Archive for the 'MA-Pres' Category

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.

Poll watch: Michigan swings Obama, Merkley gains, GOP competitive in Alaska races

The battle lines are getting clearer in the presidential race. With Iowa and New Mexico leaning Obama and the Democrat inching ahead in Colorado, keeping the Kerry states would be enough to get Obama to the White House - and he can even afford to lose New Hampshire since a tie favors Obama. With that in mind, we will keep a particularly sharp eye on polls from Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

And today’s news is good for Obama: he continues to post a narrow but consistent advantage in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and Michigan appears to be breaking open in his favor. Three out of five surveys released today have him leading between 8% and 13%, a margin supported by Marist’s 9% earlier this week and Obama’s 5% (7% among registered voters) yesterday. However, Mason Dixon does find a tie in the Wolverine State today.

As long as those five states break Obama’s way, the other states lose importance, so forgive my glancing over the latest toss-up poll from Ohio, McCain’s semi-comforting 8% lead in West Virginia or Obama’s two three 1% leads in New Hampshire. And don’t forget Rasmussen North Carolina survey that I wrote extensively about early this morning. Another poll of importance is Obama’s 5% lead in the latest NYT/CBS poll.

First, the five polls from Michigan:

  • Obama leads 48% to 38% in an EPIC-MRA poll of Michigan. Obama led by only 1% in a EPIC-MRA survey taken just a few days ago.
  • Obama leads 51% to 38% in a Detroit Free Press poll of Michigan conducted by Selzer & Co. Obama leads by 15% when voters are asked which candidate they trust on the economy.
  • The candidates are tied in a Mason Dixon/NBC poll of Michigan. Here, McCain does well in the Detroit suburbs (home of Reagan Democrats), which is key to a victory here.

It’s not a surprise that Michigan would be the state in which we would see the biggest shift as the conversation turns to the financial crisis, as this is among the most hard-hit state economically. But it is a major development, as the McCain campaign (and polls) had long regarded Michigan as the GOP’s biggest opportunity to pick up a blue state. However, note that both campaigns have recently been spending more in Pennsylvania than in Michigan, suggesting that the Keystone State is being recast in its traditional role of most-vulnerable-Democratic-state.

On to other presidential polls, including the three polls from Pennsylvania:

  • Obama leads 47% to 42% in a new CBS News/New York Times national poll. This is the same margin as last week. McCain reclaims the lead among independents.
  • Obama leads 49% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania taken Wednesday. He led by 3% in a poll taken on Saturday, so a stable race.
  • Obama leads 50% to 44% in a SUSA poll of Pennsylvania.
  • Obama also leads 46% to 45% in a Suffolk poll of New Hampshire.
  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in a SUSA poll of Oregon. He led by 3% last month.
  • Obama only leads 49% to 44% in a SUSA poll of Maine, which could make him lose one 1EV - and one he cannot afford to lose if he loses New Hampshire as well. (This poll does find McCain leading among 18-34 year old voters.)
  • McCain leads 50% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of West Virginia. That is a more reassuring lead than other surveys have found lately, and keep in mind that Obama is not investing in the state (though some WV markets overlap with markets from swing states in which Obama ads are running).
  • Safe red states: McCain leads 51% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Arkansas.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Jeff Merkley has gained 14% in two months in SUSA’s poll of Oregon’s Senate race and taken a narrow lead (within the MoE), 44% to 42%. Constitution Party candidate Dave Brownlow gets 8%, probably helping Merkley.
  • Two polls from Alaska’s Senate race find close races: Farleigh Dickinson has Begich leading 47% to 43%, Ivan Moore finds Begich leading 48% to 46% (he led by 3% two weeks ago).
  • Two polls from AK-AL find that Don Young is still alive: Farleigh Dickinson has Berkowitz leading 47% to 41%, Ivan Moore has Berkowitz leading 49% to 44% (he led by 17% two weeks ago). Berkowitz’s unfavorability rating has shot up in Ivan Moore.
  • Kay Hagan leads yet again in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina’s Senate race - the second Rasmussen took over the past 7 days. She had a 6% lead last week (her largest yet), 3% today: 48% to 45%.
  • Susan Collins does not tremble in a SUSA poll of Maine’s Senate race. She continues to crush Tom Allen 55% to 39%.
  • Jeb Bradley leads Democratic Rep. Shea-Porter 45% to 42% in a UNH poll. He led by 6% in July. Paul Hodes leads by 12%  in his district.
  • An internal poll for the Nye campaign finds the Democrat closing the gap in VA-02, but she still trails 45% to 40%.
  • [Corrected, previous write-up of MI-07 was horribly mistaken] Democratic challenger Mark Schauer of MI-07 released an internal poll finding him leading 42% to 36% against Rep. Walberg. He led by 3% in a May survey.
  • Safe seats: Biden and Markell lead in SUSA polls of Delaware’s senatorial and gubernatorial races. Kerry leads in Massachusetts.

