Nate Silver will surely have a more comprehensive (and intelligent) take on all of today's polls soon enough, but for now here is where we stand:
As we have seen all year, the daily tracking polls tend to operate within a narrower range than a number of the newspaper/network surveys that only come out periodically. Another way of putting this would be to say that unless something noteable happens very soon, polls next week will begin to show Obama with a double digit lead nationally (The Washington Post and ABC News had a nine-point spread last week). Meanwhile, Gallup has released a separate poll that shows voters judged Obama the winner of last week's debate with John McCain.
The question, then, is this: When will the media stop referring to the candidates, in the words of today's New York Times, as "locked in a tight battle"? The question is a pertinent one because after an unscientific (if not altogether cursory) sampling of friends and family members over a lovely weekend (all of whom, gaspingly, are Obama supporters), the only available, reasonable conclusion is that most Democrats seem to be under the following two impressions:
1. The race could not be any closer.
2. The Palin pick, while irresponsible and reckless, has given the GOP a huge boost.
Now, this may have something to do with a certain inherent liberal pessimism, or with experiences undergone over the past two election cycles, or with fatalism about the idea that the country is finally "ready" to elect a black president. But it also might have something to do with the media's fervent desire to see the race as a nailbiter (which, of course, it very well may turn out to be). But if the election were held today, the national vote (if not the electoral college tally) would look a lot closer to Bush-Dukakis than most people seem willing to concede.
There might be a certain utility in not getting overconfident, especially where it concerns one's heart (be pessimistic!!--it makes losing much, much easier), but the truth of the matter is that right now, Obama is comfortably ahead. In the name of fairness alone, that should be reported on.