By I-Hsien Sherwood ( | First Posted: Oct 10, 2012 05:15 PM EDT

President Obama pauses during a rally in California. (Photo : Reuters)

Romney's up. Obama's down. Romney pulls ahead, but Obama is still strong in swing states. Romney gains, but Obama is ahead nationally. Which candidate is actually in the lead?

It depends on who you ask, or--more precisely--who the pollsters ask.

After Mitt Romney's unexpected and impressive performance at the first presidential debate, coupled with Obama's lackluster defense, there is no doubt that Romney's sustained surge in the polls is more than the traditional post-debate bounce typically experienced by challengers.

A slew of polls since the debate last week show Romney gaining ground on the president. Support for the Republican is growing, as is enthusiasm, mostly from previously undecided voters swayed by Romney's passionate showing.

But there are a limited number of undecided voters in this extremely partisan electorate. Riding high on his surge of support, Romney is looking to steal support from the president. Already he is eroding the president's lead among women, and on issues like the economy, effectiveness and bipartisanship.

Whether Obama can hold onto his base will determine whether Romney continues to rise. Obama must stop the hemorrhaging of passion from his party's supporters to prevent Romney's momentum from becoming unstoppable.

Currently, the horse race is inconclusive. Gallup has the contenders tied at 45 percent. The Pew Research Center put Romney at an astounding 4 points ahead of the president.

The Real Clear Politics poll average pegs Romney as the leader with the tiniest of margins, 0.8 percent, the first time Romney has been in the lead during this campaign.

But Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight still has his money on Obama. He puts Obama at a 71.2 percent chance of winning in November, compared to Romney's 28.8. However, that is a swing of over 13 percent since the first debate.

Romney's debate performance effectively doubled his chances of winning in November, erasing almost all of the president's hard-fought lead from the national nominating conventions.

Electoral College math may still prove to be a stumbling block for Romney, as he looks to be 4 points behind in Ohio, but he is gaining in Florida and Virginia.

As the race currently stands, Obama is still the favorite to win the election, but if Romney can keep gaining ground at his current pace, it's anybody's game.


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