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Daily Breakdown: Romney's Best Polling Day Since DNC

If Obama’s bounce fades over the next week, today might stand out as the day when the polls began to shift back in Romney’s direction.

After yesterday’s triumvirate of NBC/WSJ/Marist polls, today’s state polls show a tight race. Perhaps most surprisingly and importantly, SurveyUSA shows Obama up by just 1 point in Colorado, even though their other state polls have shown Obama leading by nearly ’08-esque margins in the blue states and the battlegrounds. By that same standard, we might have expected Obama up by at least 5 points, since he won by 9 in 2008. 

The big news might initially seem to be a CBS/NYT poll that provided some mixed news. On the one hand, Obama made a 8 point gain among registered voters since their pre-convention poll. But CBS/NYT applied their likely voter model for the first time and found Obama with just a more modest 3 point lead, although he still held 49 percent of the vote. Ultimately, a 3 point lead with 49 percent of the vote is largely consistent with the other post-convention polls, so it's not the big newsmaker it might have been a few days ago. In an average of post-DNC polls, Obama leads by 4 points, 48.8 to 44.4 for Romney.

Gallup also tilted back further in Romney’s direction, with Obama falling beneath 50 percent in Gallup’s polling. On the other hand, Obama retained a 49 percent approval rating in Gallup, suggesting that he’s held relatively steady at elevated levels over the last few days, even if not quite at his post-DNC peak. On the other hand, the Reuters-Ipsos internet tracker showed Obama leading by 7 points among likely voters, his best showing yet.

Rasmussen showed Romney reclaiming his pre-convention lead of around 3 points, but as I said yesterday, firm party-ID weights complicate their ability to accurately measure bounces. Imagine, for example, if some share of Democratic-leaning independents decide to describe themselves as “Democrats” following the DNC. This type of temporary shift in party-ID would be beaten out by Rasmussen’s weights, and the corresponding “bounce” might be as well, since the now over-weighted independents would include a disproportionate share of Republican-leaners.

Rasmussen did show Obama leading Virginia by 1 point and trailing in North Carolina by 6. Neither is especially surprising, although the Virginia tally looks decent for Obama compared to Romney’s 3 point lead nationally.

On balance, today's polls pointed toward a narrower Obama lead than surveys had shown over the last few days. If one had assumed that Obama's up 4 or 5 points nationally, then none of the battleground state polling would have lived up to your expectations. And of the national polls, only the Reuters/Ipsos and Zogby internet polls showed Obama holding his own. Next week, polls could return to showing Obama up by 5 in states like Colorado, Virginia, and Michigan. But if they don't, today might stand out as the day Obama's bounce began to fade.