Let's take a look at the polls. The RCP average gives Obama a 2.7% lead. That includes the CNN and Fox polls, both of which gave Obama much larger leads (7 and 9%). The four most recent polls split. Obama leads by 4 and 1% in two of them and Romney leads by 1 and 2% in the others.
The Fox and CNN polls can't be called outliers. They fit with a series of national polls taken between July 16th and August 8th. In both cases the sample size is under a thousand and the sample is of registered voters. As I have noted, the Fox polls has a very large over sample of Democrats.
Of the four most recent polls, two sample registered voters. NBC samples a thousand voters over five days to give Obama a lead of four points while Gallup samples over three thousand voters over seven days and gives Romney two points. Gallup's large samples and long periods have given their poll and unusual stability. Like Fox and CNN, the NBC poll includes a sample of Democrats that is about 9% larger than the sample of Republicans.
The Rasmussen and Survey USA polls include sample sizes of 1500 and 1149 likely voters. The former gives Romney a one point lead and the latter Obama a one point lead.
So what would I tell each camp if I were paid to advise them? I'd tell Romney that, right now he's has a good shot at election. The race is tied and the tie usually goes to the challenger. It actually makes Romney's position look better if you assume that the Fox, CNN, et. al. polls giving Obama a big lead were genuine, because that means that Romney has enjoyed a surge. This may be interpreted as a bump for the Ryan pick, however, and what bumps up will probably bump down.
I would tell Obama that his campaign strategy so far has shown problematic results. He has burned through a lot more money than he has been raising running a full court press against Mr. Romney. As he did so his position seems to have weakened. The most favorable interpretation of this is that the negative campaign succeeded in dampening Romeny's surge, but that would mean that the underlying power of that surge was even greater than it appears.
The most interesting polls released today are from Michigan and Wisconsin. Two polls, both by organizations that lean Democratic, give Romney a lead. The PPP poll in Wisconsin has a sample of 1308 likely voters. It confirms a smaller sample by Rasmussen. Wisconsin voters appear to have largely unfavorable views of both candidates, though Romney does a bit better.
The internals of this poll are interesting. The sample breaks 40 to 30% conservative/liberal and 34 to 32% Republican/Democrat. That leaves a big middle to decide the outcome. It also means, if accurate, that Wisconsin is very competitive, which is great news for the Republican ticket. Wisconsin voters oppose "Paul Ryan's proposal for reforming Medicare" 46 to 40%. The plan isn't winning over anyone to the Republican ticket but neither does it seem to be much of a burden.
The shocking news comes from Michigan. A Baydoun/Foster poll gives Romney a four point lead. I can't find internals for this poll, but Fox Detroit has some interesting news about the Ryan plan. Eric Foster, chief pollster and President of Foster McCollum White & Associates, says this:
In spite of national criticism of the Ryan selection and budget plan, our findings suggest that Michigan voters are viewing both as positives for Romney. 36.11% of Michigan voters are more likely to vote for Romney because of the Paul Ryan selection while only 27.90% are less likely to vote for Romney. That is a positive statistical advantage for Romney of 8.21 points or 29.42%. Tarek Baydoun, statistical analyst for Foster McCollum White Baydoun reflects, "While Romney may have challenges connecting to voters, Paul Ryan seems to humanize him and make him more acceptable to voters like his wife Ann Romney does."
Additionally the Ryan Budget plan is supported by a plurality of Michigan voters. 47.99% support Ryan's budget which includes a major overhaul of Medicare and Social Security while 45.01% oppose the plan. What is statistically interesting is the fact that 41.59% of Michigan voters strongly oppose the plan and only 34.77% strongly support the plan. The margin for Ryan's plan comes from the soft supporters, who outnumber the soft opponents by a four to one margin (13.22% to 3.42%).
Again, it seems clear that the Ryan plan is neither winning nor costing Romney support. Democrats who were gleeful over Romney's choice of Ryan may yet have reason for their glee, but one has to add "not yet". Right now this makes Romney look smart.
All this adds up at least to a bounce for Romney after his VP pick. If that all it is or if it's a mirage, we'll soon know. If Romney can at least stay competitive in these two states, he will force the Obama campaign to spend precious resources on states he hoped to take for granted. If Romney wins these two states, he will get to take another oath of office.