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Today’s Polls, 8/16

Colorado polls had for some months shown a small but consistent lead for Barack Obama, but his advantage there appears to be gone. A new poll from the Rocky Mountain News shows John McCain with a 44-41 lead.

McCain now holds the lead in three current polls of Colorado: Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, and this Rocky Mountain News poll, while Obama holds the lead in two others — Frederick and Public Policy Polling. In all cases but PPP, the leads are within the margin of error. Our model still regards Obama as a very small, half-point favorite in Colorado, but the state has tightened.

Colorado is not quite a must-win state for Obama. It likely won’t matter at all if he wins Ohio, for instance. But without either Colorado or Ohio, Obama faces a fairly difficult path to 270 electoral votes. Winning the Kerry states plus Iowa and New Mexico — two states that still look quite strong for Obama — leave him at 264 electoral votes, just five vote shy of a tie and six shy of a win. But those five votes might be tough to come by. It’s hard to imagine Obama winning a state like Missouri or Indiana if he doesn’t win Ohio. It’s also somewhat hard to imagine him winning Nevada — which would get him to a 269-269 tie and probably a win in the House of Representatives — if he loses Colorado, although the two states are not as similar demographically as they might seem. The key state, then, would probably be Virginia. The more difficult that Colorado looks for Obama, the more important Virginia becomes.

UPDATE: Although, this could be a major problem for McCain in Colorado.

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