Archive for the 'CT-Pres' Category

Poll watch: Obama dominates VA, gains edge in OH, Merkley in strong position, Lampson drowns

In my latest presidential ratings this morning, I identified the three states to watch in the election’s final stretch: Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado. Eight days from the election, Obama holds strong in those crucial states: A grand total of five new Virginia polls were released today, finding a consistent Obama advantage. Only Rasmussen found Obama holding a lead smaller than 7%, the four others having Obama’s lead go as high as 11%. Only one poll each from Colorado and Pennsylvania were released: Obama was leading comfortably in Pennsylvania, though his margin in Colorado is smaller than Democrats are hoping to see (4%).

That said, there is some movement in McCain’s favor in the tracking polls, and I feel compelled to point that out because of what I said in yesterday’s poll watch, when remarking on McCain’s inability to break out of the low 40s: “The day McCain manages to inch above 45%, we can think about whether the race is tightening.” Today, McCain gets to 46% in one national poll and is at 45% in three more. But Obama remains in a dominant position, as he is at 50% or above in six of the seven tracking polls; only IBD/TIPP has him at a weaker position, and that tracking’s internals are rather strange (Obama enjoys stronger party loyalty and leads among independents but only leads by 3%).

In other states, Obama’s strong position is confirmed: New polls in Ohio and Florida find Obama holding an advantage, especially in the former state. In fact, Rasmussen’s polls from these two states should put to rest talk of a tightening since Obama gains 5% and 6% in the two surveys over those released last Monday.

McCain’s two best trendlines today come from PPP’s North Carolina survey (that had Obama up 7% last week, up 1% today) and SUSA and Rasmussen’s Missouri polls (Obama led by 8% and 5%, he now ties and is ahead by 1%), but the size of Obama’s lead in all three of these surveys was not confirmed by other polls, making this week’s surveys expected regressions to the mean. In fact, it is great for Obama is that the true toss-ups are not the states he needs to win but rather places like North Carolina or Missouri: six new polls in those two states find tight races. Even Arizona polls are now showing a competitive race!

  • Obama remains ahead in the day’s tracking polls, though there is some movement: Obama loses a significant three points in Research 2000 (50% to 42%, with a 5% lead in the Sunday sample) and Rasmussen (51% to 46%); he also loses 1% in IBD/TIPP (47% to 44%). Three trackings are stable: Washington Post/ABC (52% to 45%), Hotline (50% to 42%) and Zogby (50% to 45%). Obama inches up one point in Gallup (53% to 43%, the same margin as RVs and double his lead in the LVT model). That means that Obama’s leads are: 3%, 5%, 5%, 7%, 8%, 8% and 10%.
  • Virginia: Five new polls have Obama in the lead by margins ranging from 4% to 11%. The two most recent are Rasmussen and SUSA: Obama leads 52% to 43% in a SUSA poll, including a huge lead among early voters. His lead in Rasmussen is smaller: 51% to 47%, down from a 10% lead last week.
  • Obama leads 52% to 45% in a Zogby poll conducted over the week-end. Obama leads 52% to 44% in a Washington Post poll. (He led by 3% last month. This time, 50% of respondents say they have been personally contacted by the Obama campaign. The enthusiasm gap is huge, with 70% of Obama supporters describing themselves as enthusiastic.) Obama leads 51% to 40% in a VCU poll.
  • Ohio: Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Zogby poll, in which he has a 16% edge among independents. Obama leads 49% to 45% in Rasmussen, a 6% swing from last week.
  • Colorado: Obama leads 50% to 46% in Rasmussen, a 1% gain for McCain over last week.
  • Florida: The candidates are tied at 47% in a Zogby poll, though Obama has a strangely large 62-25 lead among independents. Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Suffolk poll of the state (up from 4%). Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll, a 5% swing in his favor since last week.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 50% to 41% in a Temple University poll. The survey was conducted over an entire week (from the 20th to the 26th), however.
  • Nevada: Obama leads 48% to 44% in a Zogby poll, barely outside of the margin of error.
  • North Carolina: Obama leads 50% to 46% in a Zogby poll. Obama leads 49% to 48% in a PPP poll, though he led by 7% last week. There are far less undecided voters this week. However, among early voters (about a third of the sample), Obama leads 63% to 36% (”looking at it another way, 49% of blacks in our survey said they had already voted. Only 29% of white voters said the same”). McCain leads 49% to 48% in Rasmussen, a 1% gain for Obama since late last week.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 52% to 42% in a Marist poll, the same margin he enjoyed last month.
  • New Hampshire: Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Marist poll, a one point decline since September.
  • Indiana: McCain leads 50% to 44% in a Zogby poll.
  • West Virginia: McCain leads 50% to 40% in a Zogby poll, thanks in part to 28% of Democratic voters.
  • Oregon: Obama leads 57% to 38% in a SUSA poll. Half of the electorate has already voted (remember that all of Oregon votes by mail), and Obama leads by 28% among those voters.
  • Arizona: The third poll in two days finds McCain in trouble in his home state. He leads 51% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Jeff Merkley leads 49% to 42% in a SUSA poll of Oregon’s Senate race. Half of the electorate has already voted, and Merkley leads by 10% among those voters.
  • Kay Hagan leads 48% to 45% in a PPP poll of North Carolina’s Senate race. She led by 8% last week.
  • Jay Nixon leads 55% to 38% in a SUSA poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race.
  • In TX-22, Republican challenger Pete Olson leads Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson 53% to 36% in a new Zogby poll.
  • In FL-25, GOP Rep. Diaz-Balart leads 45% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll. Among early voters, Garcia leads 52% to 46%.
  • In SC-01, GOP Rep. Harry Brown leads 50% to 45% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In TX-07, GOP Rep. Culberson leads 47% to 40% in a Zogby poll.

Jeff Merkley’s numbers are the most important of this group, as this is the Oregon Democrat’s largest lead yet against Gordon Smith, who continues to be stuck in the low 40s. More importantly, SUSA’s polls confirms what was one of the main reasons I changed the ratings of the race to lean Democratic two days ago: Because of Oregon’s mail-in voting system, Election Day is happening right now in Oregon, giving Smith no time to catch up. While remaining ahead, Kay Hagan does not look to be as favored as her Oregon colleague.

