Archive for the 'FL-Pres' Category

Final poll watch: No late movement

Still to come today: An election night cheat sheet, anything else that events warrant and a liveblog, of course. (And the prediction thread is still alive!)

A final round of polling released over the past 12 hours includes interviews conducted on Monday, allowing us to check whether McCain benefited from any last minute movement.

The verdict: McCain does not  gain as a result of Monday polling. In fact, Obama gains in Zogby and IBD/TIPP’s national poll and holds firm in a Marist poll entirely conducted on Monday. At the state level, SUSA’s Pennsylvania poll shows Obama improving his position over the past few days and seizing a 9% lead, while Zogby’s 8 polls from battleground states have trendlines going in both directions - but no significant movement.

This means that no pollster has detected any sort of McCain improvement over the past few days. Firms that have been trying to allocate undecided have suggested that they are not likely to break heavily towards the Republican nominee. (Not to mention that in many state the impact of a late-breaking surge would be limited: at least 64% of all active registered voters cast their ballot before Election Day in Colorado.)

If McCain somehow pulls a comeback, almost no pollster will be able to bask in the glory, as even outlets that have shown a tighter race fell in line (IBD/TIPP, Zogby). The only exception is the “Battleground poll” (whose result I never included in my polling watch because they arbitrarily imposed wide swings in their weighing), whose GOP half (Tarrance) is projecting the tightest margin among all pollsters (50% to 48%). Mason-Dixon could also be somewhat vindicated: though their last batch of state polls pointed to an Obama victory, McCain was not in as dismal a situation as we’ve seen elsewhere.

In other words: for McCain to prevail, all polls (even Mason-Dixon) would have to be dead wrong. That’s happened before, but the New Hampshire primary was a highly volatile 4-day campaign - and that means that there were a lot of reasons to explain the polling fiasco. We simply do not know what would possibly explain a similar debacle today (though I tried to outline some possible scenarios here). With all of this in mind, here are the last polls of the 2008 cycle:

  • Obama leads 48% to 42% in the final IBD/TIPP tracking poll; IBD/TIPP allocates undecideds to reach a 52% to 44% Obama margin.
  • The Battleground tracking comes out with two different projections: Its Republican half (Tarrance) has Obama leading 50% to 48% while its Democratic half (Lake) has him ahead 52% to 47%. Note that this is not a trend towards McCain at all; Battleground has always shown a tighter race than other pollsters.
  • Obama leads 51% to 46% in Research 2000’s final tracking poll. That means that R2000 has the tightest final margin of all trackings - a fascinating result given that it is funded by Kos, RCP inexplicably refuses to include it in its averages and Obama had some of his largest leads through September and October in R2000.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 52% to 43% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday through Monday; that’s an increase from a 7% lead Obama enjoyed in a poll released on Sunday. Obama leads 51% to 41% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 14% yesterday).
  • Virginia: Obama leads 51% to 47% in an ARG poll conducted Friday through Monday. Obama leads 52% to 45% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 6% yesterday).
  • Nevada: Obama leads 53% to 42% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 8% yesterday).
  • Ohio: Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 6% yesterday).
  • Florida: Obama leads 58% to 40% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday through Monday; he leads by 18% among those who have already voted (58% of the sample). McCain leads 49% to 48% in a Datamar poll conducted Saturday and Sunday; the candidates were tied at 47% a few days ago and Obama led by 5% earlier. Obama leads 49% to 48% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 2% yesterday).
  • North Carolina: Obama leads 49% to 48% in an ARG poll conducted Friday through Monday; African-Americans make up a relatively large 24% of respondents. McCain leads 50% to 49% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; McCain led by 1% yesterday).
  • Missouri is tied at 49% a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 1% yesterday).
  • Indiana: McCain leads 50% to 45% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; McCain led by 5% yesterday).
  • Washington: Obama leads 56% to 40% in a SUSA poll.
  • West Virginia: McCain leads 53% to 42% in an ARG poll taken Friday through Monday.

Meanwhile, in our final down the ballot numbers:

  • Christine Gregoire pulls ahead 52% to 46% in SUSA poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. This breaks a series of 8 SUSA polls that had the race within the MoE.

Presidential polling: Obama closes campaign in strong position

As is fitting on the last day before an election, we were treated to a deluge of polling today, as at least 52 presidential surveys were released over the past 24 hours! (I for once devoted a separate post to congressional polls.)

Given the sheer volume of data, we could have expected to see wide discrepancies between different pollsters. Instead, there appears to be a large consensus between different outlets, both at the state level and in national polls (where most surveys gravitate towards the same mean). If the polls turn out to be wrong, absolutely all pollsters will be implicated, suggesting that there is something structural that was missed. (Mark Blumenthal takes a look at what that might be.)

Not only are polls convergent, they have also been consistent over time: Individuals polls have fluctuated a bit over the past few months, but both candidates have oscillated within the same margins since the beginning of October, with very little indication that either candidate has gained or lost ground in that time.

Today’s national polls look familiar: Obama is at or above 50% in 11 of 12 national polls (at 48% in the 12th) and he tops 51% in 10 out of 12. McCain, meanwhile, remains between 42% and 46% in all these polls. There is also no uniform trendline in these final days but the tendency of most polls to move towards high single-digit territory.

At the state level, there was a lot of polling out today, as many outlets (Rasmussen, PPP, Strategic Vision, Zogby, Quinnipiac) released their final waves of surveys. Overall, the results are strong for the Illinois Senator, who first and foremost retains his advantage in Pennsylvania: Five polls find him leading anywhere between 6% and 14%, a range we have been seeing in most surveys from the Keystone State this past week. More importantly, the trendline does not appear to be clearly heading in McCain’s direction. It will take an extraordinary amount of GOTV, big gains among undecided voters and a significant overstatement of Obama’s support for McCain to pull off these 21 electoral votes.

As for the red states, the same classification we have been using lately applies: Colorado, Virginia and Nevada are the most likely to fall in Obama’s hands, though his lead in the day’s one Colorado poll is smaller than he would like (the fact that Colorado has been so under-polled this cycle is a disgrace, as the state’s role in this year’s electoral college is in many ways more important than, say, Missouri or Ohio). Any one of these states combined to Pennsylvania would get Obama at 269; all three would offset a Pennsylvania loss.

Ohio and Florida lean Obama by the tightest of margins (Obama leads in four out of five FL poll, but all within the MoE and he leads in five out of seven OH polls, some by large margins, with one survey tied and one having McCain ahead by 2%). And that leaves as the ultimate toss-ups of the election states that should never have been competitive in the first place: North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Montana. The Missouri polling is especially fascinating, as three out of the day’s four polls have the contest tied.

One possible area of concern for Obama: There is evidence in some of these polls that undecided voters are closing in for McCain. That is especially the case in PPP’s polls: compared to the group’s previous polls from the same state’s, Obama’s support has remained stable while McCain has gained and the number of undecided has decreased. This could suggest some trouble for Obama (and it is one of the factors that I outlined yesterday in my post rehashing the scenarios in which McCain could surprise us). Other polls, however, other pollsters do not find similar results: Ipsos/McClatchy and Gallup both model their undecided to break evenly, and CBS News’s profile of undecided voters suggests that they are more Democratic than Republican.

One area of concern for McCain: SUSA’s polls of Georgia and North Carolina show that they predict that black turnout will be sensibly the same as it was in 2004. Given that African-Americans make up a disproportionate share of early voters, it would mean that they are significantly under-represented among tomorrow’s voters. This raises the possibility that Obama’s support remains under-represented in some of these polls.

Let’s go on to the full roundup of the day’s polls, which I have broken down for convenience given the volume of data released today. First, twelve national polls have Obama leading anywhere from 5% to 11% (5%, 5%, 6%, 6%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 8%, 9%, 9%, 9%, 11%):

  • Obama leads 51% to 43% in the final NBC/WSJ national poll conducted Saturday and Sunday.
  • Obama leads 53% to 44% in the final Marist national poll conducted entirely yesterday; Palin’s favorability rating has really dropped over the past few months.
  • Obama leads 50% to 42% in Ipsos/McClatchy’s final national poll. With all undecideds allocated, Obama leads 53% to 46%.
  • Obama leads 50% to 43% in a Fox News national poll, up form from a 3% lead late last week.
  • Trackings: Obama gains 3% in IBD/TIPP (48% to 43%), 2% in Zogby (51% to 44%), 2% in Gallup (53% to 42%, the same margin in both LV models) and 1% in Rasmussen (52% to 46%). The race was stable in Hotline (50% to 45%). He lost 1% in Research 2000 (51% to 45%), 2% in Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%) and 4% in CBS News (51% to 42%).

Second, 5 polls from Pennsylvania:

  • Obama leads 53% to 45% in a PPP poll taken Friday through Sunday. Both candidates enjoy roughly the same party loyalty, with Obama winning big among independents.
  • Obama leads 52% to 46% in Morning Call’s tracking poll; Obama has been holding steady while McCain has been steadily gaining as independents break his way.
  • Obama leads 54% to 40% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday.
  • Obama leads 51% to 44% in Strategic Vision (up from a 5% lead).
  • Obama leads 50% to 40% in a Quinnipiac poll taken through last week; he led by 12% the week before.
  • SUSA has a poll of the presidential race in PA-10 only, finding Obama leading 53% to 43% in a district Kerry won by 6%.

