Poll watch: McCain’s bounce continues, but toss-ups in VA, MI, CO; GOP strong in NRSC polls

A day after the USA Today/Gallup poll found a shocking 10% advantage for John McCain among likely voters, today’s polls find a less dramatic bounce for the Arizona Senator but confirm that he has erased Obama’s edge and that he has inched slightly ahead for the first time since the general election started. (Note, via Nate Silver, that Gallup is infamous for overstating bounces in its likely voter model, which might explain why yesterday’s Gallup poll found such a big advantage for McCain; that said, there is no question that McCain has considerably improved his position.)

The race now looks to be a dead heat, with the 3 major national polls released today finding the race within 2%; and the day’s three state polls (all from key battleground) find three toss-ups as well, with MI, VA and CO all within 2%. This is in some sense comforting to Democrats (last week was sure to be McCain’s strongest week and he barely musters a lead within the MoE), but McCain is also improving in a number of key internals (in particular his base’s enthusiasm) that put him in a strong position to come out on top on November 4th.

Keep in mind that the national polls only tell part of the story, and that we haven’t seen much state polling over the past two weeks. That means that we have a blurry idea at this point of the state of the electoral college lead, what effect (if any) the vice-presidential picks and conventions are having on key battleground states. For now, today’s state polls from MI, CO and VA are stable:

  • The new CNN national poll finds Obama and McCain tied at 48%. Last week’s poll had Obama leading by 1%, but the poll taken just prior to the Democratic convention also had a tie - so CNN looks to be the only institute to find no movement at all in either direction!
  • The new ABC/Washington Post national poll (taken over the week-end) shows a dead heat. Among likely voters, McCain is leading 49% to 47%; among registered voters, Obama is up 47% to 46% (that’s a 6% and 5% bounce for McCain over the ABC poll taken prior to both conventions). The two biggest shifts: McCain has gained a 7% advantage in the Midwest (19% deficit last month), and white women have shifted 20% in McCain’s direction. He now leads by 12% in what is often considered as the ultimate swing group, and that is a very good sign for the Arizona Senator.
  • The new CBS News/New York Times poll finds McCain inching ahead for the first time, 46% to 44%. That’s a 2% improvement over Thursday’s CBS poll (which found a tie) and 10% over the poll taken over last week-end. This is a solid bounce for McCain, but note that his post-convention advantage is far narrower than Obama’s was.
  • Key findings of the CBS poll: While Obama supporters are still more enthusiastic, 42% of McCain backers now call themselves that, versus 24% before the convention; McCain and Obama progress among evangelicals and Clinton supporters respectively; 65% of respondents associate “change” with the Democratic ticket, 47% with the GOP ticket; only 42% say that Obama is prepared to be president; voters have a more favorable impression of Palin than of Biden.
  • All three tracking polls find the McCain bounce continuing in the first releases entirely taken after the completion of the GOP convention. Gallup finds McCain jumping to a 5% lead, 49% to 44% - his biggest lead in Gallup since early May and a 12% swing over four days; Rasmussen shows McCain gaining only 1% since yesterday and leading 48% to 47% (not an unusual margin for this tracking); Diego/Hotline has a 6% swing since its last release to find the two candidates tied at 44%, with McCain posting a large 14% lead among independents.
  • In Michigan (polling history), PPP finds Obama hanging on to the narrowest of leads, 47% to 46%. He was ahead by only 3% in PPP’s previous poll from Michigan. There is some minimal movement among men (+7 for McCain) and among independents (+4 for McCain). Whatever boost Palin is providing him seems to be coming from male voters. The poll was taken Saturday-Sunday.
  • In Virginia (polling history), SUSA finds McCain up within the MoE, 49% to 47%. Last month, he had 48% to Obama’s 47%. The sample is a bit more Republican, Obama has improved his numbers among Democrats but he has fallen among independents. The poll was taken Friday-Sunday, at the height of the McCain bounce.
  • In Colorado, a Republican poll conducted by the Tarrance group for the NRSC finds a toss-up as well, with McCain leading 47% to 45%.
  • A note on New Hampshire: The NRSC also released a poll from the New Hampshire Senate race but does not look to have released any presidential match-up. Could that be because the presidential numbers were not good for McCain?

These Virginia and Michigan poll are the first post-conventions state polling we have seen, and neither survey show any change from what we expect to see from these states. In both, the trendline is well within the margin of error and considering that McCain gained throughout the month of August (even before his convention), there is no veepstake or convention-specific bounce to be found here.

This is also a reminder that the impact of both conventions is likely to be different nationally and in the states in which the volume of ads running on TV might drown the conventions’ and veepstakes’ message. So we will have to wait and see more state polling.

