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Am Polling Update: Why Today's Swing State Spin Will Be Wrong

Quinnipiac is out with polling this morning in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Barack Obama holds a lead in all three: he's ahead by 7 points in Pennsylvania, and 2 in each of Florida and Ohio. But also in all three states, his lead is diminished from last month, when Quinnipiac had shown him 4 points ahead in Florida, 6 in Ohio, and 12 in Pennsylvania.

The media is likely to focus on the near-term trendline -- one that shows movement toward John McCain within the last month. The last set of Quinnipiac polls were conducted near the peak of Obama's post-primary bounce, and there is no doubt that he has lost a little bit of ground since then.

We like looking at trendlines too. But focusing on only the last month risks failing to see the forest for the trees. Fundamentally, the news is that Obama is ahead in all three states -- two of which are states that Democrats have made a habit of losing. Moreover, if you compare his performance not just to the most recent number, but to all other instances of the Quinnipiac polls -- this is how our model looks at things -- the results are pretty decent for him:

Month FL OH PA
Feb M+2 M+2 O+1
March M+9 O+1 O+4
April M+1 M+1 O+9
May M+4 M+4 O+6
June O+4 O+6 O+12
July O+2 O+2 O+7

"The $64,000 question is whether Sen. John McCain's surge is a result of Sen. Obama's much-publicized Middle Eastern and European trip, or just a coincidence that it occurred while Sen. Obama was abroad," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"While Obama was on tour, trying to show voters he could handle world affairs, voters were home trying to fill their gas tanks," Brown added.
really picked up their advertising spending

--Nate Silver