A GLUT of conflicting opinion polls are confusing the schedules of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain as they plot their itinerary for the final week of campaigning.
This week at least eight separate national tracking polls were released and, allowing for the margin of error, Obama either trails by one point or leads by 16.
This is according to the summaries on the independent website Pollingreport.com.
Harvard University expert Robert Blendon said pollsters faced huge problems in this election because the enthusiasm of minorities who never voted before.
This has compromised standard methods biased towards likely voters and those who cast a ballot in the last election.
“This election has presented enormous methodological problems, it is humbling,” he told the Canadian Globe and Mail.
These fluctuating margins, especially in several battlegrounds, have left strategists fretting over where to deploy speakers for the remaining days. McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, will spend today in Iowa where a new poll put Obama ahead by 13 points in the race for its seven electoral college votes.
But according to the latest schedule, both McCain and Palin will spend much of next week trying to convince voters in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. He needs to win all of these.
Meanwhile, Obama and Hillary Clinton will spend the weekend in the western states hoping to shore up support before Democrats concentrate on the tight races in the east.
This week Pennsylvanian Democrats screamed for Obama to return to the state because their information indicated McCain was mounting a comeback.
After the final televised debate Obama’s team said he would concentrate on states his predecessor John Kerry lost in 2004, and this did not include Pennsylvania.
Obama has yet to reveal if he will break from his ambitious strategy to prevent an embarrassing loss in this Democratic stronghold.
Yesterday, vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden was in West Virginia, a state Democrats ignored until a fortnight ago when a new poll suggested it may be for turning.
Overall figures on Pollingreport.com reveal the election is still Obama’s to lose. In 16 recent surveys, just two placed McCain above 45% compared with 11 putting Obama at more than 50%. Despite constant discussion devoted to these national polls they matter little in the context of the American electoral process.
The real battle is in 11 swing states which will decide 26% of the electoral college votes needed to win the presidency.
In all these states Obama leads by anything from 1 point to 14. But in half, and crucially in the powerful state of Florida, the race is within the margin of error.
Far from celebrating polling data both campaigns are using the information to decide on venues to visit in the remaining 10 days, with each candidate now focused on rallying their own supporters rather than spending time convincing doubtful members of the other camp.
On Wednesday, McCain visited the Tampa Bay area where he has improved his polling performance in the conservative area by 4%, according to Politico.com.
And on Tuesday, Obama was in Miami where figures suggest he is ahead in its three constituent counties. Strategists believe if he delivers the three Miami counties, he could take the state.
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