A new survey from the generally reputable Quinnipiac University polling outfit places President Obama's lead in Ohio at a robust nine points (double his 2008 Buckeye State victory margin), with Mitt Romney languishing in the high 30s. An outlier, or time to despair? National Journal has some doubts about the sample:
President Obama leads Mitt Romney 47 percent to 38 percent in the Ohio survey. Quinnipiac's sample is slightly more Democratic-leaning than the previous poll. In the latest poll, 34 percent of voters said they generally consider themselves Democrats, compared to 26 percent who say they are Republicans. In the early May survey, 31 percent of voters were Democrats, and 29 percent were Republicans. Still, the higher percentage among Democrats only explains part of the net change in the horse-race result. Obama's 9-point lead among independents is a 13-point swing from the previous poll, when Romney led by 4 points among independents.
Let's face it: If Obama has really gained 13 points among independents during the absolutely abysmal month he's endured, then he's a shoo-in for re-election. But as NJ points out, this poll uses a D+8 sample to attain an Obama +9 result. As a point of reference, Republicans had a slight partisan ID advantage in Ohio during the 2010 cycle. The conventional wisdom is that the 2012 electorate will be a hybrid of 2008 and 2010. Here's another element of the poll that looks terrible for Republicans, but is also rather suspect:
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, leads Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel by 16 points, according to new Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday. Brown leads Mandel 50 percent to 34 percent in the poll. In the previous survey, released on May 10, Brown led 46 percent to 40 percent over Mandel, who is also an Iraq War veteran.
By contrast, a recent Rasmussen poll showed Brown ahead by five points, with the little-known Mandel making gains. There's also the telling, albeit anecdotal, evidence that the DSCC just reserved a massive ad buy in Ohio for the fall, signaling that they're anticipating the need to make a hard play to defend the seat:
The DSCC has started reserving fall air time in Ohio for the matchup between Sen. Sherrod Brown and Josh Mandel, who despite a barrage of negative headlines has been running a tight race against the incumbent, a GOP media-buying source says. The reservation is from Oct. 2 through election day, the final five weeks of the race, for $2.28 million in three markets - Cleveland, Dayton and Youngstown. That leaves time left to purchase in the Columbus market, meaning the price tag is likely to grow. A GOP strategist involved in Senate campaigns crowed about the cash plunk-down by Democrats: “For all the spin and bravado we’ve heard from national Democrats about holding this Senate seat, their actions tell a far different story. It’s clear Democrats are actually quite worried about this race and they have good reason to be because Sherrod Brown’s very liberal record is out of step with Ohio.”
One gets the sense that Democrats may not believe that their candidate is comfortably ahead, and that Ohio voters aren't really a D+8 group this time around. Multiple polls have shown the presidential race to be a dead heat in neighboring Michigan, which Obama carried by 16 points in 2008. Are we to believe that Obama is currently tied in that state, while leading comfortably in the state that he won by 1/3 of Michigan's margin last time?
UPDATE - Ed Morrissey highlights a Democrat-leaning PPP survey showing Ohio tightening, with Obama ahead by three points (47-44):
PPP’s sample looks a lot more reasonable, at 39/37/24. It might be oversampling both Democrats and Republicans, but it gets the relationship between the two correct. Undersampling independents helps Obama a bit, though, as his job approval rating among indies is a disastrous 37/53, although Obama and Romney tie at 42/42 among them. However, that looks like a high-water mark for Obama as long as his job approval rating is that poor, while Romney would have more upside.
Ed correctly notes that the Q-poll's numbers are typically much more reliable than PPP's Dem-slanted ones, so this data set looks like an outlier for more than one reason.