The release of a new swing state poll from Purple Poll Strategies confirms what we have been seeing for months: the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney is looking like a dead heat. Romney has closed the gap nationally in this poll from a 4-point deficit to only 2 points with state polls in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado producing similar results that are well within the margin of error. Despite an avalanche of spending by both sides in these and other battleground states, neither the president nor his challenger has been able to build a statistically significant lead. That ought to leave Democrats and Republicans wondering whether there is anything they can do to create any daylight between the two contenders.
The reasons for this stalemate are complex, but it boils down to a situation where both the president and Romney have strengths and weaknesses that seem to balance each other out. As Sean Trende noted last week at RealClearPolitics.com, the remarkable consistency of poll results that tend to show Obama with a slight lead among registered voters and a tie when it is narrowed down to likely voters is based on the fact that neither side seems able to deliver a knockout punch. The president is not popular and his main accomplishments are viewed negatively. But Romney is also not terribly well-liked. Even more important in Trende’s view is that while the economy is in bad shape, it is not that much worse than it was 2000 and 2004. Which means that no matter how much mud the Democrats sling at Romney or how hard the GOP hits the president on unpopular policies like ObamaCare, we are probably doomed to an election that will be as close as those two squeakers.