Maggie Gallagher

The latest polls in the conventional swing states show a close race, with neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama clearly ahead. Yet they also show a surprising number of formerly solid blue states now within Romney's reach.

The rust belt is creakily swinging, according to new polls in Wisconsin, Michigan and even Pennsylvania, where a Franklin and Marshall poll released on Halloween has Obama up by just 4 points, within the margin of error, and under 50 percent.

But what surprised me the most are the new polls from Minnesota and Oregon (my home state).

Take Oregon first, which has not voted for a Republican candidate for president since Ronald Reagan's landslide in 1984.

Two separate polls of likely voters released in late October show Obama at the 47 percent mark -- with Romney at either 41 percent or 42 percent. Obama is under 50 percent and Romney is within or almost within the margin of error. And undecided voters break 2-1 for Romney when pushed.

Tim Nashif, CEO of Gateway Communications, which owns the Hoffman Research polling company, told me via email that he doesn't expect Romney to pull out an actual win in Oregon. Yet, "it is so close. If Oregon is indicative of the rest of the nation, there could be some surprises in other states on Nov. 6."

Minnesota has not voted for a Republican since Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern in 1972. Yet a new Star-Tribune poll of 800 likely voters has the race in a statistical dead heat, with President Obama leading 47 percent to 44 percent, within the margin of error (and under 50 percent). In Minnesota, Romney may be benefiting in that state from President Obama's endorsement of gay marriage at a time when voters are highly aware of the issue because they are voting on gay marriage Nov. 6.

Eager Republicans are beginning to smell from these polls a possible historic landslide for Romney.

But here's the weird thing: If Republicans have a shot at Oregon and Minnesota, then the traditional swing states like Nevada and Colorado and Iowa should all be in Romney's bag.

Maybe a landslide is in the offing, but here's another possibility: a re-drawing of the conventional electoral map, as polls also reveal striking strength for Obama in states that the GOP recently considered must-wins: Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada remain tied, or with slight Obama leads.

Of all these, polls in Nevada are the most ominous.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.