Third, (only) five polls from the three red states that are most likely to go for Obama:

  • Colorado: Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; he led by 4% last week.
  • Virginia: Obama leads 52% to 46% in a PPP poll taken Friday through Sunday; the previous PPP poll conducted three weeks ago had Obama leading 51% to 43%. Obama leads 51% to 45% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday; he led by 7% last week. Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; he led by the same margin last week.
  • Nevada: Obama leads 51% to 43% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday; he led by 4% last week. Obama leads 51% to 47% in a PPP poll, but the poll suggests that the die has been cast: 71% of respondents say they have already voted (a proportion that sounds right given the hard data we have) and they favor Obama by 14%.

Fourth, we were treated with a deluge of Ohio polls:

  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday and Saturday; that’s down from a 4% lead last week, but Obama leads by a stunning 24% among the third of voters who have already cast their ballot.
  • Obama leads 52% to 46% in the final University of Cincinnati poll conducted Wednesday through Sunday.
  • Obama leads 50% to 48% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday; he led 51% to 44% in a poll taken two weeks ago. McCain is gaining among whites (he has increased his lead from 49-46 to 55-43) and independents (he trailed 48-36, now 49-46, suggesting that undecideds are breaking for the Republican).
  • Obama leads 50% to 44% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday; Obama led by 5% last week.
  • The candidates are tied at 49% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; Obama led by 4% last week.
  • Obama leads 50% to 43% in a Quinnipiac poll taken through last week; he led by 5% the week before.
  • McCain leads 48% to 46% in a Strategic Vision poll; McCain led by 3% two weeks ago.

Fifth, here are the day’s five new poll from Florida:

  • Obama leads 50% to 48% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday (the good news for Obama: half of likely voters have already cast their ballot and they favor Obama by 13%).
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday; he led by 4% last week.
  • McCain leads 50% to 49% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; Obama led by 4% last week.
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Quinnipiac poll taken through last week; the margin was the week before.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Strategic Vision poll; McCain led by 2% two weeks ago.

Sixth, we got a number of polls from red states that are rated toss-ups in my latest ratings:

  • Missouri: The candidates are tied at 49% in PPP’s poll conducted Friday through Sunday. Obama leads 48% to 47% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday. The candidates are tied at 48% in a SUSA poll; this is the same margin as last week. The candidates are tied at 49% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; Obama led by 1% last week.
  • North Carolina: Obama leads 50% to 49% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday; there is no change since last week. Obama leads by 10% among those who have already voted and McCain leads by 14% among those planning to vote on Tuesday. McCain leads 49% to 48% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday. McCain leads leads 50% to 49% in a Rasmussen poll taken Sunday; he led by 1% last week as well. McCain leads 49% to 48% in a SUSA poll that puts the black vote at 20%; the candidates were tied two weeks ago.
  • Indiana: Obama leads 49% to 48% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday. McCain leads 49% to 44% in a Zogby poll conducted Thursday though Saturday.
  • Georgia: McCain leads 50% to 48% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday; Obama leads by 5% among early voters (57% of the sample). McCain leads 52% to 45% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday and Saturday; SUSA predicts that the black vote will compose 26% of the electorate, which seems a very low estimate (2004 was 25%, early voting is 35%). McCain leads 50% to 46% in a Strategic Vision poll.
  • Montana: Obama leads 48% to 47% in a PPP poll conducted Friday through Sunday; Ron Paul gets 4%.

Finally, a look at blue states that are rated likely or safe Obama and where the final polling suggests Obama has little to worry about:

  • Minnesota: Obama leads 49% to 46% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday and Saturday; Obama led by 6% two weeks ago.
  • New Hampshire: Obama leads 53% to 42% in UNH’s final poll conducted Friday through Sunday.

Poll watch: Obama maintains wide lead nationally, PA tightens a bit, Merkley might already have won

Update: A new national CBS News poll brings Democrats great news, as Barack Obama now leads 54% to 41% in a poll conducted Tuesday through Friday - up from the 11% lead Obama had in the previous CBS News poll (that one had been conducted from the 25th to the 28th). Once again, Obama is above 50%, McCain is in the low 40s. (I apologize for being repetitive, but the race has been remarkably stable for weeks).

In what is perhaps the GOP’s worst internal number of the poll, 48% say that McCain will raise their taxes versus only 47% who think Obama will do so - a sign that McCain’s tax offensive has failed to destabilize Obama. Furthermore, Obama leads by 19% among those who have already cast their ballot (about 20% of the sample), a margin that corresponds to other polls we have been seeing.

Original post: Three days from the election, Barack Obama retains a commanding lead that has barely budged over the past few weeks. There is no evidence of a last minute McCain push: the margin widens in four of the day’s seven tracking polls and it remains stable in two others. While there is some day-to-day variation, both candidates have been oscillating within the same range for weeks: Obama is at or above 51% in five of the seven tracking polls, while McCain is still in the low 40s (42% to 44%, with a high at 46% in Rasmussen).

Worse still for McCain, Obama is ahead in tracking polls that have a wide partisan gap (Washington Post/ABC, for instance) as well as those that hypothesize a far tighter breakdown (Zogby and IBD/TIPP, for instance). While the size of his lead varies according to the turnout model pollsters use, there is no disagreement on whether he is ahead.

In fact, the best news for Obama today might be that we are starting to get an answer on which turnout model best predicts this year’s election. Today marks the very first time that there is no difference between Gallup’s two likely voter models (the traditional and the expanded); Obama is usually further ahead in the expanded model. Gallup attributes this partly to the fact that 27% of respondents say they have already cast a ballot, locking them in the likely voter model no matter what their prior voting history. This suggests that sporadic voters are making a greater share of the electorate than the “traditional” LV format hypothesizes.

Then there is Zogby, of course, whose three-day average has a 5% lead for Obama but who warns that the tide might be turning. Last night, the Drudge Report treated its readers with a shock headline, proclaiming that McCain had seized a 1% lead in the Friday sample of Zogby’s tracking poll. Beyond the fact that one night samples are not meant to be treated as a full survey - which is the whole point of a tracking poll - this once again raises questions about Zogby’s theatrics and about his professionalism; it is silly to treat any movement as an earth-shattering change of momentum, and so is leaking your results to Drudge hours before posting them on your website. Furthermore, none of the six other tracking polls have found a similar Friday tightening - quite the contrary.

All of this said, Republicans can take some comfort in the latest Pennsylvania polls - and remember that there is no early voting so no one’s vote has been cast in stone just yet. The five most recent surveys - Rasmussen, Strategic Vision, Mason Dixon, Morning Call and Rasmussen again - have all found McCain gaining ground, and ARG’s first poll since mid-September has a 6% margin. Rasmussen and Strategic Vision have the exact same trend line (Obama up double-digit three weeks ago, up high single-digits last week and now up by 4% and 5%), while today marks the first time that Obama’s margin is down to single digits in Morning Call’s tracking poll.

That said, 4% to 8% gap might have made Democrats anxious three weeks ago, but we are now three days from the election and Obama remains ahead outside of the margin of error in all polls from the state. There is very little time for McCain to finish closing that gap, and it is important to note that Obama remains above 50% in both Rasmussen and Morning Call. Finally, Republicans are concentrating their efforts in the Keystone State (First Read reports that  push-polling is underway in the state) while Obama has no plan to visit the state until Tuesday, making some tightening inevitable.

The bottom-line remains: Pennsylvania has become a must-win for McCain, and even an upset in the Keystone State would need to be accompanied by a sweep of nearly all competitive red states (Obama is ahead in two new Florida polls and tied in a third, underscoring the magnitude of the challenge).

