Change: Obama's lead down to two points in Iowa

Three months ago his lead there was 10, but that was probably due to some anti-Romney Republicans still harboring hard feelings from the primary. Three months later, those are all gone. And so, for the most part, is Obama’s lead.

Only six electoral votes at stake here, but if you think this election could break 270/268, then obviously the Iowa polls bear watching closely:

Iowa makes yet another swing state where voters don’t really care for either Obama or Romney. Obama’s approval numbers are particularly poor with only 45% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove. The fact that he has a small lead in the state despite his under water approval speaks to at least some voters regarding this election as a choice rather than a referendum. Voters aren’t big on Romney either with 47% rating him favorably to 48% with an unfavorable opinion…

It’s hard to quantify but the Paul Ryan pick could be helping Romney at least a little bit in Iowa. 46% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 44% with a negative one. Those aren’t earth shattering numbers, but they’re at least better than Obama and Romney’s. Iowa makes another swing state where voters express a positive view of Ryan while also being opposed to the Ryan Plan by a 46/37 margin. People like the man, but not necessarily his policies.

How is Obama translating a job approval of -5 into a two-point lead? Two ways. First, O more than makes up for Romney’s advantage among men by winning women:

PPP’s model assumes that turnout on election day will be 48 percent men and 52 percent women, which is actually optimistic for Romney given that the gender split in Iowa exit polls was 47M/53F in 2008 and 46M/54F in 2004. If turnout this year tilts more heavily towards women, Mitt’s in deep trouble there. This is ominous too:

The reason Romney’s within two overall despite that heavy disadvantage among independents is because PPP’s sample is R+3. That’s not unheard of for Iowa — it was R+2 in the 2004 exit poll and D+1 in 2008 — but if he’s trailing that much with indies, there’s really no margin for error in this state. GOP turnout will need to be massive to compensate for it.

As for why you should care about all this, here’s TNR’s center-left election guru William Galston crunching the numbers:

But for simplicity’s sake, assume that each candidate does what he must, with Romney taking Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio while Obama turns back the Republican assault in the upper Midwest. If so, Obama would have 247 electoral votes; Romney, 253. And five states would be left to decide the contest: Virginia (13), New Hampshire (4), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6). Obama won all five in 2008, four by margins exceeding his national margin, the fifth (Virginia) with slightly less.

If Romney steals Virginia, then O needs the other four remaining toss-up states. Lose any one of them and he’s finished. Oh, and before I forget? His job approval nationally in today’s Gallup tracker is a robust 43/48.

Exit question: Obama’s decided to break with precedent and campaign this week instead of taking a few days off while the other party holds its convention. Can you guess which state he’s campaigning in today? I think you can.

Update: Via the Examiner, here’s what the orator of our age came up with for the crowd in Iowa.