Presidential Polls 2012: Obama and Romney in Dead Heat as First Debate Approaches

For nearly all of September, the media has been telling GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to take his ball and go home. President Obama had an insurmountable lead that no one would be able to overtake. Now we have a different race emerging magically before our very eyes.

According to several polls, the race has tightened up. CNN has Obama only ahead by 3 points, while the latest WaPo/ABC poll has Obama ahead only by 2. Both polls are within the margin of error. Those wildly skewed samples that the nation took notice of last week? Wildly reduced. While the Democrats still are the most sampled group, they’re no longer ahead by the ridiculous 10 or 11%. An analysis of the sample from the WaPo/ABC poll shows a D/R/I sample of 33/30/33 – which places it smack in the middle of the 2008 and 2010 exit polls.

The only other noteworthy thing about the latest polls are the curious way that Obama makes his lead. Romney and Obama are virtually tied, except in the swing states. Obama magically has a lead in 11 swing states, and is all tied up among non-swing states.

That same WaPo poll that shows Romney to be falling behind only in those precious swing states has an 8% margin of error, which is utterly appalling. Any pollster worth their salt should be fired for producing something with such a wide margin of error, especially when it is covering something as crucial as swing state information. Of course, one has to know that while they may even out some samples, they cannot be expected to stop covering for their guy all together.

Other polls could be considering encouraging to the Romney camp. The Gallup daily tracking poll shows President Obama’s approval at 47%, and disapproval at 46%. Rasmussen shows an even break for the president, with 49% approving of his performance while 49% disapprove. Romney's lead with independent voters? GrowingBloomberg News has Obama's support on national security slipping rapidly.

One reliable statistic over the past half century is that a majority of undecided voters almost always break for the challenger. For a voter to be undecided at this point in the game, there has to be a certain mindset. Typically, they are sure they don’t like the incumbent, but still deciding on the challenger. In the end, a majority of these undecided voters break for the challenger at the last minute. President Obama is still not in safe territory, especially with the first of three presidential debates kicking off tomorrow.

Both camps are trying to lower expectations. Obama’s camp has been saying that Romney will win the first debate, while Romney’s camp has been saying that President Obama will emerge victorious. I’ll pause for a minute so you all can scratch your heads.

The question is, can debates help persuade people? In 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan used his personality, wit and surprising grasp of knowledge to catch two opponents off guard. In 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton was able to do the same thing. However, it is not a contest of charm. It’s seeing who is the most capable to lead the country. If the Mitt Romney that disarmed and took out Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich with a surprisingly fierce attack emerges, Obama could find himself in trouble. If Romney chokes and does not go on the offensive, Obama could look like he is smiling away against an old oak tree.

In the past, Mitt Romney has shown himself to be a great but inconsistent debater. In 1994 he surprised Senator Ted Kennedy with a performance that at times had the audience cheering. Even though Romney lost that election, he still gave Kennedy the closest run for his seat that he’d ever gotten.

In 2008, Romney emerged fresh off of his one term as governor. He came off nice, trying to shrug off attacks, and it blew up in his face as he lost the primary to John McCain. 2012 showed a different Romney, one that for 20 presidential debates was aggressive when he needed to be, and showed a masterful ability to get the attention onto another debater in order to drain support from a more worthy competitor.

President Obama is of course hailed as a champion debater, however we’ve only see him against lackluster opponents, like Senator John McCain.

Lock the doors and hide the kids! In a race this close, the slightest gaffe or home run can sway a lot of people. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was running double digits behind Jimmy Carter. One debate was all it took for Reagan to bury Carter in a massive landslide. While Romney may not have the charm of Reagan, he is going up against someone with the malaise and horrible track record of Carter, and that may be all he needs to knock it out of the park.