  • Trackings: Obama gains 1% in Rasmussen (51% to 46%), in Research 2000 (51% to 44%), in Gallup (52% to 42%, the same margin as in the LVT model in which Obama gains 2%; he leads by 11% among RVs) and 1% in IBD/TIPP (48% to 43%). The margin remains stable in Hotline but Obama crosses 50% (51% to 44%) and in Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%, though independents split equally). Obama loses 2% in Zogby (49% to 44%). Obama’s leads are thus: 5%, 5%, 5%, 7%, 7%, 9%, 10%.
  • Gallup finds that 27% of likely voters have already cast a ballot and that they skew more towards Obama than other voters, a development that might explain why the two LV models now coincide.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll conducted on Thursday, down from an 7% lead last week and a 13% lead three weeks ago; this is primarily due to Obama’s decline among registered Democrats, among which he receives 75% of the vote. Obama leads 52% to 44% in the Morning Call tracking poll, the first time since October 2nd the margin has been down to single-digits. Obama leads 51% to 45% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday. (For what it’s worth, PPP is saying that they are currently in the field in Pennsylvania and see very little for Obama to worry about.)
  • Florida: Two pollsters release their second poll in as many week - and find contrasting trends. Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday; McCain trailed by 2% last week. The candidates are tied in a Datamar poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday (Obama led by 5% 4 days before). Finally, Obama leads 50% to 46% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 53% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; he led by 16% at the end of September.
  • Indiana: The candidates are tied in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Minnesota: Obama leads 53% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • South Dakota: McCain leads 53% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll, a margin that has tightened over the past month.
  • Safe(r) states: Obama leads 57% to 38% in a SUSA poll and 55% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon. Obama leads 60% to 36% in a SUSA poll of California (he leads by 19% among the 42% of respondents who have already voted). McCain leads 51% to 44% in an ARG poll of Arkansas.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Proposition 8 remains very close, though SUSA has the “no” gaining. Down 6% a month ago and 3% two weeks ago, the “no” is now narrowly ahead 50% to 47%. That is primarily due to movement among Democrats and African-Americans. Early voters (42% of the sample) split 50% “no” to 48% “yes.” It could still go either way, but it looks like the “no” has at least stopped the bleeding.
  • The “no” is also gaining in Proposition 4 (abortion), which now trails 46% to 40% and leads by 8% among early voters.
  • Oregon, Senate race: Jeff Merkley leads 49% to 42% in a SUSA poll conducted over the past two days. More than 70% of respondents say they have already voted, and Merkley leads by 10% among those voters. Merkley leads 48% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; Merkley leads by 40% among those who say they have already cast a ballot.
  • Kentucky, Senate race: Mitch McConnell leads 47% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • Minnesota, Senate race: Norm Coleman leads 43% to 40% with 15% going to Barkley in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • In WY-AL, GOP candidate Cynthia Lummis takes a 49% to 45% lead in a Research 2000 poll. Gary Trauner led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • In NV-03, the candidates are tied at 44% in a Mason Dixon poll; GOP Rep. Porter led by 3% three weeks ago.
  • In NV-02, GOP Rep. Heller leads 50% to 37% in a Mason Dixon poll; he led by the same margin 3% ago.

With the vast majority of Oregon ballots already cast (ballots have to have arrived by Tuesday, meaning that many voters have already mailed them in), it looks like Jeff Merkley will be the next Senator from Oregon as SUSA’s poll (as well as PPP’s yesterday) are now measuring the way the electorate has arleady voted rather than how it is going to vote). The Kentucky and Minnesota Senate races, however, are still toss-ups, particularly the latter in which the Barkley factor is too unpredictable to venture any guess as to who will come out on top. Democrats will likely have to win at least one of these two seats if they want to rise to 60 seats.

At the House level, Research 2000’s poll of WY-AL finds that the race is still within the margin of error but the trendline is worrisome for Democrat Gary Trauner: We knew that most of the undecided were Republican and that Lummis had to get those voters to come home, and this poll suggests that this might be happening. Note that this is a very important race for Democrats: Getting people like Trauner elected would give them a bench from which to potentially contest Senate races in a few cycles.

Poll watch: Dems still far from 60, and is NV in the same tier as CO and VA?

The presidential race remained remarkably stable. If the tracking polls showed McCain gaining slightly yesterday, they have Obama regaining some breathing room today; he is at 50% or above in 6 of the 9 national polls. McCain is once again stuck in the low 40s, with a margin ranging from 41% to 46%. Sure, the New York Times and Fox News national polls came out with differing results, but at least there is no mystery behind the discrepancy: the partisan breakdown has narrowed in the Fox poll.

McCain got one of his most promising polling results in days today as Mason Dixon found him trailing by only 4% in Pennsylvania - the tightest the state has been since a mid-September poll. We should not dismiss this poll, even though surveys taken over the same period show a larger advantage for Obama. Mason Dixon has been consistently releasing results that are better than average for McCain. The Republican nominee led in Virginia when other surveys found him trailing, and trailed only narrowly when other surveys found a large gap; the same was true in Florida and now Pennsylvania. The consistency of these narrower results suggests that it is due to Mason Dixon’s methodology and turnout models, which means that we should not throw these out as outliers: There is a turnout model out there employed by a respected pollster like Mason Dixon that yields results that are better for Republicans, and we won’t know until Tuesday whose assumptions were flawed.

All of this said, there is no discussion to be had that Obama retains an extremely strong position in the electoral college. For one, he remains ahead in the Big Three sates: 3 polls of Pennsylvania show him in the lead (though Mason Dixon has a 4% race), and he is also ahead in Colorado and Virginia. While two polls of Virginia show him with narrower leads than we have seen of late, both surveys were taken over the same period as the CNN and SUSA polls that had him leading by 9% - so these new polls are not picking any new tightening.

To make matters worse for McCain, we might now be getting a third competitive red state where an Obama pick-up appears increasingly likely: Nevada. After posting two double-digit leads earlier this week, Obama leads outside of the margin of error in two new surveys (Suffolk and CNN/Time). This is a very important development: Even if McCain were to save Virginia and Colorado, Obama would become president by winning Nevada alone; if McCain can somehow snatch Pennsylvania, an (not at all improbable) Obama sweep of Virginia, Colorado and Nevada would offset the loss of the Keystone State.

As if this was not enough, Ohio and North Carolina are slowly moving in Obama’s column as the Democrat is accumulating good results in both. Today, he leads in all five polls from these two states, and four of them have him ahead outside of the MoE. Given that a huge number of North Carolina voters have already voted, it is starting to get late for McCain to turn the tide. And while Obama is showing no sign of trembling in blue states (he has huge leads in Wisconsin and Minnesota), McCain is now locked in highly competitive races in a number of staunchly red states - including his home state of Arizona, South Dakota and Montana.

  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in a New York Times/CBS News poll, a very small tightening from Obama’s 13% lead last week. 51% say Obama is ready to be president, and McCain’s favorability has collapsed to 41% (!). So has voters’ estimate of whether Palin is able to deal the job (only 35% say so). Obama leads among men and women, and has a 17% advantage among independents.
  • Obama leads 47% to 44% in a Fox News national poll conducted over the past two days. Obama led by 9% last week, so the race has substantially tightened. The partisan ID has tightened from a 6% gap to a 2% gap (though this does not seem to be an arbitrary imposition like Zogby’s).
  • Tracking polls: Obama gains 2% in Zogby (50% to 43%) and in Rasmussen (51% to 46%). He gains 1% in IBD/TIPP (48% to 44%). The race is stable in Washington Post/ABC (52% to 44%), Gallup (51% to 44%, though Obama gains 2% in the LVT model, 50% to 45%). Obama loses 1% in Hotline (48% to 42%) and in Research 2000 (50% to 45%). Obama’s leads are thus: 4%, 5%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 7%, 8%.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 47% to 43% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Sunday and Monday. Obama leads 54% to 41% in Morning Call’s tracking, the highest percentage Obama has ever received in this poll. Obama leads 55% to 43% in a CNN/Time poll conducted Thursday through Tuesday (Obama leads by 15% among registered voters!).
  • Colorado: Obama leads 51% to 45% in a Marist poll (52% to 43% among registered voters) conducted Sunday and Monday; his lead comes entirely among the 44% of registered voters who say they have already voted. Obama leads by 23% among independents and has strongest party loyalty (leading me to question why he is only ahead by 6%). Obama leads 48% to 44% in a National Journal poll of registered voters with a small sample and a large MoE conducted Thursday through Monday; Obama leads by 22% among independents.
  • Virginia: Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Marist poll (by 6% among registered voters) conducted Sunday and Monday; McCain takes a 12% lead among independents. Obama leads 48% to 44% in a National Journal poll of registered voters with a small sample and a large MoE conducted Thursday through Monday. Both polls were taken over the same period as SUSA, Rasmussen and CNN poll showing larger Obama leads.
  • Nevada: Obama leads 50% to 45% in a RGJ/Research 2000 poll (he led by 7% earlier in October); McCain leads by 3% in crucial Washoe County, though the RGJ points out that (unreleased) private polls for both parties have Obama leading that county. Obama leads 52% to 45% in a CNN/Time poll conducted Thursday through Tuesday, an improvement over his 5% lead last week (he leads by 11% among registered voters!).
  • Ohio: Obama leads 48% to 41% in a National Journal poll of registered voters with a small sample and a large MoE conducted Thursday through Monday; Obama’s lead is outside of the MoE. Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll conducted Thursday through Tuesday (Obama leads by 10% among registered voters!).
  • Florida: Obama leads 45% to 44% in a National Journal poll of registered voters with a small sample and a large MoE conducted Thursday through Monday.
  • North Carolina: Obama leads 50% to 48% in a Rasmussen poll taken yesterday (McCain led by 2% on Sunday). Obama leads 47% to 43% in a National Journal poll of registered voters with a small sample and a large MoE conducted Thursday through Monday. Obama leads 52% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll conducted Thursday through Tuesday (Obama led by 4% last week, he is ahead by 3% among registered voters).
  • Indiana: McCain leads 49% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll taken yesterday (he led by 7% three weeks ago). Obama leads 46% to 45% in a Selzer & Co poll conducted Sunday through Tuesday; he is ahead 2:1 among early voters and gets “only” 82% of African-Americans (remember Tuesday’s polling memo released by the McCain campaign?). The candidates are tied at 47% in a Research 2000 poll taken from Friday through Tuesday.
  • Wisconsin: Obama takes a giant 55% to 39% lead in a SUSA poll taken Tuesday and Wednesday, up from 8%. Obama leads by 28% among early voters.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 55% to 40% in a SUSA poll taken Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • South Dakota: McCain only leads 45% to 40% in an internal poll for Democratic Senator Johnson’s campaign.
  • Montana: McCain leads 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll. He led by four weeks ago.
  • Safe(r) states: McCain leads 61% to 36% in a SUSA poll of Alabama. McCain leads 58% to 37% in a SUSA poll of Kansas. Obama leads 56% to 39% in a SUSA poll of Massachusetts. Obama leads 55% to 33% in a Field poll of California. Obama leads 54% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll of New Jersey. McCain leads 53% to 42% in a NBC News poll and 52% to 44% in a SUSA poll of South Carolina (but only by 6% among registered voters). McCain leads 55% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Kentucky.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Louisiana: Two polls have differing results. An internal poll for the Kennedy campaign has Mary Landrieu up 45% to 44%, while a Loyola University poll has Landrieu ahead 49% to 34%; the latter poll does not seem very reliable, however, as it only shows McCain leading by 3% and implying an oversampling of Democrats.
  • Mitch McConnell leads 51% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. (McConnell led by the same margin last month.) A Lunsford internal has McConnell leading 47% to 45%, however.
  • Norm Coleman leads 42% to 36% in a Mason Dixon poll of Minnesota. Barkley is now at 12%, and he is hurting Franken: He draws 17% of Democrats and only 4% of Republicans - a hugely consequential disparity.
  • Safer seats: Tom Udall leads 56% to 41% in a Rasmussen poll of New Mexico. GOP Senator Pat Roberts leads 60% to 33% in a new SUSA poll of Kansas. Democratic Senator Lautenberg leads 56% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of New Jersey. Sen. Cornyn leads 45% to 36% in a University of Texas poll, with 5% going to Libertarian candidate Adams-Schick. GOP candidate Jim Risch leads 45% to 33% in a Harstad poll of Idaho.
  • In MO-06, perhaps the most disappointing House race for Democrats, GOP Rep. Graves leads 54% to 36% in a SUSA poll. He led by 11% last month.
  • In KY-02, GOP candidate Brett Guthrie leads 53% to 43% in a new SUSA poll. Guthrie led by 9% last month but trailed over the summer.
  • In OR-05, Democratic candidate Kurt Schrader leads 55% to 33% in a SUSA poll.
  • In NY-26, Republican candidate Chris Lee has a large 48% to 34% lead against Alice Kryzan in a SUSA poll. He led by 11% last month.
  • In ID-01, Democratic challenger leads 48% to 41% in a Harstad poll, though the poll has a large MoE of 6%.
  • In PA-12, Rep. Murtha only leads 46% to 44% in a GOP poll conducted by Dane & Associates.
  • In Massachusetts’s question 1 to repeal the state income tax, the “no” is far ahead, 64% to 29% in a SUSA poll.

