SALT LAKE CITY — A new Monmouth University poll of likely voters gives President Barack Obama a slight one-point edge, easily within the margin of error. This matches current daily tracking by Gallup and Rasmussen. Gallup shows Romney up by two points and Rasmussen shows Romney up by one.
The weighted registered voter survey has a Democratic advantage of 33 percent Democrats to 27 percent Republicans, with 40 percent independent. Registered voters favored the president 45 to 41 percent.
Even at face value, the registered voter result would be outside the margin of error, but still troubling for the White House, as conventional wisdom holds that undecideds tend to break against the incumbent.
When a likely voter filter is applied, the Monmouth polls produces a dead heat, with the president one point ahead.
The six-point advantage given to Democrats in the 1,375 registered voter sample is probably accurate. In 2008, a high-water year for Democrats, exit polls showed a seven-point advantage for Democrats at the polls. In 2010, a high-water year for Republicans, the split was even at 35 percent each. Most observers believe that 2012 will fall somewhere between those two extremes.
The survey cross tabs released by the university does not show what the party ID breakdown was once adjusting for likely voters, but the shift from 45-41 percent Obama lead to a 46-45 percent statistical tie suggests that the filter is about right, as does its close alignment with the other two rolling likely voter polls.
Whether this dead heat is an accomplishment or a disaster for the challenger depends on who you ask.
Prior to the Paul Ryan pick, a host of commentators left, right and center felt that Romney was stumbling and fumbling through the summer without a clear message. Their argument was that with an economy stagnating and unemployment holding steady over 8 percent, this should be a referendum on the incumbent, and Romney should be easily ahead.
Thus on Aug. 9, CNN ran a long article with the headline, "Why Mitt Romney is Losing," which concluded, "Right now, the Romney campaign seems to believe that it can defeat Obama by running a conventional and cautious campaign. But as the weeks go by and the president's lead remains frozen in place, this is starting to look like a bad bet."
Other Republicans have taken comfort in the fact that after months of pummeling Romney with everything he had, the incumbent is still lingering the mid-40s, that the fundamentals of the economy still favor the challenger, and that the campaign has yet to really begin.
Jay Cost at the Weekly Standard wrote on Aug. 8 that the race is "Romney's to win."
"Obviously, he needs to remind swing voters of all the things about the Obama tenure that they do not like," Cost wrote, "but he also must counter Obama's negative campaign. He cannot allow himself to be tagged as a capitalist pig whose only goal is personal enrichment. Instead, he must aggressively and constantly push the idea that he is a decent, public-spirited man whose background is precisely what this country needs."
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.