Q-Pac polls from the “Big Three:” Obama ahead, losing ground

Last night, I moved Florida out of the McCain column for the first time in my latest presidential ratings - with a slight apprehension at doing so just hours before I could see the results of the latest Quinnipiac polls. Well, there were no surprises in Quinnipiac’s latest release from the “Big Three” battleground states:

  • In Ohio, Obama gets 46% to McCain’s 44%. In June, Obama led 48% to 42%. Obama improves his share of Democratic voters yet again (69% in May to 80% in June to 84% today) but McCain leads by 8% more among Republicans.
  • In Florida, the margin is also 46% to 44% in Obama’s favor, down from a 47% to 43% lead last month. Obama gets 86% of the Democratic vote but now trails among independents. He leads 56% to 36% among Hispanics (a very good margin for Florida) and 65% to 29% among Jewish voters. A problematic constituency here are white voters with no college degree, that opt for McCain by 15%.
  • In Pennsylvania, Obama is ahead more comfortably, 49% to 42%. Last month, he led 52% to 40%. McCain only gets 1% of the black vote! Obama’s support among Democrats is stable from last month.
  • In all three states, slightly more voters say that Obama’s energy plan is better than McCain’s. That’s within the margin of error, but this is an issue the GOP has been focusing with particular intensity lately.

Overall, then, these polls confirm the conventional wisdom - which also happens to be the wisdom of my most recent ratings - that Florida and Ohio are toss-ups and Pennsylvania leans Democratic. That Obama is ahead in all three states is obviously good news for the Democrat, especially given that he has many other routes to get to 270 electoral votes than winning Ohio and Florida. Either one of these two states could be enough to put Obama over the top considering that other states are even more likely to fall into his column (say, Iowa) and McCain would then have to win Michigan to survive.

Yet, the trendlines in each polls favors McCain (with modest gains from 2% to 5%) - just as last week when McCain gained ground in each of Quinnipiac’s July 24th releases from MN, WI, CO and MI. In other words, Obama might be narrowly ahead by most indicators, but the race is still in flux and we can expect a lot more movement in the coming months.

Other presidential polls were released yesterday afternoon:

  • CNN’s national poll found Obama increasing his lead, 51% to 44%. The previous poll had Obama leading by 5%. In a series of bizarre questions, CNN tested the efficiency of some of McCain’s attacks on Obama and found that the electorate is not sharing them: Only 37% say Obama is arrogant, 72% say he cares about veterans and troops in Iraq. Asked whether Obma is acting as if he has already won the election, 44% say yes. McCain has an edge on who would best handle terrorism (+15%), Afghanistan and Iraq (+7%), but Obama has an edge on the economy and gas prices (+11%) and even on the topic the GOP likes to attack Democrats on the most: taxes!
  • In Michigan, PPP has Obama losing his advantage from the previous poll, with his lead down from 8% to 3% (46-43). This confirms the tightening we have been observing in other polls (Quinnipiac, for instance) and Michigan moved back to the toss-up column last night.
  • In Mississippi, Rasmussen finds McCain opening his first double-digit lead, 52% to 41%. He led by 6% in both the June and May poll. McCain’s favorability rating is at 64%. Obama’s at 47%.
  • In Nebraska, Rasmussen shows McCain leading 50% to 32%. Obama’s favorability rating is low: 45% against 51%.

In 2004, Nebraska’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts performed 11% more Democratic than the state at large. Rasmussen does not provide any breakdown that I can see in this poll, but that would put Obama in single-digit territory in his hopes of wrestling away at least one of these electoral votes. Some of the advertisment he is airing in Iowa is spilling over in the Omaha market, so voters in the 1st district are seeing ads. Overall, however, there is no question that McCain has little to worry about in either of these states. There has been some noise about Mississippi turning blue, but given the extent of the racial polarization of the state (getting 20% of the white vote would be an impressive achievement for Obama), it will take a substantial boost in black turnout for him to even get close.

Finally, some down-the-ballot polls to close this polling roundup:

  • In Mississippi’s Senate race, Sen. Wicker opens his first significant lead in the Rasmussen poll: 48% to 42%, 52% to 41% with leaners. Musgrove’s favorability, at 51%, is inferior to Wicker’s at 61%. In the past two months, the margin was 1%.
  • In another poll of the MS Senate race that was released late last week by Research 2000 but that I completly forgot to report, Wicker gets 45% to Musgrove’s 44%. 17% of black voters were undecided compared to 7% of white voters, so Musgrove had much more room to grow.
  • In the Nebraska Senate race, no surprises in Rasmussen’s latest poll: Johanns is up 56% to 31%.
  • In North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, Beverly Perdue opens her first significant lead since the primary and leads 46% to 37% in PPP’s latest poll - up from 1% last month.
  • Finally, in NV-03, an internal poll for former gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus finds her ahead of GOP Rep. Porter 43% to 39%.