Some excellent news for both parties, as Democrats will be heartened that Hagan and Merkley continue to be more than competitive despite GOP ads stepping up their attacks. MI-07 is undoubtedly one of the Democrats top targets, and any incumbent polling at 36% (even in an internal poll) is in danger. But Republicans will take comfort in the fact that neither of Alaska’s races appear to be over, as the two GOP incumbents are making somewhat of a comeback. The question now is how voters will react to the month-long coverage of Stevens’ trial. Odds are that the coverage of the Senator’s corruption will also hurt Young’s standing.

Poll watch: Obama leads big in Colorado, Oregon; tight races in IL-11, WI-08

In the day’s second wave of polls, the news continues to be good for Obama, who gets his third Colorado lead in a row that is outside of the margin of error. After an Insider Advantage survey found him leading by 10% (a 7% bounce) and Quinnipiac showed him ahead by 4% (a 5% bounce), it is now PPP’s turn to show Obama jumping by 6% in two weeks to settle in a comfortable 51% to 44% advantage.

Combined with Iowa and New Mexico (two Bush states that are already leaning Obama) Colorado would be enough to get Obama over the top, so McCain cannot afford to fall behind in this state. He would then be forced to play catch-up and have to pour resources to get on the offensive in blue states. But one blue state in which Obama looks surprisingly secure is Oregon, where he posts yet another double-digit lead today. As his margin has decreased in other blue states like Washington, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Obama has not trembled in Oregon. What does that say about Gordon Smith’s chances to survive his Senate race?

  • The day’s tracking have McCain regaining some of his footing: He continues to trail 48% to 42% in Research 2000, gains 1% in Gallup (Obama leads 47% to 44%), Rasmussen (a tie at 48%) and Diego Hotline (Obama leads 47% to 43%).
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in an ARG national poll. McCain lead by 3% in a poll conducted last week.
  • Obama leads 51% to 44% in PPP’s poll of Colorado. He led by 1% in a poll taken two weeks ago. Palin’s favorability rating has collapsed, contributing to Obama’s gains.
  • The candidates are tied at 46% in an Insider Advantage poll of Ohio. McCain had a 1% edge last week. McCain’s support has decreased among independents.
  • Obama leads 50% to 46% in an ARG poll of Pennsylvania. Obama’s lead is just within the margin of error; McCain leads among independents.
  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in an ARG poll of Oregon.
  • Obama leads 56% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll of California. Last month, he “only” led 51% to 37%. Obama’s winning in margin here will be crucial to determining the popular vote winner.
  • McCain leads 53% to 41% in an ARG poll of Arkansas.
  • McCain leads 57% to 38% in a SUSA poll of Kentucky.
  • Obama leads 55% to 39% in an ARG poll of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Mark Udall leads 48% to 40% in PPP poll from the Colorado Senate race. He led by 6% in August.
  • Jeanne Shaheen only leads Sen. Sununu 48% to 44% in a UNH poll of New Hampshire.
  • Dueling polls in IL-11, where an internal poll for Democratic candidate Debbie Halvorson finds her leading 43% to 35%; an internal poll for Republican candidate Marty Ozinga finds Halvorson leading 38% to 36%, which is a 5% improvement for the Republican since August. In both polls, the trendline favors Ozinga.
  • In NY-26, an internal DCCC poll has Alice Kryzan leading Christopher Lee 39% to 29%, with 32% undecided. That the DCCC chose to release numbers in which undecideds are not pushed implies that the numbers would have been better for the Republican candidate if they had been.
  • In MN-01, Republican Brian Davis has taken the somewhat unusual step of releasing a poll in which he trails significantly. Democratic incumbent Tim Walz leads 50% to 32%.
  • In WI-08, an internal poll for the Gard campaign conducted by POS finds Democratic Rep. Kagen barely ahead, 46% to 45%. The margin was the same in a July poll.
  • In NH-02, surprising numbers from an internal poll for the Horn campaign, also conducted by POS. Rep. Hordes (usually favored to win re-election) only leads Jennifer Horn 43% to 39%.
  • Pat Roberts maintains a solid race in Rasmussen’s poll of the Kansas Senate race, 58% to 38%.
  • I will discuss this survey in more detail later, but Mitch McConnell’s lead has fallen to only 3% in SUSA’s latest release from Kentucky’s Senate race. He led by 12% last month.

