For the second day in a row, Florida tops the list of the day’s interesting polls. Yesterday, Rasmussen showed John McCain holding on to a decent lead in the one state Republican strategist feel they are in a better position than they were in the past two elections. Today, two surveys found differing results:
- PPP finds Obama and McCain in a toss-up with Obama ahead 46% to 44%.
- Strategic Vision, meanwhile, shows McCain ahead more comfortably, 49% to 43%.
Florida polls have shown divergent results over the past few weeks, with Quinnipiac, ARG and PPP releasing results that are more encouraging for Democrats than those of Rasmussen and Stategic Vision (though Quinnipiac and PPP’s margins were both in the margin of error). The lack of a consistent McCain lead is by itself good news for Obama, since some had predicted the state would be out of play, but it is also means that there is nothing to dispel analyses that give a slight edge to the Republican candidate. I rated Florida “lean McCain” in my latest ratings, which is meant to underscore that the Sunshite State remains highly competitive.
All of this is to say that Florida will remain one of the hottest battlegrounds of this election but that McCain is better positioned than in states like Colorado and Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico. Florida Republicans resisted the Democratic tsunami in 2006 better than those in other states, and with early poll data suggesting that Floridians unexpectedly do not mind McCain’s stance on offshore driling, a potential issue Obama could have used is becoming more tricky. Furthermore, Obama’s strategy to not rely exclusively on OH and FL does not mean he will not contest these states, but it does mean that he will not focus on them with such obsession as to need them to be competitive for lack of any other electoral path.
Also today, two national polls are being released:
- CNN’s survey finds Obama ahead 50% to 45%, a margin that seems to echo what many other polls have found. In a 4 way race, Obama gets 46% to McCain’s 43%, Nader’s 6% and Barr’s 3%. CNN points out that third-party candidates always poll much higher in the summer.
- The poll also found that a quarter of respondents thought Obama lacked patriotism. That includes 40% of Republicans (who were unlikely to vote for Obama to start with) but also 29% of independents.
- Meanwhile, the McLaughlin survey found Obama ahead 46% to 38% and ahead 43% to 30% among independents.
- A key problem for McCain: Bush’s approval rating is at 37%, but among undecided voters, it stands at 26% (with 60% disapproving). Undecided voters in those polls are not necessarily median voters and they seem to be more eager to reject the GOP than the electorate at large.
The consitency with which polls are finding Obama slightly ahead is a good sign for Democrats, but these surveys will no doubt be taken well by Republicans as well. The McCain campaign is prepared to be behind and many GOPers realize the long odds their party faces this year. Their objective is to remain relatively close as Obama unifies his base, and beside the Newsweek and LA Times poll the margin has remained within single digits.
Other presidential polls today out today pclarify the situation in some other states:
- PPP’s latest release from North Carolina shows McCain ahead 45% to 41%. He was ahead by 3% in the previous PPP poll.
- In Georgia, Strategic Vision finds McCain ahead 51% to 43%, with Bob Barr getting 3%.
- In Louisiana, it’s 52% to 36% in favor of McCain according to the latest Southern Media & Opinion Research poll.
- In Massachusetts, Obama continues to increase his lead, now up 55% to 33% (with 67% favorability) in Rasmussen’s latest poll. He was up 13% last month.
- Finally, New York remains solidly blue in SUSA’s poll (57% to 37% Obama), though the race could get down to single-digit if McCain selects Bloomberg.
This slate of 3 Southern polls is well-timed to coincide with Tom Schaller’s op-ed in the New York Times dismissing the Democrats’ potential to capture the South this year — with the exception of Virginia. I myself have been skeptical that Obama could turn states like MS and GA, though the ever-building list of North Carolina polls finding a toss-up race makes it hard to argue that the state is out of reach for Obama. This obviously merits a larger discussion and a fuller post (which will come), but my hunch is that arguing that increased black turnout in states like MS where voting patterns are very polarized could tip the election ignores just how dramatically he would have to improve on Kerry’s share of the white vote.
What is true, however, is that turning out more black voters could have a big impact on down-the-ballot races (like Musgrove’s). Which brings up to today’s Senate polls:
- In North Carolina, PPP finds Elizabeth Dole back north of the 50% threshold, 51% to 37%. She was up 47% to 39% three weeks ago and up 5% in May, after Kay Hagan won the Democratic primary.
- More good news for the GOP in Louisiana, where Southern Media & Opinion Research finds Landrieu losing a double-digit lead from March (50% to 38%) and leading 46% to 40% — under 50%.
- Finally, Massachusetts’s race is not particularly interesting (especially since the GOP’s touted candidate failed to get the signatures), but in case anyone is interested in John Kerry’s fate, Rasmussen finds him ahead of Jeff Beatty 63% to 25%.
Elizabeth Dole was found to be in grave danger by a wave of surveys after the May 6th primary, though poll after poll have found her regaining her footing since then. That is explained both by Hagan fading out of the news again and Dole’s ad blitz that the incumbent unleashed sensing that she had to remedy her vulnerabilities. She is in a much better position now, and her hope is to scare Democrats away from looking to much in her direction in her coming months. The problem with that is that NC has already attracted the DSCC’s attention and that Democrats know that there is potential here. This race will be key to how big the Democratic majority is in the next Senate.