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July 19: Better Numbers for Romney in Virginia

We’ve more often than not used President Obama as the protagonist in our forecast updates, so let’s flip the polarity a bit and talk about Wednesday’s polls from Mitt Romney’s point of view instead. (This is just an aesthetic thing. The election is, as far as our forecasts are concerned, a zero-sum game.)

Most of the action on Wednesday was in the state polls. An NPR national survey showed Mr. Obama two points ahead nationally, right in line with how our model already saw the race. The national tracking polls haven’t shown a consistent enough trend recently to be attention-worthy, but there were a half-dozen polls released at the state level.

If you’re in Mr. Romney’s campaign, the one number you have to like is a new Quinnipiac poll of Virginia. It showed a true tie between the candidates at 44 percent each, whereas Quinnipiac’s last four polls in Virginia had shown Mr. Obama ahead by an average of four points instead. Mr. Romney’s chances of winning Virginia rose to 43 percent from 37 percent on the new survey.

The rest of the data was mediocre for Mr. Romney. Two new polls in Nevada, one in Ohio and one in Wisconsin all showed Mr. Obama with leads in those states. All of these are likely voter polls, and some are from Republican-leaning firms. Most of the data was quite close to how our model already perceived these states, but Mr. Romney is going to have to start posting leads in some of these states more often if he wants to win the Electoral College.

Nevertheless, our model attaches a great deal of importance to Virginia, and it was the Quinnipiac poll that carried the day. Mr. Romney’s chances of winning the Electoral College rose to 33.3 percent, from 32.1 percent on Tuesday.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.