Evenly Matched

Two swing state polls are out today which show the presidential race in a statistical dead heat. The first, from USA Today and Gallup, has President Obama with a two point lead over Mitt Romney in the 12 battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The big finding from the poll is that Obama has edged out Romney in terms of enthusiasm among his supporters; 55 percent of Obama supporters say that they are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting, compared to 46 percent of Romney supporters. I can’t imagine that this won’t improve for Romney as the election approaches, and the stakes become more clear for Republican partisans.

The other poll, conducted by POLITICO and George Washington University, surveys the same states, and shows Mitt Romney with a slight lead over Obama, 48–47. Politico’s big find is that the candidates are almost evenly matched on questions of who would improve the economy. On who would better handle job creation, Obama leads Romney, 48 percent to 46 percent. On the other side, Romney leads 48 percent to 45 percent on who would better guide the economy as a whole. Where Obama has an edge is with regards to values; the president leads 50 percent to 40 percent on the question of who “shares your values,” and 58 to 35 percent on who stands up for the middle-class.

The important thing to recognize about these results is that they are virtually identical to the national numbers for Obama and Romney. For all the focus on state-by-state results, the simple fact is that those numbers will track the national performance of either candidate. In other words, if you want a good, macro picture of how the candidates are doing, it’s not necessary to keep up with every poll of every state; Obama’s approval rating, alone, will tell you a fair amount about where he stands outright, and relative to Romney.