If you had told me a month ago that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama would be knotted up at 46% at this point in the race, I’d have told you that Romney was in good shape because you have to think the remaining independents are going to break heavily for Romney. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm level for Democrats has definitely gone up in the last month and this has created much more of an even playing field than a race tilted towards Romney.
Then there are the polls.
Here’s the issue: Other than Gallup and Rasmussen, most of the other pollsters seem to be assuming that the turnout model will look like 2008, when Democrats were more fired up than they had been in decades and Republicans were completely demoralized. No rational or even plausible explanation has been offered for this assumption which doesn’t match the political landscape, doesn’t match the data Gallup and Rasmussen are putting out, and which ignores the fact that Democrats didn’t even come close to those numbers in 2010 when they took a once in a half century beating. Although I tend to be considerably less skeptical about polling data than most Republicans, I do think that most of the polls this year are oversampling Democrats to such an extent that they’re practically useless. If they’re not, I have yet to hear a plausible explanation offered for why they’re not.
However, even if these polls turn out to be completely wrong, it doesn’t mean Mitt is ahead; it just means we have a dearth of credible polling data. Moreover, even if you assume Gallup and Rasmussen are on the mark, neither of those pollsters show Mitt putting any swing states out of reach. All the same states are in play today that were in play a month ago. Ohio and Florida are still on the table for Obama while Mitt can still capture Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Long story short, the lack of solid polling data makes this race a little tough to call, but with 40 days to go, this race still looks like a toss-up.
PS: All this being said, the latest numbers from Gallup — which is one of the pollsters that hasn’t been oversampling Democrats — shows Obama moving ahead of Romney 50-44 with registered voters. Is that an outlier or the start of a trend? We don’t know yet. If it were to continue or you see that kind of movement towards Obama from Rasmussen as well, it will be time to hit the panic button.