Archive for the 'LA-Pres' Category

13th presidential ratings: One last attempt at finding McCain’s path to victory

We have been talking so much about Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina that it would also seem that Barack Obama’s electoral fortunes depend on these highly competitive states. If that were true, we would be in for quite an unpredictable Election Day indeed.

Unfortunately for McCain, a sweep of those states - even if we add Florida, Ohio, Georgia to his column - would get him no closer to the fundamental challenge he faces if he wants to reach 270 electoral votes: closing the gap in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada and Virginia.

As it is looking increasingly unlikely that McCain can save Colorado given the huge share of the electorate that has already voted, all Obama needs is to hold on to Pennsylvania. The battle of Pennsylvania is sometimes portrayed as a sign McCain is still on the offensive, but this is the ultimate defensive move dictated by the need to survive.

Even if McCain can tap into the discontent of culturally conservative Democratic voters and somehow prove all Pennsylvania polls wrong, he would still face an uphill climb as he would also have to win one of Colorado, Nevada and Virginia - all states that are currently rated likely Obama. This is certainly not an easy proposal, especially in the two Southwestern states in which Obama has already locked in big majorities in early voting. And a McCain comeback in Pennsylvania would not necessarily mean that he has closed the gap in Virginia since the electoral coalitions Obama needs to assemble to win both states are different enough.

All of this suggests that Pennsylvania and Virginia are the states to watch tomorrow night, as it is difficult to imagine - though still technically possible - that Obama loses the election if he wins either of those states.

None of this is to underestimate the importance of Florida and Ohio: Both states lean ever so slightly towards the Democratic nominee, and a win in either state would surely guarantee him an electoral college majority. (The same is true in any of the other competitive red states, and the Obama organization is so dominant in some of them that for him to win there but not in other states would not surprise me.) But saying that the election’s fate is in the hands of Florida, Ohio or in states other than Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada would be overstating McCain’s chances of survival.

Since the first presidential ratings I posted on June 4th, there has been an unmistakable shift towards Obama. Of the nine states that were then rated toss-ups (CO, MI, NV, NH, NM, OH, PA, VA and WI), eight are now in the likely Obama column and one in the lean Obama column; all states that were rated lean McCain are now toss-ups, and all states that were rated lean Obama are now likely Obama. And the GOP base has significantly eroded: Of the eight states that were listed as likely McCain, four are now toss-ups - as would Alaska have been had McCain not picked Sarah Palin as his running-mate.

Without further delay, here are the thirteenth 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, Mississippi, Nebraska (at large + 3rd congressional district), Oklahoma, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming (99 EVs)
  • Likely McCain: Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska’s 1st district, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia (29 EVs)
  • Lean McCain: Arizona, Nebraska’s 2nd district (11 EVs)
  • Toss-up: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota (85 EV)
  • Lean Obama: Ohio (20 EVs)
  • Likely Obama: Colorado, Iowa, Maine (at-large + 1st district + 2nd district), Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin (96 EVs)
  • Safe Obama: California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington (185 EVs)

This gives us the following map and totals:

  • Safe + Likely Obama: 286 electoral votes
  • Safe + Likely + Lean Obama: 311
  • Toss-up: 85
  • Safe + Likely + Lean McCain: 142
  • Safe + Likely McCain: 128

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:

Arizona, likely McCain to lean McCain: This seemingly last-minute development was a long time coming: Arizona polls have shown a surprisingly tight race for months, and McCain’s first signs of vulnerability came when he failed to break 50% in the state’s primary on Super Tuesday. But no one really believed that McCain’s home state could possibly be that competitive and, despite some occasional noise about an optimistic state Democratic Party, the Obama campaign did not make a move. Until this week, that is, when a big wave of polls showing McCain’s lead within the margin of error forced Obama into action; his campaign bought air time in Arizona and mobilized state volunteers.