A number of fascinating indepenent House polls were released as well, the most noteworthy of which is Zogby’s survey from TX-22: This was long seen as an extremely highly endangered Democatic seat, but the DCCC’s decision to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars suggested they saw Lampson with a chance at surviving. Zogby’s poll indicates that the conventional wisdom was right and that Lampson is an underdog in what is one of the most Republican seats represented by a Democrat. That said, the DCCC has just debuted a very hard-hitting ad on Pete Olsen, accusing him of voter fraud. We will see whether that moves any numbers.

As for CA-04, SC-01 and TX-07, all three are heavily Republican districts and for independent polls to find the Republican under 50% in each and the Democrat leading in one is obviously major news, and confirms that Democrats can expect to prevail in a few heavily conservative seats on November 4th.

Poll watch: ND back in contention, OH resists Obama; Dems strong in CT-04, not in MO-06

Today’s presidential polling is rather useless since these surveys were taken before a debate - and released after. None of these polls - including the five tracking polls - tell us what impact the debate might have had. That said, they provide a useful baseline with which we can compare polls released in the upcoming days.

John McCain gets some good news in this round-up - but only because any survey that has him within striking distance has now become great news for the GOP. Rasmussen’s new Ohio poll has the candidates tied just three days after Obama seized his first lead in Rasmussen polling; and both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls have tightened a bit, with McCain rising to a level he had not experienced in two to three weeks. In fact, Gallup’s “traditional likely voter model” has Obama leading within the margin of error - a reminder that turnout will be key.

That said, Obama undoubtedly remains in command; the tracking polls have him ahead between 4% and 11%. Furthermore, Obama seizes the lead in a North Dakota poll - the second survey in a row (after a “Forum poll”) from the state to show that it might be highly competitive after all (Obama withdrew from the state in September). Obama also looks competitive in the race for Omaha’s district. Furthermore, he continues to consolidate his position in blue state - coming in with his biggest lead yet in Pennsylvania and expanding his advantage in Oregon. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • The tracking polls have Obama in command, but McCain has made some gains in the run-up to the debate (all the trackings were taken before yesterday’s proceedings). Obama leads 50% to 46% in Rasmussen, the first time since September 25th McCain is higher than 45%; he leads 51% to 40% in Research 2000, 49% to 41% in Hotline, 49% to 44% in Zogby. In Gallup, Obama’s lead among registered voters and the expended model of likely voters is 6% (his smallest in two weeks); among the traditional model of likely voters, Obama leads by 2%.
  • The candidates are tied at 49% in a Rasmussen poll of Ohio. The poll was taken Tuesday night, before the debate. A poll taken on Sunday night and released on Monday had Obama leading by 2%; that was the first time Obama had ever lead in a Rasmussen poll from this state.
  • Obama leads 53% to 37% in the Morning Call tracking poll of Pennsylvania, his largest lead yet in the survey! In fact, it is Obama’s largest lead ever in Pennsylvania.
  • McCain leads 48% to 44% in NE-02, according to a poll released by Democratic-form Anzalone Lizst.
  • Obama leads 56% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll of Connecticut. He led by 12% last month.
  • Obama leads 59% to 35% in a SUSA poll of Massachusetts.
  • I am only including this because I try to include every poll I find, but this is probably the least trustworthy institute we have seen lately… A CNU Virginia poll has Obama leading 53% to 47%. The previous CNU poll had McCain leading by 9% but it had sampled almost no 18-29 year old and black voters were dramatically under-represented. This time, 58% of respondents are female.
  • I also do not think much of Zogby’s self-selected interactive (online) polls, but here are there nonetheless. Zogby showed McCain leading in Pennsylvania by comfortable margins when no one else did, now Obama is ahead; Zogby had Obama ahead comfortably in North Carolina when all polls had McCain up within the MoE, now Obama is narrowly ahead. In other news: McCain is up in Ohio and Indiana, Obama leads in Florida, New Mexico, Virginia, narrowly in Colorado and Nevada.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • The candidates are tied at 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Oregon’s Senate race. Smith led by 1% in mid-September. Rasmussen does not seem to have included the Constitution Party candidate.
  • In CT-04, Democratic challenger Himes leads 48% to 45% against Rep. Shays in a new SUSA poll.
  • In MO-06, GOP Rep. Graves leads 51% to 40% in a new SUSA poll. He led by 9% a month ago.
  • In OR-05, Democrat Kurt Schrader leads 51% to 38% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In KY-03, Rep. Yarmuth opens a large 57% to 41% lead against former Rep. Ann Northup in the latest SUSA poll.
  • In MN-06, a DCCC internal finds GOP Rep. Bachmann holding on to a 42% to 38% lead.
  • In NE-02, Rep. Terry is up 48% to 47% only in an internal poll for his Democratic opponent.
  • In CA-46, a seat that was deemed safe as of two weeks ago but that the GOP has been increasingly worrying about, a Capitol Weekly article reveals that Republican internals have the race within the margin of error.

Senate: Like North Carolina, Oregon remains highly competitive in all recent polling, making it unclear why so many Republicans seem to be resigned to losing both. That said, an incumbent below 50% is rarely in a good position, and Smith’s often vicious attacks ads have not sufficed to disqualify Merkley.

House: SUSA’s survey from MO-06 is perhaps the best polling news Republicans have gotten in weeks. This is a district Democrats are heavily targeting, and that the NRCC has started to invest in. Yet, Kay Barnes has made no progress whatsoever and Graves remains in a strong position. However, the rest of the surveys bring good news to Democrats. For one, Himes is in a strong position in CT-04 while Democrats look like they have made districts that were not supposed to be vulnerable competitive (NE-02, MN-06 and CA-46).

Meanwhile, Democrats have little to worry about in many of the seats Republicans were excited about picking-up. Northup’s candidacy was supposed to be one of the NRCC’s great recruitments, but she is quickly falling in Kentucky; and OR-05 was one of only two competitive Dem-held open seats before the GOP candidate got involved in a series of scandals relating to abortion and suscipicous trips.

