I last assessed the polls after two polls came out showing Obama with a double-digit lead.
We haven't seen that margin replicated in polls since, though it's not the Obama number that has changed much -- it was at 51% and 49% in those polls, and a new round of polls today has Obama at 50%, 50% and 45%.
It's the McCain number that moved up, which was extremely low in those earlier polls because of conservative disaffection. It is not surprising to see some base consolidation that gets McCain into the low 40s.
You can claim that he "should" be doing better, but a final victory with that margin would be earth-shifting.
In fact, I would go as far to say, expect Obama to generally stay in the high 40s/low 50s (the liberal/moderate vote) throughout much of the race, and McCain to stay in the low 40s (the conservative base vote), with 10 percent of the electorate remaining undecided until the last weeks. (Unless the poll doesn't push undecideds very hard, like today's CBS/NYT poll, which has both Obama and McCain on the low side: 45%-39%.)
Speaking of the New York Times, it's poll analysis today is downright bizarre, concluding that the headline from a poll showing a 6-point Obama lead should be "Poll Finds Obama Candidacy Isn't Closing Divide on Race."
After years of growing political polarization, much of the divide in American politics is partisan. But Americans' perceptions of the fall presidential election between Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, also underlined the racial discord that the poll found. More than 80 percent of black voters said they had a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama; about 30 [percent of white voters [sic -- actually 31] said they had a favorable opinion of him.
That's highly misleading, as it makes it sound like massive numbers of whites have an unfavorable opinion of Obama.
The complete poll data shows that 1) 31% said they are "undecided" or "haven't heard enough," and 2) McCain doesn't do much better, only scoring a 35% favorable rating from whites, with a similar number also not expressing an opinion.
But it doesn't tell you that in 2004, President Bush beat Sen. John Kerry among whites by 17 points.
Obama runs at least 8 points better among whites than Kerry, not to mention performing vastly better among Latino voters (39 point lead) than Kerry (9 points).
Also of note is this line buried at the bottom of the Washington Post analysis of its poll: "The candidates are tied among whites who earn less than $50,000 a year, while McCain leads by 10 percentage points among those earning more than that."
Yes, Obama runs better among white working-class voters than other whites.
Not a half-bad step forward for race relations, in my book.