After a few weeks spent tracking down and questioning pollsters and the reporters of polls, I can assure the reader that pollsters are the modern-day alchemists. They promise to turn numbers into predictive gold. We'd all like to believe these magical powers exist, but we shouldn't. The pollsters of 2012 just don't know who is going to win in November any more than did the pollsters of 1980 know that Ronald Reagan was headed towards a landslide in that late-breaking year.
I'd like to believe Scott Rasmussen that the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is tied. Democrats would like to believe Quinnipiac (used by the New York Times and CBS) or Marist (used by the Wall Street Journal and NBC) that Obama has surged to a lead in Ohio and other key battleground states. They'd also like to believe that Gallup's finding that the president has a six-point lead among registered voters means a six point win in five weeks.
But none of these beliefs are good journalistic practice.
(Gallup's tracking poll changes to a "likely voter screen" next week, and then it will make the most sense to average Rasmussen and Gallup and conclude that is the true "state of the race," though even that average is still subject to incredible volatility in the closing five weeks of the campaign.)
There are plenty of data points to encourage Republicans, and these are genuine data points as opposed to the junk food offered up by Quinnipiac and Marist, which derived their predictions from samples that included enormous Democratic voter margins in key states, pro-Democratic turnout margins that were even greater than those achieved in Obama's blowout year of 2008..
Two data points that warm GOP hearts and undermine the junk polls: (1) Absentee requests in Ohio by Democrats are trailing their 2008 totals --often by a lot in key Democratic counties like Cuyahoga County; and (2) overall voter registeration for Democrats in the Buckeye State is down dramatically from 2008.
These two bits of info undermine the credibility of the Obama booster polls, as did the interviews I conducted with key leadership from both polls and with other informed observers.