Is Obama Really Leading?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that political polls are open to interpretation and, therefore, sometimes unreliable.

Presidential campaign polls can be particularly misleading because, unless one candidate leads the other by an overwhelming margin, a national popular vote poll tells us very little.

No, the real meat on the bones in presidential polls is how candidates are fairing in the 10 or so swing states that will determine who can amass the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.

Here in Connecticut, the most recent surveys I’ve seen show Obama with only an 8-point lead, which is a little surprising considering how thoroughly my state is dominated by Democrats: no Republicans in either house of Congress, a state legislature top-heavy with Democrats, a Democratic governor and no Republicans among the state’s elected constitutional officers (e.g. attorney general, comptroller, secretary of the state).

The conventional wisdom is that, with the Republicans falling all over themselves to please the right wing of the party, the election is Obama’s to lose. The latest swing-state polls show Romney trailing by 3 points in Wisconsin and Florida, 2 in Nevada and 6 in Ohio. Romney has slim leads in Virginia and Colorado. So Romney is well within striking distance in all of them.

When you think about it, it’s a miracle Obama is in a position to win at all. The sclerotic economy has scarcely improved at all under his watch. Unemployment is at 8.3%, whereas it was 7.8% when he took office. Growth is anemic at about 1.5%. His approval ratings remain below 50%. And most alarming for the White House, the right-track-wrong-track poll numbers continue to show fewer than one third of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.

But this is the survey that probably worries the Obama campaign the most: a CBS-NTY poll released last month found that only 27% of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year than in 2008, while almost 50% of Republicans felt the same way.

Combine those poll numbers with Romney’s spending advantage and you have a race that is very winnable for the GOP. Maybe that’s why I’m getting all these panicky emails from Team Obama begging me for money.

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