National polls as charted here by Real Clear Politics show Barack Obama holding a consistent if small lead in head-to-head pairings against John McCain. In the 19 most current polls going back to the beginning of May, Obama was ahead in 18 and tied in the 19th. Going further back to the beginning of April he led in 29 polls, was tied in five, with McCain leading in just three.

Four caveats, all but one of which merit caution for Democrats:

  1. It’s early. Mike Dukakis was crushing George H. W. Bush in the early summer of 1992 and we all know how that turned out.
  2. Though lately he does seem to be gaining some distance in the aftermath of his primary victory, Obama’s leads are often within the margin of error
  3. There may be a social desirability effect here in which respondents are telling pollsters they are voting for Obama when they ultimately will not.
  4. Finally, and this may work against McCain, these are head-to-head matchups that ignore the possibility of former Republican congressman-turned-Libertarian-agitator Bob Barr or former Libertarian-turned-Republican-agitator Ron Paul skimming off the top of McCain’s totals.

Still, overall, Obama is in good shape for early June.

--Tom Schaller

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