Update: The RCP average today (5/16) now shows Romney leading Obama by 1 point in Wisconsin. Rasmussen showed Romney up by 8, but PPP showed Obama up by 1, so it could be a little skewed. Go figure.

Political campaigns and the news media always make a fuss about the latest national polling numbers. Just look at today’s release by the Obama campaign complaining about the methodology of the latest CBS News/NYT poll.

But is it really such a big deal?

These polls generally indicate which presidential candidate has the support of more American voters; today’s Real Clear Politics average shows President Obama leading Governor Romney by 1.8 points.

Historically, national polls have proven to be a fairly accurate predictor of the popular vote. So, differences in methodology aside, Romney might stand a very good chance of beating Obama if the 2012 election were based solely on the popular vote.

Of course, our experience in the 2000 presidential election, where Al Gore won the popular vote by .6 percent but lost the election, shows us that the popular vote is not always the best indication of which candidate will win the election.

Indeed, the last RCP average prior to the 2008 election showed then-Senator Obama leading Senator McCain by 7.6 percent. Obama went on to win the popular vote by 7.2 percent, but he won the electoral college by 35.6 percent.

The most recent RCP Electoral College map shows that the President can reasonably rely on 243 electoral votes (of 270 needed to win), while Romney has 170 in his column. The remaining 125 are too close to call.

Obama is currently leading in the RCP averages in all of the too-close-to-call states except Arizona(11 votes) and Missouri(10). Based on RCP’s estimate, the President only needs 27 additional electoral votes to win the election. You do the math.

Granted, there is plenty of time for these results to change. But as things stand now, it appears that President Obama is in a much stronger position than the national polls suggest.

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