A few months ago, both candidates were talking about radically transforming the electoral map. Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey and Connecticut were going to be put in play, rendering any comparisons to the 2004 numbers meaningless. But two months from Election Day, polling results are fairly in line with the red/blue state divide. Of the 11 states polled yesterday, Obama leads in every one won by Kerry and McCain leads in every one won by Bush ‘04.
The situation is not as dramatic today - Obama led by 5% in Ohio this morning’s Quinnipiac poll - but the GOP’s convention bounce looks to have helped McCain a great deal in red states that Democrats were eying, perhaps too optimistically. After Montana and North Dakota over the past two days, it is Georgia that now looks completely out of reach. But one exception is North Carolina: SUSA found McCain gaining two days ago, but since then four polls have found contrasting results. Today alone, one has found Obama gaining and one has found McCain opening a big lead.
In states that are more obvious battlegrounds, there hasn’t been much movement - suggesting most of McCain’s bounce is coming from red states. But polls from the most crucial swing states are starting to look all over the place - and that’s the surest sign that the race is a toss-up that either candidate could win. Democrats should not panic, nor should they dismiss this tightening. McCain has not taken a lead in the electoral college, but he now looks to be definitely in the race, to an extent few would have predicted a few months ago:
- First, the trackings: In Rasmussen, the race is back to a tie (Obama led by 1% yesterday); in Gallup, McCain loses one point but stays ahead 48% to 44%; in Diego Hotline, McCain seizes a lead, 46% to 44%.
- And there is now a fourth tracking poll. Conducted by Research 2000, it finds Obama ahead 47% to 45% with 2% each for Nader and Barr. The poll is sponsored by Daily Kos, but that does not mean it is biased: R2000 is an independent pollster. Just scroll down to the results it found in Kos-sponsored polls of ME-Sen and NC-Pres today: they are very favorable to the GOP.
- McCain leads 48% to 46% in another national poll, conducted by Democracy Corps. That’s a 7% bounce for the Arizona Senator.
- McCain leads 50% to 42% in an Insider Advantage poll from Florida (polling history). Obama is weak among registered Democrats. One relief for him: He can expect higher support among blacks than this poll finds.
- McCain leads 48% to 47% in an Insider Advantage poll of Ohio, but Obama only has 48% of the black vote. I am not one to throw a poll out because of a problem with one internal, but given that African-Americans make up about 10% of the electorate and that Obama should get at the very least 80% of that vote, this survey has an obvious problem. McCain leads by 17% among independents.
- Obama leads 51% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll from Michigan (polling history). Obama led by 4% in August.
- McCain leads 45% to 44% in an Insider Advantage poll of Michigan. McCain leads by 18% among independents.
- McCain leads 47% to 44% in a Civitas poll from North Carolina (polling history). Without leaners, McCain is only ahead by 1%. McCain was ahead by 6% in the August survey. 19% of the sample is black, about where it was in 2004 - that’s the number that could put Obama over the top if he can boost it to 22-23%.
- McCain leads 55% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll of North Carolina. He led by 4% in late July.
- Obama leads 47% to 46% in a PPP poll from Colorado (polling history). He led by 4% in August and his lead survives thanks to a large advantage among Hispanics.
- Obama leads 49% to 46% in an Insider Advantage poll from Colorado.
- McCain leads 56% to 38% in an Insider Advantage poll from Georgia. That’s his largest lead ever from this state.
- McCain leads 52% to 39% in another poll from Georgia, released by Strategic Vision.
- McCain leads 55% to 35% in a Capital Survey Research Center poll from Alabama.
- McCain leads 52% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll from Mississippi. Obama gets 14% of the black vote.
- Obama leads 52% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll from Maine. There is no breakdown by district.
- McCain leads 58% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll from Wyoming. Bush won by 20% more, and what coattails McCain has could be important in the House race.
To recap the most important findings: Q-pac’s Ohio survey finding Obama gaining is contradicted by two afternoon polls (though one of which finds Obama at a ridiculously low 48% of the black vote, and he would have been in the lead otherwise). Insider Advantage released the first poll from Michigan that shows McCain leading by any margin for months now, but Rasmussen shows Obama gaining and leading outside of the margin of error - just like CNN found yesterday. And Obama leads in two Colorado surveys, though the margins are tight.
As a group, this round of poll looks slightly better for McCain, who is putting Georgia away, surviving in Florida, essentially tying in Colorado and even taking the lead in one Michigan survey. But this also underscores that Obama has many more combinations to reach 269. If he saves Michigan and Pennsylvania (and he looks better in those than McCain does in a number of red states), McCain will be forced to play defense and save a large number of vulnerable red states.
Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot races:
- In Mississippi’s Senate race, Research 2000 finds Senator Wicker leading Ronnie Musgrove 48% to 43%. That’s a 4% improvement for Wicker since July. 18% of blacks are undecided, versus only 4% of whites, so there is more of a reserve for Musgrove - but if that is because these respondents are not sure who the Democrat is, they will not be helped by the ballot since it will not list any partisan identification.
- In the North Carolina Senate race, Research 2000 finds the race tightening since late July but Dole remaining on top, 48% to 42%.
- In the gubernatorial race, Research 2000 finds Pat McCrory leading Beverly Perdue 47% to 42%. That’s a similar result as SUSA’s poll.
- In Maine’s Senate race, Tom Allen is making no inroads whatsoever according to Research 2000. He trails 57% to 36% against Senator Collins.
- In the Idaho Senate race, Jim Risch has a large lead in Rasmussen’s first poll of the race, 58% to 30%. The poll does not include conservative independent candidate Rammell about whom the GOP is reportedly worried.
- A poll of MN-02 conducted for the Alliance for a Better Minnesota finds GOP Rep. Kline leading challenger Steve Starvi 37% to 33%. But take the poll with a grain of salt, as it also finds Obama leading McCain by 11% in a district McCain carried by 9%. (The poll was taken at the end of August.)
No surprises in Maine’s and Idaho’s Senate race, though it would be more interesting to see whether Rammell is gaining any traction in the latter. The MS race is of course the most interesting, and Democrats definitely still look to be in striking range. But it is undeniable that Wicker is in a better position than he was a few months ago. More analysis about this race in this post I wrote yesterday and in my upcoming Senate rankings.
As for North Carolina, there is a very interesting divide between pollsters at the moment. On the one side, there is Research 2000 and SUSA, on the other PPP and Bev. Perdue’s pollster (both Democratic firms) and Civitas (a Republican firm). They are finding diverging results in all three statewide races.