The Columbus Dispatch, the only newspaper in Ohio's biggest city, has declared Ohio a "toss-up" between President Obama and Mitt Romney. This will please the Romney camp, which has been fighting hard against the "Ohio is Obama's rock-solid firewall" narrative.
For reasons I'll explain, this headline is misleading. And it's tempting to think it's intentionally misleading. After all, the Dispatch endorsed Romney (and in fact hasn't endorsed a Democrat for president since 1916). And the lead paragraph of the story under the "toss-up" headline does have a certain Mitt Romney-pep-rally quality to it: "The 'Ohio firewall' precariously stands for President Barack Obama, but a strong Republican turnout could enable Mitt Romney to tear it down on Election Day."
Still, I think we can give the Dispatch the benefit of the doubt and assume that its own firewall -- the church-state separation that is supposed to keep a newspaper's editorial stance from coloring its reporting -- is intact. Because there's a simpler explanation for the "toss-up" headline: It rests on the same slightly-too-simple way of thinking about polling that lots of reporters and other Americans evince every four years.
Presumably the reason the headline writer felt justified in calling the race a toss-up was this paragraph in the story: "The final Dispatch poll shows Obama leading 50 percent to 48 percent in the Buckeye State. However, that 2-point edge is within the survey's margin of sampling error, plus or minus 2.2 percentage points."