Poll watch: Obama up in pre-debate trackings, McConnell and Porter in danger

As we now wait to see whether the first debate will move any numbers (and perhaps fulfill the 1980 parallel I have talked about before), any presidential poll released this week-end should be seen as a baseline to see whether either candidate receives a bounce since most will have been in the field before the debate. That’s why we will exceptionally start with some down-the-ballot surveys in today’s poll watch:

  • In what is the most shocking of the day’s polls, Mason Dixon finds the Kentucky Senate race is a dead heat: McConnell leads 45% to 44%, and the race is tied when leaners are not included.
  • In more good news for Southern Democrats, Rasmussen shows Mary Landrieu cruising. She leads John Kennedy 54% to 41% in what is one of the least polled Senate races of the cycles. Landrieu led by 17% in August.
  • McCain’s best friend Lindsay Graham leads 51% to 42% against “Democrat” Bob Conley in a Research 2000 poll of South Carolina’s Senate race.
  • In what is the day’s most instructive new House poll, an incumbent Republican (NV-03’s Porter) released an internal poll in which he only leads 41% to 39%. This is a response to Dona Titus’s survey earlier this week that showed her leading by 9%.
  • In CA-04, a Research 2000 poll finds Democrat Charlie Brown with a narrow lead over Tom McClintock, 46% to 41%. This is a very conservative district, and an open seat.
  • In FL-13, an internal poll for the Jennings campaign finds the Democrat trailing Rep. Buchanan 44% to 40%.
  • In MI-07, Tim Walberg released an internal poll showing him leading 50% to 40% to contest the internal released by his opponent two days ago which showed him trailing by 6%. But Walberg’s poll only sampled 300 voters, with a very large margin of error of 5.7%.
  • For those interested in the crucial battle for New York’s state Senate, Siena polled six of the most competitive districts (how often do we see independent polls released for state legislature races) and finds that Democrats are in a good position to finally take the majority but that Republicans have a fighting chance.
  • Also, SUSA finds that California voters approve 52% to 36% of a proposition that would institute a 48-hour waiting period for minors to have an abortion after their parents are told.

Any time an incumbent thinks that it is a good thing to be getting 41% in an internal poll, you know that they are in real trouble. Porter’s internal is as damning for him than Titus’s internal poll was the other day because it shows that Porter’s campaign is now so worried that he is falling behind that they are looking to celebrate a poll with a 5% margin of error that shows their candiate stuck in the low 40s.

But the day’s most important congressional survey is undoubtedly Mason Dixon’s shocker from Kentucky’s Senate race. Early this week, SUSA released a poll that found a 3% race, which led me to wonder whether Democrats could make Kentucky into their 10th competitive seat. Mason Dixon’s survey answers in the affirmative, and the Senate Minority Leader is finding himself in a real fight. The DSCC has not yet invested in the race, probably since Lunsford can take care of himself and self-fund his campaign; but McConnell remains a formidable candidate with a large war chest and an entrenched incumbent with a well-oiled machine, so national Democrats would probably need to get involved at some point. Also, Lunsford will have to overcome the coattails of the presidential race, which were fatal to Mongiardo in 2004.

But however much Democrats still have work to do, Kentucky’s emergence as a tight battleground in the Senate battle is very worrisome news for the GOP.

Meanwhile, in presidential polling:

  • The day’s trackings were favorable to Obama, though even Friday night’s samples were almost entirely taken before the presidential debate. And for once, all trackings show very similar results! Obama leads by 5% in Gallup (49% to 44%) and Diego Hotline (48% to 43%), by 6% in Rasmussen (50% to 44%) and Research 2000 (49% to 43%).
  • Obama leads 51% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Iowa. He led by 5% last month.
  • Obama leads 54% to 38% in a SUSA poll of Connecticut.

These tracking polls might not tell us much about the reaction to the debate, but they underscore that (1) McCain doesn’t appear to have benefited from his Wednesday afternoon gamble, and (2) that it was important it was for McCain to score a game-changer last night. He needed to do what John Kerry succeeded in doing in 2004, when Kerry went in the debate trailing widely and managed to close the gap thanks to the first debate, entering October in a very competitive position. I don’t believe (and neither did the first snap polls) that he succeeded in doing so.

Poll watch: Dead heats in Michigan, Florida as NC poll finds second tie ever; Hagan leads

There are now enough polls released every day that it becomes difficult to find a consistent trend out of all the noise. Or perhaps there is no trend to be observed other than the race’s continuing tightness. Of the four Florida and Michigan polls that were released over the past 36 hours, all are well within the margin of error.

That said, both candidates have good news in today’s poll delivery. For McCain, staying so close in Michigan in polls taken during the financial crisis is a testament to how big an opportunity this state continues to be for him. And McCain has leads outside of the MoE in Ohio and Missouri today, though the latter is not such an unqualified blessing: the GOP was hoping to be close to closing the deal by late September, but a 4% margin is not going to dissuade Obama from competing in the Show Me State. And yet another poll finds that McCain can breath easier in North Dakota.

For Obama, staying so close in Florida is a relief given that numerous polls have found McCain gaining since early August. We saw last week that McCain is now spending more than a million dollars a week in the Sunshine State, something the GOP once thought it could avoid. And Obama’s double-digit lead in Iowa confirms that the state’s 7 electoral votes are increasingly solid in his column: This is the third poll in the past two weeks to find Obama leading by double-digit (after SUSA and Selzer & Co). Finally, North Carolina’s PPP poll is only the second ever (after Rasmussen’s April poll) to find a tie. At the very least, this forces the GOP to continue pouring money in the state - something they have been doing this month.