It’s hard to think of a scenario in which Arizona is the decisive state, but at the very least, Arizona’s yearning to be a battleground state is a very good sign for Democrats in future presidential elections, and it will pay dividends at the House level, where Democrats are poised to pick up one to two seats after the two they won over in 2006.

Georgia, lean McCain to toss-up: It’s hard to believe that we are thinking of Georgia as a battleground state - let alone as a toss-up - but until Republicans prove that they are enthusiastic enough to actually vote, they are facing a catastrophe in the state: More than half of the electorate cast an early ballot, and African-Americans make up 35% of those voters - up from the 25% they represented in 2004. If strong Republican and white turnout on Tuesday does not push that number south to 30-31%, Barack Obama will be ideally placed for a (somewhat unexpected) pick-up. His campaign had invested in the state throughout the summer but went dark in mid-September, in the aftermath of the GOP convention; they are now back, airing at least one of ad tying McCain to President Bush.

Louisiana, safe McCain to likely McCain: Merely mentioning this state in the context of presidential politics would have been unthinkable just a month ago, but in the current climate an upset cannot be ruled out in any states that have a history of voting Democratic. Of course, Louisiana’s situation is complicated by the post-Katrina migrations, and no one truly knows whether the African-American population is large enough for a Democrat to pull off victory in a competitive race here. Mary Landrieu’s fate is, of course, far more dependent on this question than Obama’s.

Nevada, toss-up to likely Obama: Different forces have conspired to make Nevada look like a likely Obama pick-up. For one, he dominates among Hispanics by margins that Al Gore and John Kerry would be jealous of, as well as among the West’s independent voters, who have always been one of his strongest constituencies. Polls released over the past 10 days by CNN/Time, Suffolk, Research 2000 show Obama has jumped to a commanding lead that rivals his advantage in Colorado. As if this was not enough, early voting is looking very promising for Obama. In Clark County and Washoe County, which together account for 87% of registered voters, the gap between Democratic and Republican early voters is far larger than that of the electorate at large; if conservatives do not vote at a far higher pace, the GOP could not only lose the state at the presidential level but also one or both of its House seats.

New Hampshire, lean Obama to likely Obama: I am weary of underestimating McCain in this state, but all polls have shown a very clear trend towards the Democrat over the past few weeks, who now leads by double-digits in most polls. The UNH/WMUR, surely the most trusted poll in the state, just released its final survey showing Obama leading by 11% and holding a big lead among independents. Who knew New Hampshire independents would prove McCain’s undoing?

New Jersey, likely Obama to safe Obama: Once upon a time, Republicans believed that the September 11th effect would swing the Garden State their way, and Bush made a lot of progress in this state between 2000 and 2004. How times have changed, as Obama has now seized a dominant lead in nearly all of the state’s polling. New Jersey typically flirts with Republicans for a while before giving itself to a Democrat reluctantly, but even that pattern hasn’t really held true this year, as McCain only came close to making the state competitive in the immediate aftermath of the Republican convention.

South Carolina, safe McCain to likely McCain: Just as in Louisiana, an Obama victory in South Carolina would mean that the Democratic nominee is on his way to an electoral college landslide of well above 400 EVs. But if Obama clinches a 10% win in the popular vote, it’s not inconceivable that states like South Carolina would fall in his column. A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed McCain leading by only 6% in a state Bush carried by 17%. The boost in African-American turnout that we have been seeing in other states’ early voting could help Obama close the gap by a few more points.

Washington, likely Obama to safe Obama: Just as he believed he could put the Northeast in play, John McCain once had ambitions in the Pacific Northwest. But Barack Obama’s uncommon strength among the region’s independents (evidenced by the fact that this was the one region in which Obama ran consistently ahead of Hillary Clinton in general election polls) undercut McCain’s potential; also helping Obama is the fact that blue-collar voters in the West are less resistant, making it easier for him to unify the Democratic base. The result is an impressive lead that would have made Al Gore jealous. The main question in this state is whether Obama’s margin of victory is big enough to guarantee that Gregoire survives.