It is always difficult to know what to make of internal polls, which is why it is helpful to have two internal surveys from the same district at once. Though the numbers are slightly different, the two polls from IL-11 are telling the same story, one that we have long known based on how much money the DCCC is pouring in this district: Debbie Halvorson was once a prized Democratic recruit, and IL-11 seemed in the bag for Democrats - but that is no longer the case. The DCCC has been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars against Ozinga for months now, but Halvorson’s lead has decreased in the internals of both camps, which is never a good thing. Halvorson remains slightly favored, but the GOP can certainly still hope to save that seat.

In Colorado, this is the day’s second poll to find Udall’s lead in the high single-digits - pretty much where it has been for the past few months. As I said this morning, Udall has not closed the deal yet but given how static the race has been for months, Democrats should feel good about the race. As for New Hampshire, other recent polls have shown that Shaheen has maintained a high single-digits to low double-digits lead, and that Sununu has been unable to recover. The presidential match-up of this UNH poll was also more skewed towards McCain than usual, so it will be interesting to see other polling data from the state.

Thursday polls: Tight races in Oregon and Wisconsin, Dem incumbent in trouble in PA-11

Tomorrow is the opening ceremony of the Olympics and the start of Barack Obama’s vacation. The electorate’s attention will be further diluted during the next two weeks, making it unlikely that anything but the vice-presidential picks will change the race’s dynamics. But consider how little poll numbers have changed since Obama became the presumptive nominee at the beginning of June. A lot has happened - including massive, expensive and often negative media buys - but neither the national nor the state polls have changed much.

The tracking polls make that the most obvious; despite a few bounces here and there (particularly in the 2-3 days after Obama’s international trip), the numbers have hovered in the same area and they are staying around that average again today, with Obama up 3% in Gallup and 1% in Rasmussen. And two of the three main state polls released today have the exact same margins as the polling group’s previous surveys from those states:

  • In Oregon, SUSA has Obama leading by the same margin he was in June - 48% to 45%. Those who have already made up their mind favor Obama by 6%.
  • In Wisconsin, a WPR poll also finds the same exact margin it did in its previous poll, with Obama leading by 6% - 44% to 38%.
  • Also in Wisconsin, Rasmussen shows an even tighter race, with Obama ahead 47% to 43%. With leaners, however, Obama leads 51% to 44%. He led by 11% last month (10% with leaners). The two candidates have a comparable favorability rating (53% for Obama, 56% for McCain).
  • In New York, Rasmussen finds Obama leading 55% to 36% (60% to 29% in late June) while Quinnipiac shows the race at 57% to 36% (50% to 36% in June).
  • No surprise in Alabama either, as Capital Survey Research Center has McCain leading 47% to 34%.
  • In Massachusetts, Rasmussen shows Obama leading 51% to 36% - the midpoint between his June and July numbers.

Obama’s margins in Oregon and Wisconsin (polling history) have typically been larger in past surveys - though two of the polling groups had the same numbers last time they polled here (and trendlines are often the most important indicator). McCain (who looked committed to contesting coastal states both in the Northwest and in the Northeast) has not included Oregon in the 11 states in which it is airing ads - and neither is Obama, underscoring neither campaign believes Oregon will be that close.

Wisconsin, however, is on the ad list of both campaigns. All polls released from June 5th to today have an Obama lead of at least 9%, making both of today’s polls tighter than we have been seeing. The GOP might hope it gets some good regional press out of the St. Paul convention, and after all the state was among the closest in the past two elections, making it difficult to imagine a rout. Wisconsin is rated lean Obama in my electoral college ratings, and McCain is expected to keep up the pressure here.

Down-the-ballot, we get one interesting poll - albeit an internal one:

  • In PA-11, Republican Lou Barletta releases his second internal poll in two months and is ahead of Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski 45% to 41%. (The poll last month had Barletta up 47% to 42%.)
  • In the uncompetitive Massachusetts Senate race, John Kerry crushes his challenger 56% to 29% - 59% to 32% with leaners - in Rasmussen’s latest poll.

PA-11 has emerged as one of the Republican’s best opportunities, despite being on few people’s radar screen just a few months ago. Kanjorski defeated Barletta in 2002, but the Republican attracted a lot of attention in the past few years for staunchly anti-immigration positions. Overall, it looks like Kanjorski fell in the trap of so many Republican representatives who unexpectedly fell in 2006 - he was lulled in a false sense of security and did not work his district as vulnerable incumbents should. Sure, both polls from the race were internal surveys for the Barletta campaign but Kanjorski has not released a poll of his own - which says a lot.