It’s important not to jump to conclusions in Mississippi’s Senate race based on only one survey - especially when the parallel movement upwards of McCain and Wicker suggests it might be due a change in the sample’s breakdown. At the same time, there is no doubt that the race was always going to be a long shot for Democrats. Once Wicker would have a chance to introduce himself, run ads and benefit from the increasing partisan polarization of a presidential campaign season, he was bound to improve his numbers somewhat, which is exactly why Democrats were so hopeful this special election might be held in March. Wicker’s bounce might be due to his running extensive ads in the state; the DSCC has now jumped in to help Musgrove.

NV-03 is also an important House race, albeit one that has been developing only recently as Titus came to replace a Democrat who dropped out this spring. She is undoubtedly a strong candidate, and even though an internal poll has to be taken with a grain of salt, any incumbent at 39% has to be considered in huge trouble.

6 Responses to “Q-Pac polls from the “Big Three:” Obama ahead, losing ground”

  1. 1 Mike

    I find the NC gubernatorial poll suspect since Purdue and McCrory have been so close in many polls for her to pull out a 9% lead when not much has happened in the past few weeks is unlikely. Also I see the level of undecideds/others is around 20% - higher than expected. McCrory will easily get 40%+ of the vote - it is inconceivable he would be around the high 30’s.

  2. 2 Joe from NC

    I am still surprised by the fact that PA’s and OH’s results are so different because the states’ politics are very similar. Philadelphia is more liberal than anywhere in Ohio, but rural central PA is more conservative than anywhere in OH. Both states are full of smaller working class industrial towns.

  3. 3 Taniel

    PA does have Philadelphia and its suburbs, which have their own politics. The results in 2000 between the two states were 8% apart. In 2004, only 4% but still.

  4. 4 Jaxx Raxor

    Mike I agree with you that PPP’s poll is suspect as this is the first time that a significant lead has come about. However, NC is very Democratic at the state level and its possible that the State is realingined back into its NC Democratic roots, especially with Obama making the state much more competive on the Federal level than usual.

    And Joe Taniel is right: Philidelphia and to a lesser extent it’s suburbs are heavily populated and very liberal, which helps to give PA a Democratic bent despite the rest of the state being moderate to very conservative. Ohio doesn’t have such a huge and populated liberal bastion, and therefore its less Democratic.

    On Quinnipacs polls on Obama in swing states, that he is ahead in all of them is important, despite the margin increasing. The election is based on the electoral college, and not the popular vote, and because of this Obama could win the popular vote by only 3 points but get a convincing win in the electoral college if he was to win most of the tossup states, even by narrow margins.
    I also agree that Missisipi is a lost cause. That state has more blacks than any other but its still the minority, and the whites in Missisipi are nearly Republican as blacks are Democratic, so there is no way Obama can win this state. The only traditional Southern state besides Virginia that Obama could possibly take is Georgia, and that counts alot on Bob Barr doing well and taking votes away from McCain. If McCain picks Mitt Rommney as his running mate, it would probably make Obama’s job easier in Georgia as many evangelicals despise Rommny and if they don’t stay home on election day, they will at least refuse to volunteer for McCain.

  5. 5 Joe from NC

    Taniel and Jaxx, I know Philly brings the liberal, cosmopolitan east-coast culture to PA, but rural central PA is extremely conservative aside from State College which is of course a college town. Of course, you all are right, central PA is not populous enough to cancel out Philly.
    A few thoughts on the more detailed parts of the polls:
    I think its very important that Obama is doing better with Ohio dems. That shows that the PUMA movement isn’t as strong as they would like us to think.
    If you look at the different regions of the state, Obama is leading in every region of Ohio except west central (which is the most republican part of the state), but he is vastly underperforming in the northeastern part of the state, and that is not good for him. Also, it’s interesting that Obama is leading in the southwestern part of the state because Cincinnati usually votes republican. (the area even voted against Ted Strickland in 2006).

  6. 6 Guy

    Joe - if you are right Obama is under performing in NE Ohio then that shows he has room to grow his lead as this Democratic area returns to its roots.

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