West Virginia, lean McCain to likely McCain: The site of Hillary Clinton’s greatest triumph was the most unlikely of states for Barack Obama to score an upset; the state is filled with blue-collar white Democrats who have not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for more than a decade. But a wave of polls in late September and early October showed a highly competitive contest, and Obama (presumably not sure of what to do with the millions he had in the bank) decided to invest in the state’s airwaves. However, Obama has been unable to make more progress over the past few weeks, and most polls that have been released over the past three weeks have McCain solidifying his position and holding a lead that hovers around the 10% mark. Obama was not even able to force McCain to spend time playing defense here. That said, that the state even got on the list of potential battleground states is a testament to how much the economic crisis transformed the presidential race.

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in presidential polling:

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

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

Morning polls: ARG releases wave of state surveys, PPP polls Virginia

American Research Group just released an unusually large collection of state polls. Though some of the most competitive battlegrounds (FL, PA, MI, NH, VA) are missing, this certainly gives us a good idea of the field of play heading in the final run. Overall, more swing states favor McCain (he narrowly leads in Colorado and Nevada, more comfortably in Ohio and by double-digits in North Carolina), but most numbers are well within the margin of error and Obama gets some good results as well (he leads in New Mexico and is very competitive in both Montana and West Virginia).

First, some other presidential polls that have been released since last night - including a new poll from Virginia:

  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a national poll released this morning by Reuters/Zogby. This is a 7% shift in his favor since the August poll. The poll was taken from Thursday through Saturday. Both candidates get 89% of their party’s vote.
  • There is a tie at 45% in another national poll, released by AP Ipsos. The poll was taken Thursday through Monday and is a one point gain for Obama since last week’s survey that found McCain up 1.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a PPP poll from Virginia. This is the 4th PPP poll in a row to find Obama leading by 2%. Obama gets 91% of Democrats but trails among independents by 17%.
  • Obama leads McCain 52% to 36% in a Field poll of California. Sarah Palin’s favorability rating is by far the worst of the four candidates.
  • Obama leads 55% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of New York. McCain had 32% in August and 28% in July.

No surprises, nor anything particularly stunning in those surveys, though they confirm that the race has moved back to a dead heat nationally. Democrats will also be reassured by PPP’s Virginia poll, as McCain seems to have gained ground in other swing states (PA, OH, MN) but not Virginia. Now, on to ARG’s polls, starting with those from competitive states. All polls have a margin of error of 4%, and they have not all been taken at the same time:

  • McCain leads 50% to 44% in Ohio. The poll was taken the 10th to the 13th. Obama only gets 79% of the Democratic vote. (The partisan breakdown is much more Republican than most polls that have been released of late; SUSA’s poll last week had a 9% edge for Democrats but this one is equal.)
  • McCain leads 46% to 44% in Colorado. The poll was also taken the 10th to the 13th. There are more Republicans than Democrats, and Obama leads by 14% among Democrats.
  • McCain leads 49% to 46% in Nevada. Here again, more Republicans are polled than Democrats but Obama leads among independents. The poll was taken over the week-end.
  • Obama leads 51% to 44% in New Mexico. Democrats make up 51% of the sample (40% in 2004) and Obama leads among independents.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in Montana. Ron Paul was not included, and neither were Barr and Nader in a state in which third party candidates could make a difference. The poll was conducted early, the 7th to the 9th.
  • McCain leads 49% to 45% in West Virginia.
  • McCain leads 52% to 41% in North Carolina, a disappointing result for Obama who only gets 25% among white voters. The poll was conducted over this week-end.
  • McCain leads 50% to 45% in Missouri. The poll was conducted Thursday through Monday.
  • Obama leads 51% to 41% in Maine.
  • McCain leads 58% to 36% in Alabama, 55% to 39% in Alaska, 56% to 39% in Arizona, 68% to 25% in Idaho, 63% to 31% in Kansas, 57% to 37% in Kentucky, 50% to 43% in Louisiana, 57% to 36% in Texas, 65% to 29% in Utah and 66% to 28% in Wyoming.
  • Obama leads 82% to 13% in DC, 51% to 40% in Delaware, 63% to 32% in Hawaii, 51% to 45% in Illinois, 55% to 38% in New York, 59% to 33% in Rhode Island.