Last month, the DCCC launched an ad in this district. (In fact, it was the DCCC’s first ad for any of the November races.) In a district that narrowly voted for Kerry in 2006, the ad hit Barletta’s association with George Bush: “Barletta supported George Bush’s failed economic policies. Barletta even helped lead Bush’s campaign in Pennsylvania. And both have supported privatizing Social Security, putting our retirement at risk.” It is likely that the DCCC took the decision to rush to Kanjorski’s rescue after some of their own internal polls showed him to be in trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the afternoon’s state polls:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Monday polls: McCain still ahead in Florida but loses Virginia

The day’s most significant presidential polls came from two red state targeted by Barack Obama. And as has been the norm for the past few months, Virginia continues to look like a better pick-up opportunity for the Democratic candidate than the good old swing state of Florida:

  • Rasmussen released its second Florida poll in 8 days and finds little change, with McCain ahead 48% to 41%. He led by 8% two weeks ago.
  • The favorabiliry ratings tell a worse story for Obama, as his favorability rating is down at 44% (57% for McCain) — with 40% viewing him very unfavorably (versus 18% for McCain)!
  • In Virginia, however, Obama is ahead 49% to 47% in the latest SUSA poll. That is actually a 7% drop from the May poll - but it conforms to the most recent polls from PPP and Rasmussen.
  • Obama’s lead is sustained by the partisan breakdown: 43% to 31% in favor of Democrats, a 17% swing compared to the 2004 exit polls (39% GOP-35% Dem).

SUSA’s swing in partisan breakdown is sometimes bigger than other groups find, though it does conform to the latest Newsweek or LA Times polls and it matches expectations as to the electorate’s transformations in the past four years, so that it remains a credible finding. However, I am not sure what to think of Rasmussen showing such astronomically high “very unfavorable” ratings in so many states. Other polls have not shown such a large discrepancy in the two candidates’ favorability rating.

Besides this methodological note, neither of these polls is surprising. Despite two unexpected surveys two weeks ago showing Obama gaining in Florida, most of the polls taken in the Sunshine state have shown that this is a rare swing state in which McCain seems more secure than Bush was in 2004 and 2000. On the other hand, poll after poll confirms that Virginia is at the top of Obama’s pick-up list. McCain will need to flex his military muscle with the state’s veteran population to overcome the rapid Democratic gains in NoVa, and his road would be tougher if Obama selects one of the Virginia boys (Webb, Warner, Kaine) as his running-mate.

Three other polls were released from safer states:

  • In Alabama, Rasmussen finds McCain losing ground but still comfortably ahead, 51% to 36% (he led by 28% last month).
  • Here again, Obama has a strikingly high “very unfavorable” number (37%) — though this is more expected given the state’s racial polarization. His favorabily rating is 40%, whereas 67% have a favorable view of McCain.
  • In Massachusetts, SUSA released its first poll finding Obama ahead (finally) by double-digits. He was ahead by 5% in the last poll, but now leads 53% to 40%.
  • This comes entirely from the partisan breakdown (40% dem, 17% GOP), but Obama remains weak among his party: 76%.
  • Finally, Obama has not yet put Georgia in play but the state is at the threshold of competitivity: McCain maintains a 10% lead in Rasmussen’s latest poll (53% to 43%), just like last month.
  • McCain maintains an edge in favorability: 60% versus 47% for Obama (and 34% very unfavorable).

Longtime readers of this blog know I have long been puzzled by Obama’s numbers in Massachusetts, where numerous polling instutes showed him struggling and polling significantly weaker numbers than Clinton. But no poll was more severe for Obama than SUSA’s, as survey after survey showed him in a toss-up with McCain in what is arguably the most Democratic state in the country. A few polls have shown Obama creating some distance here, and while 13% remains strangely small in such a blue state, it is certainly an improvement. It remains difficult to imagine how Massachusetts could be anywhere near the list of competitive states in the fall, but we will keep an eye on poll trendlines.

Finally, two Senate polls were released by Rasmussen confirming what we already know — Alabma and Georgia are unlikely to join the list of competitive races:

  • In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss leads his 5 opponents by margins ranging from 13% (against Jim Martin) to 27%. He is above 50% in all match-ups.
  • In Alabama, Sen. Sessions leads Vivan Figures 58% to 34% — an improvement of 9% by the Democrat but this remains a third-to-fourth tier race.

Note that Democrats were really interested to challenging Chambliss after the nastiness of the 2002 race, but a strong challenger never emerged. 

Second electoral ratings: Five changes all favor Obama

Two weeks have passed since my first electoral ratings found a tight electoral college race, with 15 states making up the initial batch of battleground states. Since then, the general election has been heating up and the candidates have engaged in tense back-and-forth on issues ranging from energy policy to terrorism. There have also been a number of polls released in the interval, not all of which have confirmed the conventional wisdom.

I will attempt to update ratings every two weeks (and every week once we get closer to the election) to maintain a continuous history. As I wrote last time, these are based on a mixture of polling data, considerations of which states parties are likely to invest in, the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and voting and registration patterns of each state since 2004. Thus, a low double-digits in a poll is not synonymous with likely category, and it will not descend to the “lean” group as soon as a poll shows a single-digit margin. (For electoral ratings that are based on stricter formulas, check the always-excellent Electoral-Vote and FiveThirtyEight.)

