The last full month of the campaign is on, which made me want to double check where the candidates were on this day in the last few close races. Electoral-vote.com has the numbers for this day in 2004: Bush 276, Kerry 221. For the rest of the snapshots I went into Lexis-Nexis to check contemporarily electoral scorecards.
On October 1, 2000, the candidates were prepping for their first debate and Gore was in the lead.
Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia are leaning the vice president's way or solidly in his column, putting him at 226 electoral votes—44 short of the 270 needed to claim the presidency, and 25 votes closer to his goal than a month ago.
On October 1, 1988, Mike Dukakis was campaigning in Texas (where he was down 10 points) and George H.W. Bush was in Massachusetts (where he was down 8). An AP analysis gave the edge to Bush, with reservations.
Despite steady late-summer advances by Bush—and Democratic talk of a Dukakis rebound—neither man has been able to seize an advantage in a string of states where the election will be decided. The list includes Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and others, totaling over 150 electoral votes.
There was no state-by-state electoral analysis in 1980, when Carter and Reagan were basically tied, but Carter pollster Pat Caddell gave a briefing to reporters that now reads like doom.
He said Carter's "lead is expanding very steadily" in New York but is "a litle lagging" in Ohio. He said the president appears to have improved his position in Pennsylvania and such southern states as Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana. Texas is close but "still tough" for Carter, while "we have a real shot at Oregon and Washington," Caddell said.
On election day, Carter won… none of those states. So it's not unheard of for a Democrat to be leading in the polls as October starts and then suffer a monthlong melt. The differences this year: an economic crisis, worries about the Republican's running mate (comparable to 1988), cash parity (and maybe an advantage) for the Democrats, and, of course, a black candidate leading the Democratic ticket.
UPDATE: If I had to pick one reason for why Obama's outperforming Kerry, it's in this Pew poll. At this point in 2004 Kerry had a net positive favorability of 12 points (53-41) to Bush's 17 points. Obama has a net favorability of 35 points (66-31) to McCain's 25 points. Do Republicans expect, say, a Jeremiah Wright ad to knock 23 points off Obama's favorability?