Archive for the 'MT-Pres' Category

Presidential polling: Obama closes campaign in strong position

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second, 5 polls from Pennsylvania:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down the ballot surveys:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gives us the following map and totals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

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

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

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

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

Poll watch: Trackings converge towards 7% margin, Obama up big in MN and WI, McCain stops bleeding in WV and OH

The tracking polls continue to converge around a 7% differential - certainly a large margin for McCain to overcome, and further evidence that Obama remains firmly in command. Meanwhile, there continues to be a dearth of state polls (which is surprising 16 days from Election Day), and the day’s few results bring some good news for both candidates.

On the one hand, McCain can take comfort in two polls of West Virginia showing him ahead outside of the margin of error. [Update: I am not suggesting, as some commentators gently criticize me for, that McCain leading in WV is an impressive feat, and yes, the state wasn't supposed to be competitive to begin with. That said, McCain's problem is the huge number of red states that are highly vulnerable, any one of which would tip the balance to Obama. With that in mind, for McCain to hold on to WV in two polls when ARG had Obama leading by 8% and Insider Advantage had the race within the MoE is certainly comforting for McCain.]

McCain can also be relieved by Mason-Dixon’s poll of Ohio. His lead in that survey might only be 1%, but Obama has run ahead in most OH polls taken in October. However, OH has been more resistant to Obama’s surge than other battlegrounds so it is less noteworthy to find McCain leading here than in VA or CO. Obama, meanwhile, continues to get great news from blue states. Three new polls show WI and MN are both in double-digit territory, and Obama has pretty much put all the blue states away. Also, a new poll of MT in the heels of three ND poll finding a tight race confirms that the Mountain West is back in play.

Before moving on to the full roundup of the day’s polls, I want to take a separate look at Zogby’s tracking poll. Longtime readers of this blog know that I very rarely question a poll because if we wanted to play that game we could find a fishy internal in every survey, and that’s not an interesting game to play. But Zogby’s decision to weigh partisan affiliation with only a 2% margin between Republicans and Democrats is incomprehensible.

Zogby’s internals show Obama leading by 8% among independents and getting 88% among Democrats. If Election Day numbers are anywhere close to that, there is no way Obama will lose the election. And this is not just the Democrats’ wishful thinking: All the raw data on registration trends and all public opinion surveys (for instance Pew’s) leave no doubt that there has been a significant shift in partisan affiliation over the past four years. In fact, applying (Republican pollster) Rasmussen’s party weights to Zogby’s internals gives us a 9% race.

If a pollster went out in the field to measure the electorate’s party affiliation and found only a 2% gap, Democrats ought to be worried. But Zogby did not go out in the field and discover that other pollsters were wrong based on his own interviews; rather, he decided to apply a 36%-34% weighting system a priori, regardless of what data his polling brought back. Now, it is certainly possible that the partisan differential will be closer to Zogby’s numbers than to those of all other pollsters, but if that were to happen it would mean that all the assumptions and voter registration trends we have been working with have been wrong - at which point Democrats will have a lot more to worry about than the electorate’s party breakdown.

Until other polls confirm that the electorate’s partisan ID has tightened (and for now, the contrary is true), take Zogby’s results with a grain of salt. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Tracking polls continue to show rare convergence around a 7% margin. Research 2000 and Diego Hotline are both stable at that level, and Obama gains 3% in Gallup’s expanded likely voter model to lead by seven (he leads by 3% in the traditional model and by 10% among registered voters). Obama gains one point in Rasmussen to capture a 51% to 45% lead. IBD/TIPP (a five-day tracking, so there still are two pre-debate days) has a 5% race, a 2% gain for McCain and back to where we were two days ago. Finally, Zogby has Obama leading by 3% today, down from 4% yesterday (no matter what we think of Zogby’s partisan weighing, the trend line is still valuable so I will continue posting the results of the poll.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Ohio. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday, and it is a clear improvement for McCain over past Ohio polls.
  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in a Star Tribune poll of Minnesota. He led by 18% two weeks ago. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • Obama leads 51% to 39% in a Mason Dixon poll of Wisconsin. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • McCain leads 47% to 41% in a Mason Dixon poll of West Virginia. The poll was taken Thursday and Friday.
  • McCain leads 50% to 42% in a PPP poll of West Virginia.
  • McCain leads 49% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll of Montana. He led by 13% in mid-September.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Al Franken leads 41% to 39% with Barkley at 18% in a Research 2000 poll of Minnesota’s Senate race. Barkley gets 15% of Democrats and only 8% of Republicans… Among independents, the breakdown is 33-32-32!
  • McConnell leads 46% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. McConnell led by 13% a month ago. (24% of African-Americans say they are undecided, so Lunsford might have a bigger reservoir of votes.)
  • Bev Perdue leads 48% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race. She over-performs Obama and Hagan, something we had not seen in the past few surveys.
  • In WY-AL, a Mason Dixon poll finds Democrat Gary Trauner leading 44% to 43%.
  • Safe seats: In Montana, Research 2000 finds no reason the GOP House representative and the Democratic governor should worry.

