Movement toward Obama

The latest three national polls all show the Democrat with a 5-point lead or larger.

Published September 29, 2008 2:16PM (EDT)

The last three national tracking polls -- Gallup (+8), Rasmussen (+6), Hotline/Diageo (+5) -- each have Barack Obama leading John McCain by at least 5 points. So did three of the previous four polls before that: CBS/N.Y. Times, Fox and Marist. Only the George Washington Battleground poll shows McCain ahead, by 2 points. But that is battlegrounds only.

Ah, but this last, disconnecting data point makes one wonder if Obama, like Al Gore, may end up with his majority of the votes in the wrong states; indeed, his Electoral College totals, though based on many state polls that are not as current as recent national polls, show a very narrow lead for Obama despite his supposed national lead of 5 points. In fact, the latest map of the states has Obama winning 286-252 -- an eerily similar split because it is the exact same margin by which President Bush beat John Kerry. (Again, I caution that in many states the most current poll is not nearly as current as the national numbers.)

More to the point: There are still a lot of undecided voters in Ohio. Though Obama may begin to open up a larger national margin and bigger electoral leads, like four years ago this thing could all come down to the Buckeye State. I almost hate to say it aloud, but remember that Kerry lost by 2.5 points nationally and still almost won because of Ohio, and if Obama is up 5 points in final polls that could mean he wins by only 2 or 3 because of a slight Bradley effect. And if McCain can hold Florida and eke out a win in Ohio the reverse scenario is, though highly unlikely, not impossible.

Oh what a nightmare that would be, on many levels.

Update: Make that seven of the last seven...the Los Angeles Times now has Obama up five, too.

Another update: Obama holds steady at 50-42 in today’s latest Gallup.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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