On to the day’s full roundup:

  • The tracking polls are showing a stabilizing race: Obama took a 48% to 47% advantage in Rasmussen yesterday (his first lead in 10 days) and maintained it today; Research 2000 found Obama up 8% yesterday, and up 7% (49-42) today. Diego Hotline has Obama leading 45% to 44% for the third straight day, and Gallup showed Obama increasing his lead to 6% yesterday (hitting 50 for only the second time ever) but back down to a 49% to 45% advantage today.
  • Obama leads 43% to 42% in an EPIC-MRA poll of Michigan. Obama led by 2% in July and August. When respondents are presented with a full-ticket match-up, Obama leads 45% to 42%. The poll was conducted Sunday through Wednesday.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in an ARG poll of Michigan. He leads among independents but is relatively weak among Democrats.
  • McCain leads 47% to 45% in a Miami Herald poll of Florida. It was conducted Sunday through Wednesday. Obama has a 9% edge on the economy. McCain gets 17% of former Clinton supporters.
  • McCain leads 48% to 42% in a Ohio News Organization of Ohio. The poll is somewhat dated - it was taken the 12th to the 16th. 19% of independents are undecided.
  • The candidates are tied at 46% in PPPs poll from North Carolina. Bob Barr gets 5%. Only once before had there been a tie in North Carolina (Rasmussen’s April survey). 58% of respondents rate the economy as their biggest concern. The poll was conducted from the 17th to the 19th.
  • Obama leads 53% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Iowa. Obama leads by 18% among independents.
  • McCain leads 49% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Missouri. In the July poll, Obama led by 5% - but that was somewhat of an outlier.
  • McCain leads 53% to 40% in a Research 2000 poll of North Dakota. He led by only 3% in July.
  • Obama leads only 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Maine. There is no breakdown by district, but if Obama cannot win statewide by a larger margin he would be in danger of losing the first district’s EV.
  • McCain leads 51% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of South Carolina, a surprisingly close result.
  • Obama leads 54% to 43% in an ARG poll of Connecticut.
  • Obama leads 54% to 39% in an ARG poll of Maryland.
  • McCain leads 59% to 36% in an ARG poll of Tennessee. Obama gets 27% of the white vote.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Kay Hagan leads Elizabeth Dole 46% to 41% in PPPs poll of North Carolina’s Senate race. She led by 1% last week.
  • Chris Shays and Jim Himes are tied at 45% in an internal poll for the Himes campaign in CT-04.
  • Sam Graves leads Kay Barnes 51% to 42% in a SUSA poll of MO-06.
  • Jim Risch leads Larry LaRocco 56% to 33% in a Research 2000 poll of Idaho’s Senate race, a clear improvement over his 10% lead in July.
  • Lindsay Graham leads 50% to 41% in a Rasmussen poll of South Carolina’s Senate race. This was accompanied by an improbably tight presidential survey, so take the tightness here with a grain of salt as well.

This is the second time Hagan is posting a 5% lead, testifying to how unpredictable that Senate race has become given that other surveys are still showing Dole ahead. This is a race in which the presidential coattails will play a crucial factor. It’s unlikely Hagan can win if McCain wins in a blowout, but she would look very strong if Obama is within 2-3% of McCain.

Today’s polls also find more worrisome news for down-the-ballot Democrats, starting with Graves’ expanding his lead in MO-06, in what is one of the Democrats’ most coveted seats. We have seen this trend for a few weeks now: Democrats are not improving their position in the second-and-third tier races, the ones that would transform a strong congressional night into an amazing one.

More polls: Midwestern states tight, Shaheen and Chambliss lead

As the election nears, we are getting an increasing number of state polls every day, and this second wave of polls today contains surveys from a large number of battleground polls - including 8 Midwestern polls from the Big Ten project sponsored by 11 universities and 3 polls from Insider Advantage. The take-away lesson is the same as yesterday - an increasing number of states are moving in the toss-up category, as blue states are trending McCain and red states and trending Obama.

Of the Big Ten’s 8 polls, only the one from Illinois is outside the margin of error. The seven others - whether from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, from traditionally red Indiana or from blue-leaning Wisconsin and Minnesota - are within the MoE. Add to that Insider Advantage’s tightening race in Georgia, tight numbers in Virginia, and the next seven weeks will be quite intense. This is in many ways good news for McCain: We are used to seeing Obama competitive in red states, but polls finding McCain within striking range in places like MN, WI and PA continue to show that Obama will have to play defense much more than he expected a few weeks ago.

Obama does get some good news as well, certainly, starting with a 10% lead in Colorado in Insider Advantage (though remember that Insider Advantage had some strange samples last week, finding Obama improbably weak among black voters) and a 10% in Oregon. The afternoon’s full roundup:

  • Obama leads 50% to 40% in an Insider Advantage poll of Colorado. He led by 3% last week. The most curious internal is the absence of gender gap, as Obama leads by 10% among men and by 13% among women (there was also no gender gap last week). Obama’s biggest gain is among Republicans.
  • McCain leads 48% to 46% in an Insider Advantage poll of Virginia. Obama only gets 75% of black voters - accounting for much of that margin.
  • Obama leads 55% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of New Jersey. That’s an improvement for the Democrat.
  • Obama leads 47% to 42% in a Strategic Vision poll of Washington. A late July poll had Obama leading by 11%.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot:

  • Jeanne Shaheen leads 52% to 40% in ARG’s poll of the New Hampshire Senate race. She led by 11% in August. Her lead among independents is 24%.
  • Gordon Smith leads 42% to 39% in an independent poll of the Oregon Senate race, conducted by Portland-based Davis Hibbitts & Midghall. Constitution Party’s Dave Brownlow gets 4%.
  • Tom Udall leads 56% to 41% in a SUSA poll of New Mexico’s Senate race. The last SUSA poll was taken in May, had Udall leading by a wider margin.
  • Saxby Chambliss leads 53% to 36% in a SUSA poll of Georgia’s Senate race. Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley gets 8%, and the cross-tabs imply he is taking more votes from Martin.
  • Chambliss leads 50% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Georgia’s Senate race. Buckley gets 8% here again.
  • In FL-24, an internal poll for the campaign of Suzanne Kosmas has her 1% away from Rep. Feeney, 43% to 42%.