It is remarkable how few surprises there are in these polls, with most results - including those in Ohio, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico - tracking the average of recent polls from these states. Colorado and Nevada confirm that they are among the ultimate toss-ups of this year’s contest. The least expected results are surely those from West Virginia (this is the second poll in a row to find a competitive race), Illinois (does anything think Obama has something to fear there) and North Carolina, where pollsters seem unable to find a coherent model and where numbers are all over the place - from a 2% race to a 20% race.

Obama will also be reassured by the Montana poll, as the only recent survey we had seen (from Rasmussen) had McCain surging to a lead in the aftermath of the convention. The question facing his campaign now is whether to invest in West Virginia, a state that had long been ruled out for Obama because of his problems in Appalachia. There have been rumblings of that as of late, but no sign for now that Democrats will move in there. [Update, and partial correction: As Ben points out in the comments section, Obama ads are running in many of the state's markets because of overlap with advertising in neighboring states. The same is true for McCain in New Jersey.]

McCain takes back FL lead, gains nationally and in NC: How significant is this summer tightening?

[Updated with new Indiana poll!] It’s a good thing for Democrats that their convention is just around the corner and that they will soon regain control of the race with Obama’s vice-presidential pick. While none of these polls are particularly alarming - Obama is ahead in both national surveys within the margin of error in Florida and leading outside of it in Pennsylvania - they certainly don’t stop the storyline that McCain has had a strong few weeks:

  • A national poll released by Quinnipiac finds Obama leading 47% to 42% - down from the 9% lead he had last month. That includes 79% of Democrats, versus 83% of Republicans for McCain, and a 6% lead among independents. Obama has a strong lead among women, 53% to 39%. Respondents say they would trust McCain more to deal with Russia - confirming that Obama has work to do on national security.
  • In a second national poll released by the LA Times, Obama is up 45% to 43% (by only 1% when Barr and Nader are included), but he was leading by 12% last month (15% when leaners were included). The poll also finds that 35% “have questions” about Obama’s patriotism. In another sign that McCain’s month of negative ads is working, Obama’s favorability rating has dropped from 59% to 48%! But there are worrisome signs for McCain as well: Obama is more trusted on the economy, 75% think the country is on the wrong track and his supporters are far more enthusiastic.
  • UPDATE: SUSA released the very first poll from Indiana in two months this evening. The previous survey (also taken by SUSA) had Obama up 48% to 47% - a stunning result that had not been confirmed by any other poll. Today, McCain leads 50% to 44% - but considering that we had gotten no confirmation that the race in this very red state was that tight, it would be unfair to consider this SUSA poll as McCain gaining.
  • A month after Obama inched ahead in Florida (polling history) for the first time in Rasmussen polls, John McCain is back in front - but within the margin of error, 46% to 43% (48% to 46% with leaners). Obama might be alone on air, but his favorability rating is very weak (49% versus 48% unfavorable), especially relative to McCain’s very strong numbers (61% to 36%!). Obama needs to improve his share of the Democratic vote (78%).
  • In North Carolina (polling history), McCain also posts some gains in Civitas’s latest poll. Leading by 3% last month, he is now ahead by 6%, 46% to 40%. To the extent that African-Americans only represent 18% of the sample, a bit lower than the 19-20% they represented in 2004, it is not surprising that Obama is trailing.
  • In Pennsylvania (polling history), Susquehanna finds Obama holding on to a lead, 46% to 41% despite getting only 73% of Democrats. The institute’s last poll was taken in May and had Obama leading by 7%. Obama’s numbers among African-Americans are outstanding (98%-0%) but McCain is very strong in the Southwest (up by 18%); that’s a region Hillary Clinton did well in and where McCain is hoping to appeal to white working-class Democrats.
  • Worrisome news for Obama in Minnesota, where SUSA finds him ahead within the margin of error 47% to 45%. SUSA’s previous poll from the state had a 1% race, so it is not technically a tightening - but most polls had found Obama leading by healthier margins up until the past few weeks.
  • In Louisiana, there is no surprise in Rasmussen’s latest poll: McCain leads 55% to 38% (57% to 39% with leaners).

