A new round of national polls suggests that Mitt Romney has pulled even with President Barack Obama in the 2012 race, and he may even hold a slight lead.
Romney now leads President Obama by a 49 to 47 percent margin in Gallup’s daily tracking poll. The Gallup poll measures “likely voters”; among all registered voters, Obama still leads Romney 49 to 46 percent. Neither result represents a statistically significant lead.
Notably, Obama has made up the losses that he suffered among registered voters in the wake of the first presidential debate on Wednesday. Since Saturday, Obama has held a 50 to 45 percent lead among registered voters, the same 5-point margin that he held in the three days before the debate. This leads Gallup to conclude that “Romney’s initial gains from his strong performance in last week’s debate may be short-lived.”
The latest DailyKos/SEIU/Public Policy Polling poll also shows Romney with a 49 to 47 percent lead over Obama. That narrow lead is within the poll’s +/- 2.7 percent margin of error.
Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports’ latest daily tracking poll shows Obama and Romney tied with 48 percent each. Romney’s support runs slightly deeper than Obama’s in the Rasmussen survey; 45 percent of voters are “certain” that they will vote for Romney, compared to 41 percent who are certain they will vote for Obama.
Based on the strength of these results, plus yesterday’s Pew Research Center and Politico/George Washington University polls, Romney has taken a razor-thin lead over Obama in Real Clear Politics‘ poll average. His 48 to 47.3 percent advantage represents the first time that he has been ahead in the average in over a year.
Despite Romney’s rapid rise in national polls, Democrats should not yet push the panic button. As New York Times statistician Nate Silver points out, there is solid evidence that Romney’s debate bounce is already receding. Furthermore, Obama still holds leads in almost all of the critical swing states, and he still has more paths to 270 electoral votes than Romney does. According to Silver’s forecasting model, President Obama still holds a 74.8 percent chance of winning the election.
Still, the evidence is clear: the race has tightened significantly since Obama’s high-water mark after the Democratic convention. What’s less clear is whether Romney can translate his new-found momentum into serious gains in states like Ohio and Wisconsin, which he’ll need to have any chance of reaching the White House.
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