If you look at the national-level data, Barack Obama seems to be underachieving. In the latest Gallup daily tracking poll, the presumptive Democratic nominee holds a scant two-point edge over John McCain. The margin is also two points in Rasmussen's daily poll—which also shows a dead-even race when "leaners" are factored in. Some other recent polls have been a little more favorable to Obama, but the combined weight of the available national data strongly suggests that Obama, despite his personal popularity and the enormous built-in advantages his party enjoys this year, is locked in a much closer race than he should be.
But if you ignore the national numbers and instead consider individual state polls, a realigning landslide suddenly seems to be within Obama's reach. In state after state, he's performing far better than John Kerry did in 2004, and numerous Republican bastions are seemingly in play. Consider Indiana, which George W. Bush won by 21 points in 2004 and which lasted voted for a Democrat 44 years ago—and which Obama leads by one point in the most recent survey. Or North Carolina, which Bush carried by 12 points in '04 but where the latest poll has Obama within three. And so on. In North Dakota, the race is tied. In South Dakota, Obama trails by just four. Ditto for Alaska, perhaps the most Republican state in the union. He also leads in Montana and Colorado and in all but one recent survey in Virginia.
And the trend isn't just evident in red states. In states where Kerry eked out victories last time around, polls now give Obama sizable leads. Kerry nearly fumbled away Minnesota (a three-point nail-biter), but Obama has a 17-point advantage in the most recent poll. Wisconsin and New Hampshire were photo-finishes in '04, but Obama has opened a double-digit lead there. Plus, Obama is running ahead in states that Kerry barely lost, like Iowa (by an average of seven points), New Mexico and Nevada.
But if we take the average result from recent polls in each state and weight each state according to its share of the national population, we get an overall national result that's entirely consistent with current national polling: Obama 46.2 percent, McCain 42.7—a 3½-point race. So there really is no inconsistency between the close national horse race and Obama's clearly superior position in individual state polls.