Monday polls: McCain still ahead in Florida but loses Virginia

The day’s most significant presidential polls came from two red state targeted by Barack Obama. And as has been the norm for the past few months, Virginia continues to look like a better pick-up opportunity for the Democratic candidate than the good old swing state of Florida:

  • Rasmussen released its second Florida poll in 8 days and finds little change, with McCain ahead 48% to 41%. He led by 8% two weeks ago.
  • The favorabiliry ratings tell a worse story for Obama, as his favorability rating is down at 44% (57% for McCain) — with 40% viewing him very unfavorably (versus 18% for McCain)!
  • In Virginia, however, Obama is ahead 49% to 47% in the latest SUSA poll. That is actually a 7% drop from the May poll - but it conforms to the most recent polls from PPP and Rasmussen.
  • Obama’s lead is sustained by the partisan breakdown: 43% to 31% in favor of Democrats, a 17% swing compared to the 2004 exit polls (39% GOP-35% Dem).

SUSA’s swing in partisan breakdown is sometimes bigger than other groups find, though it does conform to the latest Newsweek or LA Times polls and it matches expectations as to the electorate’s transformations in the past four years, so that it remains a credible finding. However, I am not sure what to think of Rasmussen showing such astronomically high “very unfavorable” ratings in so many states. Other polls have not shown such a large discrepancy in the two candidates’ favorability rating.

Besides this methodological note, neither of these polls is surprising. Despite two unexpected surveys two weeks ago showing Obama gaining in Florida, most of the polls taken in the Sunshine state have shown that this is a rare swing state in which McCain seems more secure than Bush was in 2004 and 2000. On the other hand, poll after poll confirms that Virginia is at the top of Obama’s pick-up list. McCain will need to flex his military muscle with the state’s veteran population to overcome the rapid Democratic gains in NoVa, and his road would be tougher if Obama selects one of the Virginia boys (Webb, Warner, Kaine) as his running-mate.

Three other polls were released from safer states:

  • In Alabama, Rasmussen finds McCain losing ground but still comfortably ahead, 51% to 36% (he led by 28% last month).
  • Here again, Obama has a strikingly high “very unfavorable” number (37%) — though this is more expected given the state’s racial polarization. His favorabily rating is 40%, whereas 67% have a favorable view of McCain.
  • In Massachusetts, SUSA released its first poll finding Obama ahead (finally) by double-digits. He was ahead by 5% in the last poll, but now leads 53% to 40%.
  • This comes entirely from the partisan breakdown (40% dem, 17% GOP), but Obama remains weak among his party: 76%.
  • Finally, Obama has not yet put Georgia in play but the state is at the threshold of competitivity: McCain maintains a 10% lead in Rasmussen’s latest poll (53% to 43%), just like last month.
  • McCain maintains an edge in favorability: 60% versus 47% for Obama (and 34% very unfavorable).

Longtime readers of this blog know I have long been puzzled by Obama’s numbers in Massachusetts, where numerous polling instutes showed him struggling and polling significantly weaker numbers than Clinton. But no poll was more severe for Obama than SUSA’s, as survey after survey showed him in a toss-up with McCain in what is arguably the most Democratic state in the country. A few polls have shown Obama creating some distance here, and while 13% remains strangely small in such a blue state, it is certainly an improvement. It remains difficult to imagine how Massachusetts could be anywhere near the list of competitive states in the fall, but we will keep an eye on poll trendlines.

Finally, two Senate polls were released by Rasmussen confirming what we already know — Alabma and Georgia are unlikely to join the list of competitive races:

  • In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss leads his 5 opponents by margins ranging from 13% (against Jim Martin) to 27%. He is above 50% in all match-ups.
  • In Alabama, Sen. Sessions leads Vivan Figures 58% to 34% — an improvement of 9% by the Democrat but this remains a third-to-fourth tier race.

Note that Democrats were really interested to challenging Chambliss after the nastiness of the 2002 race, but a strong challenger never emerged. 

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