All right children, gather around--Last weekend before this goddam thing ends. I will have to clear off half the aps on my iPhone, which blurts at me any time something happens in the campaign, and that is sick, sick I tell you.
So, with four days left here's what's cooking on the polls. As I reported earlier, polling usually tightens in the last week of a campaign and that seemed to be happening, at least with the national polls, but that trend is now halted. The general consensus is that Obama is ahead by around 6 points, meaning McCain has to gain more than a point a day to catch up and that pretty much can't be done. Obama retains a strong lead in the states. He has all the Kerry states and is walking off with not a few Bush 2004 states. McCain has zero Kerry states and is now even having to defend himself in Arizona.
The P0llster (Ralph Blumenthal and company out of the University of Wisconsin) aggregate has Obama up by 5.5 points with 311 electoral votes, which actually is on the conservative side. The Gallup tracking poll of likely voters (the one modified for the best estimate of who will vote this year--more about that below) has Obama up by 8, with 353 votes (270 wins). RealClearPolitics, something of the gold standard in aggregating polls, has The One up by 6 and 311 EVs. Fivethirtyeight.com gives Obama a 96.3% chance of winning, has him ahead by 5.6 points and 346 EVs. Nate Silver's estmate is that the odds on an Obama landslide are 36% and Obama doesn't have to win Pennsylvania if he gets Virginia and Nevada. Hotline's poll in the National Journal has That One up by 7; Pollyvote (Wharton) at 5.6, Princeton up by 8 and TalkingPoint'sMemo.com, 6.3. A new poll from CBS and the New York Times has Obama up by 11 but that is an outlier.
A word of warning. What is screwing up consistency are two things: one, in some states voting has already begun and in a few states like Colorado and New Mexico, a substantial percentage of the ballots have already been cast. This makes exit polls on election day problematic, I think. The good news is that Obama seems to be highly favored by earlier voters as near as anyone can tell. It does take a bit of precision away. Two, if the young folks show up as they have promised to do (but history tells us they might not) Obama will have a tsunami. If they don't, this could be a whole different race. Selecting who is likely to vote is the hardest part of polling and this year it is harder than usual. Gallup, for instance, has two polls: one with a sample of people who actually voted in 2004 and one including people who did not but say they will this time. The latter has Obama doing better. Some polls use 2004 as a benchmark; many do not. They vary.
Oh, and by he way. All the polls now show that the greatest drag on McCain isn't George Bush; it's Sarah Palin. Most Americans think she is unqualified for the job. Imagine that.
In short, looking good. If McCain does win, American journalism and political polling will never recover.
I can't wait till this is over.