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Today’s Polls, 8/21

Amidst a set of interesting (if not earth-shattering) polls, we see a very mild reversal from the trend we detected yesterday. John McCain has picked up slightly more ground in our popular estimate and now leads Obama by 0.3 points in our projection; however, Obama’s numbers picked up slightly in our electoral college win projection.

The most relevant of these results from the standpoint of the electoral math is in Nevada, where Research 2000 shows Barack Obama with a 1-point lead. What’s happened now is that Nevada and Colorado have converged, as Obama has lost ground in Colorado while holding steady or gaining slightly in Nevada; we presently show McCain as a 0.4-point favorite in Colorado and a 1.1-point favorite in the Silver State. The path of least resistance to 269 electoral votes for Obama may arguably now consist of Kerry States Iowa New Mexico (where a new poll from Rasmussen still shows Obama with a tiny bit of cushion) Nevada.

Of course, 269 electoral votes is not 270 (though a tie would probably be resolved in Obama’s favor), and Obama would still need to hold New Hampshire to activate that scenario, where ARG shows the race tightening to a single point. Alternatively, Nevada could break an electoral deadlock in Obama’s favor if he won Kerry states, plus Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, but lost New Hampshire.

Moving just slightly away from this interlocked series of contingencies, there is polling in several other swing states as well. Rasmussen has Pennsylvania tightening to 3 points in Obama’s favor, though our model continues to insist that it is probably outside of the tipping point radius. An MPR poll in Minnesota shows Obama 10 points ahead — though note that this poll was in the field as early as two weeks ago, and may not be entirely current.

ARG also polled Florida, where McCain has a 1-point lead, down a tick from two points last month, but a reversal from the 5-point lead they gave Obama in June. In general, Florida has resisted the national trend toward McCain and held its ground. It still does lean toward McCain, but is looking relatively better for Obama as other states begin to look relatively worse. If Obama were to pick a Florida-friendly running mate — by which I mean Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton — Florida again probably becomes an electoral ground zero.

Finally, we should not neglect the result in Kansas, where the 23-point lead that SurveyUSA attributes to John McCain is a significant improvement for him, with SurveyUSA’s prior polling in Kansas having shown a McCain lead in the range of about 10 points. This Kansas poll is a big reason why Obama lost ground today in our popular vote estimate, and might give more credence to the recent PPP result that showed Obama 10 points behind in neighboring Missouri.

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