Research 2000’s poll from Minnesota is one of the first suggestions we have had that Barkley is hurting Franken more than he is hurting Coleman. His candidacy makes Minnesota’s Senate race very difficult to handicap, as it is hard to know the direction third party candidates will take in the final stretch: If voters come to think that Barkley has a shot at winning, his total could shoot upwards - and there is no telling how that would affect the Coleman-Franken match-up.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s race is certainly competitive, but polls have found the race within the MoE since late September. Will Lunsford be able to pull ahead by Election Day? The best sign for Lunsford is that McConnell is well under 50% in most polls, and the undecided-break-for-the-challenger rule applies even more strongly in the case of such an entrenched incumbent.

Poll watch: McCain ahead in VA, trails in NC; the Udalls, McConnell lead; Perdue, Hayes in trouble

The McCain campaign is predictably trying to spin its way out of the difficult position the Michigan pull out put it in, and it is worth examining their arguments for a moment. The first argument is that McCain’s Michigan investment was only meant to force Obama to spend money. CNN quotes a McCain aide talking about how there was “always a shred of hope” they would be able to win Michigan. Let us say it again: Michigan was at the very top of McCain’s priorities, and at the very top of Obama’s vulnerabilities. Michigan was not a “shred of hope” but a crucial battleground state in which McCain polled very strongly through the spring and summer.

Their second argument is Obama who is on the defensive: “If we win FL, MO, NC, VA, IN and OH — all states Republicans have won for decades — that puts us at 260 electoral votes.” I am unsure how this is meant to show that McCain is still in the game. Most polls released over the past 2 weeks show Obama is running at worst even in each of these states. McCain has not had a lead outside of the MoE in any of these six states for at least 10 days, and in some cases since mid-September, and even if he sweeps each of them he will still not be at 270 electoral votes?

That said, after the meltdown McCain endured in yesterday’s polling, he is showing signs of life in some of today’s polls that should reassure the GOP that the election is certainly not lost. And none of this is to deny that McCain remains within striking distance or that Obama has not been able to gain a consistent edge in red states other than Iowa and New Mexico - only that the past 10 days have been very rough on McCain.

A Mason Dixon poll finds McCain clinging to a lead in Virginia and remaining within the margin of error in Colorado, a state polls released last week suggested was quickly slipping away for the Republican. But today’s polls also show Obama confirming that he has a decisive edge in Michigan, Iowa and New Mexico, posting a comfortable lead in Ohio and coming only 1% behind McCain in Indiana. Perhaps most importantly, Obama leads in yet another North Carolina survey, confirming that PPP and Rasmussen’s surveys taken last week cannot be dismissed and that the state has indeed shifted in the Democrat’s direction.

On to the full roundup of today’s polls:

  • The tracking polls continue to favor Obama, who moves to his biggest lead ever in Rasmussen (51% to 44%). He is ahead 48% to 43% in Gallup, 47% to 42% in Diego Hotline and 51% to 40% in Research 2000.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina. Last week’s Rasmussen poll from North Carolina was the first in which Obama had the lead; he has expanded it by 1% since then.
  • McCain leads 48% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Virginia. The candidates are one point apart in the crucial Hamptons Road region, while Obama leads by 20% in Northern Virginia.
  • Obama leads 52% to 44% in a SUSA poll of New Mexico.
  • Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of New Mexico. He trailed by 2% last month.
  • Obama leads 51% to 41% in a PPP poll of Michigan. He led by 1% in a poll taken just after the GOP convention. Palin’s favorability has fallen since then.
  • Obama leads 49% to 43% in a Democracy Corps (a Dem firm) poll of Ohio.
  • McCain leads 52% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Montana. That is an improvement for Obama over the previous Rasmussen survey, but he remains far from his summer strength in the state (he led McCain in a July poll).
  • Obama leads 44% to 43% in a poll of Colorado released by little-known pollster Ciruli Associates.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot poll:

