National tracking polls are pointing down today. However, swing state polls are pointing up. Which is correct? My instinct tells me it is statistical noise in both directions, and that Obama's lead continues to hover around 7.0%. Obama never actually led by 8%, and even now his lead has not dropped to 6%. A look at swing state polls conducted entirely since October 23rd, which matches up very closely to the current tracking poll range, suggests that the 7.0% thesis is correct:
This actually serves as a glimpse into the future, since these numbers are the start of Friday's state polling averages. Compared to today's numbers, Obama reaches 269 at 7.0%, instead of the current 8.0%.. He avoids the Electoral College tie scenario at 6.7%, and still has 291 "solid" electoral votes. Obama's numbers in Florida, Georgia and New Hampshire improve, while is numbers in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and Montana slip backward a bit. Everywhere else, he is within 1% of his current totals. New Mexico and North Dakota become poll-less mysteries.
A look at the long-term Pollster.com trends for October indicates that Obama's lead has consistently hovered between 6-8%. My state polling averages during the month show the same range for Obama's lead. Through it all, 7% has been the median. The quick rises to 8%, and the quick falls to 6% that have tortured us poll watchers so badly have, in my estimation, simply been statistical noise. The lead has consistently been 7.0% for at least three weeks now--possibly four. The upds and downs are simply the inevitable fluctuations within the margin of error.
If I am wrong, we will know by Friday. My guess is that Obama will have recovered to lead by 7.0% or more in the tracking polls on that date, and that he will do the same in sate polls. We shall see.