Both the Quinnipiac and LA Times national poll have Obama falling from the double-digit region to the 2-5% leads that most polls have shown him hovering around over the past few weeks. That’s the good news for Obama - he has been pounded by McCain over the past 5 weeks, took a 6-day vacation, and he is now preparing to enter a period in which his financial dominance will be more useful; yet, McCain’s gains are still leaving him short in national surveys. And Obama is confirming his good dispositions in Pennsylvania - a crucial battleground state in which he has led by at least 5% in every July-August poll.

That’s the good news Democrats can take out of this, but there is plenty of things to worry about as well: McCain’s gains in the LA Times poll and the Rasmussen results with leaners are outside the MoE and they seem to be accompanied with a successful redefinition of Obama, as concerns about the Democrat’s patriotism now appear to be definitely part of the political conversation. Furthermore, this is the third straight MN poll to find McCain pulling stunningly close - after Quinnipiac and Rasmussen. Finally, and this is something we have been talking about for a while, McCain is not even on air in Florida and North Carolina while Obama is spending millions in advertising; yet, here are two new polls finding McCain inching ahead there (this is the 5th straight FL poll released in August, and all have shown McCain ahead; Obama led in every FL survey taken in July).

As for Indiana, the release of that SUSA poll is sure to be among the highlights of this week’s polling: Obama has been spending money here but we had no indication of the state of the race. Given that Bush won the state by 20% in 2004, it was difficult to trust that SUSA poll without any further confirmation. While this survey’s result isn’t as good as that from June, it confirms that Indiana will be a battleground state and that Obama is not wasting his money here.

To sum up: on the one hand, Republicans were worried Obama would take a dominant lead over the summer, that did not happen. On the other hand, the Obama campaign believes it has laid the ground to take the lead in the fall; it knows it has a superior ground game and that it will dominate McCain financially, something it has not really tried to do over the summer months - but how much should there be worried that numbers are not moving in their direction in FL and NC?

These are among the last pre-convention polls that will be released. Soon, it will be a whole new ball game, and the VP picks and conventions will set the tone of the fall campaign. The state of the race on September 5th will surely be very different than that of August 24th - but voters’ impression of the candidates during the summer will surely play a large part of the fall dynamics. We will have to wait a few more weeks to know the significance of this summer tightening.

Ahead in CO and IA as he always has been, Obama now only needs… South Dakota?

First, my latest feature: the new Polls page, accessible from the bar at the top of the website. It is a compilation of every presidential, congressional and gubernatorial poll released from June 24th onward and provides a link to the poll and to the post in which I analyzed the survey. It is not meant to replace the excellent websites that aggregate polls (Pollster, RCP) but I thought it was a useful and necessary addition. While these websites’ presidential aggregates tend to be up-to-date, it’s often hard to find all the down-the-ballot polls.

