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Today's Polls: Barack's Bad Day

The presidential polls have been more or less stable for several weeks now. With Barack Obama in Hawaii and most of the country focused on the Olympics, you'd probably expect them to stay that way until someone holds a convention or names a vice president. However, three new polls released today show significant movement toward John McCain.

In Washington, SurveyUSA has John McCain trailing by 7 points. This hardly moves Washington into competitive territory, however, SurveyUSA had polled Washington no fewer than nine times since Super Tuesday, and had shown Obama ahead an average of 13.4 points, including 16 points in a survey released in mid-July.

A similar pattern manifests itself in Minnesota, where Rasmussen has Barack Obama's lead eroding to 4 points; Obama had held a 13-point lead last month. And in the critical swing state of Colorado, Rasmussen has John McCain edging into a 1-point lead; last month, it had been Obama by 3.

Colorado, Minnesota and Washington are quite similar to one another demographically. There are no overwhelmingly strong hints about what's going in from the cross-tabular results, but it appears that McCain has gained ground with independents (as is almost always the case when the polls move) and also that some Republican voters are moving from undecided to McCain.

Still, it's a little bit perplexing to see movement like this without any obvious proximate cause. As usual, we are simply going to have to wait for more data to find out whether it means anything.

--Nate Silver

p.s. Although it doesn't quite fit into our storyline above, there is also a University of Texas poll out in the Lone Star State, showing John McCain with a 43-33 lead.