The election is still more than six months away, but the 2012 presidential campaign system is now officially underway: the Gallup organization has begun to release daily tracking polls.
The first poll shows Mitt Romney with a narrow lead over President Obama — Gallup describes it as a “statistical tie.” The Rasmussen poll, the other daily tracking poll available at this point, gives Romney a slightly larger lead.
Using our standard methods to convert a national poll into an electoral map, the current Gallup numbers would yield a narrow Romney victory in the Electoral College: 275 to 263 for the President.
The two tracking polls both offer more encouragement to the Romney camp than most recent conventional polls; the RCP poll of polls still points to a narrow Obama victory in November.
The best way to describe the race at this point would be “dead heat”. That is probably on balance bad news for the President; incumbents usually enjoy a lead at this point in the cycle and former Governor Romney has just finished a bruising primary race while President Obama hasn’t had to stir out of the Rose Garden.
Here, for what it is worth, is the electoral map that corresponds to the first Gallup tracking poll. Note that Virginia and Colorado have moved to the Romney column, tipping the balance in the Electoral College. We will take another look at all this in a couple of weeks — unless something happens that dramatically shakes up the race.