Democrats have their share of very good news in these wave of surveys - especially the two North Carolina polls showing a Hagan lead and the NV-02 survey confirming that Rep. Heller is in real danger - Republicans got uncommly positive numbers over the past 24 hours. In the Senate, Republicans appear to be solidifying their hold on the four Senate seats that are not yet leaning Democratic - KY, MN, MS and also GA because a runoff should help Chambliss. McConnell has not slipped further after his race fell into a competitive race in early October, and Coleman has improved his situation over the past three weeks.

Minnesota should be particularly worrisome to Democrats because Franken’s slippage is due to the fact that Barkley is starting to draw disproportionately from Franken’s base. If that is confirmed by other polls, it is hard to see Franken pull this off. This is a reminder that, however much progress Democrats have made over the past few weeks, the path to 60 still requires picking-up two out of these 4 seats - and that remains a tall order.

The latest House polls should also be a reminder that Democrats will certainly not win everything on Tuesday, and that a fair number of Republicans appear to be making progress in this hostile environment. The latest poll of MO-06 has to be crushing to Democrats as former Kansas City Mayor Barnes was once one of their top recruits. And while the DCCC is still investing in NY-26, the polls have not been very promising ever since Kryzan won the Democratic nomination.

Battleground watch: Early voting surges in CO and NC, campaigns focus on Florida

In two battleground states - Colorado and North Carolina - the number of early voters just passed the mark of 50% of the total number of ballots cast in 2004. Nevada is set to join that group by the end of today, and other states also have monstrous early voting rates.

Since all the data suggests that early voters are significantly more Democratic and African-American than the electorate at large, this means that McCain will need very strong numbers among voters who will cast a ballot on Election Day to win those states - particularly since the early voting totals in those states will grow much more over the next few days.

This puts McCain in somewhat of a lose-lose situation in those states. If turnout on Election Day is low, it would mean that more than half of the Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada voters will have cast an early ballot, making it very difficult for McCain to close the gap. If so many people come out on Election Day that early voting does not represent that high a proportion of all voters, it would mean that 2008 turnout has shattered the 2004 totals and that there are a lot of first-time or sporadic voters - and that would be an amazing development for Obama.

(Democrats got more good news in Colorado today when voting right groups cut a deal with the Secretary a State to ensure that new voters whose names have been purged since May not only can cast a provisional ballot but have those provisional ballots presumed to be valid unless officials prove otherwise. This is a huge shift from the usual standard under which it is up to challenged voters to prove they are eligible.)

McCain’s hope then has to be that Republicans are simply waiting to vote until Election Day while Democrats have been pushed to vote early, so that not (comparatively) Democrats will be left by Tuesday. And there is some evidence to back that theory: In both Nevada and North Carolina, the electorate is turning more Republican by the day:

  • In Nevada’s huge Clark County, the share of Democratic vote has been declining for each of the part four days (from 53% to 47,5% ) and it was in the high 50s in the first three days of voting; the share of the GOP vote started off at 23% but comprised a high of 34% of yesterday’s vote. The same trend is true in Nevada’s swing Washoe County: Yesterday’s partisan breakdown was the tightest yet (43-38, versus 48-35 a week ago).
  • In North Carolina, more than 224,457 voters cast a ballot yesterday alone. 33% of them were Republicans; 48% were Democrats, and less than 23% were African-American. Those percentages are far more favorable to Republicans than they were a week ago, when more black voters were casting a ballot than Republicans.

This data might back up Republican hopes that the Democratic advantage is fading. However, was anyone expecting the electorate’s partisan and racial breakdown to stay what we have been seeing over the past week? These numbers might not be as jaw-droppingly good for Democrats as we have gotten used to, but Democrats and African-Americans continue to vote at far greater proportions than their share of the electorate well into the second week of early voting!

Yes, yesterday’s share of the black vote in North Carolina is smaller than it was a few days ago (23% instead of 28%), but it remains far superior to the 19% of black voters that made up the 2004 electorate. That black turnout keep out-pacing white turnout day in and day out is remarkable given how many black voters have already cast their ballot (meaning that there is a smaller pool of black voters who have yet to cast a ballot).

Given all of this data, it has become fairly inconceivable that black voters would not represent a greater share of the electorate than they did four years ago.

Since nearly all black voters will cast their ballot for Barack Obama (and other Democratic candidates), even a small increase would be hugely beneficial to Democrats: The share of the African-American vote does not have to rise from 19% to 26% (where it is now in early voting data) to impact results; even a boost to 21% or 22% could make a difference in tight races. (This is not something pollsters are taking that much into account: 20% of the sample of SUSA’s latest poll from North Carolina is African-American, which is approximately the 2004 level.)

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is paying a huge amount of attention to Florida - a remarkable development given that the state was the one place Obama appeared to be weaker than a generic Democratic when he wrapped up the nomination. We got our first hint of this in September when David Plouffe announced his campaign’s huge budgetary commitment to Florida; then, Obama camped in the state for a fewy days while preparing for the first debate; and he held a number of rallies last week to coincidence with the start of early voting, including one with Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday was further proof of Obama’s dedication to winning the state’s 27 electoral votes. This is the state in which he held his first joint appearance with Bill Clinton, and his 30-minute infomercial ended with a live address from… Florida. Now, Obama is sending in Al Gore to campaign on his behalf in the Sunshine State, confirming the impressive network of surrogates he is deploying.

While the amount of attention lavished on Florida might be surprising given that Obama’s chances appear far better in Virginia, Colorado and Nevada (any one of which would suffice if Obama all blue states), one reason for these efforts might be that Florida’s demographics are different than those of other states, so that even if McCain somehow manages a comeback in a state like Pennsylvania, that does not mean he can pull off a similar reversal in Florida. And given how many electoral votes the state has, a victory here would leave McCain with no path to victory - not to mention what Democratic gains in the state could mean for upcoming election cycles.

Furthermore, Obama’s dedication to Florida has forced the McCain campaign to invest a large amount of resources to a state they were hoping to win easily; given that this state is a money pit with a high number of expensive media markets, Florida’s competitiveness has ruined the McCain campaign and prevented them from investing in other crucial swing states. Now, McCain appears to have convinced Charlie Crist to take a more active role on his behalf, as the Florida Governor (who played such a crucial role in McCain’s primary victory at the end of January and who was on the Republican VP list) has cut an ad touting the Republican nominee:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6bch821eRc"]

The McCain campaign’s stunning decision to accuse Obama of anti-Semitism (with their offensive on Khalidi, their charge that Obama is paling around with anti-Semites and their transparent allusion to Reverend Wright) is another tactic aimed at Florida via its substantial Jewish vote.