That said, both Virginia and Michigan are confirming their status as the hottest battlegrounds of the fall campaign. Michigan is the first state McCain and Palin traveled to after the convention, and the GOP intends to use Michigan as a laboratory both of its appeal to Reagan Democrats and of the boost of enthusiasm among conservatives. As for Virginia, if Palin proves to boost McCain’s numbers in traditionally Republican states Obama was contesting (IN, GA, MO), the core group of states Obama is contesting (CO, OH, VA) could prove to much more decisive.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls, where the NRSC released a trio of polls that are very good news for GOP candidates:

  • In the Virginia Senate race, no surprises as Mark Warner continues to crush Jim Gilmore, 56% to 35%.
  • In the Colorado Senate race, the Tarrance poll for the NRSC finds Udall at 40% and Schaffer at 39%.
  • In the New Hampshire Senate race, another poll released by the NRSC and taken by Public Opinion Strategies, finds Jeanne Shaheen only leading 46% to 44% against Senator Sununu.
  • In the Alaska Senate race, a third NRSC poll finds Ted Stevens ahead of Mark Begich 46% to 44%.

The CO survey would be worrisome for Democrats if it was not released by the NRSC and a GOP polling firm, though it certainly confirms that Udall has not put the race away, contrary to the hope Democrats entertained last year. The NH poll, however, is different enough from what we are used to seeing that it would be a dramatic change if other polls find similarly narrow numbers. The same is true in AK, where the NRSC’s numbers confirm Ivan Moore’s results last week that the race has tightened but should be taken with a grain of salt until we get confirmation by independent pollsters. (In the case of AK, it looks like the election will be made by the Stevens verdict in any case, so anything that happens before that is largely irrevelant).

5 Responses to “Poll watch: McCain’s bounce continues, but toss-ups in VA, MI, CO; GOP strong in NRSC polls”


  1. 1 John Middleton

    I see you removed what you described as the “most worrisome development”, and that is undecideds broke almost 2-to-1 to McCain rather than Obama after the conventions (page 5 of the CBS News complete poll results PDF).

    I believe it shows that the Palin pick has, so far, been the correct choice for the McCain campaign. Almost unbelievably, McCain - Palin really does have a chance to win this election.

  2. 2 Coco

    Pennsylvania: Rasmussen: Obama 47, McCain 45

    Ohio: Rasmussen: McCain 51, Obama 44

    Florida: Rasmussen: McCain 48, Obama 48 Tie (!!)

    Virginia: Rasmussen: McCain 49, Obama 47

    Colorado: Rasmussen: Obama 49, McCain 46

    Washington: SurveyUSA: Obama 49, McCain 45

    Virginia: SurveyUSA: McCain 49, Obama 47

  3. 3 Jaxx Raxor

    This seems to be very interesting. While McCain has gotten a nice bounce in the national polls, in the key battleground states there hasn’t been that much movement, perhaps a slight tightening in some states but not enough for McCain to feel that the race is running his way. Very interesting that Ohio seems to be turning more Republican but that Florida is becoming tigheter. Perhaps the efforts of Jewish Democrats (like Robert Wexler) to demonize Palin are working?

    I do think that in general the election is becoming much more conventional. I do think that by the time we are a week from election day, the states being targeted will be the same as 2004, with only Virginia moving from a safe state for one party in 2004 to a toss-up. Of course Iowa is probably leaning Democrat more than several states that have longer histories in supporting the Democrats, and I think McCain has given up on that state, but New Mexico is also perhaps less of a tossup thanks to Obama winning the Latino vote by a massive margin, althrough unlike Iowa McCain hasn’t given up on it.

  4. 4 felipe

    As with Obama’s bounce, we’ll have to wait at least a week to have a more balanced picture. As for now, the Palin pick is working, but now the Obama campaign has a more articulate response, it was noticeable they were caught up by surprise on the pick.

    If I were Obama first thing I would do is try to solidify MI. Only winning there assures him being competitive in OH. After that, to me he has to target the West much more, seems that VA will be contested but those 2 or 3 points that Obama needs are going to be very difficult to pick up. Send Hillary to OH & FL.

    Jaxx is right saying that the map is looking more conventional. And that’s good news for McCain, but he also has to focus more if he wants to prevail: forget WI, even NH & PA: MI is the pick up and OH, FL, MO, VA where he has to hold and campaign.

    WA looks interesting: it might mean that MT might be slipping away from Obama. Results from ND, IN are going to be very interesting.

    And finally, we still have the debates. The presidential ones will go a long way deciding the battlegrounds. As for the vicepresidential one, seems now that Biden just need not to be beaten up to make a good impresion.

  5. 5 Sandra S

    I’m not sure how these polls work, but has anyone considered the large amount of voters that may have Caller ID and Blocking - who are not being counted in polling?

    I don’t think anyone can call this race at this point. The only thing that will count is the count on November 4th (if ballots are not tampered with) and we shall see then.

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