After that craptastic effort by Neil King in the Wall Street Journal, it was refreshing to read a straight forward look at the polling changes in the Battleground States following the game-changing first debate. My one nit is the author points out Romney’s lead in Florida is skewed by the one poll giving him a 7-point lead but he doesn’t point out the same issue exists on behalf of Obama in Ohio with an outlier poll giving him a 6-point lead. Otherwise here is a clear, sober look at the state of the polling in the Battlegrounds with the electoral vote count in parenthesis:
Mitt Romney’s overwhelming debate victory has tightened the presidential race in the dozen or so battleground states that will determine the winner of the election.
Romney enjoys a two-percentage-point advantage in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls after crushing Obama in their initial debate. He had previously trailed the president by 1.6 percentage points. But it’s possible Romney’s numbers are being boosted by one poll. The Tampa Bay Times released a survey Thursday that showed him up by 7 percentage points, a finding the looks like an outlier compared to other polls. The Tampa poll showed Obama’s 11-point lead among independents swing to a 13 point advantage for Romney. In addition, Hispanic voters in the poll favored Romney 46 to 44 percent over Obama, despite the president’s more than 50-percentage point lead among the group nationally.
Obama has only a 1.5 percent lead in the RCP average, a sign things could be tightening. The president has been ahead in Ohio for months and may have lost a chance to lock-up the state with his debate performance. It was thought before the debate that Romney might have to focus his resources on other states. Democrats are hopeful that gains made early in the cycle, when Obama effectively portrayed Romney as an out-of-touch corporate raider to the state’s blue collar voters, is enough to withstand the GOP challenger’s late charge — particularly since voting has already started.
Obama held a nearly 4-point advantage in Virginia in the RCP average heading into the debate, but that’s been completely wiped out and the candidates are now tied. In addition, the last two polls in the state show Romney with 1 and 2 point leads.
After Romney selected home-state favorite Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the GOP ticket spiked in Wisconsin, but Obama has since regained his lead. But Obama’s lead has been greatly diminished in the wake of the debate, falling from 8 points in the RCP average to 2 points.
Colorado is the most fickle swing state for Democrats, who were hopeful the state’s popular Democratic governor, concentrated pockets of social liberalism and rising Hispanic population had flipped the state permanently in their favor. But Colorado has strong independent and libertarian streaks, and appears to be headed for a photo finish. Obama held his biggest recent lead of 3 percentage points in the RCP average heading into the debate. Romney has since inched ahead of Obama, although by less than one percent, with recent polls split and showing the candidates in a statistical dead heat.
Iowa (6), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4)
With the race essentially tied, any of these three small delegate prizes could tip the race either way. Obama presently has small leads in all three, although Romney is within the margin of error. Both Nevada and Iowa went for Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008. New Hampshire has gone for the Democratic candidate the last two elections, but went for Bush in 2000.
Pennsylvania (20) and Michigan (16)
Obama appeared to be cruising to victories in both states before the debate, but things have tightened. A win by Romney would dramatically alter the race and greatly increase his chances of winning. That said, at this point a victory by Romney would be a surprise. Obama once had an eight-point average lead in the Real Clear Politics average of polls in Pennsylvania, but now has only a 4.5 percent advantage. The president had a commanding 10-point lead in Michigan before the debate, but Romney since then has closed to within 4 points in the RCP average.