'Screwy' Polls?

Pennsylvania's favorite (or least favorite) political pundit, Ed Rendell, on Friday proclaimed new polls in the race for president to be "screwy."

Appearing, as he often does, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the former mayor/guv/Demcratic Party leader especially questioned new polling in Pennsylvania showing the contest here a toss-up.

The political Website realclearpolitics.com, in fact, recently moved the state from "leans Obama" to "toss up," and recent polling in the Keystone State shows Obama's lead has shrunk from seven or eight points to three or four points.

Rendell's case against this apparent Romney gain is based on Ed's assertion that if the race really was that close there'd be evidence of a Romney campaign presence contesting the Commonwealth. There isn't. No targetted TV ads. No Romney visits.

So is Rendell right? Or is he merely mouthing Democratic wishful thinking?

On the national scene, the poll that dropped everyone's jaw is Gallup's latest "daily tracking" showing Romney with a 7-point edge over Obama headed into the weekend before Monday night's final debate.

The Romney lead is by far his biggest advantage yet but the New York Daily News notes the poll was taken over seven days, including only one day of data since the second debate Tuesday night which generally was seen as a win for Obama or, at least, a draw.

Experts say any single poll can be off at any given time and that the best way to measure the race is through averaging multiple polls.

That's what realclearpolitics.com does and its results show the following in key states and nationally: Obama holds an average lead of 2.4% in Ohio; Romney up 2.5% in Florida; Obama up 2.8% in Wisconsin; Obama up just .8% in Virginia (a virtual tie); Romney up just .2% in Colorado (a virtual tie); and Romney ahead buy 1% in the national average (a virtual tie).

The numbers and dizzying and changing and maybe reflect an electorate that can be quickly moved in a race that some now say could end up unresolved on Election Day.

This volatility protects any pollsters whose numbers seem off, but there's little to protect the rest of us from the unprecedented onslaught of polls and how they might impact the outcome of the race.