As Obama outspends him in battlegrounds, McCain faces electoral map dilemmas

Nielsen’s handy tracker of the number of ads Obama and McCain have been airing every day over the past month gives us a better idea of where the candidates are investing. There are two noticeable trends across these states. First, McCain continues to be significantly outspent in most of these battleground states (especially in Florida).

Second, Obama has slightly decreased the volume of ads compared to the first two weeks of October. This suggests that the Illinois Senator saturated the airwaves over that period (which is confirmed by his campaign filings that indicated that he spent more than $100 million in that period), which helps explain that he inched ahead in many of these battleground states.

In Missouri, not much has changed throughout October, though Obama looks like he has had to decrease the number of his ads a bit. In Georgia, it looked like Obama was back in the state as of mid-October but neither candidate is now investing significant amounts. In Virginia, Obama continues to dominate McCain on the airwaves - but he is airing less spots than he once was.

In Pennsylvania, both campaigns are investing less than they were the first two weeks of October - remarkably so given how crucial Pennsylvania has become to McCain’s electoral hopes. The same is true in Ohio: the spending disparity is remarkable, but so is the drop in number of aired ads (especially on the part of the Obama campaign):

Even more dramatic than Ohio’s financial disparity is Florida’s. McCain is running more ads than he used to while Obama is airing slightly less than earlier in October, but just a glance at this graph illustrates how much Obama has dominated the state’s airwaves and how he has manged to take a lead in most recent Florida polls:

In Colorado, meanwhile, Nielsen’s tracking confirms last week’s reports that the McCain campaign has dramatically scaled back its expenditures in a state that is a must-win for the Republican unless he can somehow pick-up Pennsylvania. McCain has been largely absent from the state’s airwaves for days:

So with the campaign now entering its last days, the electoral map is getting clearer: The McCain campaign is truly scaling back its efforts in Colorado… while the RNC is being forced to pay attention attention to staunchly red states like West Virginia and Montana.

Take this as further evidence that the GOP is in such a precarious position that they can no longer finda  coherent strategy to reach 270 electoral votes and are left praying for an electoral college miracle.

Last week, Republicans realized that they could no longer afford playing in all the competitive states - nor in all the states they need to win to get McCain an electoral college majority. The GOP concluded that it needed to pick a few states in which to make a stand, and then hope that a shift of momentum put McCain in a position to capture states like Pennsylvania that right now appear out of reach.

This makes it somewhat puzzling that the GOP has chosen to make such an effort this late in the game in states like North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri - states Obama does not need to win the presidency.

McCain needs to prevail in at least one state in which Obama now enjoys a sizable lead (PA, CO and VA), and he will not be in a position to score such an upset unless he can first change the national mood (increased spending in Colorado could help him rise one or two points, not close a high single-digit gap). In other words, a necessary but not sufficient condition for a McCain victory in states he needs to wins is a tightening in national polls.

But if a meaningful change in the national environment were to occur, McCain has to assume that he would regain his footing in conservative-leaning states like North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri - meaning that the same phenomenon he desperately needs to achieve victory in Pennsylvania, Virginia or Colorado should help him protect his endangered base states.

In those conditions, was it a good decision for the McCain campaign to scale back expenditures in Colorado and use that money to shore up defenses elsewhere? Given that Colorado’s 9 electoral votes are so crucial to McCain’s survivals it seems incredible for Republicans to bank that a comeback would allow them to suddenly put Pennsylvania into play without similarly tightening Colorado, Wisconsin or Minnesota and without allowing McCain to gain an edge in staunchly red states.

Of course, that McCain is facing such painful dilemmas at all is a reflection of the Obama campaign’s brilliant map expansion strategy. Reading current campaign coverage, one might get the impression that all these states just suddenly appeared on our radar screen after the economic crisis struck; in fact, we had been talking about Indiana and North Carolina for months, as the Obama campaign has aired ads in them throughout the summer - so much so that we had been discussing Obama’s strategy at length ever since the wrapped up the Democratic nomination. Here is why I wrote, for instance, on July 21st:

It is probable, then, that Obama’s red state strategy will turn into a win-win scenario: Either they organize and advertise without a response and have a chance at pulling upsets or they force the GOP to defend states that should be on no one’s radar screen.

In fact, Obama’s red state strategy worked even better than that, and Democrats got the better of both worlds: They forced the GOP to play defense and Obama still has an excellent shot to pull off these upsets. And the reason for this is that Republicans woke up too late: Had they invested significant amounts in Indiana and North Carolina over the summer, they might have appealed to the electorate’s conservative instincts and crushed Obama’s growth before it was too late. This will no doubt be remembered as one of the main strategic mistakes of the McCain campaign.

Poll watch: Trackings tighten (a bit), but Obama dominates in VA, CO, PA, OH, FL and NV; Wicker opens wide lead

We start, as will now be customary, with the three states that we should be watching over this closing week: Colorado, Virginia and Pennsylvania. New polls were released today in each and they find Obama in command: He extends his lead by 3% in the latest Insider Advantage poll of Colorado, leads by 9% in Virginia and has a sizable edge in three Pennsylvania surveys (7% to 12%). That said, both Insider Advantage and Rasmussen suggest that there might be some tightening in the Keystone State, and Obama is no longer enjoying consistent double-digit leads.

It is a testament to just how huge a lead he had seized that he remains so firmly in command of Pennsylvania despite shedding nearly half of his lead in Rasmussen’s survey. And it is also a testament to Obama’s remarkably strong electoral map that he has so many other options even if McCain somehow manages to pull off one of the three states listed above.

If Obama were to lose Pennsylvania, for instance, Nevada would suffice to compensate - and two new polls out today show Obama leading outside of the margin of error and by as much as 10%. Keep in mind that the demographics of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada are very similar, so a comeback in the former wouldn’t mean that McCain is coming back in the three latter ones. McCain trails outside of the MoE in two new polls of Ohio (4% and 9%) and two new polls of Florida (5% and 7%). McCain still has a lot of work to do in all of these states.

As has been the case over the past few days, the tightest contests are taking place in states that Obama does not need: Indiana, North Carolina, Montana, Georgia and… Arizona are all within the margin of error in new polls. Losing any of these would be a catastrophe for the GOP.

McCain supporters can at least take comfort in the composite of the tracking polls, as McCain continues to close the gap after already tightening the race somewhat yesterday. But he continues to trail, and a Pew national poll taken over the same period finds disastrous numbers for McCain (I don’t believe McCain had ever trailed by 16% in a poll before). On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Obama leads 53% to 38% in a national Pew poll conducted Thursday through Monday; the margin is 16% with registered voters. 74% of Obama’s supporters describe themselves as “strong” supporters, versus 56% of McCain’s. Obama leads among men, women, every age group, independents and by 19% among early voters.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in an ARG national poll thanks to 83% of Democrats and a 12% lead among independents.
  • McCain makes some progress in the latest tracking polls: He gains 3% in Gallup (51-44, and only 49-47 in the LVT model), 1% in Research 2000 (50-43), 1% in Zogby (49-45). The race is stable in Hotline (50-42), Washington Post/ABC (52-45) and Rasmussen (51-46). Obama gains 1% in IBD/TIPP (48-44). That means that Obama’s leads are: 4%, 4%, 5%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 8%.
  • Colorado: Obama leads 53% to 45% in a new Insider Advantage poll, based on his staggering 81% among Hispanics. Obama led by 5% last week. The poll was conducted on Sunday.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 51% to 42% in an Insider Advantage poll of Pennsylvania; a separate IA poll of suburban Bucks County finds Obama leading by 3% (the same as Kerry), a 3% decline since a poll two weeks ago. This poll was conducted on Sunday. Obama leads 53% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll; that’s a drop from Obama’s 13% margin three weeks ago. No movement in the Morning Call tracking poll, however, where Obama leads 53% to 41%.
  • Virginia: Obama leads 48% to 39% in a Roanoke College poll. The poll was conducted over eight days, however, from the 19th through yesterday.
  • Ohio: Obama leads 49% to 40% in a new LAT/Bloomberg poll conducted Saturday through yesterday. (A fascinating internal: Obama wins white, working class voters 52% to 38%). Obama leads 49% to 45% in a SUSA poll conducted on Sunday and Monday. Obama led by 5% two weeks ago. He leads by 17% among the 22% of respondents who say they have already voted.
  • Nevada: Obama leads 50% to 40% in a Suffolk poll conducted from the 23rd through the 27th, with 2% for Barr and 1% each for McKinney and Nader. Obama leads 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll in which he led by 5% two weeks ago.
  • North Carolina: The candidates are tied at 47% in a week-end Mason Dixon/NBC poll. In a PPP poll of the 8th district, Obama leads by 6% which is a 14% swing since 2004, about what Obama needs statewide to win the state.
  • Indiana: Three polls in Indiana show a highly competitive race. Obama leads 48% to 47% in a Research 2000 poll (the candidates were tied three weeks ago.) McCain leads 47% to 45% in a Howey/Gauge poll. In a separate Research 2000 poll of IN-03, McCain leads 53% to 38% - which is great news for Obama since Bush won the district 68% to 31% (that’s a 22% swing towards Obama, essentially what he needs statewide to carry the state).
  • Montana: McCain leads 48% to 44% in a week-end Mason Dixon/NBC poll (I am not sure whether Ron Paul’s name was included).

