Archive for the 'NJ-Sen' Category

Republicans smiling: Ayotte, Crist, McCollum and Christie all ahead in new polls

First look at Ayotte shows promise, but she’s also stuck in high 30s-low 40s range

John Sununu’s withdrawal from the New Hampshire Senate race made it all the more unclear who would emerge as the Republican nominee. That Kelly Ayotte would be the GOP’s best chance at defending Judd Gregg’s seat has become conventional wisdom, but the lack of any data on how voters view their unelected Attorney General made it difficult to figure out how strong she actually could be.

Well, we finally get to take our first look at Ayotte’s strength. The University of New Hampshire poll, conducted before Sununu’s announcement, included Ayotte and finds that she is the only Republican with a lead over probable Democratic nominee Rep. Paul Hodes:

  • She is ahead 39% to 35%. By contrast, Hodes leads 43% to 41% against Sununu, 40% to 38% against former Rep. Charlie Bass and 45% to 25% against businessman Fred Tausch.
  • Ayotte and Hodes have comparable levels of name recognition, but the Republican has a far stronger favorability rating: 47-7 compared to 32-23 for Hodes.

This poll demonstrates that Ayotte would come in the race with great potential. That she performs significantly better than two Republicans who long held federal office is a sign that she might not be encumbered by the party stain that could sink Sununu and Bass’s chances. On the other hand, Ayotte’s image is bound to change if she jumps in the race: While she was first appointed by a Republican, Democratic Governor John Lynch retained her services which helps her enjoy a nonpartisan image that would be hard to maintain as a party’s nominee in such a high-profile race.

Furthermore, what I find fascinating is that Ayotte receives less support than Sununu and only 1% more than Bass; it’s Hodes who is much weaker in a match-up against the Attorney General. As such, this poll does not resolve the most important question facing New Hampshire Republicans: Can they break out of the low 40s? Sununu was stuck in that range through more than 50 polls last year, and this poll offers the GOP no reassurance that Ayotte would be in any position to appeal beyond the party’s narrowing base.

In a related note, Hodes was one of the first Senate candidates nationwide to come public with his second quarter fundraising numbers: He announced having raised $750,000 over the past three months, bringing his 2009 total to over $1 million. That’s just a reminder that Hodes has been enjoying a good head start in raising money, hiring staff and mounting a campaign infrastructure. This is certainly not enough to guarantee him victory, but Republicans might want to recruit a candidate sooner rather than later - especially if that contender isn’t a well-known figure.

Mason Dixon revisits Florida, confirms GOP edge

In May, Mason Dixon gave us the first post-Crist poll. They are now out with a new survey that shows that Charlie Crist remains far ahead while Bill McCollum keeps a slight edge:

  • In the Governor’s race, probable Democratic nominee Alex Sink trails McCollum 41% to 35% (the same margin as in May); in the unlikely case she were to face state Senator Paula Dockery, she is ahead 43% to 18%.
  • In the Senate race, Charlie Crist crushes both Republican Marco Rubio (51% to 23%) and Democrat Kendrick Meek (48% to 26%).
  • You can add to Mason Dixon’s Republican primary numbers a poll conducted for the Club for Growth, which finds Crist ahead of Rubio 51% to 21%.

The gubernatorial race is still marked by a large name recognition difference: 13% do not recognize McCollum, while 39% do not recognize Sink. This is not to say that Sink will necessarily gain an edge as she introduces herself to all voters, only that she’ll have McCollum’s small leads can be accounted to his superior notoriety and it will hard to read much into these polls until the notoriety gap closes. Two troubling signs for Sink, however, are that there are more Republicans who are undecided (25%) than there are Democrats (18%) and that McCollum gets a decent share of the Democratic vote.