The New Hampshire, Oregon and New Mexico numbers are what we expect from these races - and Democrats will be pleased that Shaheen’s lead is surviving a tough barrage of ads aired by the NRSC and by the Sununu campaign. With 7 weeks to go, she is showing little sign of vulnerability. The Georgia numbers are more interesting in that we are still trying to determine whether Jim Martin has a shot against Saxby Chambliss. Different pollsters are showing differing margins ranging from the competitive to the non-competitive range. We’ll know that we should monitor the race more closely if the DSCC gets involved.

McCain crushes Obama in AZ, leads in FL and gains in MA (Update with new Zogby national)

Update: The plot thickens and polls continue to show whatever national advantage Obama had to be fading. After nearly three months without a single national poll showing him ahead, McCain led in last week’s USA Today/Gallup poll, Rasmussen’s tracking this morning and he now gains 11% in Zogby’s national poll, 42% to Obama’s 41% with 2% each for Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. (Last month, Obama led by 10%; 5% in June and 10% in May). Zogby finds Obama slipping among all demographic groups, including independents, Democrats (Obama is at a weak 74%) and women.

Zogby’s previous poll was released at a time many polls showed a mid-to-high single digit lead for Obama - leading to talk that Obama could build a solid advantage by the end of the summer. Now, the race looks to be as tight as it’s been since June 3rd. Is the Obama camp not letting its opponents’ attacks dictate the conversation, and is this not the point at which the Obama camp finally starts using footage like McCain’s “bomb Iran?” Of course, the campaign might be preparing to unveil its vice-presidential pick (perhaps Wednesday morning in Indiana…) and does not want to muddy its message.

Original post: After a first polling delivery this morning - which included McCain’s first (albeit statistically insignificant) lead in a tracking poll since Obama clinched his party’s nomination - here is a second daily update. It contains strong numbers for John McCain, and it is difficult to not have the impression that polls over the past week or two have found consistently improving state results for the Arizona Senator - look at the 7 Quinnipiac polls from swing states released in two different installments, all finding McCain improving from his June results.

None of the results listed here qualifies as bad news for Obama. The two candidates are exchanging leads in Florida, Obama certainly does not need Arizona and the Rasmussen tracking from this morning was just one national poll in dozens that have shown Obama ahead. But to Democrats who have gotten used to good presidential polling over the past few months and certainly over the past few weeks, the psychological pressure can certainly mount. Overall, these polls certainly do not suggest that Obama has lost his edge, but they do point to the fact that the presidential race is a close one and there is enough polling data to back those who say that it is quickly tightening.

August will not be decisive, and any post-Labor Day news and poll is hugely more important than anything that will happen now; but the summer often sets the tone for the fall, and with the Olympic-period lull starting in four days, it does look like we will be going into the conventions without either candidate having opened a significant lead.

On to the afternoon’s state polls:

[I am not one to look for sample problems in every poll that is released, but do note that the partisan breakdown is 43% Republican and 38% Democratic. That's an improvement for the GOP over 2004, despite the fact that most polls find a significant swing leftward and the fact that Florida Democrats have made significant registration gains. In the previous SUSA poll from Florida, Democrats had a 9% edge in the sample; the latest PPP poll had as many Democrats and Republicans and the latest ARG poll had a 5% Democratic advantage. This is not to say that SUSA's poll is wrong - I don't like cherry-picking polls, and a lot of problems have problems like this. But I am just pointing out something we should take into account when interpreting the results.]

  • In Arizona, the second poll of the day confirms that McCain has less to fear than some Republicans feared. He is leading 52% to 36% (up from 9% last month) in Rasmussen’s latest poll, 57% to 38% with leaners. Obama’s favorability rating is dismal: 43% to 55%.
  • In Massachusetts, Obama’s margin of victory plunges from 23% to 9% in the latest Suffolk poll as Obama is now ahead 47% to 38%.
  • In Connecticut, Obama leads 51% to 36%. His favorability rating is 61%, comparing to 41% for McCain.
  • In Alabama, finally, McCain crushes Obama 55% to 37%, 58% to 38% with leaners.

With two polls in one day finding McCain with very solid leads in his home state, talk of Arizona emerging as a potential battleground state should be tabled. Unless other evidence emerges to challenge these surveys, it is simply too unlikely that any candidate will lose his home state - particularly a Republican in red-leaning Arizona. Gore lost Tennessee, sure, but he also lost the rest of the South.

As for Massachusetts, longtime readers of this blog know that I have long expressed amazement at how poor Obama’s numbers have been in the Bay State. Obama struggled to open any lead at all against McCain for a while in the spring, and McCain tied him repeatedly in SUSA polls. Other polling groups found Obama significantly under-performing compared to Clinton. Polls released since Obama clinched the nomination - including Suffolk’s previous survey - found Obama rising in one of the bluest states of the country, and they better hope McCain’s gains in this poll are only statistical noise. As for Connecticut, this is a Northeastern state McCain was interested in contesting but polls have shown little opening for him, leading me to move the state to the safe Obama column in early July.

Meanwhile, two Senate polls were released from races that are at best third-tier:

  • In Oklahoma, GOP Sen. Inhofe leads state Senator Andrew Rice 52% to 30% in the latest Sooner poll. In the institute’s previous poll, Inhofe led 60% to 19%.
  • In Alabama, Senator Jeff Sessions crushes Vivian Davis Figures 58% to 31%, a 3% improvement since last month.

There is nothing to see in the Alabama Senate race, which has always been ranked as safe Republican in my Senate rankings. Some Democrats believe there is some potential for Andrew Rice in Oklahoma, and the DSCC did send a few paid staffers to the state a few years ago, hinting that it took such talk seriously. Yet, and though he is no beloved incumbent, Inhofe presents no obvious vulnerability and Oklahoma looks to be as red a state as any. The latest presidential poll found McCain leading by 32%, and that’s not the kind of margin a Democratic Senate challenger can easily overcome. The race is ranked 18th in my latest ratings, and it is clearly closer to the safe column than to the competitive one.

