Just to make things clear, most political reporters are morons, nearly as bad as sports reporters. Mostly ugly cheerleaders for their side, rather than analysts. Uninteresting.
how to analyze polls:
Who ever is ahead in the polls at the time of election is extremely likely to win. Talk about how Candidate X would have a ‘difficult path to 270 electoral votes’ when he’s up 2 points (for example), is pretty much horseshit. There are second-order considerations: you get more oomph per voter when the voter is in a small state, and you also want your votes distributed fairly evenly, so that you win states giving you a majority of electoral votes by a little rather than winning states giving you a minority of electoral votes by huge margins. Not that a candidate can do much about this, of course.
When you hear someone say that it’s really 50 state contests [ more if you think about Maine and Nebraska] , so you should pay attention to the state polls, not the national polls: also horseshit. In some sense, it is true – but when your national polls go up, so do your state polls – almost all of them, in practice. On election day, or just before, you want to consider national polls rather than state polls, because they are almost always more recent, therefore more accurate.
When should you trust an outlier poll, rather than the average: when you want to be wrong.
Money doesn’t help much. Political consultants will tell you that it does, but then they get 15% of ad buys.
A decent political reporter would actually go out and talk to people that aren’t exactly like him. Apparently this no longer happens.
All of these rules have exceptions – but if you understand those [rare] exceptions and can apply them, you’re paying too much attention to politics.