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We have some new swing state poll numbers in today and they paint a somewhat mixed picture, at least compared to the universal train wreck numbers that Mitt Romney saw over the last two weeks. Both sides have numbers to point to today that can make the case of the race tightening, or not tightening, depending on how you look at it.

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Originally published at No We Can't Politics.

We have some new swing state poll numbers in today and they paint a somewhat mixed picture, at least compared to the universal train wreck numbers that Mitt Romney saw over the last two weeks. Both sides have numbers to point to today that can make the case of the race tightening, or not tightening, depending on how you look at it.

Here are the numbers, followed by my analysis.

* OHIO: Obama 49%, Romney 45% -- Romney +1% since 3 weeks ago (Public Policy)
* OHIO: Obama 51%, Romney 42% -- Obama +9% since August (Columbus Dispatch)
* FLORIDA: Obama 49%, Romney 48% - Obama +2% since 2 weeks ago (Gravis)
* IOWA: Obama 48%, Romney 44% -- Obama +3% since June (WeAskAmerica)
* NORTH CAROLINA: Obama 48%, Romney 48% -- Romney +1% since 3 weeks ago (Public Policy)
* NORTH CAROLINA: Romney 50%, Obama 46% -- No previous poll (ARG)

The two Public Policy polls, one of Ohio and one of North Carolina, both show a very slight shift to Romney as compared to three weeks ago. Romney also got a good North Carolina number from ARG, though ARG has no previous poll of the state to compare to.

Meanwhile, Obama got one of his best numbers yet in Ohio, with the Columbus Dispatch poll showing him up 9% on the back of a big 9% shift since their August poll of Ohio which showed a tied race. The WeAskAmerica poll also showed an increasing lead for Obama in Iowa, and the Gravis poll of Florida had previously shown a 1% lead for Romney, and now shows a 1% Obama lead. Plus Obama continues to lead in all these swing states except North Carolina.

The national polls also showed mixed results. Gallup had the race tightening from a 6% Obama lead to 4%, CNN had Obama's lead going from 6% to 3%, and Politico/GWU/Battleground had Obama's lead going from 3% to 2%.

On the flip side, Rasmussen had Obama's lead growing from 2% to 3% and ABC/Washington Post had Obama's lead going from 1% to 2%.

So what do we make of all this data? It's pretty clear that Obama's lead is not really growing anymore at this point. He seems to have hit a peak, and may be retracting a bit from that peak, particularly nationally. But the increased focus on swing states like Ohio and Florida continues to pay dividends, as Obama continues to outperform his national numbers in these swing states. ABC/Washington Post has him up 52% to 41% in swing states, even though he is up just 49% to 47% nationally. It seems pretty clear right now that Obama is over-performing in swing states compared to nationally, perhaps by quite a bit, something that is unusual for Presidential elections.

How does that make sense? Pretty simple -- Obama's advertising, message, rallies, and voter reach-out programs seem to be working in the targeted states, meaning he is doing a better job of rekindling his 2008 coalition fire in those states, which he isn't quite doing nationally. The question now is how resistant is Obama's lead in a state like Ohio to national changes? If Romney has a good debate on Wednesday, will that crack what Obama has built in Ohio? Because right now, Ohio seems largely isolated from whatever minor tightening we may be seeing nationally. If Romney is going to have any chance at coming back and winning this thing, he will have to narrow Ohio to a margin that at least is in the 2%-3% range. More than that and it is not realistic that debates will be able to close the gap.

Obama's easiest path to 270 at this point remains winning Ohio and Iowa (assuming he holds Wisconsin and Pennsylvania). That gets him to 271 electoral votes, even if he loses all the other swing states (Virginia, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, and North Carolina). It may make sense for him to continue to allocate more resources to those states and try to build up a firewall. North Carolina continues to be a risky state for Obama because it will likely remain a total toss-up until election day, is a state that requires a lot of money and resources, and is unlikely to be the tipping point state to 270 in any scenario. Obama will likely only win North Carolina is he wins the national popular vote by over 5%, and in that scenario, he will win in a landslide anyway. If this election ends up being very close, North Carolina is unlikely to be the difference between a win and a loss for either candidate.

One other thing worth mentioning is that most of these swing state polls we are seeing continue to show a dwindling number of undecideds, and an increased number of people who claim to have their minds made up. Obama is at or close to 50% in virtually all swing state (not including North Carolina). This further complicates things for Romney because the potential number of people he has available to sway at the debates is very small, probably the smallest its been in a long time, maybe in the history of Presidential elections. That's the result of hyperpartisanship, where leaners aren't particularly swayable to begin with as they simply believe the people that reinforce what they already think, and they tend to view the winning side based on whoever they already lean to, i.e. who had the better convention, who had the better debate performance, etc. Very few people go into debates with an open mind anymore, mitigating their potential impact. In swing states, where the campaigns have spent so much money and so much time targeting undecided voters for the past several months, most have already been so exposed to the candidates that they have either made up their minds or are leaning in one way or another, and a normal debate isn't going to shift much of that.

Originally published at No We Can't Politics.

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