Obama competitive on red turf, but GOP delaying organizing the defense

Barack Obama’s attempts to expand the map and put red states in play has been a major story of the past month. Two days after Rasmussen found Obama narrowly ahead in Montana, Insider Advantage’s survey from Georgia is very interesting:

  • John McCain is ahead of Barack Obama, 46% to 44%. Bob Barr gets 4%. The previous IA poll, released just two weeks ago, found McCain ahead by 1% with Barr at 6%.
  • IA also finds that 51% of Georgians would be “more likely” to vote for Obama were he to choose Sam Nunn as his running-mate.

Georgia is one of a number of red states which Obama is hoping to put in play, and while not all polls from the state that have been released have found this tight a race, most have confirmed that Georgia is considerably tighter than it was four years ago. As for Nunn, I have repeatedly expressed my hostility to his being chosen, though it seems hard to dispute that his selection would ensure that McCain has to defend Georgia.

Keep in mind when seeing polls from Georgia or Montana that Obama is currently blanketing these states with ads while McCain is not — and that has an obvious impact on these numbers. But this does not mean that Obama’s competitiveness is artificial. McCain has no plan for now to air ads in these states, and his campaign cannot afford to spend resources in Georgia and keep up its spending in all the states it is in now.

And this is an integral part of Obama’s plan: If he benefits from poll after poll showing single-digit races in Alaska, Montana and Georgia, McCain will no longer be able to be indifferent to these states. To ensure this happens, Obama is not only airing ads, he is also actively campaigning there: On Friday, Obama spent the day in Montana, a state to which he has also sent paid staff — something McCain has not done. How much longer can the GOP delay organizing in these states?

Republicans better remember what happened in 2006, when incumbents who were seating in blue districts and who were targeted from day one (Shays in CT-04, Gerlach in PA-06, Madrid in NM-01) survived while a number of Republicans congressmen from red districts were unexpectedly washed away by the blue tsunami because they did not think they would be endangered. Similarly, it’s good of McCain to build a firewall in Ohio, Florida and Missouri but danger could come from North Carolina and Montana.

On the other hand, John McCain’s attempts to expand the map are not as successful, to say the least. His campaign hoped that the candidate’s popularity with independents would allow him to compete in Oregon, Washington and Connecticut. Polls in all three of these states have found Obama crushing the Republican. After two CT polls on Wednesday, Research 2000 released another one today confirming Obama’s lead:

  • Obama is ahead 57% to 35%. The poll also finds that Ned Lamont would crush Joe Lieberman by 15% in a rematch of their 2006 race, and that Lieberman would not be much of a help for McCain were he to be chosen as VP.
  • In Rhode Island, meanwhile, Rasmussen found Obama is not trembling in another staunchly blue state, leading 55% to 33% and helped by a 68% favorability rating.

My latest ratings found McCain’s base shrinking and Obama’s solidifying, though the difference between the two candidates when accounting for lean states remained a narrow 11 electoral votes — underscoring that the electoral college remains a toss-up. But these polls underscore the real source of trouble for McCain: The epicenter of the presidential battle is moving from the traditional battleground states to red territory.

Wednesday polls: Obama dominates in New York and Connecticut, tight House races in Kentucky

Monday and Tuesday were heavy polling days, but today is calmer, with no high-profile presidential survey released, which explains why the first polls of this thread will be from Connecticut:

  • Quinnipiac finds Obama crushing McCain 56% to 35%, with 86% of Democrats and a 16% lead among independents.
  • Interestingly, the poll finds that only 14% would be more likely to vote for McCain if he were to choose Lieberman, while 32% say less likely. Among independents, the numbers are 16% and 33%.
  • A second poll from Connecticut, this one released by Rasmussen, confirms Obama’s large lead, 52% to 35%. In May, Obama was ahead by… 3%. Obama is boosted by his strong favorability rating (62%).
  • Finally, Rasmussen also released a poll from New York that found Obama crushing McCain 60% to 29% — his biggest lead yet in the Empire State and up from a 52% to 33% lead last month. Such a big victory would go a long way towards ensuring Obama a popular vote lead on Election Day, no matter what happens in the electoral college.

While Connecticut is certainly not one of the most interesting battlegrounds of the year, John McCain (and, before him, Rudy Giuliani) have made some noise about contesting the state based on their appeal among independents. And some polls this spring have found a somewhat tight race, including Rasmussen’s May survey. The McCain campaign has touted its proximity with Lieberman as a factor that would help him make the state competitive. But as this poll suggests Lieberman does not appear as much of a boost. In fact, his popularity is now under 50% for the first time in more than a decade of Quinnipiac polling.

The day’s first down-the-ballot poll, meanwhile, comes from North Carolina’s gubernatorial race:

  • PPP’s latest poll (complementing the Senate and presidential match-ups released yesterday) finds Beverly Perdue getting 42% to Pat McCrory’s 41%. The previous poll PPP poll had Perdue up 4%.

The two candidates had their first debate earlier this month, though it is unlikely that it could have gathered enough attentions and viewers to impact the numbers. Polls are finding an extremely narrow lead for Perdue, in what is shaping up to be the most competitive gubernatorial race of the year.

The day’s Senate poll, however, does not give us particularly new information as the Idaho Senate race is not one of the Democrats’ top pick-up hopes:

  • An internal poll for the LaRocco campaign finds the Democrat trailing Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch 43% to 28%, with 6% going to an independent candidate.

The poll was actually conducted mid-May but only released this week, so I include it more as information to readers than because I think it is particularly noteworthy. Democratic hopes to pick-up a Senate seat here rested on Sen. Craig continuing his burlesque tragi-comedy, perhaps refusing to retire at the last minute or pursuing his legal quest and overshadow Risch’s efforts. Despite Craig’s comical sponsorship of the latest version of the anti-gay marriage amendment in the Senate, it doesn’t look like his legacy will have that much of an impact.

Finally, SUSA released two House polls from Kentucky races over the past two days, finding some interesting results even though it has (for now) left out the race that is the most obviously competitive, KY-03:

  • In KY-02, a heavily Republican seat that opened up earlier this year in very strange circumstances, Democrat David Boswell is stunningly leading Republican Brett Guthrie 47% to 44%.
  • In KY-04, Republican incumbent Geoff Davis is ahead of his challenger Michael Kelley by a decent margin, 54% to 41%. Davis won an open seat for this conservative district in 2004 against George Clooney’s father before fighting off a strong challenger by Ken Lucas, who held the district right before Davis.