Meanwhile, in down the ballot surveys:

  • Roger Wicker jumps to a big 54% to 43% lead in a Rasmussen poll of Mississippi’s Senate race. He only led by 2% in September.
  • Saxby Chambliss leads 46% to 44,5% in an Insider Advantage poll of Georgia’s Senate race, with 2% going to other (it looks like Buckley’s name was not included).
  • Jeff Merkley leads 45% to 40% in a Hibbits poll of Oregon’s Senate race conducted from the 22nd to the 25th. No mention of early voting, unfortunately.
  • Bev Perdue leads McCrory 47% to 44% in a PPP poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race.
  • In IN-03, GOP Rep. Souder leads 45% to 40% in a Research 2000 poll, with 4% going to Libertarian candidate Bill Larsen. In a Howey Gauge poll of the district, however, it is Democratic challenger Montagano who leads 44% to 41% (this latter poll has a large 6% MoE).
  • In NC-08, Larry Kissell leads GOP Rep. Hayes 51% to 46% in a PPP poll.
  • In OH-15, Democratic candidate Mary Jo Kilroy leads 47% to 41% in a SUSA poll, with 6% going to conservative independent candidate Don Eckart. 37% of respondents say they have already voted, and Kilroy leads by 16%.
  • In GA-08, Democratic Rep. Marshall leads 49% to 45% in a SUSA poll. Marshall immediately released an internal poll showing him leading 48% to 31%.
  • In KS-03, Democratic Rep. Moore leads 53% to 42% in a SUSA poll.

The most important of the day’s congressional poll undoubtedly comes from Mississippi, where Republican Senator Roger Wicker jumps to a commanding lead - suggesting that Democrats might not be as close to a Senate sweep after all (Mississippi’s Senate race is currently ranked 9th in my Senate rankings). The Insider Advantage poll from Georgia, meanwhile, is further evidence that we might not get a resolution on November 4th, as both candidate are far from the 50% mark - especially since the Libertarian candidate was not even included as an option in this survey.

At the House level, Democratic taek-over opportunities in NC-08 and OH-15 (both rated lean Democratic in my latest ratings) continue to look good for Democratic, and the IN-03 numbers are outstanding: this is a massively Republican district that voted for Bush by 37% in 2004! It was on no one’s radar screen as of the end of September, and has now become a highly vulnerable district. If Rep. Souder falls, IN-03 will be remembered as one of the great upsets of the 2008 cycle.

SUSA’s GA-08 poll, however, is a reminder that there are a number of Democratic seats at risk as well. Marshall barely survived the 2006 cycle (in fact, he looked gone for much of the cycle), and it looks like this race might keep us late yet again.

Ground wars: RNC spending in MT, Dems dominate early voting (Updated with Crist’s FL surprise)

If Barack Obama wins the national vote in a landslide, the election will most probably not be decided in a state-by-state warfare or on the basis of organizational muscle, but if McCain’s tightens the race in the coming days the election will of course be decided by the candidate’s ground game and investments in the most crucial swing states. So let’s take a look at the latest developments in early voting and presidential expenditures.

RNC in Montana and West Virginia: Barack Obama has had Montana’s airwaves all to himself for months; in West Virginia, he only started airing ads in the entire state a few weeks ago. The RNC’s independent expenditure division (i.e. this is not a decision made by the McCain campaign) is now going to air ads in both states. Both of their decision are somewhat surprising to me.

In Montana, the GOP could have afford to spend money months ago: this is a relatively cheap state to air ads in, and it will not cost the RNC that much to air these ads. But given how the electoral map is shaping now, it is very doubtful that Montana’s 3 electoral votes would make a difference. Under no obvious scenario would Obama be within 3 EVs of an electoral college majority. If he keeps blue states, IA and NM, he needs 5 more electoral votes; If Obama wins Colorado and Virginia but somehow loses Pennsylvania, he needs 4 more electoral votes. There is no one state with which Montana could be combined that wouldn’t also get Obama to 269 all by itself.

West Virginia, meanwhile, looks far less secure than it did a few weeks ago - but it is far less vulnerable than red states like Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina. With a few days of campaigning to go, it looks unlikely that West Virginia will go Democratic unless Obama wins a gigantic landslide that leaves him with more than 350 electoral votes. That is not the case in either of the three states I mentioned above, all of which look as competitive as they could possibly be. Given McCain’s relatively weak organization in IN or NC, for instance, it is conceivable that he loses either before losing Ohio or Florida.

Early voting: What is most remarkable about the latest early voting data is that turnout among Democratic voters continues to significantly outpace Republican turnout, and that the disparities we started witnessed two weeks ago is holding day after day. Yes, yesterday Nevada and North Carolina Republicans voted in greater numbers than they had over the past week, but they remained far under their share of the electorate - and the already-high share of Georgia’s African-American vote increased even more. Here is a quick overview of the most interesting developments:

  • In Georgia, more than 1,2 million voters have already voted, accounting for 22% of registered voters and 36% of the 2004 electorate. Amazingly, African-Americans increased their share of the electorate over the past day and now make up 35,3% of early voters.
  • In a heavily African-American suburb of Georgia, the waiting line yesterday was 12 hours - and people actually waited. I repeat: 12 hours. Would many of you wait for 12 hours before voting? It seems like the fear of disenfranchisement among African-Americans is pushing for massive early turnout.
  • In North Carolina, more than 200,000 voters cast a ballot yesterday alone, bringing the total above 1,4 million. That accounts for 22% of registered voters and 40% of the 2004 electorate. African-Americans make up 28,1% of early voters (they made up 19% of the 2004 electorate), and the partisan breakdown is: 54,1% Democratic, 28,1% Republican. That is actually a significant improvement for Republicans over the breakdown through yesterday.
  • Further confirmation of North Carolina’s statewide trends comes from county-specific data: Early voting turnout in heavily Democratic and heavily African-American Durham County, for instance, is remarkably high.
  • Louisiana might not be suspenseful at the presidential level, but the Senate race is competitive and early voting data offers us another look at black turnout: 34,3% of early voters are African-American for now (that is a smaller uptick than in other states, as African-Americans make up nearly 32% of the population according to the 2006 census estimates). Democrats outnumber Republicans 2:1.
  • In Florida, more than 2 million voters have already cast a ballot, accounting for 18% of registered voters and 27% of the 2004 electorate. The partisan breakdown is narrower than in other states (45-40 for Democrats) because of Republican success in implementing their absentee voter program, but far more Democrats are voting early in person, so the gap could widen.
  • In Colorado, a 25% of registered voters have already cast their ballot, accounting for 37,9% of the 2004 electorate. The partisan breakdown is outdated, however.
  • In Oregon, 18% of registered voters had returned their ballot by mail as of Monday (that means that all ballots mailed over the week-end are not yet included in the totals).
  • In Nevada, we can take a detailed look at the state’s 2 biggest counties (Clark and Washoe), which account for 87% of the state’s registered voters. In both states, the first week of early voting had Democrats turning out in incredible numbers - but Republicans have been voting in greater numbers over the past 3 days. That said, Democrats retain a commanding advantage.
  • In Clark County (which Kerry won by 5% in 2004) 34% of all registered voters have already cast a ballot. 54% of early voters are Democrats while 29% are Republicans; put it another way, 38% of registered Democrats have already voted, while 33% of registered Republicans have voted.
  • In swing Washoe County, which Bush won by 4%, 26% of all registered voters have already cast a ballot. 51% of early voters are Democratic and 33% are Republican - a far bigger advantage than the registration breakdown.

Now, this is not to say that the final voter breakdown will be anything like it is now, and polls indicate that far more Republican-leaning voters will vote on November 4th (PPP provides some detail in its new North Carolina survey: 49% of African-American likely voters have already cast a ballot versus 29% of white likely voters).

This does mean, however, that the Democratic base is enthusiastic, is heavily turning out this week - and will probably heavily turn out next week. In particular, it now looks guaranteed that there will be a significant boost in African-American turnout, boosting Democratic prospects. Obama’s turnout machine is functioning, and the burden is now on Republicans to demonstrate that they can match it. Given that this turnout gap is something we witnessed throughout the primary season, it will not necessarily be easy for Republicans to do. Can they really bring a 2:1 gap in Nevada and North Carolina all the way down to where it should be?

Also: while early voters are more likely to be partisans who would never change their mind rather than wavering voters who are locking in their votes while still being persuadable, early voting turnout is huge enough in some states (especially Colorado and North Carolina) that a number of voters who might have still moved back towards McCain might have already cast their ballot for Obama.

Update: Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist just signed an executive order extending early voting hours in the Sunshine state, meaning that polls will now be open twelve hours a day rather than eight hours. Given how much effort Obama has put into boosting early voting in Florida, this is a major boost to his campaign and it should help Democrats get as many sporadic voters to the polls as they can while reducing lines and smoothing the process. Republicans are clearly not happy about this, though it will be difficult for them to complain too much given that Crist is a McCain surrogate - albeit an atypical one.

