37 million viewers tuned in to watch Sarah Palin last night, almost as much as the 38 million that watched presidential nominee Barack Obama last week even though his speech was transmitted on four more networks. Palin has become a huge story, and whatever voters thought about her speech will surely have repercussions.
CBS just released a new national poll, and it finds quite a sharp change in just a few days: Obama was leading by 8% in a poll taken over the week-end, but the race is now a tie in a poll taken from Monday to Wednesday, suggesting that whatever bounce Obama got faded quickly - and before Palin even took the stage.67% of Clinton supporters now back Obama (58% last week) but McCain has a similar uptick among evangelicals (57% to 66%). Obama’s lead among female voters is smaller, 43% to 38%. Note that the previous poll was taken after the Palin pick, so this is a post-post VP and pre-convention bounce for the Republican.
However, the Gallup and Rasmussen trackings are showing little movement in their latest polls taken over the same period. Gallup has Obama leading 49% to 42% (he led by 6% yesterday), and Rasmussen has Obama leading 50% to 45% (same as yesterday). At this point last week, Obama had already posted gains in the tracking, but keep in mind that the Denver convention had a Monday night, but the GOP did not.
And another national poll, taken by Democracy Corps (a Dem. pollster) yet again in the Monday-Wednesday period, has Obama leading 49% to 44%. As usual, the pollster put a heavy focus on the 18 battleground states Obama has invested in (12 of which were carried by Bush in 2004), and there Obama is ahead 49% to 43%. That’s an impressive lead, it can partly be explained by the fact that Obama has big leads in some of the Kerry battleground states (MN, WI) but it clearly goes to show that the election is being waged in Republican terrain and Obama is still doing well.
For now, the Palin effect seems to be increased polarization. McCain is gaining among Republicans and the base is very excited - Rush Limbaugh has dropped all his animosity to the ticket and is now calling McCain “McBrilliant.” But the Obama campaign is saying that they raised $8 million offline since yesterday’s primetime ended, an outstanding sum that I believe exceeds the amount McCain raised last week in the 18 hours after the Palin announcement, a clear suggestion that the intensity of Democratic partisanship also shot up last night. Also, keep in mind that the McCain campaign can no longer raise money, as it now has to limit itself to $84 million (note that Republicans can still donate to the RNC, which raised $1 million since yesterday).
Let’s get to the day’s state and district-level polling:
- In North Dakota, Obama has taken his first lead ever in a DFM Research poll conducted just before Obama’s acceptance speech. He is up 43% to 40%, within the margin of error.
- In Alaska, the last poll had Obama leading by 5% but the first post-Palin survey has McCain jumping to a huge lead, 57% to 33% with Palin’s approval rating at 86%. However, this is a poll that is being circulated by the McCain campaign (though the campaign claims it did not commission it); it is extremely rare for a presidential campaign to leak an internal poll, so this just goes to confirm how eager they are to highlight Palin’s appeal among voters who know her.
- Democrats got some bad news in MO-09, a district they are contesting. SUSA found Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer leading Judy Baker 50% to 38%. Obama was crushed 60% to 36%, numbers that are much worse than Kerry’s in 2004.
- In KY-02, however, a Democratic internal poll suggests an opportunity for Dems to take a very conservative district (even though the district’s partisan ID is 58% Democratic, it voted for Bush with 65%). The poll shows Democratic state Senator Boswell leading fellow state Senator Brett Guthrie 41% to 33%.
Alaska, Montana and North Dakota are the three extremely Republican 3-electoral vote states that the Obama campaign has been airing ads in over the past 2 months. In the first two, at least one poll had shown Obama taking a stunning lead some time in the summer (see Montana’s polling history and Alaska’s polling history). Now, Obama seems to be making progress in North Dakota. The prior two polls (taken by two different institutes) showed McCain only by 1% and 3%, but seeing a Democratic presidential candidate leading by any margin here is truly remarkable.
3 electoral votes might seem negligible compared to the high stakes of Ohio and Michigan, but keep in mind that if the election is close we are talking about very small margins in the electoral college. McCain can certainly not afford to give up on either North Dakota or Montana, and even if there is no other benefit to the Palin pick, it is significant that she anchored Alaska’s 3 votes in the Republican column. As I said, the last poll had Obama leading by 5%. While we will be looking for independent polling that does not come from the McCain campaign to confirm this survey, I had already moved Alaska out of the toss-up column in my latest “veepstakes special edition” presidential ratings.
MO-09 and KY-02 are comparable in the sense that they are both deeply conservative open seats in which Democrats usually stand no chance. Both have been polled over the summer, and it is interesting to compare the results. An independent (SUSA) poll from KY-02 in early July found Boswell up by 3%, suggesting that the internal poll is not completly out of line. An internal poll for Baker in MO-09, however, found her leading by 2% just two weeks ago. Losing these districts would be devastating for the GOP and would mean that Democrats have a shot at a big wave like 2006; we will know more about whether (or rather where) Democrats are the most competitive by looking at the party’s expenditures over the next 2 months.