Too Close to Call

Too close to call, but a slight edge for Obama. Douglas E. Schoen and Jessica Tarlov on the latest polls.

There’s only one day left before the polls open and the race is far too close to call. Landslide predictions—for both candidates—have all been thrown out the window and with good cause.

The national vote is about as close as it could be. We are looking at a statistical tie, with the Real Clear Politics average giving Obama a negligible 0.5-point edge. Yesterday’s CNN/Opinion Research poll has Obama and Romney tied at 49 percent apiece while the Politico/GWU/Battleground survey has them tied at 48 percent. Obama leads by 3 percent, 50 to 47, in the Pew Research poll, but if you take into consideration the margin of error, we’re again in a statistical tie. There’s no way to differentiate at this point—it is that close.

If you look at the Electoral College, there is some minimal movement in Romney’s direction or, at least, evidence of tight races in the battleground states. The latest Baydoun/Foster poll gives Romney a one-point edge in Michigan at 47 to 46 percent. Meanwhile, things are tight in Ohio, where the president is still in the lead, but only by an extremely narrow margin. The latest Columbus Dispatch poll gives him a two-point lead at 50 to 48 percent, well within the margin of error.

Pennsylvania certainly earned its battleground title this weekend as Romney made a last-minute campaign stop: The latest Morning Call survey gives Obama a three-point lead at 49 to 46 percent. PPP’s poll still has the president up by a wider margin—52 to 46 percent—but there is no doubt that the state is in play. Out of the 11 battleground states up for grabs, seven have a Real Clear Politics average within the general margin of polling error (three points or under).

All that said, the bulk of the data still shows a narrow Electoral College win for Obama come Tuesday. Though the majority of the spreads in battleground states are low, they generally point in Obama’s direction. He leads, ever so slightly, in nine battleground states.

Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy seems to have helped him. In the Pew Research poll, a full 69 percent of all likely voters approved of the way Obama is handling the storm. Even a plurality of Romney supporters—46 percent—approved. Crucially, 63 percent of swing voters felt the same way. This was a group that Obama had been losing favor with since the first debate.

Still, Obama’s edge is only slight. We could certainly have a split result, with Obama winning the Electoral College and losing the popular vote—though this is just one of a number of possible outcomes. With the poll results nationally within one percent and swing states tightening over the weekend, it is statistically impossible to offer a definitive prediction—no matter how sophisticated your model is and no matter how sure you are of the ultimate outcome.