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Polls show presidential race a dead heat

The trend among likely voters is in Mitt Romney’s direction, even though Barack Obama still holds the edge among all registered voters. Both sides have gender gaps and undecided independent voters to worry about, and the last debate, on Monday night, could be crucial.

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"Before the first debate the electoral math looked like a real reach for Romney. Today, it looks quite possible," Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown told the news service.

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This tentative conclusion is buttressed by another survey out Friday. Gravis Marketing’s automated survey of 805 likely voters has Romney ahead by two points (46 percent to 44 percent). Romney has an eight-point advantage among independents (42 percent to 34 percent). But a substantial one-quarter of independent voters remain undecided – another reason why Monday night’s foreign-policy debate could be crucial, especially for Obama.

Meanwhile, a Reuters/Ipsos daily online tracking poll on Saturday gave Obama a one-point national advantage, with Ipsos projecting an Obama win with 315 electoral votes.

Daily tracking polls have been the subject of recent debate – particularly Gallup’s, which in recent days has shown Romney ahead by up to seven points nationally. That’s an outlier compared with the dead heat seen in the Real Clear Politics polling average of 47 percent to 47 percent.

Gallup is a highly respected organization, and its voter surveys are closely watched. But polling statistician Nate Silver, who writes the FiveThirtyEight blog for The New York Times, notes that in cases where Gallup polls are markedly different from other surveys, Gallup’s numbers typically are off.

That was true in the 2008 presidential election and again in 2010 mid-term elections, writes Mr. Silver.

“To be clear, I would not recommend that you literally just disregard the Gallup poll. You should consider it – but consider it in context,” he writes. “The context is that its most recent results differ substantially from the dozens of other state and national polls about the campaign. It’s much more likely that Gallup is wrong and everyone else is right than the other way around.”

For now – at least as of his Saturday reckoning, based on vast amounts of data – Silver forecasts a 67.9 percent chance of Obama winning a second term as president.

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