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What An Eight Percent Advantage In The Battlegrounds Entails

So, you think Obama leads by 8 percentage points in the swing states, as suggested by last night’s NBC/WSJ survey? Before you jump on the bandwagon, understand what that entails: a blowout.  

In 2008, Obama carried NBC/WSJ’s twelve swing states by 7.7 percentage points.  A result like last night’s poll would require a repeat performance, even as most polls show Obama’s standing substantially worse than four years ago.

Obama’s big 7.7 percent advantage was driven by decisive victories in several states, including big states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Without such large margins of victory, Obama’s narrow wins in populous Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina would have swamped Obama’s impressive showings in tiny Nevada or New Mexico.

If Obama leads by 8 percentage points in the swing states, where is Obama running up the score? According to recent polls, Obama doesn’t lead by 10 percentage points in any state, except New Mexico, which represented a meager 2 percent of votes cast by these 12 states in 2008. In fact, not one poll over the last month has shown Obama leading by more than 10 points in any of the other 11 states. Obama is not leading in Florida, Ohio, or North Carolina by such a large margin that it obviates the need for Obama to run up the score on more favorable turf.

Perhaps new polls over the next few weeks will show Obama with a growing advantage in the battlegrounds without commensurate gains nationally. In the meantime, defer to dozens of state polls and history over a swing state sub-sample with a large margin of error from a single national poll.