Archive for the 'MS-Pres' Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down the ballot surveys:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

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

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

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

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

Poll watch: McCain can latch on a few trends but Obama leads in NV, CO and MO; Merkley, Rooney, Guthrie and Kosmas ahead

Just as yesterday, this roundup of poll shows that Barack Obama remains in a dominant position but that John McCain is by no means out of the race. Republicans can latch onto small trendlines in their favor in the Research 2000 and Battleground tracking polls, or to the fact that the first night of post-debate polling has not moved the numbers in Rasmussen and Gallup despite Wednesday night snap polls that had Obama winning the debate decisively. Furthermore, SUSA released the first post-debate poll of Florida today, and it is the first survey since September to have McCain in the lead – albeit within the margin of error.

That said, Obama continues to get the lion share of good news, starting with post-debate leads outside of the MoE in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri – any of which would get Obama to the White House (yes, even Nevada by itself, since Obama needs 5EVs to get to a tie, which favors him). Furthermore, a new poll from North Dakota finds a tied race – the third poll in a row to have the two candidates within the margin of error (the two previous ones had Obama narrowly leading) which confirms that North Dakota is back in play.

Over the next 17 days (!), pay particularly close attention first to the blue states where Obama has seized a double-digit lead in order to see whether there are any signs of McCain inching back to a more competitive position (for now, there are none); second, to Colorado and Virginia, where most polls show Obama with a decisive lead (in fact, many voters have already started sending in their ballots in Colorado). McCain can defend North Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Florida and Ohio all he wants, it won’t do him much good unless he can close the gap in the Centennial State and in the Old Dominion. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • The tracking polls find Obama leading, though there is no consistent trend. Research 2000 continues to have Obama leading by double-digit (52% to 42%) though his edge in Thursday’s sample alone had dropped to 6%, and Hotline now has Obama up by the same margin (50% to 40%, a two point gain for the Democrat). Research 2000 holds at 50% to 46%, Zogby holds at 49% to 44%. In Gallup, Obama leads 50% to 43% among registered voters, 51% to 45% among likely voters and 49% to 47% among a traditional model of likely voters. Two other tracking polls I rarely mention: Obama leads by 4% in Battleground tracking (-2%) and by 5% in IBD/TIPPP (+2%).
  • Obama leads 52% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado. He led by 6% ten days ago. Obama gets 93% of the Democratic vote and even leads among men by 2%.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Nevada. He led by 4% ten days ago.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a SUSA poll of Florida. He led by 1% two weeks ago. Republicans outnumber Democrats by 4% in the poll, a greater margin than in 2004. The good news for McCain is that he has an 8% lead in Central Florida. This poll was taken after the debate.
  • Obama leads 58% to 35% in a Research 2000 poll of Florida. He led by 5% last week. This poll was taken right before the debate.
  • Obama leads 52% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Missouri. He led by 3% in a poll taken Sunday; this survey was taken Tuesday night, before the debate.
  • The candidates are tied in a Research 2000 poll of North Dakota. A mid-September poll had McCain leading by 13%.
  • McCain leads 50% to 46% in a Research 2000 poll of Mississippi. Obama gets 15% of the white vote.
  • Obama leads 59% to 35% in a SUSA poll of California. If the final margin is anything close to this, can Obama possibly not win the popular vote?

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Prop 8 still leads in SUSA’s poll, 48% to 45%. More worrisome - Prop 8 leads among the 19% of voters who have already cast a ballot, 47% to 45%.
  • Merkley leads 47% to 41% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon’s Senate race. He led by 5% three weeks ago.
  • Mark Udall leads 51% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado’s Senate race. He led by 2% three weeks ago.
  • Sen. Chambliss leads 47% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Georgia’s Senate race. Chambliss led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • Sen. Wicker has a 47% to 46% lead in a Research 2000 poll of Mississippi’s Senate race. Musgrove gets 26% of the white vote. Wicker led by 5% last month.
  • Sen Landrieu leads 47% to 42% in an internal poll for the Kennedy campaign in Louisiana’s Senate race.
  • Jay Nixon leads 57% to 38% in a Rasmussen poll of the Missouri gubernatorial race.
  • In CA-11, Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney leads 52% to 41% in a new SUSA poll.
  • In KY-02, Republican candidate Brett Guthrie leads 51% to 42% in a new SUSA poll. Guthrie trailed by 3% in June, led by 6% in September. The trendlines are good for the GOP.
  • In FL-24, a DCCC poll has Suzanne Kosmas leading GOP Rep. Feeney 58% to 35%!

Senate: The numbers from Georgia, Mississippi and Texas all point to the danger the GOP faces on Election Night. The first two races are currently rated lean Republican in my ratings, while the third is likely Republican. There is no question that Georgia and Mississippi are highly competitive - but these are precisely the races that will push Democrats to (or above) 60 seats.

The situation is particularly precarious for Gordon Smith: Oregon’s vote is entirely conducted via mail, and voters are going to start receiving their ballots this week, making Merkley’s current lead very valuable. As for Louisiana, these numbers explain why the NRSC decided to re-invest in the state after all - but did the committee have any other number than Kennedy’s own internals? Did they even have Kennedy’s numbers? Reports that Sen. Vitter and perhaps Karl Rove pressured the NRSC to go back in Louisiana suggest that the committee’s change of heart was due to outside pressure as much as to new information from the ground.

House: The two Florida races that involve ethically challenged incumbents have broken wide open in internal surveys conducted for the opposite party. But while FL-24 is already rated lean pick-up in my ratings (and FL-16 will be upgraded to the GOP column in my rating update out tomorrow), the DCCC’s numbers do seem inflated and we will wait for independent polling of the race.

