On Tuesday, in an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt (before the Quinnipiac polls were released), Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard said:
The issue right now is that it is very difficult to get a sense of who the true voters are. We are five weeks away from the election, and we’re just two weeks off the Democratic convention. It’s very difficult to get a sense of who the true voters are. And these pollsters are making a guess. And their defense never acknowledges that in fact what they are doing is making a guess. And moreover, Hugh, it is a contestable guess, because the Rasmussen poll, the Gallup poll, the Purple Strategies poll, and a handful of others do not make the same guesses, and are getting different results. And that, I think, is the core point here, is that this is much more guess work than pollsters are prepared to admit.
Do you really believe Obama is up by nine points right now in the Sunshine State? Or perhaps I should rephrase: Do you believe Barack Obama is going to win by nine points come Nov. 6? In 2008, when Obama fever was at its apex, the then Illinois U.S. Senator defeated John McCain in Florida by three percentage points (51-48 percent).
I don't trust the number at all.
Neither does Florida Republican Party Chair Lenny Curry, who issued a release on Wednesday afternoon showing other polling agencies that called the race in Florida a dead heat:
"Most polls show the race in Florida to be as tight as ever - within the margin of error. This race is going to come down to turnout and voter enthusiasm, just like it always does in Florida, and which is an advantage for Governor Romney. This latest Q-poll is clearly an outlier that should not be taken seriously."
The latest polls in Florida show a much closer race in Florida:
Poll Date Sample MoE Obama Romney
Florida Times-Union 9/24 - 9/24 540 LV 4.1 49 46
Washington Post 9/19 - 9/23 769 LV 4.5 51 47
Mason-Dixon 9/17 - 9/19 800 LV 3.5 48 47
Purple Strategies 9/15 - 9/19 600 LV 4.0 47 48
Rasmussen Reports 9/12 - 9/12 500 LV 4.5 48 46
I want to add that it's not an illusion that Obama is ascendent in the polls, even though some of his critics allege he hasn't done much to earn a loftier status.
A couple of things you can specifically attribute to his rising numbers, however:
1. A successful Democratic convention in Charlotte at the beginning of the month. Sure the president's speech wasn't a keeper, but it didn't need to be after what Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton did earlier in the week. Most importantly, it fired up Democrats in a way they haven't been for four years. Whether that can sustain itself throughout the next six weeks is a major question, but Obama definitely got a bounce from the DNC in a way that Romney and the RNC didn't.
2. Mitt Romney's Boca Raton speech. You know, the one where he said 47 percent of the country doesn't pay federal income taxes, and is therefore too dependent on the government and won't vote for him? I still hope some conservatives aren't maintaining that the story was distorted by the news media. As you know, Romney confused roughly half the country who won't vote for a Republican in this partisan electorate with the 47 (actually 46) percent of the country that doesn't pay income taxes.
As has been written (ad nauseum) since Mother Jones posted the video, all types of natural Romney voters — like senior citizens and members of the military — are part of that 47 (or 46) percent. By parroting the conservative line that moochers who like free stuff won't vote for him, he played into the worst caricature already created by his persona: a wealthy Republican who can't speak to a specific part of the country, so he won't even try.
The fact that he bought into the notion promulgated by folks like Bill O'Reilly and Eric Ericson that the growing dependency on government is the real problem with the country was just bad political analysis, and now he's paying for it.
Also worth noting is that Rush Limbaugh has recently been bashing "low-information voters," saying that the "stupid" vote is going Obama's way in the polls. That's generally the province of liberals, generally (like Bill Maher).
How much of a difference this has made at the polls is hard to quantify, and I'm not saying it's "game-changing." But I do think it has affected the polling during the past week.
Florida is going to be dogfight. As most political analysts have noted, it's an absolute must-win for the Romney-Ryan ticket. He's not going to make 270 electoral votes without it.