Meanwhile, as the usually-prolific SUSA remains silent and has not released a poll since July 1st, Rasmussen continues to dominate our daily poll roundups and has released five of the day’s six presidential polls. PPP joined the party to bring us a survey from Colorado:

  • In the institute’s first numbers from Colorado, Obama leads 47% to 43%, just outside of the margin of error.
  • In Michigan, Rasmussen brings good news for Obama who increases his lead to a 47% to 39% advantage. A month ago, Obama led by 3% — and he trailed by 1% the month before that.
  • Rasmussen also confirms that Iowa is Obama’s best Bush state, as he has now opened a 10% lead against McCain, 51% to 41%. That’s up from a 7% lead last month.
  • In Minnesota, Obama has opened a huge lead in a state I moved to the “likely Obama” column two weeks ago: He is now up 52% to 34% with a 65% favorability rating! That’s up from a 13% lead last month.
  • In Louisiana, McCain increases his lead in the latest Rasmussen survey, 54% to 34%. He was ahead by 9% in the previous poll. Obama’s favorability rating (43%) is almost equal to the percentage of respondents who have a very unfavorable view of him (39%)!
  • Finally, Rasmussen delivers the shocker of the day from South Dakota: McCain is leading only 44% to 40%. In a Rasmussen poll four months ago, he was ahead by 10%.

While Colorado remains undoubtedly a toss-up, it is hard not to notice that the latest few polls have found Obama slightly ahead. In fact, I believe Iowa and Colorado are (the only) Bush states in which McCain has not led in a single poll (though it’s always been much closer in the latter). As for Iowa, he has a massive organization left over from the primary while McCain, who skipped the caucuses both in 2000 and this year, has nothing to start from. Iowa was long a Democratic state before going red in 2004 and it looks like the shifts in partisan affiliation combined with Obama’s organization in the state could be enough to get the state blue again.

Add those two states to Kerry’s 252 electoral votes and Obama would reach… 268 electoral votes, one short of a tie and two short of a majority. That gives you an idea of how important any other state is for Obama, not matter the size, not matter how few electoral votes it might have: even Omaha’s 1 electoral vote could complement the Iowa and Colorado combination.

This explains why even South Dakota’s 3 electoral votes are essential. George Bush beat John Kerry in 2004 by 22% but the Rasmussen poll confirms one of the most startling developments of this election: the Mountain West is looking up for grabs. Obama is actively contesting Montana and North Dakota: he is visiting and running ads in both states. South Dakota is not part of his list and is not expected to become a battleground state, but it seems that the entire region is less Republican than it used to be, and while truly Republican states like Idaho and Utah should remain out of reach, there are a lot of electoral votes that are slowly migrating towards the toss-up column.

To ND, SD and MT, also add two of Nebraska’s electoral votes. There is now enough to suggest that the Mountain West is more in play than 4 years ago and there will be a few changes to reflect that in my next electoral college ratings (this Wednesday). Note that while we have had multiple institutes/polls find tight races in ND and MT, this South Dakota finding still demands confirmation.

And Obama is on the offensive while defending his turf increasingly well: The Minnesota poll does not come alone, and it confirms that states like Washington and MN that McCain wanted to contest are getting out of reach for the GOP. And Michigan’s numbers are especially interesting: This is the Kerry state that the McCain campaign seems the most intent on picking-up and a wave of polls released from February and April looked like they ought to worry Democrats as McCain was regularly ahead in a state carried by both Gore and Kerry. But Obama’s numbers have been trending upward ever since, and while it is unlikely that Michigan will ever be a state he will have a comfortable lead in, it looks like Democrats are on the right track here.

Tuesday polls: Split Florida polls, Dole increases lead though NC is a presidential toss-up

For the second day in a row, Florida tops the list of the day’s interesting polls. Yesterday, Rasmussen showed John McCain holding on to a decent lead in the one state Republican strategist feel they are in a better position than they were in the past two elections. Today, two surveys found differing results:

  • PPP finds Obama and McCain in a toss-up with Obama ahead 46% to 44%.
  • Strategic Vision, meanwhile, shows McCain ahead more comfortably, 49% to 43%.

Florida polls have shown divergent results over the past few weeks, with Quinnipiac, ARG and PPP releasing results that are more encouraging for Democrats than those of Rasmussen and Stategic Vision (though Quinnipiac and PPP’s margins were both in the margin of error). The lack of a consistent McCain lead is by itself good news for Obama, since some had predicted the state would be out of play, but it is also means that there is nothing to dispel analyses that give a slight edge to the Republican candidate. I rated Florida “lean McCain” in my latest ratings, which is meant to underscore that the Sunshite State remains highly competitive.

