Bloggers for Allen are doing their level best, here, here and here to spin this and other recent polling as positively as they can for their candidate.
But, the reality is that Allen's consistent showing at or below 50% is a sure sign of trouble for him and any incumbent.
Check out this analysis over at PollingReport.com by Nick Panagakis , for example, that reports:
An incumbent leading with less than 50% (against one challenger) is frequently in trouble; how much depends on how much less than 50%. A common pattern has been for incumbents ahead with 50% or less to end up losing.
The key is the behavior of undecided voters. Again, according to Panagakis:
And, as to the "spread":
our analysis of 155 polls reveals that, in races that include an incumbent, the traditional answers are wrong. Over 80% of the time, most or all of the undecideds voted for the challenger.
The overwhelming evidence is that an incumbent won’t share the undecideds equally with the challenger. To suggest otherwise by emphasizing point spread or to say that an incumbent is ahead when his or her percentage is well under 50% leads to election day surprises.But, according to Zogby, the 16 point spread shown in Mason/Dixon may indicate some break in the clouds looming over the Allen campaign:
... traditionally, the undecideds break for the challenger against the incumbent on the basis of the fact, simply, that the voters already know the incumbent, and it's a referendum on the incumbent. And if the incumbent is polling, generally, under 50 percent and leading by less than 10, historically, incumbents have lost 7 out of 10 times.At a minimum, the weak Allen showing indicates that Virginia voters may be willing to consider a change. Check out this analysis of the Daschle/Thune race on election eve. Or this report re: Lieberman's travails.
It's up to Webb to prove that he's a viable challenger and preferable alternative to Allen. If he can do that, victory may be his on November 7th.