We’re still awaiting the first wave of post-debate polls, but today’s polls—largely conducted before the second debate—helped clarify the race in a few states.
The national polls generally remained unchanged, but it's worth flagging that Gallup showed Romney's lead getting even larger--now 6 points among likely voters. Gallup's samples are pretty big and they appeared to clean out many of the issues that contributed to the poll's GOP-lean, so their number shouldn't be dismissed lightly. But Romney+6 probably isn't sustainable and the other polls don't show similar evidence of big movement in Romney's direction. On the other hand, it would be pretty noteworthy if this type of Romney lead persists.
At the state level, new polls in Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin showed a tight race with Obama holding a slight advantage. In Nevada, polls from SurveyUSA, Rasmussen, and Groves (D) showed Obama leading by 3 to 7 points. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m making an exception to my rule against nitpicking the polls in Nevada, where the polls have a pretty poor track record. The SurveyUSA and Rasmussen polls appear to struggle from the same issues that plagued polls over the last two years. SurveyUSA only showed Obama leading by 13 points among Latinos with a tied race in Las Vegas while the Rasmussen poll showed Hispanics at just 12 percent of the electorate, voting for Obama by just 18 points. In contrast, the Groves poll showing Obama ahead by 7 points gives Obama a 59 point lead among Latino voters. That's more like 2008, when the exit polls showed Obama winning Nevada Latinos by more than 54 points while representing 15 percent of the electorate. Given the registration numbers, these polls, and the history of polls underestimating Democratic candidates in the Silver State, Nevada seems like a state where Obama remains well positioned.
In Wisconsin, Marquette showed Obama leading by just 1 point, 49-48. This is Romney’s best result in the state since August, but it still showed Obama ahead with at least 49 percent of the vote. And although the race looks tight, Obama has exceeded 49 percent in just about every survey, making Romney’s path to victory pretty narrow. Nonetheless, the state is probably within Romney's reach, even if it looks more difficult than many (and perhaps all) of the other battleground states.
In Ohio, SurveyUSA shows Obama up by 3 points, a 2 point gain for Obama since the last SurveyUSA poll. It’s still unclear whether Obama’s up by 1 or 2 points in Ohio or 4 points, but the last SurveyUSA poll was an important argument in the case for a 1 or 2 point race since they were the only cell phone poll showing a dead heat. Now, each of the polls surveying cell phone voters (with the exception of ARG, if you care) now show the president up by 3 to 6 points, adding credibility to the argument that Obama’s lead is larger than a simple average of post-debate polls. Even more interestingly, SurveyUSA found the race tied among landline voters, with Obama's advantage coming from cell phone interviews.
Obama would win reelection if he won Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin.