U.S. President Barack Obama is pictured during a campaign rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, October 19, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
A new national poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal shows President Obama in a dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney among likely voters, with 47 percent support each.
The new poll was conducted entirely after the second presidential debate, when Obama redeemed himself in the eyes of many voters for his lackluster performance in the first debate.
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The poll also comes mere hours before the final presidential debate, scheduled for tonight at 9pm in Boca Raton, Fla.
It's important to note some differences between the methodology of this polls and some others I discuss.
The NBC News/WSJ poll includes responses from cellphone users, a group often excluded by polls that rely on "robo-calling," automated survey scripts that by law can only call landline phone numbers.
That tends to skew the results toward older, more conservative voters, and indeed, we can see that this poll shows Obama with more support than most other national polls right now.
This poll also only covers a three-day period. The daily tracking polls I discuss are rolling averages, an aggregate of data taken on a regular basis. Each one usually comprises about a week's worth of public sentiment.
That means most tracking polls still include data from before the second presidential debate, when Obama was polling lower than he is now.
As is almost always the case with every poll we see, Obama has better support among registered voters than among likely voters.
In other words, if everyone who is registered to vote actually did, whether in-person, absentee or early, Obama would win by a healthy margin.
But actual voters tend to be older and wealthier, so conservatives have a disproportionate effect on the outcome of elections.
This poll reverses the recent trend of large gains and wide margins for Romney. After the first presidential debate, Romney soared in the polls, quickly catching up to the president and eventually overtaking him.
The final presidential debate tonight will put each candidate on a trajectory that will be hard to change without outside intervention. While debates don't usually matter much in determining the outcome of elections, this year has proven to be an outlier.
Look for both candidates to come out swinging, because no matter how much of a beating they take, a knockout tonight is better than a long slog to Election Day.
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