For instance, a recent AR poll might have shown a 9% lead for McCain, but the state remains in the “safe” category for now. Not only is one survey not enough to shift a state, but not all 9% leads are equal: Obama’s very high unfavorability numbers in that AR poll suggest that he might have reached a ceiling he can only rise in case of a huge boost in black turnout. Until we see whether Obama is committed to such an effort in this particular state, there is no point in upgrading Arkansas to a more competitive category.

Without further delay, here are the second 2008 electoral college ratings (states whose ratings have been changed are in bold). Remember that states that are in the “lean” category are still considered to be very competitive and certain to be hotly contested, but it is possible to say that one candidate has a slight edge at this time.

  • Safe McCain: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska (at large + 3rd congressional district), Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wyoming (87 EVs)
  • Likely McCain: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska (1st and 2nd congressional districts), North Dakota, Texas (87 EVs)
  • Lean McCain: Florida, North Carolina (42 EVs)
  • Toss-up: Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia (84 EV)
  • Lean Obama: Iowa, Oregon, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (55 EVs)
  • Likely Obama: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, Washington (97 EVs)
  • Safe Obama: DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont (86 EVs)

This gives us the following map (courtesy of the Washington Post’s interactive feature, though I was not able to color lean states a lighter shade) and totals:

  • Safe + Likely Obama: 183 electoral votes
  • Safe + Likely + Lean Obama: 238
  • Toss-up: 84
  • Safe + Likely + Lean McCain: 216
  • Safe + Likely McCain: 174

I will naturally not attempt to provide an explanation for every single one of these ratings and will concentrate instead on the four that have shifted over the past two weeks.

Arizona, Safe McCain to Likely McCain: Perhaps this is a case of an over-eager media looking for a story, but it is hard not to notice the abundance of articles questioning whether John McCain is a sure bet in his home-state, including recent pieces in The Christian Science Monitor and in CQ. The Senator’s surprisingly low percentage in the state primary (he beat Mitt Romney by 12%) raised red flags as to his rocky relationship with Arizona’s conservative base. The latest poll has an 11% margin and Obama could spell real trouble for McCain if he solidifies the Hispanic vote. The Republican remains heavily favored, if only because Obama is unlikely to push too hard. If he does lose here, however, would that push him towards the retirement in 2010?

Missouri, Lean McCain to Toss-up: The polls showing a tight race between the two candidates were available two weeks ago and were only confirmed by two surveys released since that showed Obama barely edging out McCain. What changed was my confidence that the Obama campaign will not give up on contesting Missouri. In 2004, the Kerry campaign pulled out of the state in October — though it was certainly never their top priority — and ended up losing by 7%. This year, the Obama campaign will certainly have enough money to not have to pull out and given their determination to not have to rely on Ohio and Florida they will make sure to push hard in other states that are ripe for pick-up. The fact that Missouri’s gubernatorial race right now is an open seat in which the Democratic candidate is polling 20% ahead also tells us a lot about the dismal environment the GOP is facing.

Wisconsin, Toss-up to Lean Obama
: Barack Obama is polling well in the “Dukakis five,” states with traditional Democratic roots that had been more competitive in the past few cycles. By posting strong leads in Washington, Minnesota in particular, he is demonstrating that the shift in voters’ partisan breakdown towards an increased identification with the Democratic Party is making it very difficult for the GOP to contest in states that have a slight blue lean in a neutral environment. Obama is posting narrow leads in Wisconsin, though the latest Badger poll showed him up by double-digits. Neither candidate is likely to create much space here in the coming months — remember that Wisconsin really seemed lost to the Kerry campaign in the summer and fall of 2004 — but Obama starts off with a slight edge.

Pennsylvania, Toss-up to Lean Obama: There is a reason Obama unveiled John Edwards’s and Al Gore’s endorsements in Michigan rather than in Pennsylvania: The Keystone State is no longer the main target for Republicans anxious to pick-up a blue state. Kerry’s margin here in 2004 was smaller t
han Bush’s in Ohio, but the state has shifted in the past four years. The Democratic tsunami ended up submerging PA Republicans more than it did their OH counterparts and the heated Clinton-Obama showdown gave both Democratic contenders weeks of exposure. Hundred of thousands of new voters registered as Democrats or switched their party registration, providing Obama with an increased base, and it’s hard to ignore Quinnipiac’s insistence that Obama

However, that Obama starts off with a slight edge does not mean that this state does not remain very competitive. If the Illinois Senator ends up weak among blue-collar voters, it will have a major impact on Pennsylvania and McCain will seize on every opportunity to gain in the state’s rural regions. And the suburban areas remain a mystery, as Obama performed unexpectedly weakly in Philly’s suburbs on April 22nd. The situation here is similar as the one in Florida: Both states will be hotly contested by both parties but it’s hard to not think that they would go in opposing camps if the election were held today (I am aware of today’s polls that show Obama slightly ahead in FL though I have not changed my rating. More discussion of FL will come in due course).