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.

12th presidential ratings: Three states to watch in closing week

Forget for a minute the dozen red states that Obama is contesting. There are, at this point, only three states to watch: Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado.

Obama is now substantially ahead in all of these states. In fact, all three are now rated “likely Obama,” marking the first time any red state other than Iowa and New Mexico have entered that category. All Obama needs to do to win the presidency is retain his advantage in Pennsylvania and in one of the two other states. So for the next 8 days, instead of getting nervous or excited about the latest development in Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina or Florida, keep an eye on polls from these three states: As long as Obama remains in control in Pennsylvania and either Virginia or Colorado, McCain has no path to the White House.

Things get only worse for the Republican nominee if we are to look at other red states that are being contested. Even if McCain somehow manages to pull out a victory in the Keystone State, Obama could easily replace the missing electoral votes with one of six other highly competitive red states - one of which make its first entrance in the lean Obama column (Ohio).

The conclusion is obvious: McCain will not win a state-by-state battle, nor on the basis of his ground game. To pull this through, he will need to dramatically shift the national numbers in order to solidify his position in the more Republican of the toss-up states (NC, IN, MO) while pulling Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio back into play. The trouble, of course, is that it is extremely difficult to alter the fundamentals of a race this late in the game - not to mention that many voters in some key swing states (in particular Colorado and North Carolina) have already cast their ballot.

Without further delay, here are the twelfth presidential ratings (states whose ratings have been changed towards Obama are colored blue, those whose ratings have been changed towards McCain are colored red):

  • Safe McCain: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska (at large + 3rd congressional district), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming (116 EVs)
  • Likely McCain: Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska’s 1st district, South Dakota (20 EVs)
  • Lean McCain: Georgia, Nebraska’s 2nd district, West Virginia (21 EVs)
  • Toss-up: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota (75 EV)
  • Lean Obama:, New Hampshire, Ohio (24 EVs)
  • Likely Obama: Colorado, Iowa, Maine (at-large + 1st district + 2nd district), Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin (122 EVs)
  • Safe Obama: California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont (160 EVs)

This gives us the following map and totals:

  • Safe + Likely Obama: 282 electoral votes
  • Safe + Likely + Lean Obama: 306
  • Toss-up: 75
  • Safe + Likely + Lean McCain: 157
  • Safe + Likely McCain: 136

I will naturally not attempt to provide an explanation for every single one of these ratings and will concentrate instead on those that have shifted over the past week:

Colorado, lean Obama to likely Obama: Obama has moved in such a dominant position in Colorado that the McCain campaign has scaled back its advertisement in the state. Given how important these 9 electoral votes are to McCain’s chances, they certainly did not take this decision lightly, and it is telling that McCain strategists think they have a better shot in Pennsylvania than in Colorado. One explanation to this is the high pace of early voting: As of Friday, a remarkable 25% of all registered voters had already cast their ballot, making it that much more difficult for McCain to pull off a comeback since hundreds of thousands of ballots were cast during a very favorable time for the Illinois Senator.

(If there is any doubt that Obama is ahead, consider these two polling facts: McCain has led in only two polls since the Democratic convention, both of which were in September; and McCain has never led by more than three points in any poll of the state - and even that “high-point” was only reached twice.)

Florida, lean Obama to toss-up: I still believe that Florida tilts ever so slightly in Obama’s direction, but it is difficult not to take into account the fact that Florida is the one state that has been clearly trending Republican over the past ten days. After a period of Democratic dominance, the latest polls from Insider Advantage, PPP, Strategic Vision, Mason Dixon, Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, SUSA and Research 2000 have all found McCain a trendline towards McCain, sometimes with big swings. That McCain recaptured the lead in a number of these surveys (including in the very respected Mason Dixon polls) underscores that the Sunshine State is still not lost by the Republican nominee. Sure, this trend is not in line with what we are observing elsewhere in the country, but neither are Florida’s demographics. Furthermore, for all the talk about McCain’s lack of organization in Florida and about the state GOP panicking, early indications suggest that Republicans have managed to pull off strong results in their absentee voter program.

Montana, lean McCain to toss-up: Finally, a pollster included Ron Paul in a Montana trial heat, and the results showed the former presidential candidate who now appears on the state ballot on the Constitution Party line gathering more than 4% of the vote - which is exactly the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain. And it was Obama who was in the lead, confirming what we have been seeing in polls from neighboring North Dakota: The Mountain West is back in play. And while the Illinois Senator pulled out of North Dakota in mid-September, he never scaled back his investments in Montana. The state’s 3 electoral votes are unlikely to prove decisive, but they would prove to be an icing on Obama’s cake.

Ohio, toss-up to lean Obama: Ohio looked like the battleground state most resistant to swing towards Obama, but it seems to have inched away towards the Democratic nominee as he solidified his support among registered Democrats. In fact, Obama led by double-digits in three polls over the past week (Quinnipiac, Big 10 and Insider Advantage), a significant development given that he had never led by such a margin since he wrapped up the nomination. While other polls show a tighter margin (or even a narrow McCain lead in Mason Dixon and Rasmussen), most have the state trending towards Obama. The Democrats’ early voting efforts appear to be paying off (though we have less detailed information than in GA or NC). That said, Ohio is still highly competitive, and will remain so until we can be assured that Obama will not drown in Appalachian counties.

Oregon, likely Obama to safe Obama: That a state that voted for Kerry by 4% is now rated safe Obama is clear evidence of how much the political environment has changed over the past four years. Obama has not led by single-digit in an Oregon poll since mid-September, and his edge has extended to as big a margin as 17% in a recent poll. The reason that the state is now being rated in the safe category - underscoring that a McCain comeback is not even conceivable - is that Election Day is happening right now in Oregon, as the voting is conducted entirely by mail and ballots have to have arrived by November 4th to be valid. That means that even a last-minute game changer would be unlikely to take the state’s electoral votes away from Obama.

Virginia, lean Obama to likely Obama: A state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 now finds itself at the top of Barack Obama’s pick-up list. McCain hasn’t led in a single poll conducted in July, and Obama has jumped to a relatively consistent high single-digit lead that is sometimes hitting the double-digit mark. Furthermore, this is a state in which Obama has a definite organizational advantage. Not only has his campaign registered hundreds of thousands of voters and should benefit from the boost in black turnout we are observing in Georgia and North Carolina, but the GOP focused on Virginia late and does not have the type of ground game Democrats will enjoy. (50% of respondents in a recent Washington Post poll said they had personally been contacted by the Obama campaign, far more than had been contacted by his opponent). One good news for McCain is that Virginia has limited early voting, so it would not be too late for McCain to close the gap if a late breaking development were to occur.

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

Poll watch: Opposite trends in OH and FL, Bachmann in trouble, GA Senate heading to runoff

Today’s polling roundup is certainly not as favorable to Barack Obama as yesterday’s, but there is still no sign that the tide is turning - with only 10 days of campaigning left before Election Day. The national polls, for one, remain where they have been for most of the past two weeks: Obama is above 50% in six of the seven tracking polls (a remarkable showing that confirms McCain has to do more than appeal to the undecided) while McCain is, once again, stuck in the low 40s (from 41% to 45%).

The one state in which McCain has not only stopped the bleeding but appears to be making up ground, however, is Florida. Over the past week, new surveys from Politico, Mason Dixon, Quinnipiac, PPP, Rasmussen, SUSA and Research 2000 all showed some movement (between 10% and 1%) towards the Republican nominee. That said, Obama remains ahead in a number of these surveys, and the best McCain can muster remains within the margin of error. The day’s second good news for McCain is a Rasmussen survey from North Carolina in which he is narrowly in the lead; this survey breaks a stunning series of 16 North Carolina polls without a McCain lead.

The overall picture that comes out of the day’s polling has little to suggest that McCain’s position in the electoral college is any less precarious than it was yesterday. That grabbing a 2% lead in North Carolina amounts to good news for McCain tell us all we need to know about the current dynamics and where the electoral battle is being waged. Besides North Carolina, the tightest states in this polling roundup are Indiana (where two polls find mirroring results) and… Georgia, where Obama grabs his first lead ever!