All of this is to say that Florida will remain one of the hottest battlegrounds of this election but that McCain is better positioned than in states like Colorado and Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico. Florida Republicans resisted the Democratic tsunami in 2006 better than those in other states, and with early poll data suggesting that Floridians unexpectedly do not mind McCain’s stance on offshore driling, a potential issue Obama could have used is becoming more tricky. Furthermore, Obama’s strategy to not rely exclusively on OH and FL does not mean he will not contest these states, but it does mean that he will not focus on them with such obsession as to need them to be competitive for lack of any other electoral path.

Also today, two national polls are being released:

  • CNN’s survey finds Obama ahead 50% to 45%, a margin that seems to echo what many other polls have found. In a 4 way race, Obama gets 46% to McCain’s 43%, Nader’s 6% and Barr’s 3%. CNN points out that third-party candidates always poll much higher in the summer.
  • The poll also found that a quarter of respondents thought Obama lacked patriotism. That includes 40% of Republicans (who were unlikely to vote for Obama to start with) but also 29% of independents.
  • Meanwhile, the McLaughlin survey found Obama ahead 46% to 38% and ahead 43% to 30% among independents.
  • A key problem for McCain: Bush’s approval rating is at 37%, but among undecided voters, it stands at 26% (with 60% disapproving). Undecided voters in those polls are not necessarily median voters and they seem to be more eager to reject the GOP than the electorate at large.

The consitency with which polls are finding Obama slightly ahead is a good sign for Democrats, but these surveys will no doubt be taken well by Republicans as well. The McCain campaign is prepared to be behind and many GOPers realize the long odds their party faces this year. Their objective is to remain relatively close as Obama unifies his base, and beside the Newsweek and LA Times poll the margin has remained within single digits.

Other presidential polls today out today pclarify the situation in some other states:

  • PPP’s latest release from North Carolina shows McCain ahead 45% to 41%. He was ahead by 3% in the previous PPP poll.
  • In Georgia, Strategic Vision finds McCain ahead 51% to 43%, with Bob Barr getting 3%.
  • In Louisiana, it’s 52% to 36% in favor of McCain according to the latest Southern Media & Opinion Research poll.
  • In Massachusetts, Obama continues to increase his lead, now up 55% to 33% (with 67% favorability) in Rasmussen’s latest poll. He was up 13% last month.
  • Finally, New York remains solidly blue in SUSA’s poll (57% to 37% Obama), though the race could get down to single-digit if McCain selects Bloomberg.

This slate of 3 Southern polls is well-timed to coincide with Tom Schaller’s op-ed in the New York Times dismissing the Democrats’ potential to capture the South this year — with the exception of Virginia. I myself have been skeptical that Obama could turn states like MS and GA, though the ever-building list of North Carolina polls finding a toss-up race makes it hard to argue that the state is out of reach for Obama. This obviously merits a larger discussion and a fuller post (which will come), but my hunch is that arguing that increased black turnout in states like MS where voting patterns are very polarized could tip the election ignores just how dramatically he would have to improve on Kerry’s share of the white vote.

What is true, however, is that turning out more black voters could have a big impact on down-the-ballot races (like Musgrove’s). Which brings up to today’s Senate polls:

  • In North Carolina, PPP finds Elizabeth Dole back north of the 50% threshold, 51% to 37%. She was up 47% to 39% three weeks ago and up 5% in May, after Kay Hagan won the Democratic primary.
  • More good news for the GOP in Louisiana, where Southern Media & Opinion Research finds Landrieu losing a double-digit lead from March (50% to 38%) and leading 46% to 40% — under 50%.
  • Finally, Massachusetts’s race is not particularly interesting (especially since the GOP’s touted candidate failed to get the signatures), but in case anyone is interested in John Kerry’s fate, Rasmussen finds him ahead of Jeff Beatty 63% to 25%.

