Ignore the 2012 Polls, Obama-Romney Will Be Close

We simply cannot know in advance how swing voters will feel on Election Day.

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That didn't long.

About three weeks ago, I wrote:

Maybe it will be a less-than-great jobs report. Maybe it will be a disappointing quarterly GDP growth estimate. Maybe gas prices really will spike this summer, and significantly constrain consumer spending and dampen overall growth. Maybe it will be a combination of all these things that upends the feeling that Obama is now on a cakewalk.

A new Washington Post /ABC News poll suggests that high gas prices have bitten into President Obama's economic approval ratings. This drag has erased the advantage Obama had held over former Gov. Mitt Romney: The Post/ABC News poll shows him losing to Romney 49-47 percent.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gas prices.]

A few caveats: As New York Times stats guru Nate Silver points out, Obama's average overall approval rating stands at 48 percent—exactly what it was one month ago.

So it's possible that recent numbers showing a dip in Obama's popularity are statistical noise—variations around an upwardly-trending mean.

But I think liberals would do well to heed the advice of Jamelle Bouie of The  American Prospect:

Supporters of the president should put the champagne away for now; the electorate is close to evenly divided, and regardless of who wins the Republican presidential contest, the eventual nominee will have a good shot at winning the presidency. Recent events have obscured this, but the simple fact is that the 2012 election will be close.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

I should add that conservatives' chortling at negative polling data for Obama is equally foolish.

The election is going to be a nail-biter. It will turn on the fickle affections of a narrow sliver of independents whom I've called Oscillating Low-Information Voters. We simply cannot know in advance how such voters will feel on Election Day.

My advice: Stop watching the whiplash-inducing daily tracking polls. Don't bite on Matt Drudge's "shocker poll" bait. Resign yourself to the fact that you won't know who the next president is going to be until the morning of November 7—and maybe not even then.