Is McCain Really Down in Montana?

By Beacon Staff

A poll conducted by Montana State University-Billings and released Thursday shows that Democrat Barack Obama is now leading Republican John McCain by 4 points in Montana. A day prior, the Associated Press reported that nationwide Obama’s lead on McCain had dwindled to 1-percentage point, well within its poll’s margin of error. Neither can be right. Right?

At Real Clear Politics, which averages the latest polls, McCain still leads in Montana by 3.3 percentage points. Earlier this month, Research 200 found that the Republican was up by 4; ARG had him up 5; and Rasmussen showed an 8-point lead. The September polls were even more lopsided, with three consecutive polls giving McCain a double-digit lead. If Obama has really made up about 15 points in the last several weeks, it would be a truly amazing feat. It would be on same level as McCain’s remarkable nationwide comeback, which the AP explained this way.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential race tightened after the final debate, with John McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows McCain and Barack Obama essentially running even among likely voters in the election homestretch.

The AP’s poll differed so substantially from nearly every other nationwide poll that it caused a minor row among, you guessed it, the pollsters. John Zogby, who has Obama up 10 over McCain, told the Boston Herald, “The AP poll is not only an outlier, it’s just preposterous!”

He then criticized the wire service for not properly counting college-age voters. At Real Clear Politics, Obama is still up by 7.1 points nationwide, a sizable number. And a national poll by FOX News released the same day as the AP’s had Obama up 9.

In Montana, it’s hard for me to believe Obama will win by 4 percentage points on Nov. 4. If he does, then this election will be won in a landslide. Then again, is this race really tied nationwide? Who knows? When the pollsters are fighting amongst themselves, and their results vary this much, it’s hard to believe any of them have figured out a reliable formula.