The news is also very good for Democrats in WY-AL. Trauner still faces an uphill climb since most undecided voters are Republican, but he came within a few points from toppling an incumbent in 2006, so this race is certainly a possibility for Democrats. CA, meanwhile, was one of the GOP’s top prospects but Adler’s campaign hasn’t gone so well in the past few months. But SUSA’s results from KY-02 are very good news for the GOP, as this is one of the conservative open seats the Democrats are hoping to snatch away.

GOP meltdown continues: McCain collapses in state polls, down-ballot candidates weaken

[Updated with two more Obama leads in Florida] In the heels of the stunningly large leads Obama posted in the latest Quinnipiac polls, new surveys confirm that the situation is rapidly deteriorating for Republicans up and down the ballot as a perfect storm is boosting Democratic prospects.

While it is still too early to move any red states other than Iowa and New Mexico to the Obama column, the Democrat appears to have solidified his position in the states he is defending. A number of Michigan and Pennsylvania surveys released over the past week (including two early this morning) have Obama leading by high single-digits, and a new CNN survey finds him comfortably ahead in Minnesota and Strategic Vision shows him gaining in Wisconsin. Even if McCain regains his footing in red states in which he is slipping, does he still have an opening in those blue states or can Obama now lock them away?

The answer to that question could very well determine the result of the election: if McCain cannot even force Obama to worry about Minnesota and Pennsylvania, he would have to pull out an impressive (and at the moment highly unlikely) sweep of Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Colorado! Right now, the question is McCain can even save half of those, let alone all of them.

New CNN/Time polls find him jumping to leads outside of the MoE in Florida and Virginia as well as taking an edge (within the MoE) in Nevada and… Missouri. The situation is particularly worrisome for McCain in Florida, where two other surveys this evening find Obama in the lead, making it five polls in a row, four of which were released today (PPP, Q-pac, CNN, Insider Advantage, Suffolk).

When combined with Q-pac, this roundup of the presidential polls is certainly the worst installment McCain has received in the general election. And what is remarkable is that Obama is breaking 50% in most polls that are being released - he was above that threshold in all three Q-pac polls today and here again in CNN’s polls of NV, VA, FL and MN. He is also at or above 50% in the Time, Rasmussen and Research 2000 national polls:

  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll of Florida (polling history). In a five-way race, Obama leads by 8% (just like the Quinnipiac survey), with 3% for Ralph Nader. Two weeks ago, the candidates were tied in a two-way race and Obama led in a five-way race. All CNN/Time polls were taken Sunday through Tuesday.
  • Obama leads 49% to 46% in an Insider Advantage poll of Florida. Obama trailed by 8% three weeks ago, so this is quite a swing in his direction.
  • Obama leads 53% to 44% in a CNN/Time poll of Virginia (polling history). McCain led by 4% three weeks ago. Obama leads by 10% in a five-way race!
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll of Nevada (polling history). Obama led by 5% in a late August CNN/Time poll. The margin of error is 4%.
  • Obama leads 54% to 43% in a CNN/Time poll of Minnesota (polling history). Obama already led by double-digits in the previous CNN poll taken before the GOP convention.
  • Obama leads 49% to 40% in a Strategic Vision poll of Wisconsin. He led by 3% at the beginning of September.
  • News from safer states: Obama leads 52% to 42% in a SUSA poll of New Jersey. McCain leads 64% to 34% in a SUSA poll of Oklahoma. McCain leads 58% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll of Tennessee. McCain leads by 9% for the fourth poll in a row in a Rasmussen poll of Texas. And some movement towards Obama in Mississippi, where McCain leads 52% to 44%.

Obama also maintains his advantage in national polls, with 3 non-tracking polls finding him ahead by 7%.

  • In the trackings, he leads by 10% in Research 2000, 6% in Rasmussen, 5% in Diego Hotline and 4% in Gallup (the Gallup poll has tightened by 4% in two days, rare good news for the Republican nominee).
  • Obama leads 49% to 43% in a Pew national poll. Obama led by 2% in mid-September.
  • Obama leads 49% to 45% in a Democracy Corps national poll. He led by 3% last week.
  • Obama leads 46% to 42% in an Ipsos/McClatchy national poll. The race was tied three weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 48% to 41% in an AP national poll. The most shocking internal here is Sarah Palin’s fall: 41% said she had the right experience last month, 25% say the same today.

Republicans are also in trouble in down-the-ballot races:

  • In the Texas Senate race, Sen. Cornyn leads Democratic challenger Rick Noriega 50% to 43% in the latest Rasmussen poll.
  • In the Oklahoma Senate race, Sen. Inhofe leads Democratic challenger Andrew Rice 53% to 37%, a very slight tightening since SUSA’s previous poll.
  • In PA-03, a SUSA poll finds Rep. English trailing challenger Kathy Dahlkemper 49% to 45%.
  • In conservative district NM-02, an internal poll for the Teague campaign finds the Democrat leading Ed Tinsley 46% to 41%.
  • In CA-04, the GOP candidate McClintock released a poll finding him solidly in command, 47% to 39%. This comes a day after Democratic candidate Charlie Brown released a survey showing him in the lead.

The contrasting results in CA-04 remind us that internal polls should be taken with a grain of salt, though the mere fact that Democrats are this competitive in NM-02 and CA-04 (both very Republican district) is exciting news for the DCCC. But SUSA’s poll is an independent survey and it removes any doubt that PA-03 has become a somewhat unlikely battleground. While Rep. English was long viewed as vulnerable, few people would have expected him a few months ago to be this endangered a month from the election. Consider that this is the first district the NRCC has invested in as of last night (more about that later)!

