Obama Nearing the 50% Mark or He's Losing

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Both candidates had good news to point to in the national polls today, which means they also both had bad news. Here's our guide to today's polls and why they matter. 

Findings: Both candidates can point to good poll news today. One new national poll puts Obama close to the magic 50 percent mark, learding Romney 49 to 46 percent among likely voters, while another shows Romney with a lead over the President, 48 percent to 45 percent. 
Pollster: New York Times/CBS News, Rasmussen
Methodology: For New York Times/CBS: Telephone poll of 1,162 likely voters September 8 through 12 with a margin of error of +/-3 percent. For Rasmussen: Three-day rolling average of 500 likely voters per night with a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points. 
Why it matters: The good news for Obama in the NYT/CBS poll is that Obama is closing in on the 50 percent mark which is where, in the old political analyst adage, an incumbent needs to be to ensure victory, under the theory that undecideds in polls will mostly vote for the challenger. As Tom Kludt of Talking Points Memo notes: "Although the 3-point edge is narrower than what has been shown in other post-convention national surveys, the CBS/NYT poll shows Obama hovering near the 50 percent threshold — a trend that has emerged following last week's Democratic National Convention."  Still, even Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times is skeptical that the new poll changes things much, explaining that "the poll found that the overall framework of the race is largely unchanged from earlier in the year." But Rasmussen says its results shows some change in the race including "the fading of the president’s convention bounce." While Rasmussen says the recent events in the Middle East isn't accounted for in its results, conservative pundit Laura Ingraham tweeted otherwise: "Scott Rasmussen of @RasmussenPoll says today's poll is the most recent data to date, 1st poll to include embassy aftermath."  Earlier this week, Rasmussen bounced for Obama along with other polls
Caveat: Rasmussen has a house effect that favors Republicans. Also, according to Nate Cohn of The New Republic: "Rasmussen weights for party-ID and some national polls show that Obama's movement was due to gains among likely voters. By weighting the likely voter universe, it's possible that Rasmussen's method has obscured some of Obama's gains."   The NYT/CBS polls results in the presidential race found "a difference within the margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points on each candidate," according to Zeleny. Same goes for Rasmussen, too. 

Findings: Obama leads by seven in Ohio among likely voters in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — 50 percent to 43 percent in Ohio. That said, Rasmussen poll in Ohio shows it as a one point race.
Pollster: Marist for NBC News/Wall Street Journal, Rasmussen.
Methodology: For NBC/WSJ: Telephone interviews of 979 likely voters in Ohio September 9 through 11 with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points. For Rasmussen: Automated poll of 500 likely voters September 12 with a margin of error of +/-4.5 percentage points. 
Why it matters: The 50 percent in the NBC/WSJ poll would seem to indicate good news for Obama. Alexander Burns of Politico writes,"the fact that he hit that threshold in last night's NBC/Marist poll in Ohio may be the most encouraging top-line data point of the week for Democrats." Though Rasmussen shows a much closer race Nate Cohn at The New Republic explains that "A 1 or 2 point lead isn’t big, but it’s a little better for Obama given Rasmussen’s GOP-lean and a worse showing in August." 
Caveat: Rasmussen's house effect. Also, the RCP average has Obama up by 4.2 in the state, which is similar to internal GOP poll which shows their candidate losing by four points.  

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Findings: Obama leads by 5 points among likely voters in Florida — 49 to 44 percent — according to NBC/WSJ, but only by two in Florida, according to Rasmussen. Meanwhile, a poll from the Associated Industries of Florida gives Romney a three-point lead.
Pollster: NBC/WSJ, RasmussenMcLaughlin & Associates for Associated Industries of Florida 
Methodology: For NBC/WSJ: Telephone poll of 980 likely voters in Florida September 9 through 11 with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points. For Rasmussen: Automated poll of 500 likely voters September 12 with a margin of error of +/-4.5 percentage points. For McLaughlin: Telephone poll of 600 likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error. 
Why it matters: Florida is, as David Freedlander at the Daily Beast writes, "crucial to Mitt Romney’s hopes of winning the White House." Looking at the NBC/WSJ poll the Republican would seem to be in hot water. That said, Freedlander points out that the Associated Industries poll gives "brief hope to the Romney campaign." Cohn writes that "at this point, Romney’s chances hinge on the NBC/Marist polls just simply being wrong." Even the Rasmussen poll is an improvement for Obama, the Rasmussen points out: "This is the president’s highest level of support in the Sunshine State to date and the first time he’s been ahead here since March." 
Caveat: Rasmussen leans conservative. As does McLaughlin. McLaughlin's results are also within the margin of error. Cohn writes: "In this case, the AIF/McLaughlin result looks like the outlier." A SurveyUSA poll also had Obama up by four in the state

Findings: In NBC/WSJ Obama also leads Virginia 49 percent to 44 percent, but Rasmussen only has him up by a point — 49 percent to 48 percent.
Pollster: NBC/WSJ, Rasmussen 
Methodology:  For NBC/WSJ: Telephone poll of 996 likely voters in Florida September 9 through 11 with a margin of error of +/-3.1 percentage points. For Rasmussen: Automated poll of 500 likely Virginia voters September 13 with a +/-4.5 percentage point margin of error. 
Why it matters: As mentioned above the NBC/WSJ poll would seem to indicate a comfier spot for Obama especially with him approaching 50 percent, which according to Neil King Jr. suggests "that Mr. Romney must peel off voters who now support the president to win." That said, there has been some movement for Rasmussen: "In late August, Obama and Romney were tied in Virginia at 47% apiece. " 
Caveat: That pesky Rasmussen house effect. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.