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.