As for Senate, Cornyn was already exhibiting signs of vulnerability months ago, but Democrats made little noise about this race. This is one race that the DSCC would really need to invest in for Noriega to have any chance, and the size of the Texas makes it too expensive a contest for Democrats to just drop in and just test Cornyn’s strength. If Democrats are looking to continue expanding the field of play, Georgia and Kentucky look like more promising options.

Poll roundup: 4th tracking poll, 15 state surveys show highly competitive electoral college

A few months ago, both candidates were talking about radically transforming the electoral map. Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey and Connecticut were going to be put in play, rendering any comparisons to the 2004 numbers meaningless. But two months from Election Day, polling results are fairly in line with the red/blue state divide. Of the 11 states polled yesterday, Obama leads in every one won by Kerry and McCain leads in every one won by Bush ‘04.

The situation is not as dramatic today - Obama led by 5% in Ohio this morning’s Quinnipiac poll - but the GOP’s convention bounce looks to have helped McCain a great deal in red states that Democrats were eying, perhaps too optimistically. After Montana and North Dakota over the past two days, it is Georgia that now looks completely out of reach. But one exception is North Carolina: SUSA found McCain gaining two days ago, but since then four polls have found contrasting results. Today alone, one has found Obama gaining and one has found McCain opening a big lead.

In states that are more obvious battlegrounds, there hasn’t been much movement - suggesting most of McCain’s bounce is coming from red states. But polls from the most crucial swing states are starting to look all over the place - and that’s the surest sign that the race is a toss-up that either candidate could win. Democrats should not panic, nor should they dismiss this tightening. McCain has not taken a lead in the electoral college, but he now looks to be definitely in the race, to an extent few would have predicted a few months ago:

  • First, the trackings: In Rasmussen, the race is back to a tie (Obama led by 1% yesterday); in Gallup, McCain loses one point but stays ahead 48% to 44%; in Diego Hotline, McCain seizes a lead, 46% to 44%.
  • And there is now a fourth tracking poll. Conducted by Research 2000, it finds Obama ahead 47% to 45% with 2% each for Nader and Barr. The poll is sponsored by Daily Kos, but that does not mean it is biased: R2000 is an independent pollster. Just scroll down to the results it found in Kos-sponsored polls of ME-Sen and NC-Pres today: they are very favorable to the GOP.
  • McCain leads 48% to 46% in another national poll, conducted by Democracy Corps. That’s a 7% bounce for the Arizona Senator.
  • McCain leads 50% to 42% in an Insider Advantage poll from Florida (polling history). Obama is weak among registered Democrats. One relief for him: He can expect higher support among blacks than this poll finds.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in an Insider Advantage poll of Ohio, but Obama only has 48% of the black vote. I am not one to throw a poll out because of a problem with one internal, but given that African-Americans make up about 10% of the electorate and that Obama should get at the very least 80% of that vote, this survey has an obvious problem. McCain leads by 17% among independents.
  • McCain leads 45% to 44% in an Insider Advantage poll of Michigan. McCain leads by 18% among independents.
  • McCain leads 47% to 44% in a Civitas poll from North Carolina (polling history). Without leaners, McCain is only ahead by 1%. McCain was ahead by 6% in the August survey. 19% of the sample is black, about where it was in 2004 - that’s the number that could put Obama over the top if he can boost it to 22-23%.
  • McCain leads 55% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll of North Carolina. He led by 4% in late July.
  • Obama leads 47% to 46% in a PPP poll from Colorado (polling history). He led by 4% in August and his lead survives thanks to a large advantage among Hispanics.
  • Obama leads 49% to 46% in an Insider Advantage poll from Colorado.
  • McCain leads 56% to 38% in an Insider Advantage poll from Georgia. That’s his largest lead ever from this state.
  • McCain leads 52% to 39% in another poll from Georgia, released by Strategic Vision.
  • McCain leads 55% to 35% in a Capital Survey Research Center poll from Alabama.
  • McCain leads 52% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll from Mississippi. Obama gets 14% of the black vote.
  • Obama leads 52% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll from Maine. There is no breakdown by district.
  • McCain leads 58% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll from Wyoming. Bush won by 20% more, and what coattails McCain has could be important in the House race.

To recap the most important findings: Q-pac’s Ohio survey finding Obama gaining is contradicted by two afternoon polls (though one of which finds Obama at a ridiculously low 48% of the black vote, and he would have been in the lead otherwise). Insider Advantage released the first poll from Michigan that shows McCain leading by any margin for months now, but Rasmussen shows Obama gaining and leading outside of the margin of error - just like CNN found yesterday. And Obama leads in two Colorado surveys, though the margins are tight.

As a group, this round of poll looks slightly better for McCain, who is putting Georgia away, surviving in Florida, essentially tying in Colorado and even taking the lead in one Michigan survey. But this also underscores that Obama has many more combinations to reach 269. If he saves Michigan and Pennsylvania (and he looks better in those than McCain does in a number of red states), McCain will be forced to play defense and save a large number of vulnerable red states.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot races:

  • In Mississippi’s Senate race, Research 2000 finds Senator Wicker leading Ronnie Musgrove 48% to 43%. That’s a 4% improvement for Wicker since July. 18% of blacks are undecided, versus only 4% of whites, so there is more of a reserve for Musgrove - but if that is because these respondents are not sure who the Democrat is, they will not be helped by the ballot since it will not list any partisan identification.
  • In the North Carolina Senate race, Research 2000 finds the race tightening since late July but Dole remaining on top, 48% to 42%.
  • In the gubernatorial race, Research 2000 finds Pat McCrory leading Beverly Perdue 47% to 42%. That’s a similar result as SUSA’s poll.
  • In Maine’s Senate race, Tom Allen is making no inroads whatsoever according to Research 2000. He trails 57% to 36% against Senator Collins.
  • In the Idaho Senate race, Jim Risch has a large lead in Rasmussen’s first poll of the race, 58% to 30%. The poll does not include conservative independent candidate Rammell about whom the GOP is reportedly worried.
  • A poll of MN-02 conducted for the Alliance for a Better Minnesota finds GOP Rep. Kline leading challenger Steve Starvi 37% to 33%. But take the poll with a grain of salt, as it also finds Obama leading McCain by 11% in a district McCain carried by 9%. (The poll was taken at the end of August.)