  • Pat McCrory pulls ahead in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, 50% to 46%. He trailed by 6% in August.
  • Mitch McConnell leads 51% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. That’s an improvement for Lunsford over the previous Rasmussen survey, but a relief for McConnell given that SUSA and Mason Dixon found much tighter races recently.
  • Mitch Daniels only leads 47% to 46% against Jill Long Thompson in a Research 2000 poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • Tom Udall leads 58% to 39% in a SUSA poll of New Mexico’s Senate race. In a Rasmussen poll, Udall leads 54% to 39%. In both polls, Udall widens the gap.
  • Mark Udall leads 47% to 40% in a poll of Colorado’s Senate race released by little-known pollster Ciruli Associates.
  • In NC-08, a DCCC poll finds Larry Kissell with a large 54% to 43% lead against Rep. Hayes. The poll also finds Obama leading by 12% in a district Bush carried by 9%, too large a swing to have full confidence in the survey.
  • The Hayes campaign quickly released a recent internal poll of their own. It shows the Republicans leading Kissell 46% to 43%. In an August poll, Hayes led by 10%, and these are not favorable numbers for an incumbent either.
  • In AL-03, Rep. Rogers leads Democrat Segall 45% to 36% in an independent poll taken by Capital Survey Research Center. In an August poll, Rogers led 55% to 32%, so this is quite a bump for the challenger.
  • In ID-01, an internal poll for the Minnick campaign finds him leading Rep. Sali 43% to 38%. The question here is whether a Democrat can go from the high 40s in a heavily Republican district.
  • In TX-10, an internal poll for the Doherty campaign finds GOP Rep. McCaul leading 43% to 38%, putting him in a very vulnerable position.
  • Johanns leads 52% to 38% in a Rasmussen poll of Nebraska’s Senate race.

House: A lot of internal polls to go through today - and as always take them with a grain of salt. That said, the same situation applies in NC-08 that we saw in NV-03 a few days ago. When an incumbent feels compelled to release a poll taken by his own campaign that shows him leading by only 3% with trend lines helping his opponent, there is no doubt that he is highly vulnerable. The DCCC has already spent more than half-a-million dollars in this district, and put together the two internal polls leave no doubt that the race is at best a toss-up and that Kissell might gain an advantage by relying on Obama’s organizational strength.

As for ID-01, TX-10 and AL-03, there are all heavily Republican districts, and while it is possible that Democrats have some success in a few such districts, the challenge for Democrats is to get undecided voters to break their way. In ID-01, Sali is disrespected enough by his party’s establishment that Democrats can take advantage of local conditions.

Governor: After PPP’s polling release a few days ago, this is the second poll in a row to find McCrory and Obama gaining in the same sample, a sure sign that Beverly Perdue is actually in trouble. The Lieutenant Governor was seen as a slight favorite to win this open seat, but McCrory’s strategy of hitting her on reform-related issues appears to be working. North Carolina has become truly fascinating to follow, as different races are going in opposite directions and ticket-splitting will be a crucial factor here.

Senate: Republicans will be relieved that McConnell’s numbers have not collapsed in yet another poll. Sure, Lunsford is within single-digits but McConnell remains above 50% and the numbers are not as terrible as those in SUSA, Mason Dixon and the unreleased private poll Stuart Rothenberg evoked. That said, the race is definitely on our radar screen now, and it will be interesting to see whether the DSCC moves in. Colorado and New Mexico’s races have been static for month: Tom Udall put it away a while ago in New Mexico, while most polls find Mark Udall ahead in Colorado, but not by enough for Democrats to feel confident.

RNC moves in IN, VA as Obama continues to inch ahead in state polls

Barack Obama has been organizing Indiana for months, and I moved Indiana to the toss-up column last week-end. It seems like the McCain campaign has finally taken notice, as Politico reports that the RNC is moving in the Hoosier State for the first Republican advertisements in that state. After North Carolina, this is the second red state this month that the McCain campaign is being forced to invest in - a move that would have been unthinkable a few months ago and that will surely require some financial sacrifices in other states.

