Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos made a comment in early October that seemed surprising, but in fact reflects common sense: An incumbent president who’s consistently polling around 47 percent is in deep trouble, and unlikely to finish with the higher vote total.
The good news for President Obama is that he’s cracked that 47 percent ceiling in a few polls in some key states. The bad news is that he’s not much above that level, and he rarely hits 50 percent.
An incumbent above 50 percent is safe, and an incumbent at 50 is probably safe. Hitting 48 or 49 is probably the danger zone, and as mentioned above, 47 is the doom number.
Today, Sunday, twelve polls pitting Obama against Romney have been released at the state and national level. Here are Obama’s percentages in those polls:
Nationally: 48 percent (Politico/GWU/Battleground), 48 percent (NBC News/Wall Street Journal), 49 percent (Rasmussen).
Pennsylvania: 47 percent (Tribune Review/Susquehanna) 49 percent (Morning Call).
Ohio: 50 percent (Columbus Dispatch).
Michigan: 46 percent (Baydoun/Foster).
Maine (not really in play): 49 percent (Critical Insights).
Indiana (not really in play): 43 percent (Rasmussen).
Montana (not really in play): 43 percent (Mason-Dixon), 43 percent (Rasmussen).
Massachusetts (not really in play): 58 percent (Western NE University).
Now, if Obama’s at 48 percent, it doesn’t necessarily mean Romney will get 52 percent. Some folks will vote third-party, and some of the “likely voters” in these polls may decide to stay home. If Obama were consistently polling at 47 percent in the national polls, all of the Pennsylvania polls, the Ohio polls, I’d feel more confident of a Romney victory. But the bottom line is that Obama is shaky, right on the knife’s edge between victory and defeat in a slew of place he needs: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan — and nationally.