No surprises in Maine’s and Idaho’s Senate race, though it would be more interesting to see whether Rammell is gaining any traction in the latter. The MS race is of course the most interesting, and Democrats definitely still look to be in striking range. But it is undeniable that Wicker is in a better position than he was a few months ago. More analysis about this race in this post I wrote yesterday and in my upcoming Senate rankings.

As for North Carolina, there is a very interesting divide between pollsters at the moment. On the one side, there is Research 2000 and SUSA, on the other PPP and Bev. Perdue’s pollster (both Democratic firms) and Civitas (a Republican firm). They are finding diverging results in all three statewide races.

Poll roundup: Obama has a shot in Indiana, GOP holding strong in MS-Sen and AL-03

It seems somewhat sacrilegious to return to polls after the excitement of the past 24 hours, but here is a roundup of the last two days of polling news. Before going on to state polls, let’s take a look to the state of the tracking polls, as today’s delivery of Rasmussen and Gallup will be the last taken entirely before Biden’s pick and the two week extravaganza that will be the conventions. Obama’s 2% lead in both Rasmussen and Gallup will be used as a marker for whatever bounce they receive - especially because both trackings have been hovering around those numbers for weeks now, with incredible stability.

Meanwhile, in state numbers:

  • In Indiana, the first Rasmussen poll finds McCain leading but by a narrow margin, 46% to 42% (49% to 43% with leaners). That’s the same margin as the recent SUSA poll. McCain’s favorability rating is much stronger - 65% to 52%.
  • In California, Obama is ahead in the Rasmussen poll, 51% to 37%, 54% to 41% with leaners.
  • In Tennessee, McCain leads 56% to 32% in a Rasmussen poll, a 9% improvement since June. Obama’s favorability rating is disastrous: 39%, with 60% unfavorable!
  • In Mississippi, the numbers are stable since July, with McCain leading 54% to 41% (56% to 43% with leaners). Take a look at this racial polarization: Obama only gets 13% of the white vote,  97% of the black vote! The racial gap is a stunning 166%…

The two interesting states of the list, of course, are Indiana and Mississippi. The former is one of the red states that the Obama campaign has been advertising in, and over the past 3 months we had only gotten two SUSA polls from it. One (in June) showed Obama leading by 1%; the other, released this week, had McCain leading by 6%. That SUSA now confirms that this race is in the mid single-digits means that we have enough confirmation to start taking the possibility of Indiana having become a truly competitive state more seriously. As of the beginning of this year, that would have seem like an insane proposition (Bush did win the state by more than 20%) and the extended primary season clearly made Democrats more enthused in this state.

Mississippi, on the other hand, seems to be anchoring itself in the safe McCain column. Remember that some Democrats did talk about this state at the beginning of the summer, lumping it with Southern states like North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. They argued that Obama would boost black turnout enough to put them in the competitive column. That argument never fully made sense in Mississippi (the state is rated safe McCain in my ratings), where Democrats start with a huge deficit and where the vote is so racially polarized that Obama would need to make significant inroads among white voters to overcome Bush’s 20% margin.

Kerry got 14% of the white vote there (!), as much as Bush did nationally among the black vote, and are we really to believe that a black candidate could do much better than that? There no evidence that Obama will succeed in appealing to Southern whites, but consider that his favorability rating among Mississippi whites in this poll is a shocking 18%!

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • In the Mississippi Senate race (polling history), Rocker Wicker maintains his large lead over Musgrove in Rasmussen’s poll. He leads 47% to 42%, 52% to 43%. Both have a favorable rating above 50% - though Wicker’s is a bit higher. The racial gap is smaller than in the presidential race: Musgrove only gets 83% of the black vote, manages to get 22% of whites.
  • In AL-03, a Capital Survey Research Center poll shows Rep. Rogers handily beating his Democratic challenger Joshua Segall, 54% to 33%.

Rasmussen’s numbers from MS-Sen are undoubtedly worrisome news for Democrats and a boost to GOP morale. Republicans were hoping that Wicker would get a boost as the electorate becomes more polarized (especially due to the conjunction with the presidential race). Musgrove will not have a “D” next to his name, which could help him escape Obama’s drag and perform better among white voters (though it could also reduce his total among black voters). This is the same margin as last month’s Rasmussen numbers, but previous Rasmussen polls (and all other surveys from this state) had found a toss-up. It will be interesting to see what other surveys have to say, but we had always known that Musgrove would be better off if this special election had been held in March as it should have been.

The two House races are interesting as well, as they both come from the list of third-tier races that my latest House ratings pointed out will be particularly fun to follow over the next few weeks: AL-03 is actually not that dominant a Republican district, much less, in any case than AL-02. Democrats have been touting Joshua Segall, but this poll clearly suggests he will have a lot of work to do over the next few months. NV-02 looks like it will be a better option for Democrats to contest: This is also a district Bush won convincingly; but Heller won the election with a much narrower margin than he ought to have in 2006, and that was already against Jill Derby. Since then, Democrats have had registration gains in the state and in this district, and while the seat still clearly leans retention, Derby has a clear shot.