Late September is the time a campaign wants to start locking states in and feel secure enough to stop advertising rather than launch an ad buy in a new state that ought to safely be in the red column. But as Obama has been running hard here for months and has pulled even in recent polls, the GOP’s denial was becoming suicidal. Indiana is now firmly on the map of battleground states, just as North Carolina. (The buy will start next week, which means Obama will have the Indiana airwaves to himself for a few more days.)

In fact, the RNC’s Indiana investment is part of a $5 million media buy in 6 states - Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The RNC’s two previous independent expenditures were only aimed at Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, so Virginia’s inclusion is also new. Though certainly not surprising given that the latest polls find a dead heat, it is still a significant development as even the McCain campaign has not always been a full player in Virginia and has let Obama outspend them.

Meanwhile, the day’s presidential polls once again highlight how much McCain has riding on tonight’s debate, and also explains why his campaigns felt compelled to roll the dice two days ago with its campaign’s suspension: Obama continues to inch ahead, expanding his advantage in the tracking polls (even in the shift-shy Rasmussen), taking a lead in Virginia that is outside of the MoE, closing the gap in a number of states like Florida, Missouri.

One bad poll for Obama is ARG’s Colorado survey that finds McCain in the lead, breaking a series of polls finding Obama surging in that state. (The poll’s sample is somewhat in question as it has 3% more Republican respondents than Democrats.) Another good news for McCain is that yet another Montana poll finds him pulling ahead by double-digits, as the Mountain West appears to be returning to its Republican roots.

  • Everyone who follows polling data knows how small the shifts are in Rasmussen’s tracking poll, but Obama has just leaped ahead to a 5% lead (50% to 45%), one of his largest advantages in Rasmussen. Obama has also opened up his largest lead yet in Diego Hotline (49% to 42%). In Research 2000, Obama leads 48% to 43%.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Virginia, a dramatic turn-around from trailing by 2% in poll taken last week-end. This is the first time ever Obama has more than a 1% lead in Virginia in a Rasmussen poll.
  • McCain leads by 1% in a Rasmussen poll of Florida. He led by 5% in a poll taken Saturday, and by 5% in a poll taken last week.
  • Obama leads 47% to 46% in an ARG poll of Florida. They were tied last week. Obama is competitive because Democrats outnumber Republicans, but McCain has a gigantic 27% lead among independents (who only make up 18% of the sample, so perhaps more Dem-leaning independents than usual identified themselves as Democrats?)
  • McCain leads 47% to 46% in a new Research 2000 poll of Missouri. R2000 had just polled the state last week and found McCain leading by 4% - that was barely outside of the MoE, today’s margin obviously isn’t.
  • McCain leads 48% to 46% in a SUSA poll of Missouri. He has a more solid party loyalty and leads by 8% among independents.
  • McCain leads 48% to 45% in an ARG poll of Colorado. Obama has a slight lead among independents.
  • Obama leads 48% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll of New Hampshire. Three polls released yesterday all had Obama up 1%.
  • McCain leads 52% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Montana, a margin similar to what we saw with Rasmussen earlier this week.

It will be interesting to see whether Obama continues to compete in Montana, and how his campaign deals with Missouri - how will spending evolve there, and will Obama visit much?

Poll watch: Obama seizes edge in CO; Sununu leads in second poll ever

A deluge of state and national polls has some good news for both candidates - but Barack Obama continues to accumulate better results and inch ahead in some of the most crucial battleground states. First, Obama is ahead in all of the day’s national polls, though the margin varies from 1% (Ipsos/McClatchy) to 9% (ABC/Washington Post). Two surveys have Obama leading by 2% (NBC/WSJ and Rasmussen) and two other have him ahead by 6% (Fox News and Diego Hotline).

To get some sense out of today’s sometimes contrasting state results, let’s take a look at which polls from swing states are finding leads outside of the margin of error - the most important of which is Colorado, from which we got three new polls today alone. The past three polls had found Obama leading outside of the margin of error; two of today’s surveys (CNN/Time and Insider Advantage) find the same result. And while Obama’s lead is within the MoE in Rasmussen’s Colorado poll, he still gains 5% in one week, a clear shift towards the Democrat.

That Obama is inching ahead in Colorado is especially significant as Obama leads comfortably in CNN/Time’s new surveys from Michigan and Pennsylvania. If Obama keeps those two large Kerry states, his picking up Colorado would make it very difficult for McCain to win the election - before we even get to Ohio, Virginia or Florida. And perhaps also West Virginia, a state Obama is not competing in for now but where yet another poll shows a smaller than expected margin. Obama also has a large lead in Iowa and Washington, and leads outside of the margin of error in a New Hampshire survey.

