Generally, I think it is too early to pay much attention to polls. I especially think it is much too early to take today's head-to-head polls and extrapolate out to November. But there was a poll conducted recently by the Global Strategy Group among independents that I think is useful, and I think it portends problems for President Obama.
I believe it is a given that he will not have the surge in turnout among youth voters and African Americans that he had in 2008. He must make up the difference among independents. According to the poll, conducted in battleground states in mid-March, President Obama won 57 percent of "swing independent" voters in 2008; but today, he is only at 44 percent among this group. It is safe to assume Obama will need at least 60 percent of independents like these to win in November.
And in 2012, Obama is more of a known commodity. In 2008, he had the advantage of being unknown, and therefore full of promise and potential. Those longing for promise and potential today have mostly given up on Obama. Even with Romney having had to run to the right during the last several months, he's closer to these swing independents ideologically than Obama.
And while Obama has had nothing to inhibit a move toward the center, he has not done so. Or, put more clearly by James Hohmann, "the Obama reelection campaign's dual challenge is to convince these voters that Romney is more conservative than they think and that Obama is ideologically closer to them than they realize." Nothing suggests that this task will be easier for Obama that it has been in the last six months.
The poll isn't without bad news for Romney. It indicates that Romney lacks the "likability factor" among swing independents, giving Obama the edge regardless of his political positions. But as we start the last 212 days until the November election, I think it's worthwhile to keep a close eye on these battleground states, and, in particular, on the independent voters that this poll has identified.