Q-Pac polls from the “Big Three:” Obama ahead, losing ground

Last night, I moved Florida out of the McCain column for the first time in my latest presidential ratings - with a slight apprehension at doing so just hours before I could see the results of the latest Quinnipiac polls. Well, there were no surprises in Quinnipiac’s latest release from the “Big Three” battleground states:

  • In Ohio, Obama gets 46% to McCain’s 44%. In June, Obama led 48% to 42%. Obama improves his share of Democratic voters yet again (69% in May to 80% in June to 84% today) but McCain leads by 8% more among Republicans.
  • In Florida, the margin is also 46% to 44% in Obama’s favor, down from a 47% to 43% lead last month. Obama gets 86% of the Democratic vote but now trails among independents. He leads 56% to 36% among Hispanics (a very good margin for Florida) and 65% to 29% among Jewish voters. A problematic constituency here are white voters with no college degree, that opt for McCain by 15%.
  • In Pennsylvania, Obama is ahead more comfortably, 49% to 42%. Last month, he led 52% to 40%. McCain only gets 1% of the black vote! Obama’s support among Democrats is stable from last month.
  • In all three states, slightly more voters say that Obama’s energy plan is better than McCain’s. That’s within the margin of error, but this is an issue the GOP has been focusing with particular intensity lately.

Overall, then, these polls confirm the conventional wisdom - which also happens to be the wisdom of my most recent ratings - that Florida and Ohio are toss-ups and Pennsylvania leans Democratic. That Obama is ahead in all three states is obviously good news for the Democrat, especially given that he has many other routes to get to 270 electoral votes than winning Ohio and Florida. Either one of these two states could be enough to put Obama over the top considering that other states are even more likely to fall into his column (say, Iowa) and McCain would then have to win Michigan to survive.

Yet, the trendlines in each polls favors McCain (with modest gains from 2% to 5%) - just as last week when McCain gained ground in each of Quinnipiac’s July 24th releases from MN, WI, CO and MI. In other words, Obama might be narrowly ahead by most indicators, but the race is still in flux and we can expect a lot more movement in the coming months.

Other presidential polls were released yesterday afternoon:

  • CNN’s national poll found Obama increasing his lead, 51% to 44%. The previous poll had Obama leading by 5%. In a series of bizarre questions, CNN tested the efficiency of some of McCain’s attacks on Obama and found that the electorate is not sharing them: Only 37% say Obama is arrogant, 72% say he cares about veterans and troops in Iraq. Asked whether Obma is acting as if he has already won the election, 44% say yes. McCain has an edge on who would best handle terrorism (+15%), Afghanistan and Iraq (+7%), but Obama has an edge on the economy and gas prices (+11%) and even on the topic the GOP likes to attack Democrats on the most: taxes!
  • In Michigan, PPP has Obama losing his advantage from the previous poll, with his lead down from 8% to 3% (46-43). This confirms the tightening we have been observing in other polls (Quinnipiac, for instance) and Michigan moved back to the toss-up column last night.
  • In Mississippi, Rasmussen finds McCain opening his first double-digit lead, 52% to 41%. He led by 6% in both the June and May poll. McCain’s favorability rating is at 64%. Obama’s at 47%.
  • In Nebraska, Rasmussen shows McCain leading 50% to 32%. Obama’s favorability rating is low: 45% against 51%.

In 2004, Nebraska’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts performed 11% more Democratic than the state at large. Rasmussen does not provide any breakdown that I can see in this poll, but that would put Obama in single-digit territory in his hopes of wrestling away at least one of these electoral votes. Some of the advertisment he is airing in Iowa is spilling over in the Omaha market, so voters in the 1st district are seeing ads. Overall, however, there is no question that McCain has little to worry about in either of these states. There has been some noise about Mississippi turning blue, but given the extent of the racial polarization of the state (getting 20% of the white vote would be an impressive achievement for Obama), it will take a substantial boost in black turnout for him to even get close.

Finally, some down-the-ballot polls to close this polling roundup:

  • In Mississippi’s Senate race, Sen. Wicker opens his first significant lead in the Rasmussen poll: 48% to 42%, 52% to 41% with leaners. Musgrove’s favorability, at 51%, is inferior to Wicker’s at 61%. In the past two months, the margin was 1%.
  • In another poll of the MS Senate race that was released late last week by Research 2000 but that I completly forgot to report, Wicker gets 45% to Musgrove’s 44%. 17% of black voters were undecided compared to 7% of white voters, so Musgrove had much more room to grow.
  • In the Nebraska Senate race, no surprises in Rasmussen’s latest poll: Johanns is up 56% to 31%.
  • In North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, Beverly Perdue opens her first significant lead since the primary and leads 46% to 37% in PPP’s latest poll - up from 1% last month.
  • Finally, in NV-03, an internal poll for former gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus finds her ahead of GOP Rep. Porter 43% to 39%.

It’s important not to jump to conclusions in Mississippi’s Senate race based on only one survey - especially when the parallel movement upwards of McCain and Wicker suggests it might be due a change in the sample’s breakdown. At the same time, there is no doubt that the race was always going to be a long shot for Democrats. Once Wicker would have a chance to introduce himself, run ads and benefit from the increasing partisan polarization of a presidential campaign season, he was bound to improve his numbers somewhat, which is exactly why Democrats were so hopeful this special election might be held in March. Wicker’s bounce might be due to his running extensive ads in the state; the DSCC has now jumped in to help Musgrove.

NV-03 is also an important House race, albeit one that has been developing only recently as Titus came to replace a Democrat who dropped out this spring. She is undoubtedly a strong candidate, and even though an internal poll has to be taken with a grain of salt, any incumbent at 39% has to be considered in huge trouble.

