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Today’s Polls, 8/19

It was another fairly bad polling day for Barack Obama, and we are getting to the point where it would be hard to describe the election as anything other than “too close to call”. But most of that has been driven by the rapidly tightening national numbers. This set of state polling isn’t quite as bad as it looks for Obama:

The most disappointing for result for Obama is probably in Indiana, where SurveyUSA has John McCain pulling into a 6-point lead after having trailed by a single point last month. Why so disappointing? Because Obama has been investing heavily in Indiana while McCain has not. A couple of caveats, though. Firstly, investments in the ground game may not show up in the polls in the first place. And secondly, the partisan leaning of the sample has shifted a fair bit more Republican than the last edition of this poll. It’s possible that, as McCain enthusiasm grows (and Bush fatigue wanes), more Republican-leaning independents are now willing to identify themselves as Republican. It’s also possible that we’re just looking at some static.

It is officially time for Obama to be worried in Minnesota, where SurveyUSA marks the third consecutive poll to show him with a lead of only 2-4 points? Our model says … maybe not qute yet. There has certainly been a pretty big shift in the raw numbers in the Gopher State, but there aren’t really any demographic explanations for it — Obama hasn’t lost much ground in demographically similar states like Wisconsin and Iowa. So our model is going to need a little more coaxing before it considers Minnesota a toss-up. It might be close enough, however, that there is an electoral rationale for McCain to pick Tim Pawlenty.

Certain of these other results actually aren’t that bad for Obama. In Pennsylvania, for instance, his 6-point margin over McCain in the new Susquehanna poll is meaningful precisely because he’s not polling so fantastically elsewhere. What do I mean by that? I mean that even when the national race is about tied, as it is now, Obama still has a lead of 5-6 points in Pennsylvania. So Pennsylvania is unlikely to be a tipping point state; it’s going to be pretty hard for McCain to make up 5-6 points in Pennsylvania without gaining that ground everywhere, especially given that Penna has been absolutely saturated in the Presidential campaign since late March.

Conversely, in Florida, Obama may be within tipping point range in a close election. McCain’s 2-point edge is a reversal of the 2-point advantage that Obama held in the prior Rasmussen poll — but on the other hand, versions of the Rasmussen poll in the spring had shown a couple leads in the double digits for McCain. Which way Florida goes next may depend on Obama’s VP selection; it is one of those states where Joe Biden might help him, as undoubtedly could Hillary Clinton.

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