Was this a good day for Obama? Depends on your perspective. The polls don’t point toward much of a shift in his direction, so in that sense, it’s a relatively neutral day. But since “neutral” is equivalent to “Obama is leading” in the current environment, perhaps it’s a good day for Obama.
Two polls showing Obama well positioned in Ohio are probably the big story. The last two surveys from Rasmussen and Purple Strategies showed movement in Romney’s direction, but Quinnipiac and the Ohio Poll—which has a good track record—both show Obama holding a 3-plus point lead in the state with no evidence of movement in Romney’s direction. Today, Obama’s up by 2 points in the RCP Ohio average, and Romney has only led in three of the 20 polls conducted since mid-April. Given the state's demographics, it's pretty astonishing that Obama has held up so well in the Buckeye State. In most other states with large white working class populations that support Democrats, like Iowa or Wisconsin, Obama has fallen off his 2008 heights. That hasn't happened in Ohio.
The second big story is Obama’s edge in the so-called blue wall states. Most importantly, today’s CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac survey followed yesterday’s Marquette Law poll showing Obama with a narrow lead in the Badger State. On balance, the post-Ryan surveys show a tighter race in Wisconsin, with Obama appearing to retain to retain a slight advantage. The Obama camp claims that this is a Ryan-induced sugar high that will subside over the coming weeks. If Romney still trails during a sugar-high that would obviously bode poorly for his chances in November, but it remains to be seen whether that characterization is accurate. Additionally, polls in Michigan and Pennsylvania gave Obama a comfortable advantage in two states where Romney-aligned SuperPACs have spent millions attempting trying to nudge the states into the toss-up column. Obama is not airing advertisements in any of these three states.
Third, Obama led by three points in Florida, which is generally sufficient to provide Obama with reelection. Like Ohio, the Florida poll arrested a streak of Rasmussen and Purple Strategy polls showing Romney with a narrow advantage, and while Obama's position deteriorated somewhat since the prior poll, Obama probably wasn't up 6 points at the time, anyway.
Despite a strong showing for Obama in the battlegrounds, national polls were more split. While Obama ticked up a bit in Gallup and Rasmussen, a solid survey conducted for the Los Angeles Times by GQR Research found Obama up by just 2 points among likely voters, 48-46. That’s hardly a comfortable lead and it shows Obama beneath 49 percent, which should serve as a reminder that Obama remains vulnerable, despite the Romney campaign’s errors. It should also serve as a reminder that the balance of battleground polling shows a tighter race than today's polls.
Odds and Ends
--Akin says that the polls will play a role in his decision to stay in the race. Democrats want Akin to stay in the race, so polls showing McCaskill trailing advance their interests. The reverse is true for Republicans, who would like to see Akin get out and who take his word when he says that the polls have played a role in his decision to remain.
Enter PPP and Rasmussen, and suddenly Akin has produced the most bizarre polling fight of the summer. The Democratic-leaning PPP released a poll showing Akin up 1 point, and Republicans accused PPP of producing a GOP-leaning sample to encourage Akin to stay in the race. Today, Rasmussen, a firm with a GOP-bent of it’s own, showed McCaskill up 10, prompting McCaskill to distance herself from the polls result.
Given the unusual reverse-house effects correlating with a strange reversal of partisan interests, it’s easy to see why folks jumped to foul play. But there’s a more reasonable explanation: The PPP poll was conducted the day after the controversy broke, while the Rasmussen poll was conducted a few days later, when voters probably had heard days of Akin-related coverage.