Obama’s campaign aims to go national and has clear organization edge

Two narratives have somewhat paradoxically collided in these early weeks of this presidential election. On the one hand, the shifts in partisan identification and Barack Obama’s determination to change the electoral map have significantly eroded John McCain’s base. On the other hand, states that were battlegrounds in 2004 have remained very tight, ensuring that McCain remains highly competitive in the presidential election.

This morning, we had a taste of the latter storyline as 5 polls from crucial swing states showed narrow races. Other developments today highlight the first storyline and the unprecedented national scope of Obama’s campaign. As the Democrat started running ads in states like North Dakota and Indiana last month, we got out first sense that talk of expanding the map was not just a faint. An analysis of Obama’s campaign organization published today by The Hill confirms that Democrats are serious about contesting these states.

Obama has already opened 4 campaign offices in Alaska and 6 in Montana. McCain has no offices in either of these red states. This is a repeat of the primary scenario: Obama’s organized in the caucus states Clinton ignored (Colorado, Alaska, Idaho), gaining a decisive edge in the delegate race. The stakes in the presidential race are different, of course, since electoral votes are not allocated proportionally. But given that no Democratic presidential candidates have opened campaign offices in Alaska or Montana in decades, the mere act of organizing troops in those states could have a dramatic effect on November results. In fact, two polls from red states released this afternoon by Research 2000 confirm that McCain has a lot to worry about:

  • In Mississippi, McCain leads 51% to 42% - versus a 15% lead in May. Obama gets 19% of the white vote. He will need to improve that share a bit as well as boost black turnout. (The poll is made up of 37% of African-American respondents versus 35% in 2004.) One positive note for Obama: 15% of the poll’s black respondents are undecided versus 3% of white respondents. He has room to grow. (As a reminder: I have been skeptical of Obama’s chances in Mississippi.)
  • In North Dakota, this is the second poll in a row (after Rasmussen’s) to find a toss-up, with McCain up 45% to 42% within the margin of error. This is a state Obama is actively competing in.

As if to confirm its intent to fundamentally alter the rules of the game, the Obama campaign finalized the first national advertisement buy by a presidential campaign since 1996. That year, Bob Dole aired a single national ad. This year, Obama has bought an expensive $5 million package of spots to be aired during the Olympics. In an age in which presidential election play out on a select number of battlegrounds, campaigns do not see the utility of buying time nationally on broadcast television for they are then paying to have their ad seen by voters in Rhode Island and Wyoming, Kansas and Illinois, New York and California - none of them states that Obama and McCain are preparing to contest.

Some will say that the Obama campaign is wasting its resources. Why spend anything on Montana when it is much more important to win Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico and thus get to 273 electoral votes - whatever the popular vote margin? Three days ago, I explained that Obama’s gambit is very much a win-win move: Either McCain does not respond and opens no offices, runs no ads in MT, AK and NC and Obama’s chances in those states risk becoming even better than in Virginia and Colorado; or McCain responds and divests his limited resources away from states like Virginia and Colorado, leaving those more vulnerable.

It looks like there already are signs that the unlikely erosion of the GOP electoral base is forcing McCain to divest his time and money - a victory for Obama. McCain has been campaigning in… Arizona this month, staging campaign events and directing his staff to pay attention to the state. This is startling given that Arizona is a lean Republican state to start with and it is McCain’s home state. There have been hints for a while that Arizona could be closer than expected, but keep in mind that this isn’t even one of the states Obama has been investing in.

And keep in mind that the Obama campaign has subtantially more resources, so that it can spend in Alaska and Montana while also heavily investing in the more traditional battleground states. In fact, The Hill’s article emphasizes just how big an organizational edge Obama is gaining in states in which McCain is supposedly concentrating in: By the end of the week, Obama will have 18 offices in Ohio and 20 in Virginia, compared to 8 and 6 for the McCain campaign! In Missouri, Obama is planning on sending 150 paid staffers and has 50 presently; McCain is described by The Hill as only having “a handful” and planning for 50.

These organizational descrepencies will have a very concrete effect come Election Day: They will impact voter registration, turnout and enthusiasm. These factors might not be determining in blow-out elections, but in close campaigns they can easily account for the 1% to 2% differential that could have gotten Al Gore and John Kerry in the White House. In 2004, the Kerry turnout operation in Ohio ended up being swamped by Bush’s, and that alone appears to have swung the election towards the Republican.

Presidential polls: The solidifying Democratic base

Today is a day heavy with polling posts, as I am still catching up after two days of continuous collapses in my hosting and changes to my URL and templates. After having reviewing the day’s uncommonly high Senate polls, on to the numerous presidential surveys. As I have said many times, the key to this election resides in the vote of registered Democrats. The shift of partisan identification almost ensures that Obama will be elected if he achieves high support among Democratic voters and thus make the breakdown of independents and registered Republicans quasi-irrelevant. As you will see in some of today’s polls, the vote of Democrats is key to Obama’s progressing from Kerry’s numbers:

  • Missouri, first, swings back to McCain in SUSA’s latest poll. After a 2% Obama lead in the previous poll, McCain is now ahead 50% to 43%, despite a significant Democratic advantage in voting registration. The reason? Obama only gets 76% of registered Democrats.

I moved Missouri out of the McCain column to the slate of toss-ups in my latest electoral college ratings, though many polls through the spring pointed to a slight Republican advantage here. It is striking that this poll shows no improvement from the numbers of 2004 despite a partisan breakdown that is much more favorable to Obama. TPM is reporting that McCain is blanketing the state with advertising while Obama is not really doing much for now. If is true, this would obviously call into question Obama’s determination to win the state. Will he pull a Kerry and give up on Missouri way before any vote is cast?