Democrats are not planning to contest KY-04 the way they did two years ago, as Ken Lucas looked to be the only one with any hope of wrestling this very conservative district away from the GOP. It is worth noting that Davis is not as far ahead as he should be, but KY-02’s results are naturally much more interesting. If KY-04 gave 62% of the vote to Bush in 2004, the president got 65% in KY-02! And yet, David Boswell is polling narrowly ahead in an independent poll.

Boswell is a highly-touted Democratic recruit, though things could have been even worse for the GOP if Rep. Lewis had succeeded in his grotesque plan of retiring seconds from the filing deadline in a failed attempt to make sure only his chief of staff filed. Instead, Brett Guthrie heard of that plan, filed himself and beat Lewis’s hand-picked successor and should be a stronger contender. But KY-02 confirms that open seats that in most cycles would have presented no problem to Republicans have become nightmarish headaches, and the MS-01 special election ought to give Boswell hope.

Monday polls: The Barr effect and the difference between the Northeast and the Northwest

There will be a lot more discussion of the general election map in the coming days, as the primary season wraps to a close. For now, we get a few interesting state polls, including our first look at the potential Barr effect. While Georgia is the Southern state in which the former congressman and current Libertarian candidate should have the most impact, PPP released a poll of North Carolina in which it included Barr’s name:

  • Barr gets 6% of the vote in both match-ups and helps Democrats draw close to John McCain, as Barack Obama trails 43% to 40% and Hillary Clinton is behind 39% to 34%.
  • Note that it is rare to have the match-up including Clinton have such a higher proportion of undecided voters.

In 2004, Ralph Nader was not always included in polls but he ended up being a non-factor anyway, as voters who might have been hesitating between the Democratic Party and Nader remembered the lesson of 2000; also, Nader was not running as the Green Party’s candidate so his spot was not guaranteed on state ballots. Will this year be different? Third-party candidates included on the ballot sometimes tend to appear stronger than they actually are (remember Rasmussen’s strange poll that showed Stephen Colbert at 13%?), but there is no question that Bob Barr polling anywhere near 5% would make it very difficult for McCain to hold on to a number of states, as Barr would pull from disaffected Republicans who would be choosing between him and their party’s nominee.

Complicating the picture for Republicans is the fact that the Libertarian Party has an automatic spot on the ballot in most states, so there is very little room for the GOP to maneuver and keep the former Republican congressman off the ballot, as Democrats did to Ralph Nader in 2004. PPP is the first pollster to include Barr in its poll but it would be good to have more match-ups try his name if he has the potential of being a disruptive force.

The second interesting poll of the day comes to us from Connecticut, where Rasmussen finds a close presidential race:

  • Obama is only ahead of McCain 47% to 44% while Clinton is leading 48% to 42%.

Even more than fellow Tri-State Area state New Jersey, Connecticut could surprise us this year by hosting a competitive race. It is no secret that McCain believes he can appeal to independent voters and plans to campaign accordingly. Connecticut should be a good target for him as it is is much less of an automatic Democratic state than people think. Kerry won by 10% in 2004, and McCain will probably point to Lieberman’s victory in 2006 as evidence of what he could accomplish. But ultimately, it would be a huge surprise to have any of the solid Kerry states shift this year given how toxic the national environment has become for the GOP since then.

Finally, SUSA released three general election polls from states that Democrats won in both 2000 and 2004, albeit not without trembling:

  • In Minnesota, Obama is leading by a narrow 47% to 42%. McCain leads in a number of match-ups that include vice-presidential candidates, by as much as 8% if he selects the state’s governor Pawlenty.
  • In Washington, McCain is crushed 52% to 36%. The best he can muster is trailing by 5% if he selectes Romney and Obama selects Hagel.
  • In Oregon, Obama also dominates, ahead of McCain 49% to 39%.

Washington and Oregon have long been two of the states in which Obama has polled the most strongly in the general election. Just as he is looking in the direction of the Northeast, McCain is also determined to put the two relatively swing states of the Northwest in play (Oregon and Washington). But the Western independents have become one of Obama’s strongest constituencies, so much so that it appears that the Illinois Senator could be competitive in a number of Mountain West states. Unlike Northeastern independents among which McCain has strong appeal (see New Hampshire), Washington and to a lesser extent Oregon are clearly starting out in Obama’s camp.

General election polls: Obama strengthens his hand, Clinton struggles

A week ago, Barack Obama’s poll numbers had undoubtedly plunged, as surveys were showing him weakening in primary and general election match-ups with remarkable consistency. But this was in the heat of the Wright controversy. Since then, Obama’s speech helped the Senator stop the bleeding. But the question now is whether he has regained some of the lost ground.

Two primary polls released 48 hours ago suggested he was back to his pre-Wright form, jumping to a huge lead in North Carolina and looking up in Pennsylvania. Now, four general election polls released today show him posting the type of numbers he needs. In fact, it is Hillary Clinton who is weakening and looking in difficulty in all four polls. First, a national poll from NBC:

  • Barack Obama is leading John McCain by a narrow 44% to 42% while the Republican edges out Clinton 46% to 44%.
  • In the primary match-up, Obama and Clinton are tied at 45%.
  • In a confirmation of yesterday’s Gallup poll, NBC finds that about 20% of Obama and Clinton supporters would vote for McCain if their candidate did not win the nomination.

But the most interesting number from this poll is Hillary Clinton’s favorability number: 37%! This is the lowest she has ever been in in an NBC poll since early 2001, two months after she left the White House. This includes a 12% drop among African Americans, who appear to be blaming her for the Wright scandal despite the fact that she did not say anything about it until 2 days ago. Obama’s numbers, meanwhile, are slightly in decline but less dramatically so, though it is worth noting that Obama loses some ground among independents and Republicans.

