Rod looks at the most recent Gallup poll and asks:
What’s going on, to put Romney up so far so close to the election?
The answer is that Romney probably isn’t ahead by five points, but he does appear to have a slight lead nationally. Jonathan Bernstein offers a good summary of where things seem to stand right now:
Remember, the state of play, at least until Sandy shut down a lot of polling, is that the national vote is basically tied (with Mitt Romney possibly having a very narrow edge) while Barack Obama appears to have a 2-3 percentage point electoral college advantage. What that means is that in a tied race nationally, Romney would have to win basically every close swing state to win [bold mine-DL]. If the polls are correct and nothing changes between now and Tuesday, the chances for an Obama victory are good.
That doesn’t mean that Romney couldn’t win the election, of course, but it does mean that a Romney victory depends on pretty much everything breaking in his favor in most of the right states in the next week. According to the RCP no-tossups map, Obama leads with 290 electoral votes to Romney’s 248. My guess is that Romney might eke out a win in Colorado to give him 257 electoral votes, but by itself that won’t change the outcome. There’s no telling how significant the effects of the hurricane will be for the election, but it seems that the effects will be much more limited in most of the states where Romney is tied or trails and needs to win. If the Democratic advantage in organization is real and if it can produce as much as a 1-2 point increase in Obama’s final result in the most competitive states, Romney’s opportunities will quickly disappear. As Molly Ball reported last week:
In Colorado, one top GOP consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns told me he mentally added 2 to 4 points to Obama’s polls in the state based on superior organization.
If Obama benefits from similar gains in other competitive states, it becomes extremely difficult to see how Romney wins most of the current toss-up states.
Romney has been rising during October, but now his national numbers seem to have reached a plateau. The RCP average gives him 48%. Romney has never registered more than 48% support in this average at any point in the campaign. Romney could easily continue to gain ground nationally, especially by racking up additional support in safe and Republican-leaning states, and still fall short in the electoral vote. This is why Obama is still considered the slight favorite to win, which is what he has been all year.