Massachusetts, Likely Obama to Safe Obama: This is the exception to my rule that ratings will not shift based on a single poll. This state was one of the biggest disappointments for the Obama campaign on February 5th, and he has been polling stunningly weak general election numbers ever since, barely edging out McCain in a series of SUSA polls. Yet, and while it appears likely that Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory would have been far greater than Obama’s, the latest poll released by Suffolk does show Obama distancing McCain by 23%. The thought of Massachusetts’s general election being competitive is too ludicrous for me to entertain it without a constant stream of evidence, so this state is moving back where it should be — though we will keep a close eye on it.

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

  • June 18th: +22 Obama (238 for Obama [183 base, 55 lean] and 216 for McCain [174, 42])
  • June 4th: +20 McCain (207 for Obama [183, 24] and 227 for McCain [174, 53])

Polls: Dems get good presidential day, GOP enjoys good Senate news

One of the most surprising fixtures of this early campaign season has been the number of Massachusetts polls finding a surprisingly tight race between Barack Obama and John McCain. SUSA’s latest poll had the Democrat leading by 5% — and that was an improvement over previous dismal SUSA findings. Other polls Obama up by 12-13%, certainly a stronger showing, but these surveys also pointed to a surprising Obama weakness in the state by finding him performing much more weakly than Hillary Clinton. Now, however, we finally get a Massachusetts poll in which Obama performs as strongly (even stronger) than he needs to:

  • Suffolk released its general election survey of the state, finding Obama leading 53% to 30%.

One or two more of those and we will be ready to move MA from “Likely Obama” to “Safe Obama.” Of course, Massachusetts isn’t the most interesting general election state but it has long been a puzzling one which is why I chose to lead with it. Other important state polls that are making news today are:

  • In Wisconsin, the renowned Badger poll released a poll finding Obama leading 50% to 37% — a very impressive margin in one of the tightest races of the past 2 elections.
  • A key finding: The partisan breakdown has shifted 12% towards Democrats since 2004.
  • In New Jersey, Quinnipiac found Obama leading but struggling to open a substantial margin. He is ahead 45% to 39%.
  • In Iowa, the 2004 red state that looks the most susceptible of falling in the Democratic column, Rasmussen finds Obama increasing his lead to a 7% margin, up from 2% last month.
  • He now enjoys the support of 77% of registered Democrats, versus 71% last month, though McCain has also increased his support among his base.
  • In the important state of North Carolina, finally, Rasmussen shows a tight race with John McCain barely ahead 45% to 43%. This is actually only a 1% tightening, and the two were tied at 47% two polls ago, but North Carolina is rarely included in the list of top tier states and every poll that shows this tight a race is treated as surprising news.
  • In Oklahoma, finally, Research 2000 released a poll showing McCain leading by only 14% in a state that Bush won by 32%.

Any sign of North Carolina being a true toss-up this November is indeed a nail in the coffin of John McCain, as it is difficult to imagine the Arizona Senator losing such a traditionally red state and somehow get an electoral college majority. An Obama upset in North Carolina would signal major difficulties for McCain in a number of other (former) Republican strongholds, starting with Virginia. Even ruby red Oklahoma is showing signs of tightening!

As for the other state, it is important to realize that as long as Obama keeps all of the Kerry states he can win a majority by simply pulling in three states that are already tinkering on the brink — Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado. Substitute the latter by Nevada and you have an electoral tie. That’s why the recent surveys showing Obama posting huge leads in traditionally tight blue states like Wisconsin and Washington are very important, as they reduce the number of places in which the Illinois Senator will have to play defense.

Fortunately for Republicans, they got great Senate news today — and unexpectedly so given the streak of terrible news that has fallen on the congressional GOP:

  • In North Carolina, Rasmussen finds Elizabeth Dole leading Kay Hagan by fourteen points following Hagan’s 1% lead last month.
  • In Oklahoma, a third-tier race that Dems have made some noise about, Sen. Inhofe leads state Senator Rice 53% to 31% in a Research 2000 poll.