All three of these states were won by Bush by double-digits in 2004 - and they are the ones that look highly competitive today! The states that were expected to be tight continue to tilt towards Obama - and that is starting to include Ohio. Yes, McCain posts a 3% lead in a Strategic Vision poll, but Insider Advantage gives Obama a 10% lead which is very significant: No poll taken since the general election started had found Obama up by double-digits… until yesterday. Insider Advantage’s poll is the third poll in two days to have Obama leading by such a margin. On to the full polling roundup:

  • The tracking polls once again seem to converge towards the 7% mark, a margin that appears to be the epicenter of the race. Obama gains 3% in IBD/TIPP (46% to 42%), 2% in Research 2000 (52% to 40%) and Hotline (50% to 43%), 1% in Gallup (51% to 44%). Rasmussen remains stable, 52% to 45%. He loses 2% in Zogby (51% to 41%) and in Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%). Thus, Obama’s leads today are: 4%, 7%, 7%, 7%, 9%, 10%, 12%
  • Ohio: Contrasting results and a wide gap in two polls: Obama leads by 10% in an Insider Advantage poll, his third double-digit lead in two days (there have been no others since he wrapped up the nomination), and he led by 5% in IA two weeks ago. However he trails 48% to 45% in a Strategic Vision poll of Ohio (he led by 2% two weeks ago).
  • North Carolina: McCain captures his first lead in a Rasmussen poll since September 18th, 50% to 48%. The poll was conducted last night, and it is a five point shift towards the Republican over a poll conducted on Saturday. This poll breaks a stunning series of 16 NC polls in which McCain had not led a single time.
  • Indiana: Contrasting results from two good pollsters: Obama leads 49% to 45% in a SUSA poll. McCain led by 3% three weeks ago. McCain leads 48% to 43% in a Mason Dixon poll.
  • New Hampshire: Obama leads 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll taken yesterday. He led by 10% three weeks ago, however, so there is some tightening.
  • Georgia: Obama leads 48% to 47% in a stunning Insider Advantage poll (this is the fourth IA poll in a row to find Obama gaining since McCain’s 18% lead in early September). McCain leads 50% to 44% in Strategic Vision.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 52% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll, maintaining his 8% lead from late September.
  • Michigan: Obama leads 54% to 40% in an EPIC-MRA poll (up from 10%).
  • Winthrop/ETV released three Southern polls today, all taken over an inexplicably long period of time: September 29th through October 19th! This means that these polls have very little value, but here they are nonetheless: Obama leads by 1% in Virginia and North Carolina and McCain leads by 20% in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Georgia Senate race: Three polls show a tight race, all with GOP Sen. Chambliss leading within the MoE. He is ahead 44% to 42% in Insider Advantage (there was a 45% tie two weeks ago). Chambliss is also ahead 46% to 44% in a Strategic Vision poll, with 5% for Libertarian candidate Buckley.
  • North Carolina gubernatorial race: Pat McCrory leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll. He led by the same margin two weeks ago.
  • In MN-06, Elwin Tinklenberg leads GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann 47% to 44% in a SUSA poll. He also leads 45% to 43% in a University of Minnesota poll, in which 40% of respondents say Bachmann’s rants makes them less likely to vote for her.
  • In IL-10, Dan Seals leads 49% to 44% against GOP Rep. Kirk in a Research 2000 poll. He trailed by 6% two weeks ago.
  • In KY-03, Rep. Yarmuth (D) leads 57% to 41% in a SUSA poll.
  • In FL-08, Alan Grayson leads 52% to 41% against GOP Rep. Keller in a DCCC internal. The Keller campaign responded by releasing an internal poll of their own taken over the same period and showing the incumbent ahead 47% to 43%.

The Georgia Senate race is in a category of its own at this point. Not only is it highly competitive (and the DSCC has already poured in more than $1 million), but the candidacy of Libertarian candidate Buckley could guarantee that the race goes in the runoff because of Georgia’s two-round of voting system. We can discuss another time who a runoff would help (and in my opinion it would clearly boost Chambliss), but for now an important metric is to look at how distant those candidates are from 50%.

In House races, meanwhile, the 5 independent polls all bring good news for Democrats - particularly the two from MN-06 that confirm that Bachmann’s comments have endangered her hold on the district. The polls were taken before the DCCC and Tinklenberg’s heavily funded ads had any chance to make an impact, so things could get worse for Bachmann.

Poll watch: Obama leads big in OH, PA, FL, IN and more; Franken narrowly ahead

The clock is running out, and the only good news for McCain today is a IBD/TIPP poll that has him only down 1%. But just like yesterday’s AP poll, that appears to be an outlier as seven other national polls show Obama firmly in command (not to mention that IBD/TIPP has McCain with more than 70% among 18-24 year-old respondents). In fact, Obama leads by double-digits in four of the day’s survey, and McCain remains stuck in the low 40s (39% to 45%) in all eight - including IBD/TIPP.

State polls are even more decisive, and they are breaking in favor of Obama rather than against him. Today’s line-up of surveys has Obama posting some big margins across the country, and what is significant is that these surveys come from different institutes, some of which have not been particularly friendly to the Democrat before (National Journal/All State or Big10, for instance). Obama leads by double-digits in five polls of Pennsylvania, three polls of Minnesota, two polls of Wisconsin, two polls of Ohio and one poll each of Michigan, Iowa and Indiana.

Obama also leads outside of the margin of error in two Florida surveys (something McCain has not done in a single Florida poll for four weeks) and captures a narrow advantage in Montana in the first poll that (finally) includes Ron Paul’s name. He is within striking distance in Georgia, where early voting turnout confirms that he has a shot at making the race very close.

Needless to say, Obama needs to capture very few of the states I just mentioned. If he wins just one of the Big Three (OH, PA and FL), he will be in a very good position to capture the presidency; two would ensure victory; and even an (at this point unlikely) defeat in all three would certainly not be the end of his ambitions: A sweep of Colorado, Virginia and Nevada (or any of these replaced by Indiana, Missouri or North Carolina) could replace the Keystone State. With all of this in mind, let’s go on to today’s full roundup:

  • Obama maintains a double-digit lead in the latest NYT/CBS poll. He is ahead 52% to 39% (he led by 14% last week). He leads by 6% among independents. 62% feel “personally connected” to Obama, 47% to McCain; more voters think Obama has the right temperament and personality to be president, and more voters think Obama would handle a crisis well. Palin’s favorability rating remains negative.
  • Obama keeps his dominant position in the tracking polls. He gains 2% in Zogby (52% to 40%) and 1% in Rasmussen (52% to 45%). The race stays stable in Hotline (48% to 43%), ABC/Washington Post (54% to 43%) and Research 2000 (51% to 41%). Obama slips 1% in Gallup (51% to 45%) and 3% in IBD/TIPP (where he is only up 1%, 45% to 44%). That puts Obama’s lead in the day’s trackings at: 1%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 10%, 11%, 12%.
  • Ohio: Obama leads by double-digits in two new polls, his biggest leads ever in the state. He leads 52% to 38% in a Quinnipiac survey (he led by 8% three weeks ago). He leads 53% to 41% in a Big 10 Battleground poll.
  • Florida: Obama leads outside of the MoE in two new surveys. He is ahead 49% to 44% in a new Quinnipiac poll (he led by 8% three weeks ago). He leads 49% to 42% in a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll. Obama seizes a big lead among independents in the latter, which was taken Monday through Wednesday.
  • Indiana: Obama leads 51% to 41% in a Big10 poll. The race was tied in mid-September.
  • Michigan: Obama leads by a stunning 58% to 36% in a Big10 poll.
  • Georgia: McCain leads 51% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll. McCain led by 9% two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Proposition 8 is losing 52% to 44% in a PPIC poll. However, the “no” was ahead 55% to 41% five weeks ago.
  • Minnesota’s Senate race: Democrat Al Franken narrowly leads in two polls. In Rasmussen, he is ahead 41% to 37% with 17% for Barkley. Two weeks ago, Franken led by 6%. In a University of Wisconsin poll, he is ahead 40% to 34% with 15% for Barkley.
  • In Kentucky’s Senate race, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell leads 47% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll.
  • In Georgia’s Senate race, GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss leads 47% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll. He led by 6% two weeks ago.
  • In Louisiana’s Senate race, Democratic Sen. Landrieu leads 53% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll. She led by 14% last month.
  • In Washington’s gubernatorial race, Democratic Gov. Gregoire leads 50% to 48% in a Rasmussen poll.
  • In IL-11, Democrat Debby Halvorson leads 50% to 37% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In PA-12, Democratic Rep. Murtha is only up 46% to 41% in a new Susquehanna poll.
  • In WA-08, Democrat Darcy Burner storms back to grab a 50% to 46% lead in a new SUSA poll. Reichert trailed by 10% three weeks ago.
  • In MI-09, Democrat Gary Peters leads 46% to 36% against Rep. Knollenberg in a DCCC internal.
  • In OH-15, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy leads 44% to 36% in a DCCC poll. She led by the same margin three three weeks ago.
  • In AL-02, Democrat Bobby Bright leads 50% to 43% in a DCCC poll.

Senate: It is difficult to know what to make of the Minnesota Senate race. Barkley is holding stable just under 20%, but his support is not firm: It could end up at a far lower point, but it could also end up rising if voters come to think he has a chance of pulling it off. In either case, it is impossible to know how that would affect Coleman and Franken’s totals.

House: Democrats get great news from SUSA. Darcy Burner appeared to be fading in WA-08, but she has now led in three polls in a row. The first two were Democratic polls, now an independent pollster confirms her comeback. IL-11 was once going to be an easy pick-up before GOP candidate Ozinga proved surprisingly resilient. Now, the Democratic surge appears to have buried Republican prospects of a come-from-behind victory here.

Furthermore, a trio of DCCC poll completes the strong news for Democrats, especially when combined with the NRCC pulling out of MI-09. That said, Susquehanna’s poll from PA-12 confirms the Democrats’ worst fear that Rep. Murtha’s recent comments about his districts has endangered his re-election prospects.



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