Gallup tracking poll: Dead heat again

Conventional wisdom held that Barack Obama would benefit from an economic crisis, but at least according to Gallup’s daily tracking poll, it’s put a dent in Obama’s momentum.  He lost his three-point lead abruptly and has dropped back into a tie at 46% with John McCain among likely voters.  That contrasts sharply with the polls from the Washington Post/ABC and Fox, which showed Obama gaining some momentum:

John McCain has gained ground and is now tied with Barack Obama among registered voters in the latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking update for Sept. 22-24, with each candidate getting 46% support.

This update covers interviewing conducted Monday through Wednesday, and as such includes one night after McCain’s announcement that he was suspending election campaigning and flying to Washington to help seek a bipartisan solution to the financial crisis. A night by night analysis of interviewing results, however, does not suggest that McCain had a dramatically better night against Obama on Wednesday. Instead, the data show that McCain has been doing slightly better for the last three days than he had in the previous week, and with some strong Obama days falling off of the rolling average, the race has moved to its current tied position. This is the first report since Sept. 13-15, in which Obama did not have at least a one percentage point edge.

Rasmussen, however, shows Obama still ahead by three, and says the exact opposite of Gallup:

Tracking poll results are based upon nightly telephone interviews and reported on a three-day rolling average basis. The overwhelming majority of the interviews for today’s report were completed before the President’s speech last night. However, it is worth noting that results for the past two individual nights of polling were quite a bit weaker for McCain.

So what does this mean?  It shows that the race is still a margin-of-error event, not the wide gaps shown in polls with commensurate wide gaps in voter identification.  Until we get past the debates, we’re unlikely to see massive movement in overall numbers.