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ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER POLL: Gallup's first tracking poll measuring likely voters probably poked a hole in the paper bag Andrew Sullivan and his fellow Obama backers were using to slow their recent debate-induced panic. The new survey has Mitt Romney leading the president among likely voters by 2 points, 49 percent to 47. The results come one day after a Pew poll showed the GOP challenger up by 5 points among likely voters.
IT'S A DIFFERENT STORY among registered voters, a demographic that has traditionally been kinder to Democrats at this point in the race. Gallup shows Obama up 3 points, 49 percent to 46, among registered respondents. Pew, meanwhile, had the two men knotted at 46 percent apiece in that demographic.
ANALYSIS: From Gallup: "Neither result provides a candidate with a statistically significant lead, but together they do underscore the competitive nature of the election and indicate that Romney at this point benefits from turnout patterns, given the five-point swing in his favor when the transition is made from registered voters to likely voters."
OUTSIDE ANALYSIS: NYT's Nate Silver on Twitter: "With further gains by Romney today, we now have Obama as a ~70/30 favorite, same as before conventions."
THE BIG PICTURE: Slate's David Weigel: "It's not in the nature of a Democrat to get optimistic about a presidential race. ... And yet, in September, the successful Democratic convention and Romney's '47 percent' monologues gave them perfect confidence that they were beating Mitt Romney by miles. You saw it in SNL commentary .... You saw it on InTrade ....
"The Obama hyper-optimism never made sense to me. Mitt Romney's favorable ratings and issue ratings were cosmically low, because the Obama campaign's stated strategy—for 13 months!—was to make them low. The candidate was never going to show up to the debates as gaffe-prone and soulless as he seems when media pick the gaffes out of 30-minute speeches and circulate the awkward moments on YouTube. The anger at Obama's debate sleepwalk makes sense. But why were liberals so confident that their predebate lead was set in adamantium?"
HAPPY TUESDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM, where after yesterday your afternoon host is worried he should have paid extra for rush delivery on his MLB official postseason Nationals sweatshirt. Follow the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or fill your afternoon host's inbox with links, comments, and anything else on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU THINK OVERANALYZING THE POLLS IS POINTLESS: You're really going to hate this. But we promise to make it quick. The Obama camp released a new attack ad today featuring Big Bird. Sesame Street asked the president's team to take it down and leave them out of it. Mitt Romney returned fire by saying Obama should worry less about the giant yellow bird and more about American jobs. The end.
DEAR PIZZA HUT: Your absurd PR debate stunt is not helping...
WHEN 30 YEARS = A LIFE SENTENCE: Jerry Sandusky was sentenced this morning to 30 to 60 years in prison—a term that the judge said will likely represent a life sentence for the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach. Under state law, Sandusky cannot be released on parole before he completes the minimum term, meaning he would be at least 98 years old before he would even be eligible for release.
EARLY ELECTIONS IN ISRAEL: Benjamin Netanyahu announced today that he is ordering new parliamentary elections early next year, roughly eight months ahead of schedule. The prime minister said he was forced to call for the vote after his coalition failed to agree on a budget but, as the Associated Press points out, the earlier-than-planned elections are also likely to help Netanyahu chances at re-election.
HANDING OUT THE HARDWARE: Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics this morning for what the selection committee called their "ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."
TRANSLATION: That research has helped lay the groundwork for the building of new superfast computers that rely on quantum physics, as well as the construction of extremely precise clocks that could one day become the basis for a new standard of time, according to the panel.
UP TOMORROW: Nobel Prize in chemistry. You can check out Slate's predictions for who will win that one, along with the rest of the week's awards, here.
WEATHER DELAY: The Associated Press: "Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner canceled his planned death-defying 23-mile free fall Tuesday because of high winds, the second time this week he was forced to postpone his quest to become the world's first supersonic skydiver."
CHECKING THE REST OF THE TRAPS—
Reuters: "A U.S. security officer twice asked his State Department superiors for more security agents for the American mission in Benghazi months before an attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, but he got no response."
WaPo: "Amid a massive security operation that locked down much of this ancient capital, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday staged a gutsy foray into the heart of Europe’s debt crisis. If her protest-plagued trip shined a spotlight on struggling Greece, it also highlighted a problem for a resurgent Germany: its image."
NYT: "The Mexican Navy confirmed on Tuesday that it had killed Heriberto Lazcano, the founder and the principal leader of the Zetas, one of the most violent criminal gangs to terrorize the country in years."
WSJ: "The government filed a civil lawsuit against Wells Fargo, accusing the biggest U.S. mortgage lender of behaving recklessly in issuing federally backed home loans. The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, seeks 'hundreds of millions of dollars' in damages on behalf of the Federal Housing Authority. The FHA is a government agency that doesn't make loans but insures those made by lenders that meet its standards."
SLATE QUICK HITS—
Moneybox: Wal-Mart Testing Same-Day Delivery
Brow Beat: C.K. To Take His Time With Louie
XX Factor: In Defense of Lena Dunham Being Young
Human Evolution: Are Humans Monogamous or Polygamous?
We'll see you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.