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CBS/NYT Poll Preempt

If Andrew Sullivan is right and the CBS-NYT poll to be released this evening shows a 14-point lead for Obama, we shouldn’t actually regard this as all that shocking a result.

Presently, our best estimate is that Obama has about an 8-point national lead. However, CBS polls have leaned about 3 points more Democratic than the average this year. In other words, our baseline expectation is that a CBS poll should be showing about an 11-point for Obama right now.

You wind up to the Obama side of the +/- 3 point margin of error, and that’s how you get to 14 points.

Not that this is good news for McCain exactly — the balance of polling over the past 48 hours indicates that Obama’s true lead is probably more like 8 points (maybe even inching upward toward 9) than 6 or 7. But it’s not quite as bad as it will look on the surface.

UPDATE: Yes, the topline number is indeed Obama 53, McCain 39, although the version that we prefer — with third party candidates included — gives Obama “only” a 12-point lead.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.