Presidential Race As Tight As It’s Ever Been

With sixteen days to go, the race for President is tied.

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows a race that that is tied with a mere sixteen days to go before the election:

A late surge in support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has put him in a dead heat with President Barack Obama with just over two weeks to go before the election, according to a new nationwide Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday.

Among likely voters, the candidates are now tied, 47% to 47%, in a race that appears on track to be one of the closest in U.S. history.

Mr. Romney has pulled abreast of the president for the first time all year in the Journal poll, erasing a three-point lead among likely voters that Mr. Obama had in late September and a five-point lead earlier that month. Mr. Romney’s surge followed his strong debate performance in Denver early this month and a contentious second debate with Mr. Obama last week.

With the contest deadlocked and just 5% of voters undecided, the campaigns will now turn heavily to state-by-state efforts to rouse their base and get out the vote.

The poll found Mr. Romney with a wide lead among men, 53% to 43%, while Mr. Obama continues to maintain an advantage among women, 51% to 43%. Mr. Romney’s edge among men has grown over the past month, while Mr. Obama’s lead among women has slightly diminished.

This poll is essentially consistent with the other national polls that have come out over the past several weeks, even before the second Presidential debate. Most of these polls have shown either Obama or Romney leading by a single digits within the margin of error. The one exception to that has been the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll which in its latest iteration released on Saturday showed Romney leading by six. When you see a different like that between a single poll and all the other polls there are only two conclusions you can reach, either all the other polls are wrong or there’s something off about the Gallup poll. Experience tells us that the second conclusion is typically the correct one, so it’s likely the case that this race is as close as the NBC poll, and the others, has it.

Indeed as of today, the RealClearPolitics poll average is at exactly the same 47%-47% as the NBC poll. That’s just a statistical quirk, of course, and it’s likely to change later today when the latest iteration of the Gallup poll gets added into the mix, but it unscores the fact that we’re dealing with the tightest Presidential race we’ve seen since 2000:

Things are similarly close in the Electoral College, where Governor Romney currently has a slight lead in the state projections:

If you get rid of the toss-ups and give those states to whomever happens to be leading at the moment, you have Obama winning the Electoral College, but by the slimmest of margins:

Given this map, it wouldn’t take much for the President to lose. A loss in Wisconsin or Ohio would certainly do it, as would losing Iowa and Nevada. And, obviously the states that are currently solid for each candidate, especially Florida, Virginia, and Ohio will be contested until the bitter end of this race. As things stand right now, though, it really does look like either one of these men could win this election and that haasn’t really been true for quite some time.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jeff Sexton says:

    I stand behind what I’ve come to say every 4 years:

    Whoever wins, We Lose.

  2. Jay says:

    The problem for Obama is that his average in the RCP is 47%. And that is not good.

    If people want to compare it to 2004, it stops with it being close. Bush consistently was in the 49-50 area throughout October. And top level of support is key in an election like this.

    In fact, Obama except for couple of weeks in September has pretty much been in that 47-48 range the entire time. Obamas lead was wiped out after that first debate and slowly but surely has been losing support.

    The two big things that stand out:

    A. Romney’s likability is now at the same level as the President. In the RCP average they are both at 50%

    B. Romney has closed the gender gap. This is why the ads from OFA have started to focus on vaginas. Their goal is to try and scare women away from Romney.

    Everything is close, but it’s still trending Romney’s way.

  3. Jeremy says:

    @Jeff Sexton: This should be the FEC’s motto.

  4. Tano says:


    Obamas lead was wiped out after that first debate and slowly but surely has been losing support

    The first half of that sentence is true, the second is not. The debate knocked the race back down to a near tie, but it has been stable for a while at that level. In fact, Obama has got a tad of traction in recent days. Even if you accept the Gallup outlier, Obama has nosed ahead in the RCP average, which is an improvement over the past week.

    If you accept that the Gallup result is an outlier, then you can expect that it will come back to the fold starting around Tuesday, since it is a seven-day rolling average and it started really going south with odd results last Monday and Tuesday.

    Romney has closed the gender gap

    I would say “narrowed a bit”. Latest number I have seen show Romney up 10 with men, Obama up 8 with women. That is a considerable gap.

    I would still rather be in Obama’s position in this race. Romney got a huge gift with that first debate and it got him no better than a tie. Highly doubtful he will get another gift, so the most likely trajectory is a drift back to the fundamental underlying status of the race as it has been for many months – very close but with a small, stable advantage for Obama.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    The popular vote does not matter in states where either candidate has a sizable lead. Romney could easily win the popular vote and lose the election.

  6. Just Me says:

    While there don’t seem to be tons of undecideds, I think which direction they break on election day will be important.

    This election is going to be close, but at the moment I still think Obama has the advantage but the undecideds could break either way and if they break Romney’s way he could lose.

    This is going to be an interesting 2 weeks.

    A few months ago I thought the election might play out into an early night for Obama, but I am not so surE AND I suspect Ohio is going to be too close to call and Ohio is going to be key to who goes over the 270 mark first. This is feeling a lot like 2000 with Ohio turning into Florida.

  7. john personna says:

    Good thing I’ve always supported Mitt Romney for president.


  8. Tano says:


    RealClear has recently added another polling firm to their running poll-of-polls average – a 3 day tracking poll run by TIPP, sponsored by Investors Business Daily (a hard right site). This poll has Obama up 6, quite a bit of movement his way over the past few days.

  9. Yes, and when you have two polls like that at polar opposites with all the others saying something else, you have to think those two polls aren’t getting it right.

  10. Geek, Esq. says:

    This election is no longer about undecided voters–it’s about turnout.

    Specifically, whether Obama underachieves or overachieves in terms of getting his base out. His base is larger, but has shown less enthusiasm. Will his likely voters flake out or will his unlikely voters be greater than anticipated?

    What would make me nervous if I supported Romney is the gap between RV and LV. Currently the polling is showing larger than normal gaps between the two figures–the NBC poll shows R+5. Contracting that gap to R+3 would lead to a lead for Obama.

    A more extreme example is the CNN Florida poll, which showed Romney ahead 1 in LV but Obama ahead by 7 with RV.

  11. David M says:

    If the LV results are tied, but the RV results consistently put one candidate ahead, it’s hard to consider the race “tied’. Very close yes, but not tied.

  12. Console says:

    Meh, the fundamentals of the race never changed. Obama was never going to win in a blowout and Romney’s only realistic path to win remains taking Ohio and winning all the states he’s currently tied in (Colorado and New Hampshire). It’s a narrow race, but one Romney still loses.

  13. Franklin says:

    According to 538, the race is about as tight as it was June. It’s always difficult to tell with the noise and the lag, but this still looks like Obama’s to lose. And with a foreign policy debate coming up, Romney’s going to have a very difficult time making headway with a war-weary public. It’s not his forte, and he’s taking advice from certified idiots on the subject.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    I’m sorry, you pathetic partisan….
    Obama curreny has a 90% chance of winning. (Only a 70% chance of winning the popular vote.)
    Obama has been ahead in the EV all along. Let me repeat that: All along.
    But you insist on linking to every single nonsense poll that shows Obama behind or in danger.
    You never bother to link to any polls that show him ahead.
    You certainly never look at the aggravates that show Obama with a nearly insurmountable lead in the EV.
    As a partisan hack you are without equal.
    Your posts should all have a disclaimer:
    “…I have several fantasies that involve me and Mitt, and my posts should be seen in that light…”