Nate Silver

A somewhat contrarian view:I really can't imagine John McCain not attending the debate tomorrow. Although it's hard to know exactly how the spectacle would play out -- Obama fielding questions from Jim Lehrer by himself? -- as I opined last night, I think Americans would largely not excuse McCain for failing to show up. SurveyUSA polling data now shows that 74 percent of Americans think there should be some sort of debate tomorrow night (though many think the subject should be the economy rather than foreign affairs).

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Yesterday, we talked about all of the noise in the recent state-by-state results. With perhaps a couple of dozen polls coming out each day, from firms with radically different views about how to model turnout, and in regions of the country that are each reacting slightly differently to the post-convention environment, there are bound to be results that cause some cognitive dissonance.Underlying all of this, however, is a high degree of near-term stability in the race.

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Today's Polls: Time Out!

This was one messy little day in politics. I was on a train up to Wisconsin, where I'm going to be giving a presentation tomorrow, and during that time not only had John McCain "suspended" his campaign -- but SurveyUSA had actually put out polling on it! Likewise, the polls today are a big sloppy mess: How can Barack Obama be 8 points ahead in Pennsylvania according to CNN, but 1 point ahead according to Strategic Vision? Because Strategic Vision's polls have had a 2-3 point Republican lean so far this cycle, and CNN's have had a 1-2 point Democratic lean.

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Barack Obama has had another strong day in the state polling, holding leads in the states where he needs to hold them. John McCain, however, was able to hedge against this by ticking upward by a point or so in the national tracking polls, making the overall trend about neutral. Still, there is a lot of eye candy here for Democrats:The PPP and Quinnipiac polls make it three surveys in a row where Obama has held a statistically significant lead in Colorado.

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A Debate About The Debates

Here's an interesting piece of reporting from the Wall Street Journal: The first debate, on Friday, will be at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where in 1962 the enrollment of James Meredith, its first African-American student, touched off a deadly riot. The debate commission had directed that this debate would cover domestic issues, but the two campaigns agreed to change it to foreign policy. Sen. McCain's advisers wanted to lead off with his strong suit, foreign policy. Sen.

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We may now be getting a firmer sense of how the electoral map has changed in the post-convention universe:Where is Obama polling well? In Virginia and North Carolina, where he gets a couple of very strong numbers today. Both SurveyUSA and the ABC/Post poll show him with a lead outside of the margin of error in Virginia, although the latter depends on just which version of the poll you use (we use the registered voter version with third-party candidates included; as of next week, we'll switch over to the likely voter versions).

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No rest for the pollsters on Sunday:So ... what's the headline here? Probably the Public Policy Polling survey showing a 46-46 tie there. One wonders if the McCain campaign's internals are telling them something similar, since they are now shifting resources into the state. And Barack Obama was out in Charlotte today.But yet, my model still does not consider North Carolina to be a plausible tipping point state.

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The commentariat's topic du jour is this AP story which cites a study conducted in conjunction with Yahoo!, Knowledge Networks and Stanford University and which reports that "Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice." Here are some thoughts I have on the matter:1. It is irresponsible to cite this study without fully disclosing its methods or making it subject to peer review, particularly as it appears to use a rather convoluted soup of statistical and inferential techniques.2.

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Barack Obama continues to move upward slightly in our electoral projections on the strength of strong national tracking polls. Rasmussen attributes him with a lead -- though it's just one point -- for the first time in ten days, while Gallup has him hitting the 50-percent barrier for just the second time all year, and expanding his lead over John McCain to 6 points overall.

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Let's not equivocate too much here. Over the course of the past several days, there has been a rather dramatic shift in this election toward Barack Obama. Our trendline estimate, which is engineered to be fairly conservative, registers the swing as equaling roughly 4 points over the course of the past week.Changes of this velocity are unusual outside of the convention periods and the debates, especially in close elections.

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