After Tuesday's polls showed Obama approaching 49 percent of the vote in Ohio, Wednesday's polls showed Obama well-positioned across the battleground states.
Obama appeared strong in the Midwestern "firewall" states after a wave of polls in Wisconsin showed Obama maintaining fifty percent of the vote and a modest lead. Two Michigan polls showed Obama ahead by more than five, a Franklin and Marshall poll showed Obama at 49 percent in Pennsylvania, and last night’s SurveyUSA poll showed Obama up 7 in Minnesota. If Romney loses Ohio and Nevada, additional losses in these states are sufficient to cost him the presidency. And just for good measure, the well-regarded Ohio Poll effectively revoked what was previously Romney’s best poll in the state by showing Obama gaining two points from last week’s tied race.
With Obama’s most straightforward path to the 270 enduring with five days to go, the last thing Romney needs is a weak southern flank. But Romney spent all of yesterday in Florida, and it’s not hard to see why. CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac and other polls released yesterday pointed toward a slight Obama edge in Virginia and a tied race in Florida. On average, Obama leads by .7 points in Virginia and trails by .8 in Florida in polls conducted since the final debate. Unlike the other battleground states, Romney’s standing in these averages may be inflated by outlying polls from second-tier pollsters showing Romney ahead by 5 points. Just for good measure, the polls continued to point toward a tight race or even a slight Obama lead in Colorado and PPP showed a tied race in North Carolina, where Obama’s absence seems consista discernible Romney advantage.
While Romney is doing better in the national polls than he is in the battlegrounds, the implication that Obama is fighting against a strong national current that is no longer supported by the national polls. While Romney led by as much as 1.5 points in national surveys after the first debate, 16 national pollsters have weighed-in since the final presidential debate and there’s no way to interpret them as anything other than a dead-heat, let alone after considering the state-level data. Yesterday, National Journal found Obama leading by 5--Obama's best result since the debate.
Before the final presidential debate, one could credibly argue that Obama was beneath 48 percent in Ohio, that Romney had taken a lead in each of the southeastern battlegrounds and that Colorado was a coin flip, that there was still time left for Romney to puncture Obama’s tenuous Midwestern firewall, and that Romney held a clear enough advantage in the popular vote to presume that Romney could find a way to a victory in the Electoral College. Over the last week, the case for each of these arguments has deteriorated or even evaporated. Instead, Obama's standing in the Midwest and especially Ohio appears intact, the polls suggest that the other "paths" to an Obama victory are still open, and Romney's time is running short. His chances increasingly hinge on the polls just being wrong. It can happen, but it's not the norm.