...but it is still not good. The polls, that is.
RCP average has Obama up about 6. Some fairly reputable polls have him up by 7-9.
That is not good. BUT, considering some historical facts about pre-election polls and actual election results, it is not dire. At least, not yet.
Over the last several elections, polls have skewed towards the democrats. Look at exit polls in 2004 that showed Kerry winning by a large margin, for instance. So we can reasonably predict that actual election results will be somewhere from 2-4 points more favorable for McCain than pre-election polls suggest.
Another factor is the race factor: historically, minority candidates always do better in polls than at the ballot box. Some people just won't vote for a minority, but they would rather tell a pollster something different than expose their racism. So we can reasonably predict another 2-4 point shift for McCain.
Together, than means a possible 4-8 point shift. But the polls show a 6-9 point lead for Obama - and there is still a margin of error on top of that. So Obama might be as much 10-15 points ahead in the polls (of course, he might only 1-4 points up... tricky thing, those margins of error...).
What this means is:
The race is still wide open - but Obama is still holding a slight advantage.
Now comes the last historical factor: last-minute undecideds almost always break for the known quantity. In this case, the known quantity is McCain. People like status quo. Even when everyone is chanting about "change," the fact is, a lot of people would rather keep things comfortable than try something new. This is especially true when times are turbulent. Better to have the seasoned warhorse than they untried pony. McCain has been going down in the polls, but I think he hit bottom and the recent Palin debate has the GOP ticket moving back up. That means the trend will be for McCain to climb.
The questions that remain are: how high does he have to climb to ensure a victory, and will he make it?
It is not as bad as they are telling us, but it is still not good. McCain needs to deliver in his next two debates and hammer Obama hard with targeted advertising in battleground states. He needs to stay on offense, because Obama is much weaker defending.
This will end up a nail-biter, for sure.