The previous Rasmussen poll was taken right after Hagan’s primary victory, and it seemed that the Democratic candidate then enjoyed a short-lived bounce. In fact, there were a number of polls showing a very tight contest between the two North Carolina women mid-May, so Rasmussen’s toss-up poll should not be read as a stand-alone outlier. While the evolution is a bit more brutal than expected, the trend lines make sense as it will take more work for Democrats to get Dole truly in trouble. In any case, pulling this race out of the first-tier is essential for Republicans if they want to have a chance of limiting their losses in November. Note that the NC Senate poll is accompanied by a gubernatorial survey that finds the opposite trend:

  • Democratic Lieutenant Governor Perdue now edges out Charlotte Mayor McCrory 47% to 46%. The Republican posted a 45% to 39% lead last month.

It was clear as soon as McCrory announced his candidacy that this race woud go down to the wire, and nothing that has happened ever since has disproved that.

Poll roundup: Will there be a bouce?

As I explained two days ago, I am skeptical of arguments that securing the nomination will automatically resolve Barack Obama’s problems with the registered Democratic vote, but that does not mean that the Illinois Senator will not enjoy a substantial bounce in the coming days and weeks. We will then have to see how the bounce lasts and whether it gets Obama to his full potential. For now, use these polls — some of which are very interesting on their own right — as markers of where the campaign lied as of early June.

Keep in mind also that any bounce Obama will get will come from (1) the Democratic Party uniting and (2) the boost that any candidate derives from victory. I don’t buy the argument that McCain has been campaigning for the general election for months but Obama hasn’t and that he will therefore improve his percentages. He will certainly improve his general election organization, turnout efforts and registration drive, but that has little to do with poll numbers for now. If anything, McCain has been out of the spotlight and struggling to attract any attention since mid-February, whereas Obama has been airing dozens of ads in key swing states worth millions of dollars. He was campaigning against Clinton, sure, but many of these spots were meant to introduce himself to voters and having already aired those will be useful in the general election as well.

First, the latest NYT/CBS poll and USA Today/Gallup will be widely discussed because of their strong reputation:

  • In the field from May 30th to June 3rd, the CBS/NYT poll did not register any effect Tuesday night might have had. Obama is leading McCain 48% to 42%.
  • As for favorability ratings, both candidates have a lot of neutral respondents — much more than usual. Obama’s rating stands at a strong 41-31, while McCain is much weaker, 34-37.
  • In the USA/Today Gallup poll, Obama is leading 46% to 43%. Clinton fares better in what is probably the last national poll in which she will be included, trailing 49% to 43%.

Republicans have long been worried that Obama might open up a double-digit lead nationally once he wraps up the nomination. If that is correct, the fact that he already leads by mid-single digits should worry the GOP. But Republicans are also more hopeful about the state-by-state situation and their chances in the electoral college. As my first ratings yesterday afternoon showed, that race is a toss-up, with McCain ahead by a slight 227 to 207 electoral votes. A few polls all released by SUSA on Tuesday give us a better sense of the situation in those states (these polls were taken to test VP match-ups which I will not report fully since I do not find interesting at all; most match-ups only test name recognition):

  • In New York, Obama leads McCain 48% to 38%, with only 66% of registered Democrats. This is the same margin Obama has enjoyed for two months now, and it is naturally too close for comfort in one of the Democrats’ strongest states nationally.
  • Depending on the VP match-ups, the range goes from +1 Obama (if McCain picks Romney and Obama picks Hagel) to +20 Obama.
  • In Massachusetts, Obama continues to look stunningly weak as he barely distances McCain 46% to 41%, with the support of 65% of registered Democrats.
  • Depending on the VP match-ups, the range goes from +1 Obama (once again if he picks Hagel) to +16 Obama. Huckabee fares a bit better than Mitt Romney, the state’s former Governor.
  • In Missouri, Obama edges out McCain 45% to 43% with 74% of registered Democrats.
  • Depending on VP match-ups, the range goes from +11 McCain to +11 Obama. Only Edwards improves Obama’s vote total, but that is entirely a factor of name recognition.
  • In Iowa, Obama is leading 47% to 38%. He has been ahead in every single one of the 10 polls SUSA has taken starting in February 2007, most of them by substantial margins.
  • Finally, an Alabama poll confirms this state will not be paid attention to in the general election. McCain crushes Obama 57% to 34%, as the Illinois Senator only gets 19% of the white vote.

The Massachusetts poll confirms my rating of Massachusetts as only “likely Obama” despite the state’s reputation as the country’s most staunchly Democratic. It is difficult to explain why this is the one state in which Obama’s weakness is so consistent. Rasmussen’s survey last week found Obama up 13% but that paled in comparison to previous cycles and to Clinton’s 30% lead in the same poll. As for Iowa, this poll confirms that this is the one 2004 Bush state that is already leaning towards Democrats, not to mention how strong Obama’s organization in the state ever since the caucus campaign. Finally, Missouri is a good surprise for Obama as it is a state I have rated “lean McCain.” Most other polls taken in the past few weeks show the Arizona Senator ahead in that state and it remains to be seen how strongly Obama will push there.

