Barack Obama’s attempts to expand the map and put red states in play has been a major story of the past month. Two days after Rasmussen found Obama narrowly ahead in Montana, Insider Advantage’s survey from Georgia is very interesting:
- John McCain is ahead of Barack Obama, 46% to 44%. Bob Barr gets 4%. The previous IA poll, released just two weeks ago, found McCain ahead by 1% with Barr at 6%.
- IA also finds that 51% of Georgians would be “more likely” to vote for Obama were he to choose Sam Nunn as his running-mate.
Georgia is one of a number of red states which Obama is hoping to put in play, and while not all polls from the state that have been released have found this tight a race, most have confirmed that Georgia is considerably tighter than it was four years ago. As for Nunn, I have repeatedly expressed my hostility to his being chosen, though it seems hard to dispute that his selection would ensure that McCain has to defend Georgia.
Keep in mind when seeing polls from Georgia or Montana that Obama is currently blanketing these states with ads while McCain is not — and that has an obvious impact on these numbers. But this does not mean that Obama’s competitiveness is artificial. McCain has no plan for now to air ads in these states, and his campaign cannot afford to spend resources in Georgia and keep up its spending in all the states it is in now.
And this is an integral part of Obama’s plan: If he benefits from poll after poll showing single-digit races in Alaska, Montana and Georgia, McCain will no longer be able to be indifferent to these states. To ensure this happens, Obama is not only airing ads, he is also actively campaigning there: On Friday, Obama spent the day in Montana, a state to which he has also sent paid staff — something McCain has not done. How much longer can the GOP delay organizing in these states?
Republicans better remember what happened in 2006, when incumbents who were seating in blue districts and who were targeted from day one (Shays in CT-04, Gerlach in PA-06, Madrid in NM-01) survived while a number of Republicans congressmen from red districts were unexpectedly washed away by the blue tsunami because they did not think they would be endangered. Similarly, it’s good of McCain to build a firewall in Ohio, Florida and Missouri but danger could come from North Carolina and Montana.
On the other hand, John McCain’s attempts to expand the map are not as successful, to say the least. His campaign hoped that the candidate’s popularity with independents would allow him to compete in Oregon, Washington and Connecticut. Polls in all three of these states have found Obama crushing the Republican. After two CT polls on Wednesday, Research 2000 released another one today confirming Obama’s lead:
- Obama is ahead 57% to 35%. The poll also finds that Ned Lamont would crush Joe Lieberman by 15% in a rematch of their 2006 race, and that Lieberman would not be much of a help for McCain were he to be chosen as VP.
- In Rhode Island, meanwhile, Rasmussen found Obama is not trembling in another staunchly blue state, leading 55% to 33% and helped by a 68% favorability rating.
My latest ratings found McCain’s base shrinking and Obama’s solidifying, though the difference between the two candidates when accounting for lean states remained a narrow 11 electoral votes — underscoring that the electoral college remains a toss-up. But these polls underscore the real source of trouble for McCain: The epicenter of the presidential battle is moving from the traditional battleground states to red territory.