Elizabeth Dole was found to be in grave danger by a wave of surveys after the May 6th primary, though poll after poll have found her regaining her footing since then. That is explained both by Hagan fading out of the news again and Dole’s ad blitz that the incumbent unleashed sensing that she had to remedy her vulnerabilities. She is in a much better position now, and her hope is to scare Democrats away from looking to much in her direction in her coming months. The problem with that is that NC has already attracted the DSCC’s attention and that Democrats know that there is potential here. This race will be key to how big the Democratic majority is in the next Senate.

Sunday polls: Shifts in the partisan make-up, and unlikely states to host tight races

Today’s three presidential surveys come from states that are deemed unlikely to host competitive races but where these polls find some tighter-than-expected results. First and foremost comes Nebraska, a Western state which Bush had no trouble winning 2:1 in 2004 but which Barack Obama might have different thoughts about:

  • SUSA finds McCain to be leading 49% to 40%, quite a dramatic drop for the Republican from past results.
  • Very importantly, SUSA shows tight races in the 1st and 2nd congressional district. In the first, McCain edges Obama 44% to 43%. In the second, McCain is on top 48% to 43%. In the third, McCain is leading 57% to 33%.

Nebraska allocates 3 of its 5 electoral voters by district, and this is not the first poll to suggest that Obama might have a good shot at winning the first or second congressional districts, thereby complicating even further our electoral college calculations (by the way, expect the year’s first electoral college ratings to be posted in a few days). This is also a sign of trouble for McCain in the Mountain West, as a number of states that are usually not even mentioned at the presidential level could host competitive races this year.

One note, however, about SUSA’s series of presidential polls. SUSA’s samples are consistently much more Democratic than the 2004 exit polls indicated. This is the case in this Nebraska poll, as the partisan breakdown is 44% Republicans and 38% Democrats while the 2004 exit poll found that 53% of voters were Republicans and 24% Democrats. This is not to say that SUSA’s polls are too skewed towards Obama, for there is no doubt that the proportion of self-identified Democrats has considerably risen since the last presidential election and that there is a considerable enthusiasm gap between the two parties, making it credible that the partisan breakdown of this general election will be much more favorable for Obama than the one in 2004.

The fact that SUSA is registering this swing this consistently is amazing news for Obama’s chances, for it is hard to see how he could lose the election if there anywhere near the 20% shift that this poll is suggesting. But whether SUSA is registering too much of a swing is open to debate, and it is indeed hard to imagine that there is this much of a change in partisan identification. Other polls are not necessarily finding this dramatic of shifts and it is important to keep in mind that SUSA’s assumptions about turnout model, while they could be perfectly right, appear to be leading to results more favorable to Obama.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen released two general election polls of its own:

  • First, it found a single-digit race in Louisiana, where McCain leads Obama 50% to 41% and Clinton 47% to 40%. McCain’s favorability rating is superiot to Obama’s, 55% to 45%.
  • Meanwhile, Massachusetts looks Democratic as Obama leads McCain 51% to 38% and Clinton crushes him 60% to 30%.

Louisiana’s numbers aren’t surprising in the sense that the state used to be a battleground, with Bush prevailing over Al Gore by 8% in 2000. But the state has increasingly trended Republican since then, with Bush increasing his winning margin to 15% in 2004. Louisiana should not be the first Southern state to fall if Obama manages to make inroads in the region.

Massachusetts, meanwhile, has become somewhat of a puzzle: Why is Obama struggling to live up to the state’s Democratic strength? While a 13% margin is certainly decent, it is underwhelming, especially when we consider that Rasmussen has consistently shown Clinton performing better here, suggesting that Obama is having trouble to catch on. More troubling have been SUSA’s surveys, which have repeatedly shown Obama struggling in Massachusetts. The latest, released late April, showed Obama 2% ahead and that was actually an improvement from the March survey that had the two candidates tied.

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