That said, McCain gets good news from New Hampshire as well, as he is narrowly ahead in a poll there for the second time this week - but both his leads are well within the margin of error. He also has a narrow lead in Florida and Virginia. He also has a small lead in a Michigan poll from an unknown firm. The best news for McCain today comes from the large lead he has in CNN/Time’s poll of Montana - numbers from that state have been all over the place, but it does seem that the Republican is in a better position in that state than he used to be.

  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll. This is a minimal improvement over Obama’s 1% lead two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 45% to 39% in a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national poll. McCain led by 3% two weeks ago, so this is a 9% swing towards Obama. A high 29% of independents are undecided. Two dynamics that we saw in the ABC poll as well: Obama gains among Democrats and independents shift quite significantly away from McCain. And just like the ABC poll, Palin’s favorability decreases, from 54-27 two weeks ago to 47-36 (42-30 among independents). 47% say McCain is unfairly attacking Obama; 36% say the same about Obama (among independents, 49% think McCain is being unfair, 30% say the same about Obama).
  • Obama leads 49% to 45% in a LAT/Bloomberg national poll, outside of the 3% margin of error. But among registered voters, Obama leads 46% to 44%. One key internal in favor of McCain: He keeps a solid lead among independents, 49% to 34%. Also, Obama is dismally low among Clinton backers - 62%.
  • Meanwhile, tracking polls once again all show Obama ahead: Rasmussen has Obama gaining 2% to seize a 2% lead, Gallup has Obama’s lead stable at 3%. Obama leads 48% to 44% in Research 2000 and jumps to a 6% lead in Diego Hotline - his largest ever in that tracking.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll of Colorado. McCain led by 1% in late August, and Obama’s lead is outside of the 3.5% margin of error. Obama leads by 6% among registered voters.
  • Obama leads 50% to 41% in an Insider Advantage poll of Colorado. IA found Obama surging to a 10% lead last month, a result that seemed like an outlier at first but two other firms (PPP and Quinnipiac) have found Obama leading outside of the MoE since then.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado. McCain led by 2% last week.
  • Obama leads 53% to 44% in a CNN/Time poll of Pennsylvania. Obama led by 5% in late August. In a four-way race with Nader and Barr, Obama leads by 8%, with 3% for Nader.
  • McCain leads 47% to 44% in a Mason Dixon poll of Virginia. Obama gets 55% in Northern Virginia, McCain leads Hamptons Road 48% to 44%.
  • McCain leads 48% to 45% in a Strategic Vision poll of Florida; that lead is just within the MoE. McCain led by 7% two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 51% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of Michigan. He led by 4% in late August. In a five-way race, Obama leads by 6%; he also leads by 6% among registered voters.
  • McCain leads 46% to 43% in a MRG Lassing poll of Michigan. I have not heard of this firm before, and the margin of error is 4%.
  • McCain leads 50% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of West Virginia. In a four-way race with Nader and Barr, McCain leads by 5% and Nader gets 5%.
  • Obama leads 51% to 41% in a Marist poll of Iowa. He leads by 5% before leaners are included.
  • Obama leads 51% to 45% in a Marist poll of New Hampshire. He leads by only 3% among registered voters.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of New Hampshire. Rasmussen found Obama leading by 1% last month, 8% in July and 11% in June.
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Nevada poll by Democratic firms Myers Research/Grove Insight.
  • Obama jumps to a 54% to 43% lead in a SUSA poll of Washington. Obama’s edge had fallen to only 4% two weeks ago, so this is a return to form for the Democrat. Obama slightly expands his lead among both independents and Democrats.
  • McCain leads 58% to 39% in a SUSA poll of South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Sen. Sununu captures a surprising 52% to 45% lead in a Rasmussen poll of New Hampshire’s Senate race. Shaheen led by 11% in August. This is only the second time ever Sununu has led - the first was an ARG poll from December 2007 that was contradicted by other polls in the field and by ARG’s next poll that had Shaheen back up by 14%.
  • Mark Udall only leads 46% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Colorado’s Senate race. Udall led by 7% last month.
  • Jay Nixon leads Kenny Hulshof 50% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race. Nixon led by 17% in July.
  • Christine Gregoire leads Dino Rossi 50% to 48% in a SUSA poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. SUSA points out that this is the 7th poll in a row to find Gregoire and Rossi within the margin of error.
  • Two polls from North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, both within the margin of error: Perdue leads 44% to 43% in PPP’s poll, with 6% for libertarian candidate Munger. McCrory leads 43% to 41% in the Civitas poll, with 3% for Munger (this is the first time McCrory has led in Civitas).
  • Sen. Graham leads 54% to 40% in a SUSA poll of South Carolina’s Senate race.
  • In NH-02, Rep. Hodes released an internal poll showing him leading 50% to 32% after a GOP internal poll released yesterday had him leading by only 4%. Hodes’ numbers are much closer to independent polling we have seen, and NH-02 is still as unlikely to be competitive.

