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Poll roundup: Presidential race opens up as election day nears

We’re now only five days away from election day. The campaigns are back in full swing after taking a short break to deal with the hurricane. The first question on everyone’s mind is “Will Hurricane Sandy have any effect on the presidential polls?” The answer is yes, but not in the way you might have thought.

The real impact is that there have been fewer polls! Both Gallup and Rasmussen suspended their national polls for a few days to let us get over Hurricane Sandy a bit.

But still, Real Clear Politics, which takes an average of all the major polls, continues to churn out results. They show Romney and Obama tied at 47.6 percent each.

My reading of those results is: The closer Election Day gets, the more open the presidential race seems.

In the all-important Electoral College, Real Clear Politics a month ago had only seven toss-up states – a mere 82 undecided electoral votes.

Now, only five days out, Real Clear Politics has 11 toss-up states and a whopping 146 electoral votes up for grabs.

Most of those new toss-up states have come from the president’s side, in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but Real Clear Politics has also just moved North Carolina out of the “for sure” Romney column – so both sides are taking hits.

Clearly, the race is not only tightening, it’s broadening.

The Obama campaign has been playing a lot of defense this week. It sent its number one surrogate Bill Clinton to Minnesota of all places.

Vice President Joe Biden is spending time in Pennsylvania. And the president is heading to Wisconsin Thursday.

Those are all states Obama had hoped to have nailed down by now.

Every day the president, Bill Clinton, and Joe Biden have to spend defending Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and Michigan and Minnesota is a day they’re not spending in all-important Ohio.

So how goes Ohio? Ohio is still the big battle zone, and Obama’s supposed firewall – with the president holding a small but persistent two point lead. But for the first time, one poll this week, Rasmussen, actually put Romney in the lead there – by two points. Is that a sign of things to come?

Could be? But just on Wednesday, a new Quinnipiac poll has the president up by five in Ohio. So maybe, just maybe, the Dems feel like they can risk shoring up places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But if Ohio does steady for the president, Michigan is all of a sudden wobbly for him. A Detroit News poll has Obama’s lead cut to under 3 percent. Michigan, the heart of auto bailout country, that’s got to be a concern.

But the Romney campaign has to be concerned with the latest Quinnipiac poll out of Florida. That has Romney up by only one point. So when Romney resumed campaigning Thursday, after a one day hiatus for the storm, he of course was in Florida.

New Wall Street Journal/NBC battleground state polls out show the president up in Wisconsin by three, New Hampshire by two, Iowa by six, and Pennsylvania by four.

Pundit Joe Klein wrote this week – anyone who claims to know who the winner will be next Tuesday is just blowing smoke.

But just an hour ago, Time Magazine’s John Halperin said that in the last two days, insiders from both campaigns are starting to think that Obama’s tiny but persistent leads in so many of these battleground states means “the president may have this.”

We’ll know in five days, or six, or seven, or ten.

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