The final polling data out of Iowa indicate a race that’s considerably closer than 2008, when President Obama beat John McCain by double digits. Two polls released Monday from Public Policy Polling and ARG show Obama +2 and Romney +1, respectively.
A Des Moines Register poll released over the weekend sampled 800 likely voters and found a five-point Obama lead.
President Obama’s narrow lead in the polls is a major departure from 2008, when he had a commanding 15 point lead on the eve of the election but, despite the massive disparity in the polls early voting turnout from 2012 and 2008 is virtually identical.
As of Friday, more than 640,000 votes had been cast in Iowa; 42.3 percent by registered Democrats, 32.1 percent by Republicans and 25.6 percent by voters who do not identify with either party.
In 2008, the early voting proportions were almost exactly the same; as a result Obama was able to build up a lead large enough to absorb a significant McCain push on election day.
So if turnout seems to be holding steady in Obama’s favor, why such a disparity in the polls? One reason is that Obama is seriously under-performing with independent voters this time around. The final 2008 Des Moines Register poll showed Obama with a 54/31 lead with independents; this year the same poll found Romney leading that group 41/37.
A Romney surge is likely on its way today in Iowa, the only question is whether Obama’s early-voting advantage will hold.