Opinion: Barack Obama gets a polling boost ... but is it to be believed?

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Fittingly, perhaps, for the start of the last full month of the presidential race, today may well be remembered as the moment it became clear Barack Obama was headed to the White House -- or a point in time that underscored pollsters have no clue.

In a couple of the national polls -- an ABC News/Washington Post survey and the daily tracking report by Gallup Co. -- leads Obama enjoyed against John McCain shrunk a bit, to be sure.

But overall, as shown at, he has staked out a consistent advantage in the various nationwide soundings of voter attitudes.


The national polls, though, become increasingly irrelevant as election day nears. What counts, as the Obama brain trust likes to stress, is what’s happening in each state -- especially those that have told the tale in the last two presidential elections.

And in three of these states, new results -- if correct -- put Obama in a commanding position to win in November.

The numbers from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute gave him an eyebrow-raising double-digit lead in Pennsylvania -- a must-win for the Democratic ticket. Even more surprisingly, the institute’s figures put Obama solidly ahead in Ohio and Florida.

Carrying either state would virtually assure an Obama administration.

Peter Brown, assistant director for the polling unit, summarized the findings thusly:

Sen. Obama clearly won the debate, voters say. Their opinion of Gov. Sarah Palin has gone south and the Wall Street meltdown has been a dagger to McCain’s political heart. Roughly a third of voters, and almost as large a share of the key independent vote, say McCain did more harm than good in trying to resolve the financial crisis, and the share of voters who see the economy as the top issue has risen from roughly half to six in ten.

Then again, Quinnipiac may be giving us a bum steer. Other surveys in Ohio and Florida (see here and here) for the most part have shown nail-biters.

[Update: Time magazine/CNN polls for a slew of hotly contested states were released later in the day and, again, the news was all good for Obama.

[The surveys put him comfortably ahead in Minnesota and Virginia (long a Republican bastion), in the lead in Florida and Nevada and in a virtual tie with McCain in Missouri.

[It’s apparent Obama caught a wave of positive public feelings as September was coming to an end. The question now is whether his campaign can sustain that trend.]

-- Don Frederick

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