In a series of much-discussed polls from Quinnipiac, meanwhile, Obama achieves very high support among registered Democrats and thus runs a clean sweep across four battleground states:

  • In Colorado, Obama leads McCain 49% to 44%. He gets more than 90% among registered Democrats, leads by 12% among independents and has a 62% to 36% lead among Hispanics, a key constituency.
  • In Michigan, Obama is ahead 48% to 42%, with 86% of registered Democrats and a 8% lead among independents.
  • In Minnesota, Obama crushes his opponent 54% to 37%, with 88% of registered Democrats and a 54% to 33% lead among independents!
  • In Wisconsin, Obama is also ahead by double-digits, crushing McCain 52% to 39%, with 88% of registered Democrats and a 13% lead among independents.

While a representative from the institute does warn that Obama’s lead “is not hugely different from where Sen. John Kerry stood four years ago at this point in the campaign,” it is undeniable that Obama has a key advantage: The dominance of Democratic voters and the fact that he needs independents less than Kerry did. McCain will have to get Obama under the 86%+ range he is in the Quinnipiac polls. As to these particular states, it is looking increasingly evident that Obama is looking to secure the “Dukakis 5″ and his lead in MN and WI is much more consistent and substantial than Kerry’s were four years ago.

As for Colorado and Michigan, there are sure to be some of the most disputed states this fall. In fact, Colorado looks to be as favorable a Bush state as any, with Rasmussen and Quinnipiac finding slight leads for the Illinois Senator. Keep in mind that the state brings 9 electoral votes, a significant number that would get Obama an electoral majority if coupled with New Mexico and Iowa. That would entail holding on to all the Kerry states, and Michigan looks to be one of the toughest for Obama. But after a series of disastrous polls this spring, it looks like the increase in Democratic unity is allowing Obama to create some space

Other presidential polls released today:

  • In California, Obama crushes McCain 58% to 30%, the double of the 14% lead he enjoyed last month. There is a stunning difference in favorability rating in a state that Bush had respectable showings in: 63% for Obama and 43% for McCain.
  • A Lyceum poll from Texas finds McCain only ahead 43% to 38%.
  • A Mississippi survey released by Rasmussen finds McCain leading 50% to 44%, which is the same lead as last month. There is however a clear difference in favorability rating, with McCain enjoying 58% and Obama 48%. Furthermore, 37% have a very unfavorable opinion of the Democrat.
  • In Tennessee, McCain’s lead is closer to what we would expect, 51% to 36%. He led 58% to 31% last month.
  • In Nebraska, finally, McCain is ahead 52% to 36%, with a huge advantage in favorability rating (68% to 48%). Keep in mind that NE divides its electoral votes by CD, with the 1st and 2nd being much more favorable to Democrats than the 3rd. Rasmussen did not release district-by-district breakdown.

None of these numbers are particularly surprising, though there are two important observations to be made: (1) This Texas poll is not particularly reliable, as no one really knows much about Lyceum. But this is not the first poll showing a tight race in the Lone Star State. Obama is not running ads here, but he is sending a few staffers and has a huge army of volunteers. Forcing McCain to play defense in a state he cannot afford to even think about would be devastating for the GOP.

(2) Combine the tightening of Texas over the past four years with the huge lead Obama has in California and the result is obvious: If November results are anything close to this, it is impossible to imagine Obama losing the popular vote… though he won’t gain any electoral vote in the process. A 28% lead in California means increasing Kerry’s margin by many millions — and the same is true in Texas.

Thursday poll: The Michigan question, continued, and Mississippi’s racial puzzle

A number of state polls were released today, none more important than EPIC-MRA’s Michigan poll. EPIC is the state’s best pollster, and its numbers confirm the analysis I wrote 24 hours ago of the “Michigan question.” No matter how unlikely a development given how hard the economic crisis has hit in Michigan, it does look like the state has joined Ohio and Pennsylvania as the holy trio of this year’s battleground states:

  • This poll shows McCain narrowly ahead of Obama 44% to 40%. He is largely leading among independents, 41% to 28%.
  • However, in a match-up between an Obama/Clinton ticket and a McCain/Romney ticket, the Democrats shoot up to lead 51% to 44%.

There is nothing in these polls that suggests that Democrats are in terrible trouble in Michigan, but it is hard to deny that, considering the strong numbers Obama is posting in states like Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon and Washington, Democrats were allowed to expect better results out of Michigan.

The second important poll of the day is a national survey by Pew, whose polls are always noteworthy because of the detailed crosstabs and analysis that the institute provides:

  • Clinton is ahead of McCain 48% to 44%, while Obama leads 47% to 44%, down from a 6% lead last month and a 7% lead in February. Obama and McCain are tied among independents, though the former led by 9% last month.
  • Also, 44% say that McCain would continue Bush’s policies, versus 45% who say that he will not. Obama is viewed as more capable on the economy, while the two are within the margin of error on Iraq.

Obama continues to enjoy a very small edge in most national polls, but the election clearly remains a toss-up at this point. It is had to determine who should be the most relieved: Obama that he has survived such a tough primary and weeks of bad press on Wright and Ayers while still looking competitive, or McCain for being largely ignored by the media since February and for running in such an awful year for his party but still looking like he has a road to win.

A series of other polls was released from states that are less central to the fall campaign:

  • In Kansas, SUSA found McCain leading 49% to 39%, which is actually a very respectable showing for Obama in a staunchly red state. SUSA also tried some VP match-ups, but Governor Sibelius does not particularly help Obama. The closest he gets is a 2% loss if McCain chooses Pawlenty and he chooses Edwards.
  • In New York, Rasmussen finds both Democrats crushing McCain, though Obama’s margin is a bit inferior to Clinton’s. He leads 52% to 33% while she trounces McCain 59% to 29%. Obama’s favorability raitng (64%) is superior to Clinton’s (55%) and McCain’s (44%).
  • No surprises in Alabama, where Rasmussen finds McCain leading Clinton 54% to 34% and Obama 60% to 32%.
  • Finally, a last Rasmussen poll from Mississippi finds surprisingly tight results: McCain is ahead of Clinton 48% to 38% and leads Obama 50% to 44%. McCain’s favorability rating (55%) is superior to Clinton’s (33%) and Obama’s (44%).

