Polls Point to Closer White House Race for Obama Than 2008

Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President elect Barack Obama waves to his supporters during an election night gathering in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008 in Chicago.

“I was never the likeliest candidate for this office,” newly elected President Barack Obama said in Grant Park in Chicago on election night four years ago. If the president earns a second term, the statement may be even more fitting.

In 2008, the dead heat for the White House began losing its heat around mid-September, when Obama secured a lead in national polls aggregated by the Real Clear Politics website. From Sept. 17, amid financial crisis talks and as legislation was being drafted for the authority of the U.S. Treasury to purchase troubled assets from banks, the Democratic challenger never gave up his lead in the daily poll average.

This year’s tally points to a much closer race. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney turned the tide on an Obama lead on Oct. 9 — less than a week after the first presidential debate that earned the president lackluster reviews. Romney has trailed in the Real Clear Politics daily measure on only three days since that date, and today has a 47.9 percent-to-47 percent advantage on the incumbent.

The challenge for Romney will be securing his lead — however narrow — in the key battleground states that will win the Electoral College contest. With 270 votes needed to win, the Republican challenger is trailing, 201-191, without adding in the 11 states that Real Clear Politics has determined are toss-ups. The remaining 146 electoral votes up for grabs include 18 in Ohio, which historically is a must-win for Republicans who secured the White House.

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