folks in Tampa will be faced with tough scheduling decisions.