The “polls don’t mean anything!” crowd has suddenly decided that this one does mean something and dared me in the comments to another thread to post it, which I’d been planning to do. Here you go: Obama 50, McCain 43 among registereds, a net gain of four for Maverick since last week, and Obama 49, McCain 46 among likely voters, two points better than the recent Gallup average and the steady five-point lead Obama’s had in Rasmussen. Might that signify a hopeful trend? I thought so — until I read the famously pessimistic, eeyore-ish Ace of Spades, who notes that likely voters this year are apt to include more new Obama voters than usual. So figure the lead’s actually closer to five or six points, or maybe seven per Pew’s new poll. (Gallup’s own “expanded” model of likelies has it at eight.) Not ideal but not prohibitive.

Exit question: Is the conventional polling wisdom right that Palin’s become a drag on the ticket? Jay Cost thinks not:

I’d note also that when we talk about a Palin Effect, we really should be discussing a net effect. Even if Palin has hurt McCain a bit among Independents, I think she is keeping morale up among Republicans. In the LA Times/Bloomberg poll, 49% of Republicans had a very positive view of McCain while 35% had a somewhat positive view of him. For Palin, 61% of Republicans had a very positive view compared to 23% with a somewhat positive view. This squares with the evidence we’ve seen from the McCain-Palin rallies. It also squares with the RNC’s fundraising in the wake of the Palin pick – so that’s a benefit right there, to be counted against any Independent voters who might have peeled away from McCain because of her. The Republican Party clearly likes her. That’s not for nothing.

Given the situation the GOP now finds itself in, the fact that she rallies the base might make her a substantial net benefit come Election Day. McCain’s poll position has slipped, and most people now believe that Obama will win. If this belief persists through Election Day, Republicans might be less likely to come to the polls, damaging down-ballot candidates. If Sarah Palin can give Republicans a reason to come out and vote, that might make her presence a net benefit even if she might be driving away a few Independents from the GOP ticket.

Update: Via Ben Smith, The One will see your “Bradley effect” and raise you a “Fox effect”:

“I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls,” Obama told me. “If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me, right? Because the way I’m portrayed 24/7 is as a freak! I am the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal. Who wants somebody like that?

“I guess the point I’m making,” he went on, “is that there is an entire industry now, an entire apparatus, designed to perpetuate this cultural schism, and it’s powerful. People want to know that you’re fighting for them, that you get them. And I actually think I do. But you know, if people are just seeing me in sound bites, they’re not going to discover that. That’s why I say that some of that may have to happen after the election, when they get to know you.”

Say this for the man: The sheer balls it takes for a liberal to claim his numbers are being hurt by the media are fabulously impressive. Barry, meet Evan Thomas.