Mississippi is a state some Democrats murmur could be competitive in the fall, though it is hard to see where Obama would get the remaining 6%. Mississippi’s vote is among the country’s most racially polarized, and it should be so even more with a black candidate on the ballot. Obama will need a humongous surge in turnout among black voters (which would not just mean for African-Americans to vote at their level of the population, but for black turnout to be superior to white turnout) and he will also need to poll somewhat better among white voters than past Democratic candidates.

This is a tall order for Obama in any Southern states, but if it looks like he is on the path to making numbers move and results tighten in Mississippi, it could mean that he is in much better shape than expected in other states with a very large black population, especially Georgia and South Carolina. Both states are still safely in the McCain column, but the Obama campaign is planning massive registration efforts and we will soon be able to better assess whether there is any chance that numbers move in the Deep South.

Friday polls: Obama polls better in Ohio, dogged by low numbers with registered Dems

As the Democratic primaries are heading towards their conclusion, more polling outlets are releasing general election surveys, leading to a daily drumbeat of interesting results. Today, we ought to start with the two surveys from Ohio and Pennsylvania, among the most important states in the general election:

  • SUSA released one of the first surveys from Ohio that is favorable to Obama for a long time. The Illinois Senator leads John McCain 48% to 39%. Note that the sample contains a very high number of registered Democrats (52%), though it’s also important to notice that Obama reaches his highest level of support among registered Democrats in any SUSA poll from Ohio: 76%.
  • This is a poll meant to test VP support, so there is no match-up with Clinton. I will not detail the VP tests, but the range goes from +2 McCain for Huckabee/Rendell tickets to +18 Obama for Pawlently/Edwards tickets.
  • Meanwhile, a Rasmussen poll from Pennsylvania shows Clinton crushing McCain 50% to 39% while Obama is only ahead 45% to 43%. Last month, Obama trailed by 1 and Clinton led by 6.
  • Obama’s support among registered Democrats is very low: 63%. McCain and him have comparable favorability levels.

A long series of polls — cumulating in yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Obama trailing McCain while Clinton crushed him — suggested that Obama had a big problem in Ohio. This SUSA poll does not fully dispell that notion considering the strange partisan breakdown and the fact that the majority of respondents are registered Democrats. But it also should serve as a reminder that, even if Obama might have electoral maps that are more appropriate for him than the emphasis on OH and FL that could work better for Clinton, Ohio at least still remains competitive and the Obama campaign has enough money to compete there forcefully even while focusing on Virginia and Colorado.

As for Pennsylvania, it merely confirms the series of PA/OH/FL polls I mentioned above that show Clinton polling more strongly than Obama in those states. Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showed similar results. PA is not a state that the Obama campaign can ignore, to say the least. Not only does it lean more Democratic than OH and FL, but losing all three swing states would make it extremely difficult for Obama to climb back to 270 electoral votes. Meanwhile, two other polls from important swing states were released:

  • In Nevada, Rasmussen finds Clinton polling surprisingly better than Obama given that Western states are supposed to be more welcoming to him: Clinton is ahead 46% to 41% and McCain leads Obama 46% to 40%. Obama only gets 65% of registered Democrats.
  • In New Hampshire, Rasmussen finds both Democrats reversing the April trend and leading McCain. Clinton is leading 51% to 41% and Obama is ahead 48% to 43%. In the all-important (and symbolic, given what happened on January 8th) battle for independents, Obama is ahead of McCain by 11%.

The two Southwestern states (New Mexico and Nevada) and New Hampshire will feautre some of this year’s tightest battles, though none of them offer a lot of electoral votes. The Southwstern showdown, however, will be key to future presidential elections, as Democrats need to make gains in the region as their Northeastern strongholds will continue to lose electoral votes.

Note, however, that in both Nevada and Pennsylvania Obama’s principal weakness comes from registered Democrats, a phenomenon that we have documented at great length by now but that is nonetheless always surprising to notice. The Illinois Senator will surely rise above numbers like 63-66% support as the party is reunited, but there is no doubt that he will face major difficulties in his efforts to solidify the base. How well he addresses the concerns of registered Democrats reluctant to support him appears to be the key to November.

Finally, three polls were released from states that should safe for one party or the other:

  • In Mississippi, a Research 2000 poll found McCain beating both Dems,54% to 39% against Obama and 55% to 36% against Clinton.
  • In California, Rasmussen finds both Democrats leading, 52% to 38% for Obama and 55% to 36% for Clinton. McCain’s favorability rating is at 46%, Obama’s at 57%.
  • PPIC also polled California and found Obama with a bigger lead, 54% to 37%, while Clinton’s lead was 51% to 39%.
  • Finally, Behavior Research Center finds McCain leading in his home-state of Arizona: 50% to 39% against Obama, 51% to 36% against Clinton.

Democrats should be heartened that all four of their leads in California are double-digits. If California polls show any sign of tightening, Democrats would be forced to spend precious time and resources defending these must-win 55 electoral votes. Meanwhile, McCain’s numbers in Mississippi and Arizona are underwhelming. Some around the Obama campaign insist that states like Mississippi could be in play as Obama will boost black turnout, but the internals of the Research 2000 polls show that will come at a price: white voters will turn to the GOP more than they usually do. Obama only got 18% of the white vote in this Mississippi poll.

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