Things Looking Up For Obama (If You Trust the Polls)

After weeks of nearly deadlocked polling in the presidential race, President Barack Obama appears to have broken away with a significant lead over former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows Obama finally cracking his margin-of-error lead over Romney, now ahead of the former Bain Capital CEO by 7 points. From the Los Angeles Times:

The national survey, completed July 9, showed Obama outpacing Romney by 50 percent to 43 percent. That’s a more substantial gap than most recent surveys have registered, but Obama has held at least a small lead in earlier polling by Pew. The independent polling operation said there had been “no clear trend in either candidate’s support” since Romney secured the GOP nomination in early spring.

When it comes to fixing the economy—the top issue of the campaign–“Romney has not seized the advantage,” Pew’s analysis concluded. “In fact, he has lost ground on this issue over the past month.”

Of potentially greater significance than the overall national figures, Obama continues to lead Romney in battleground states. In the 12 states considered most competitive at this point, the president holds a seven percentage-point edge, 51 to 44, the Pew survey found. A Wall Street Journal survey, released late last month, also showed Obama with an eight-point advantage in battleground states.

That’s all well and good for the Obama campaign, so long as the polls are accurate. But last month, at a conference produced by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, I learned that this year, especially, the polls could be faulty.

Polling models, Reed explained to a group of activists in a strategy session, are based on the last election. If, in a given election, the demographic mix of the electorate — the people who actually cast votes — deviates from that of the previous election, the polls are not predictive of what will happen in the voting booth, Reed said.

This year, Obama is unlikely to draw the numbers of young people to the polls that the euphoric notion of a young, optimistic, mixed-race president did in 2008. In 2012, the fortunes of the young have fallen.

On the other hand, in 2008, the GOP did not have Ralph Reed organizing voter turnout for them, at least not in the way they do now. (In 2008, Reed was still laying low after being implicated, though not charged, in the 2004 Jack Abramoff scandal.)

Reed claims his Faith and Freedom Coalition is active in all the swing states, and he says they plan to contact some 27.1 million voters multiple times. In Florida alone, Reed says his group has identified 200,000 right-wing evangelical Christians who are not registered to vote — and, of course, he means to fix that.

In the Wisconsin recall, Reed very nearly claims to have made the difference that resulted in Scott Walker’s victory. However disputed that claim may be, there’s little doubt that he’ll be working in sync with his old business partner, Tim Phillips, president of David Koch’s Americans For Prosperity.

I’m a little fixated on the Reed angle at the moment, having published a long-form expose on him at AlterNet this week.