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Independents Shift to Romney

Today’s Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Romney leading Obama by one-point with just one week to go. Notice that WaPo can barely bring itself to say Romney has a lead (however slight) in its write-up:

For the third consecutive day of the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, a single — statistically insignificant — percentage point separates the two presidential contenders: 49 percent of likely voters back Republican Mitt Romney, and 48 percent support President Obama.

The parity in the contest shows up elsewhere as well: the two candidates are just two points apart when it comes to dealing with taxes, and they are three points apart on health care policy. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for the sample of 1,278 likely voters.

WaPo’s tracking poll also shows Romney maintaining a double-digit lead with independents. Chris Cillizza writes that this is a serious problem for Obama, but may not be definitive:

First, while the election is national in scope, it will be decided in a handful of swing states, including Virginia, where Post polling released Sunday showed Obama with a four-point edge.

Second, enthusiasm among independents can be a fleeting thing — as shown by the movement in the numbers among GOP-leaning independents over the past few weeks.

Third, even Republicans acknowledge that Obama’s turnout operation is the best that has ever been built, meaning (a) the incumbent’s campaign will find every Democratic partisan there is in a swing state and (b) it will work hard to contact and energize those Democratic-leaning independents in the final eight days of the campaign.

True, but whatever happened over the last few weeks that suddenly made independent voters across the country shift toward Romney is having an impact in the swing states as well. There’s been a disconnect between national and state polls, but there are signs the latter are catching up. Enthusiasm can always change, but with just a week to go Romney has a strong lead in that area. If Romney maintains his advantage with independents on election day, Obama would need to get his base to turn out in the same numbers as in 2008. No matter how great his turnout operation, he’s still working with a far less enthusiastic pool than he was last time around.


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