If you have been watching the polls, there are a group of them that have shown McCain advancing, sometimes within the margin of error. I have postulated that if the trend continued as it had been over the past week we might begin to see McCain leading in some polls by the weekend.
Over the three day period ending on Halloween, the Obama lead is unchanged from our report yesterday. But looking at just the polling responses for one day, today, Senator McCain has actually moved ahead of Senator Obama by one percentage point. This is within the margin of error but is significant nonetheless simply because it shows McCain with a lead. I refer you to Obama's rather terse interaction with reporters today and his exhortations with particular vehemence to campaign workers not to let up at all as telling hints about the impression the polls are giving him.
Earlier today, Dick Morris was heard to say that he doesn't believe there are many undecided voters left at all. Instead, he said, there are a number of voters who are not sold, or perhaps don't like Obama as a candidate, and will end up voting for McCain but simply don't want to tell anyone. If you think about the twenty or so percent of people who might vote for Bush if he were eligible for a third term, how vocal are they about their support? It does seem to have some ring of truth that these are stealth supporters. And in places where supporting McCain is viewed as supporting Bush, I can see some people choosing to 'go with the flow' with pollsters but voting privately as they really feel. Add to that the possibility of some level of Bradley effect - where people don't want to appear racist - and perhaps some of the poll results can be explained. On the other hand, internal numbers show McCain making huge gains with blue collar families, white Catholics and even among the 21-30 age group. Obama's lead has shrunk in half among independents since last week. So, there are many possible causes for the McCain surge in the polls - assuming you're not just reading the New York Times poll and discounting the 90% of polls that show the race getting closer.
The way I see it, the underlying numbers show a close race getting closer. The candidate preference numbers show a close race - whether it is a five point lead for Obama or even a 1 point McCain advantage. The murkiness of several drivers of voter opinion in this particular election make reading the tea leaves more difficult than usual, but there is no doubt in my mind right now that the one thing we can tell from the leaves we see is that the race is very close - closer than many will allow themselves to believe. Close enough that one candidate can't stop mentioning the polls and one can't stop telling supporters that the polls don't matter but work hard and don't let up. For me, this is perhaps the most telling clue to what the polls are really predicting: the way the two candidates are talking about them.