Gallup's seven-day tracking poll of likely voters shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama by 7 percentage points, 52 percent to 45 percent. Should Obama panic? Maybe: even among registered voters -- which should be more friendly to Obama because Democrats tend to be no-shows on election day -- Romney is leading by 1 point, 48 percent to 47 percent. This average takes one day of post-debate views into account, so you'd expect Obama to do better, because he was widely seen has having won the debate. Instead, Romney gained 1 point over Wednesday. Gallup's three-day tracking poll shows Obama's approval rating ticking upward, but that's among all adults, not voters.
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The polling experts of this election aren't blown away by the Gallup numbers. The New York Times' Nate Silver says the Gallup poll is cancelled out by other better polls for Obama. Real Clear Politics' Sean Trende tweets, "Guessing Gallup has a day with a 1-in-1000 sample (like Romney+15), and that everything else is normal variance." He suggests if Romney were really ahead that much, he'd be competing in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. Nevertheless, it's clear the race is much closer.
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Maybe the best way to figure out if the Obama campaign should be panicking is looking at whether it's already panicking. They are obviously scaling back their electoral map ambitions. A month ago, the Obama campaign was flirting with putting resources in Arizona, a traditionally Republican state where demographics are becoming more favorable for Democrats. But by Wednesday, they were just worried about the usual swing states. Obama adviser David Plouffe told National Journal's Major Garrett that internal polling showed Obama has "significant leads" in Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, he would not say the same about Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina -- all of which Romney advisers told NJ they're likely to win. Obama's averaging a lead in Virginia -- but it's less than 1 point. The campaign is sending Jill Biden to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa this weekend. He hasn't been to North Carolina since the Democratic convention. Obama's lead in Ohio -- it's firewall, and the reason there's a chance Obama could win the electoral college but lose the popular vote -- has shrunk to an average of 2.4 points.