Rasmussen brought some unexpectedly good news for Senate Republicans - particularly in New Hampshire. The GOP have been waiting for months to see whether Sununu could pull a come-back, and this poll certainly suggests that there is some movement towards the incumbent, especially as it comes in the heels of a UNH survey finding Shaheen’s lead down to 4%. That said, it is difficult to believe Sununu is now ahead (and that he benefits form an 18% swing in one month). This is only the second poll ever to find Sununu ahead, and the first since last December. And it’s not like Shaheen is only ahead by a few points - she typically leads well outside of the margin of error. That is enough to win her the benefit of the doubt here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battleground watch: legal battle in Michigan, the Paul factor in Montana

We still have 7 weeks left before Election Day, and legal battles are already popping up. Two days ago, I wrote about Republican plans to use lists of foreclosed homes to challenge voters at the polls. Because African-Americans are disproportionately affected by foreclosures, such a tactic could be very damaging to Obama. Though I pointed out that the Columbus Dispatch had reported that similar plans exist in Ohio, it is in Michigan that this became most controversial after the chair of Macomb County’s Republican Party told the Michigan Messenger about these plans.

Today, Democrats confirmed that they are planning on aggressively countering any voter suppression attempt. The Obama campaign, Michigan’s Democratic Party and three voters whose house has been foreclosed just filed suit over the GOP’s plan. Their goal is to get a ruling that bars voter challengers from using a list of foreclosed homes to challenge people on November 4th. And claim is straight-forwardly that a foreclosure notice in no way implies that voters are no longer living at that address because they might have had a refinancing solution or because they have 60 days to move out. If a voter falls in those categories and is challenged, he would have to file a provisional ballot - and those are less likely to actually be counted.

Republicans are disputing the Michigan Messenger’s reporting and the quotes that are being attributed to a GOP official, though that official did not deny the story when asked by CBS News a few days ago. Now, Republicans have announced they will be filing their own libel suit, disputing the charge that they were ever planning such a thing. Even if the GOP now backs down on this issue, First Read notes that some Obama officials are worried that the coverage of this controversy will already discourage first-time voters and voters whose homes have been foreclosed from going to the polls.

Meanwhile, a potential headache has arisen for McCain in Montana. The Montana branch of the Constitution Party has nominated Ron Paul to be its presidential nominee and placed him on the ballot, with Michael Peroutka (the party’s 2004 nominee) as his running mate. Paul asked for his name to be removed, but Montana’s Secretary of State notified yesterday that his request had come too late and that his name could no longer be removed. Montana’s ballot will thus contain Ron Paul alongside Obama, McCain, Ralph Nader and Bob Barr.

Considering how devoted a following Paul has and the fact that his supporters seem very excited about this development, Paul could certainly get a decent share of the vote. And while Paul backers can certainly not be easily classified as Republicans or conservatives, there is little doubt that he would end up siphoning votes away more from McCain. In a close election - and Montana surveys have showed a very competitive race, especially as Obama has invested significant resources in the state - that could certainly make a difference. Remember that Paul came in second in Montana’s February 5th caucus, ahead of McCain, confirming that Paul has a significant base - especially in the libertarian-leaning Mountain West.

In other battleground news:

  • The News and Observer takes a look at the unusually competitive final stretch in North Carolina. Nothing groundbreaking, but yet another confirmation of how North Carolina has in many ways become ground zero this year with three competitive statewide elections (not to mention the competitive Democratic primary).
  • The Miami Herald notes that McCain is bringing up immigration (a topic he has avoided for much of the past year) in his aggressive efforts to contest Florida’s Hispanic vote.
  • The Denver Post profiles undecided female voters who are attracted by Palin in Colorado’s crucial Jefferson County.


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