Another observation about these polls is the increase in the percentage of undecideds. The trendline in most of them shows a decrease in the totals of both McCain and Obama, which is not necessarily what we would be expecting after months of campaigning.

Finally, one last poll for the day concerns the North Carolina Senate race. It is an internal poll taken by Anzalone Liszt Research for the Hagan campaign and it was in the field mid-May, at the time other polls showed very narrow Dole advantages and before the Republican incumbent started airing ads of her own: In this survey, Dole leads 48% to 44%. Since then, a poll taken more recently showed her slightly expanding her lead, a possible consequence of the advertising blitz. But since I am still the phase of slight surprise at every survey that shows that yes, indeed, Dole is vulnerable, this poll is certainly useful.

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.

Friday polls: Will Clinton get a post-PA boost?

Three days after the Pennsylvania primary, Hillary Clinton might have gotten a boost from her Tuesday victory if we believe Gallup’s tracking poll. Clinton has recovered from a 10% deficit on April 22nd and has forced a statistical tie, with Obama ahead 48% to 47% in today’s results which include interviews conducted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Gallup adds, “Support for Clinton is significantly higher in these post-primary interviews than it was just prior to her Pennsylvania victory.” Gallup also finds Clinton jumping to a lead against McCain, 47% to 45%, while Obama narrowly trails, 46% to 45% — the first time in a while Clinton’s trendline is better than Obama’s in Gallup.

Clinton benefited from a similar boost of support in the days immediately following the ABC debate but the race quickly fell back to its pre-debate form. Also, Rasmussen’s tracking finds no tightening of the race — though it is on a four-day average rather than a three-day one like Gallup, so momentum swings take a longer time to register. In the general, Rasmussen finds a similar improvement for Democrats; while McCain is typically strong in Rasmussen, he is today tied with Obama and leads Clinton by 2, 47% to 45%.

The two questions in the coming days will thus be: Will Clinton confirm and maintain a boost? And will that momentum affect numbers in Indiana and North Carolina? For now, the trendline seems to be negative for her in Indiana, though she is certainly in a position to win as a new poll indicates:

  • ARG, who came closer in PA than in previous contests, finds Clinton ahead 50% to 45%. At the beginning of April, Clinton was ahead 53% to 44%.
  • The partisanship gap is fascinating: Clinton leads by 20% among registered Democrats, Obama is ahead by 31% among independents and Republicans.

What Clinton wouldn’t give to have Indiana be a closed primary like Indiana… This poll breaks a string of surveys showing a small lead for Obama, and it confirms that Indiana is one of the only states since February 5th in which there is actual uncertainty as to who will win, making the job of setting expectations a bit easier. With both candidates now going all-out in May 6th states, these numbers will certainly evolve in the coming 10 days.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen released two important general election polls:

  • First, a poll from Pennsylvania finds that both Democrats have lost ground against McCain in the past two weeks — suggesting that the increased negativity of the final days might have undermined their appeal. Clinton is now leading McCain 47% to 42% (she led by 9% two weeks ago); Obama trails 44% to 43% (he led by 8% two weeks ago).
  • Clinton gets 78% of registered Democrats, Obama only 65%; unfortunately for the Illinois Senator, that’s certainly not an outlier. Dozens of polls confirm that he has trouble breaking even the 70% mark among registered Democrats.
  • In Massachusetts, both Democrats are ahead by double-digits, with Clinton trouncing McCain 55% to 36% and Obama ahead by a narrower 51% to 39%.

Both sets of numbers are significant. In Massachusetts, first, where a consistent wave of polls has shown that Obama could (stunningly) be in trouble against McCain; the most recent poll has him only ahead by 2%. The Rasmussen poll does show Obama trailing McCain by 5% among independents, suggesting that McCain’s appeal among Northeast indies remains strong. Naturally, it is difficult to imagine a Democrat winning the White House without the 12 EVs of MA (even McGovern got them in 72!).

As for Pennsylvania, as troubling as those numbers are for Dems, this is probably as bad as it is going to get for the two Democrats to appeal to each other’s supporters. The exit polls on Tuesday suggested that a higher number of voters than usual would be dissatisfied if the candidate they weren’t supporting got the nomination. At least some of those will end up joining the Democratic side; the exact proportion that will stay away will determine the nominee’s fate come November.

On a last polling note, Rasmussen also released a survey of the Massachusetts Senate race and finds John Kerry trouncing his Republican opponents and staying above 50%; he leads Jeff Beaty 55% to 30% and Jim Ogonowski (who came close to picking up a blue district in a special election in 2007) 53% to 31%. Kerry is likely to coast to re-election but it is worth pointing out that an entrenched incumbent like him could have hoped to come even further ahead against mostly unknown Republicans.

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