Meanwhile, we also get three state polls this morning — all from blue states that Kerry and Gore both carried:

  • In California, a PPI poll shows that neither Democrats manage a double-digit lead against McCain. Obama leads 49% to 40% and Clinton is up by a much narrower 46% to 43%.
  • In Connecticut, Quinnipiac released a survey showing Obama is leading 52% to 35%, including 45% to 38% among independents. Clinton only leads 45% to 42% because of a differential among independents: She trails 48% to 36%.
  • In Oregon’s Rasmussen poll, finally, Obama is also stronger (though this one is less surprising, considering WA and OR have always been two states in which Obama has looked better). He leads McCain 48% to 42% while Clinton trails 46% to 40%.

It is worth noting that it is not coastal blue states that will determine whether Obama has successfully turned the page of the Wright controversy, so these 3 state polls are maybe not the most useful in that direction. But they still suggest that McCain won’t have that easy a time contesting a state like Connecticut in which the Republican is placing hopes. Oregon looks tight, but it has not been a reliably blue state in past cycles. This morning’s most worrisome numbers for Democrats come from California. A single-digit lead is certainly not enough to keep McCain away from the state, and the last thing Democrats want is to have to play defense in their #1 must-win state.

Sunday polls highlight McCain’s strength

John McCain is improving his position in polls, as I already explained in my general election analysis just a few days ago. The latest surveys released today confirms that the GOP’s position in the race to the White House is not as tough as road as it looked to be just a few weeks ago (though McCain will sill have to reverse an impressive number of indicators to stay competitive in the months ahead.

First come the national election polls, since Zogby released a survey that included… Ralph Nader:

  • Against Clinton, McCain is ahead 45% to 39%, with 6% for Ralph Nader who would get 15% of independents.
  • With Obama in the mix, the margin is similar, with McCain leading 44% to 39% for the Democrat and 5% for Ralph Nader.

This is the first poll that tested Nader’s candidacy, and it suggests that the candidate’s level of support could be closer to 2000 than 2004. But keep in mind that Democrats will throw as many procedural obstacles as they can in Nader’s path, and his name will likely not appear in many states, thereby reducing his national number.

The Rasmussen tracking poll comes out with similar numbers, while Gallup’s shows more mixed numbers:

  • McCain beats Clinton 46% to 43%, and he is ahead of Obama 47% to 43%.
  • In Gallup’s poll, McCain and Clinton are tied at 46% but McCain beats Obama 47% to 44%.

Rasmussen also released a wave of state polls that show some appetizing options for the Arizona Senator:

  • In Florida, McCain is ahead of both Democrats: He beats Clinton 47% to 40% and is ahead of Obama 47% to 43%.

Add to this Rasmussen’s polls from earlier this week: They showed McCain ahead of both Democrats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and we get a picture of a soaring McCain in the most important of the November swing states, at least in Rasmussen’s polls. Rasmussen also released two polls from the Northeast which show Democrats ahead in all four match-ups, but sometimes by smaller margins than they should be leading by

  • In Connecticut, Obama is ahead comfortably 50% to 38% but Clinton is leading 47% to 44%. The difference comes mainly from the male vote, which gives McCain a double-digit lead against Clinton but places Obama up by 4%.
  • In New York, Clinton is leading 50% to 38% and Obama is leading 51% to 38%. Both are very comfortable margins, but the fact that Democrats are barely crossing the 50% threshold does not look that good.

It remains to be seen whether McCain can put these blue states in play. Other polls taken in recent weeks — starting with SUSA’s 50 state tracking, show Democrats more in command in the Northeast than what transpires in the Rasmussen surveys. But after months in which Democrats were accustomed to putting the GOP in great difficulty in states like Kentucky and Virginia, these polls suggest that the playing field is becoming more balanced — at least for as long as the Democratic candidates are busy running against each other.

Afternoon polls: Democrats strong in Alaska and in the Tri-State area

  • GOP in trouble in Alaska

Research 2000 just released a poll commissioned by Daily Kos, and it has some awful news for Alaska Republicans:

  • In the at-large House race, incumbent GOP Rep. Don Young trails Democrat Ethan Berkowitz 49% to 42%.
  • In the Senate race, Anchorage Mayor Begich leads incumbent GOPer Ted Stevens 47% to 41%.

Alaska Republicans have been facing massive corruption investigations that has already endangered many state-level politicians. Don Young and Ted Stevens are both involved and under investigation as well, and fresh details and allegations are regularly exposed in the media. That is bad for any incumbent, even for someone like Stevens who has been serving in the Senate for decade (he is the longest-serving Republican). The investigation has been picking up in recent months, with executives acknowledging that their employees had worked on renovations of Stevens’s house that was raided earlier in the summer by the FBI.

In House race, Berkowitz is officially in the race — and this is the third poll out of three that has him leading (though I believe it is the first non-internal survey). In the Senate race, Begich is not yet a candidate, but there are indications he is looking to get in: It appears that Begich will not officially declare a run before the spring, but that he will announce he is not running by the end of 2007 to let someone else go for it if he does not want to. So we will essentially know what the situation is in the coming three weeks — though Stevens retiring could slightly improve GOP chances still. I have rated the seat “Lean retention” and ranked it 9th for now in my latest Senate rankings.

  • Rasmussen polls the Tri-State region

Rasmussen released two new polls over the week-end from New Jersey and Connecticut pitting a three way race involving Mike Bloomberg. Their conclusion: Bloomberg is firmly in double-digits, and his strength depends on who the candidates of both parties are.

  • In New Jersey, Clinton gets 46% to Giuliani’s 38% and Bloomberg’s 12%. But if the candidates are Obama and Huckabee, it’s 42% to 27% for the Democrat, with Bloomberg at 18%.
  • In Connecticut, Clinton gets 45% to 36% for Giuliani and 12% for Bloomberg. It’s 40-29-18 if Obama and Huckabee are tested.

The numbers are not really comparable since Bloomberg surely benefits from Huckabee’s much lower name recognition in the second set of numbers, as well as from the fact that the Tri-state area is basically home territory for Clinton and Giuliani. But Bloomberg definitely has the potential and room to grow. This also confirms that Giuliani would make the coastal states more competitive than they have been in recent cycles but that Clinton would still have the clear upper-hand, something that is confirmed by most other polls.

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