The number of polls released today was so outstanding that a second roundup is required - so I apologize for making this a day particularly heavy with polling posts. As compensation, I offer you this link to an amusing interview of top McCain strategist Rick Davis (the one who signed the memo alleging that “only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand “MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars”) by high-profile NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell. A visibly exasperated and incredulous Mitchell challenges Davis to justify why Obama is a celebrity and why the campaign is stooping to such a low level - “no one would deny that,” answers Davis.
In fact, the entire interview is a good pointer on the type of arguments the McCain campaign is looking to use in the coming weeks. In particular, Davis choosing to repeatedly diss the support Obama received in Germany as something that ought to make voters dislike him was a clear echo of the 2004 race and the efforts to portray Kerry as too snobbish, too European. Davis went as far as to hold up expats as the type of elites “working class aspiring voters” should rebel against, and explicitly gave up on the entire expat vote (they’re expats, so they vote for Obama, he charged) - something that might not be so wise considering that expats are not necessarily a monolithically Democratic electorate and that they might impact a close election. Davis’s one-leaner against John Weaver is also particularly noteworthy.
Back to polls. This morning, Quinnipiac showed tight races in Ohio and Florida while Obama led in Pennsylvania and CNN’s national poll. In yet more presidential polling released today, we got some more narrow results:
- For the fourth consecutive day, Obama lost ground in Gallup’s tracking poll. Up 9% on Sunday, he now gets 45% to McCain’s 44% - the narrowest the race has been for more than 10 days, or before Obama embarked on his trip.
- Another national poll, by Pew, has Obama leading by 5%, 50% to 45%. In June, Obama led by 8%. 48% said they learned something about Obama’s foreign policy as a result of the trip, versus 52%.
- In Rasmussen’s poll from Montana, McCain gets 45% to Obama’s 44% - and the two are tied at 47% when leaners are included. Three weeks ago, Obama was ahead by 5% - but that was seen as a truly shocking result. McCain’s favorability rating is slightly better.
- In Insider Advantage poll from Georgia, the race remains surprisingly close, with McCain ahead 45% to 41% with 3% for Bob Barr.
- In two Kentucky polls, McCain remains ahead - albeit by varying margins. For Rasmussen, he is up 49% to 39% (down from a 15% lead) but Obama’s unfavorability rating is 50%, compared to 35% for McCain’s. In Research 2000’s poll, McCain leads 56% to 35%.
- A Texas poll released by Rasmussen, meanwhile, finds McCain holding on to a 9% lead, 50% to 41%. With leaners, the race narrows to a 52% to 44% margin.
- In California, Obama is ahead 50% to 35% in a PPIC survey.
- Finally, an Idaho poll released by Research 2000 has McCain leading 53% to 37%. Four years ago, Bush won here by 39%.
Among these state surveys, the Montana poll is certainly the most interesting, but it is a shame that Rasmussen is the only institute that is releasing polls from this state, making it hard to confirm the state’s tightness. McCain might have gained 6% in the past 3 weeks here, but we are not used enough to seeing Montana be this competitive that a tie can in any way be regarded as a disappointing showing for Obama. The Illinois Senator has been running ads in this state and visited it already, and it seems like he succeeded in putting it in play. In fact, the Idaho poll confirms how much of a shift we are observing in the Mountain West.
The other polls come from states that we have long known are less competitive, with Texas and Georgia two states in which McCain’s leads are often much smaller than they ought to be but in which it would take much too great an investment by Obama to truly move the numbers. The Illinois Senator has been spending in Georgia, but other polls have shown larger leads for McCain.
Meanwhile, a number of down-the-ballot polls were released during the day:
- The most entertaining came from Alaska, where Rasmussen polled three possible match-ups in the day after Ted Stevens’s indictment. If the Senator wins his primary and stays in the race, he is trailing Mark Begich 50% to 37%. Stevens’s favorability rating remains positive, at 50% to 46%. Begich would beat real estate developer David Cuddy 50% to 35% and he leads against unknown but wealthy businessman Vic Vickers 55% to 22%.
- In Idaho’s Senate race, Research 2000’s poll finds a surprisingly narrow race, with Lieutenant Governor Risch leading former Rep. LaRocco 42% to 32%, with 5% to independent candidate Rex Rammell.
- In Kentucky’s Senate race, two similar results: Rasmussen found McConnell leading 50% to 38% (up from 48% to 41% lead last month) and Research 2000 showed McConnell leading 49% to 38%, compared to 12% lead last month.
- Finally, two interesting independent House polls from SUSA. In IN-09, Rep. Hill is leading 49% to 42% in the third fourth match-up between the Democrat and Mike Sodrel.
- In WA-08, SUSA finds Republican Rep. Reichert with a 50% to 44% lead against his opponent Darcy Burner, in another rematch from 2006. (No surprises in WA-02, where Democratic Rep. Larsen has a huge lead in a race no one is following.)
The reason the Alaska Senate race is in such a chaotic race is that we don’t know who will be running against Mark Begich. If it is any of the three people polled by Rasmussen here, it would mean that (1) Stevens lost the primary to Cuddy or Vickens or that (2) he won the primary and then insisted to stay on the ballot. Under either of these scenarios, it is nearly certain that Alaska would join New Mexico and Virginia as three Senates Democrats are likely to pick-up. The GOP’s hope in this seat is for Stevens to win the primary and then withdraw from the race - allowing for a stronger Republican to try his luck. Until we get a better idea of whether this is a possible scenario, Rasmussen’s poll is not enough to conclude Begich is the clear favorite.
The Kentucky and Idaho Senate races are to second-to-third tier races that the DSCC might be hoping to put in play if it hits the jackpot. The former contest has been heated, with McConnell going on air early with negative ads related to energy issues. As a result, it is hardly surprising to see him take his first consistent double-digit lead. Given how large McConnell’s war chest is (more than $9 million), Lunsford will be vulnerable to such attacks throughout the campaign. The Idaho race is less engaged but a number of Republicans are grumbling that Risch is not running a strong enough campaign; it will take much more than that for LaRocco to get close to scoring a huge upset.
Finally, both IN-09 and WA-08 will featured tight races if only because of the intensity of the previous elections. This is the third fourth consecutive match-up between Hill and Sodrel, with the Democrat having already won 2 out of 3. Reichert survived 2006 by only two percentage points. Both incumbents are flirting with the 50% line and are thus clearly endangered, but such leads are more impressive in polls of rematches in which the challenger is already somewhat known.