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Dueling Gallup polls, Part II, in the Obama-McCain race

July 29, 2008 |  2:46 pm

For those keeping score (and in the political world, who isn't?), the day after a Gallup poll caused a stir by showing John McCain leading Barack Obama in a sample of likely voters nationwide, the separate daily tracking poll by the same outfit continued to show the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee ahead among registered voters.

The updated tracking poll, which averaged the results of surveys conducted Saturday, Sunday and Monday, gave Obama a 6-percentage-point advantage, 47% to 41%. That's down from Obama's peak lead in the poll of late -- a 9-point margin reported Sunday.Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama spent Tuesday in Washington

But, as Gallup editor Frank Newport writes today, "Obama has generally led McCain by a consistent, but small, margin for much of the summer. There have been the expected daily fluctuations in the size of that margin, including Obama's recent gain, but nothing so far to suggest any lasting disruption in the structure of the race."

Many of us might be forgiven if we assumed otherwise, based on the distinct poll that Gallup conducted in conjunction with USA Today and released Monday. That was the one showing, among the participants deemed likely voters, that McCain led Obama by 4 points, 49% to 45%.

To add to the potential confusion, among the larger sample of registered voters in the above poll, Obama was ahead, 47% to 44%.

The gap between the two candidates in all of these surveys is within the margin of error for each -- a reminder that in a country that has seen two consecutive presidential races that were barnburners, this one also might remain tight up to election day.

Then there's this useful caveat, courtesy of MSNBC's daily First Read political note: "It's results like these that should remind us that even good pollsters are struggling to poll this year. This isn't an easy time for a pollster. The Gallup folks are in the charge of the best brand there is in public opinion research. So if they are getting screwy results, that should make you suspect of a lot of results you see, particularly on the state level by folks who claim to be pollsters but haven't been doing this for very long."

Obama offered his own horse-race assessment ...

... while attending a fundraiser in Arlington, Va., Monday night. Talking to about 40 supporters, he opined that when he began his White House quest, "there weren’t too many people who thought we were going to pull this off."

Now, he said, “We are ... in a position where the odds of us winning are very good. But it’s still going to be difficult.... We’re not going to see a huge gap develop between now and Nov. 4 [in the polls]. This is going to be a close election. I’m new on the national scene. People sort of like what they see, but they’re not sure.”

Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal has more on the fundraiser in this report.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press