Compared to some of the large Obama leads from the past week, yesterday’s polls weren’t terrible for Romney
These polls are still consistent with a clear Obama lead, but here’s a way to look at it: how many of these polls are better for Obama than the average poll over the last week? Even the PPP/NRDC polls were only in-line with the average, with the possible exception of Virginia.
In contrast, Obama’s lead shrunk in UPI/CVOTER, RAND, and Reuters/Ipsos, and the ARG poll in Virginia wasn’t especially strong either, becoming the second poll in as many days to show Romney within two points in the Old Dominion. Obama maintained his 6-point edge in the Gallup tracker, although the seven-day period is somewhat less sensitive to movement.
This isn’t enough data to conclude that the race is shifting in Romney’s direction, but the Romney folks would certainly rather have today’s numbers than those Washington Post or CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac polls. Even those polls stop showing up in the Daily Breakdown chart, they still color our view of the race, and it's clear that Romney trails by about 5 points nationally and in states worth at least 332 electoral votes (347 if you include genuinely too-close-to-call North Carolina, which has tilted slightly toward Obama in post-convention polling) entering the debates.
And what of the debates? More on this next week, but my initial and perhaps predictable take for the print magazine is that the debates don’t matter as much as many think.