There's lots of contradictory polling floating around today, so let's try to unpack some of it. We'll begin with the 'battleground' numbers teased in the headline:
President Obama remains marginally ahead of Mitt Romney in a new national CNN/ORC International poll released on Monday, although Romney leads Obama in the 15 states identified by the network as battleground states. Obama leads Romney nationally, 49 percent to 46 percent, with 4 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for another candidate or neither candidate. That is inside the poll's margin of error, and it is identical to the 49 percent to 46 percent lead Obama had in the previous poll, conducted in late May...However, in the 15 states CNN calls its battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — Romney leads Obama, 51 percent to 43 percent. Notably, though, the CNN/ORC International group includes three states thought to be comfortably in the Romney column this cycle: Arizona, Indiana, and Missouri.
So Obama's ahead by three points nationwide, but trails by eight points in 15 key states? How does that work? I suppose it's possible that Obama is running up the score in places like California, New York and Illinois, while purple states are slanting heavily toward his Republican opponent. It's also conceivable that Romney's leads in Arizona, Indiana and Missouri are so overwhelming that they're contributing to the misleading appearance of a robust edge in the other states. Then again, shouldn't Obama's "blue wall" of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan tug the data in the opposite direction? It's also worth noting that CNN's swing state results are also the polar opposite of NBC's recent numbers in a dozen of these same states, which showed Obama leading by eight points, 50-42. That was six days ago. Back to today's CNN poll: Its internals show Obama with a seven-point lead over Romney on the question of healthcare. But...Newsweek's new poll shows exactly the reverse, with Romney ahead by eight on the matter, and Obama's general approval rating on healthcare underwater by fully 21 points (37/58). Meanwhile, Gallup's daily tracker has Obama ahead by five points among registered voters overall -- his best showing in months. But Rasmussen's tracker has Romney pulling back ahead by two points nationwide, even as Republicans' lead on the generic Congressional ballot has narrowed to a single point. This is why polling can be absolutely maddening, and not especially useful at times.
One area where much of the data is fairly stable is on Obamacare. Rasmussen continues to show the enduring double-digit majority in favor of repeal that they've consistently identified for two years running, and Newsweek's poll demonstrates that majorities of voters oppose the mandate tax, believe Obamacare will make healthcare more expensive, and say it will raise taxes. Less than one-fourth of voters say the Supreme Court's decision upholding the law will make America better off. A new poll from The Hill also indicates that voters are heavily predisposed to view Obamacare as a tax, 60 to 39 percent. Who thinks the White House's feeble spin will move those numbers in a positive direction for the president? Not I, especially with conservatives flooding the zone with denunciations of the unpopular Obamacare mandate tax, with corresponding political ads like this:
I'll leave you with a quote from Obama SuperPAC chief Bill Burton calling Mitt Romney a "clown" on -- where else? -- MSNBC: "Is this clown really going to beat President Obama?" (Follow the link for video). Depending on what poll you're looking at, the answer could very well be 'yes.' It's also apparent that Burton has been taking civility tips from his most infamous seven-figure donor.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography