National polling is going to be tough to come by over the next few days, as pollsters will struggle to get remotely accurate samples from much of the Eastern seaboard. Indeed, Gallup and a few other firms are suspending their tracking polls until the mess is cleared up. For what it's worth, Rasmussen's tracker still has Obama locked in at 47 percent, with Romney ahead by two. The Republican maintains a six-point advantage on the economy, and for the first time, fewer than 50 percent of voters think Obama will win re-election. Meanwhile, NPR has released its final national poll of the cycle, taken before the megastorm swamped the Northeast. Its topline result is Romney 48, Obama 47 -- but all other signs point to a more sizable Romney lead. Let's examine a few of the telling data points:
(1) Sample - The poll surveys 370 Democrats, 306 Republicans and 309 Independents, for a D/R/I of 37/31/31 (D+6). After weighting, the sample is D+4. Obama has a statistically insignificant lead in the "swing states" sub-section, which has a much larger margin of error, and clocks in at D+9. For reasons explained here and here, both partisan splits seem unlikely to reflect this year's electorate -- to say nothing of this.
(2) Enthusiasm - Republicans are more likely than Democrats to rate this election as a "9" or "10" in terms of importance, suggesting an intensity gap. Republicans outpace Democrats on the "10" scale by ten points (76/66). Eighty percent of GOP voters responded with either a 9 or 10, while 72 percent of Democrats did the same.
(3) Independents - Right track/wrong track: 30/64. Obama job approval/disapproval: 42/54, and 39/60 on the economy. On the head-to-head among indies, it's Romney 51, Obama 39 -- a twelve point lead for the GOP ticket.
(4) Issues - Overall, Romney leads on the economy (50/46), deficits (51/43) and taxes (49/47). The candidates are roughly tied on healthcare and national security. Obama holds a small edge on Medicare (50/45) and a more substantial advantage on foreign policy (52/43).
(5) Favorability - This had been Romney's great Achilles' heel and Obama's personal firewall prior to the debates. Where do voters stand on each of the four candidates today? Barack Obama: 51/48 (favorable/unfavorable) and 43/53 with independents. Mitt Romney: 51/45 (54/40 with indies). Joe Biden: 46/48 (39/53 with indies). Paul Ryan: 50/40 (52/38 with indies).
Based on these numbers, Barack Obama's path to victory entails over-performing his 2008 turnout among Democrats, thus overwhelming GOP enthusiasm and Romney's double-digit lead with independents. So the storyline on November 7 -- assuming there was a clear winner the night prior -- with either be (a) How was the conventional wisdom so wrong for so long? or (b) How did Team Obama buck the trends and use Herculean turnout to muscle their way to victory in swing states?