As for the Senate race, there isn’t much else for Crist’s opponents to hold on than the fact that he has not quite cleared the 50% threshold, which at least makes it possible that Rubio or Meek could get in a more competitive position if they run a perfect campaign. For one thing, Rubio will need as much support as he can get to ensure that he remains relevant even if polls continue to show him trailing by such massive margins; South Carolina Senator John DeMint’s recent statement that prominent conservatives were preparing to back Rubio is a sign that things could still get interesting.

Christie might be under 50%, but Corzine is still under 40%

Let’s not call this new Farleigh Dickinson poll good news for Jon Corzine, but it’s nonetheless as encouraging a survey as he’s gotten: He trails Chris Christie 45% to 39%, which is the smallest deficit Corzine has faced since April and the first time since Christie secured the Republican nomination that a poll finds him under 50%. The good news stops there, and the fact Corzine has been reduced to celebrating a 6% margin says as much about the hole he is in as it does about any uptick to his chances of survivals.

A challenger crossing 50% is such a show of force that it’s hard to read much into it not occurring; far more significant is the fact that Corzine is still below 40%. The rest of the poll also finds truly dismal numbers for the Governor. His favorability rating stands at 31-54, while Christie’s is a solid 37-25. Perhaps worst is the fact that independents detest Corzine almost as much as Republicans do: It might be easy to overcome a 13-77 rating among GOP voters, but a 17-64 rating among independents? How can that be overcome? After all, it’s not like Democrats are enamored with Corzine either: Christie receives 20% of Democratic support.

Poll watch: McCain tightens national race and PA but remains far behind; McConnell pulls ahead

Update: Two new national polls should help Obama supporters sleep tonight. First, it appears that CBS News is now also conducting a tracking poll, as they just released their second national poll in two days. The margin remains the same, 54% to 41% for Obama among likely voters. Second, the final Gallup/USA Today poll just came out and finds Obama leading 53% to 42% among likely voters; this poll was conducted Friday through today, and carries a huge sample of more than 2400 respondents. Obama led by 7% three weeks ago in this poll, meaning that there is no consistent evidence that the race has tightened. [To make things clear: It appears that this latter poll is Gallup's tracking poll released half-a-day early.]

Original post: McCain has made gains nationally, and there are some signs undecided voters appear to be breaking towards the Republican more than towards his opponent (all polls do not agree on this). He has made gains in Pennsylvania. But 48 hours from polls closing, he is still in a deep hole at the national level and in a number of states that have become must-wins, starting with the Keystone State.

Three new Pennsylvania polls conducted over the past three days have Obama leading by 6% and 7%, certainly a smaller margin than Obama enjoyed just 10 days ago (he has lost 6% in Morning Call in four days and 5% in SUSA in a week) but still a substantial advantage. Unless something dramatic happens tomorrow, it is hard to imagine how McCain can reverse a deficit that all polls agree is at least in the mid-single digits. (Furthermore, Rasmussen’s poll conducted yesterday has him gaining 2% for a 6% lead; since we have to assume that polls are dramatically understating McCain’s support in Pennsylvania if we want to seriously look at the possibility of his comeback bid seriously, which makes trendlines very important.)

Pennsylvania is not a state in which Democrats are likely to be caught by surprise; it is a state in which they have a strong operation and a machine that allowed Al Gore and John Kerry to eke out narrow victories in the past two presidential elections. It is also a state in which they have made gains over the past four years (just read today’s “one year ago today” excerpt in the sidebar). On the other hand, it is a state in which racial factors could disrupt the results if there is indeed such a thing as a Bradley effect; it is also a state in which there is no early voting, meaning that Obama has not locked in any state. In other words, it is as good a state as any for McCain to make his last stand.

At the national level, the bottom line remains the same: Pew and CNN released their final polls, and, while the latter shows McCain gaining a massive 9% in one week as undecideds heavily break towards him, both show Obama retaining a comfortable lead. Similarly, the tracking polls are going in both directions, suggesting most of the movement is statistical noise, and all but IBD/TIPP find a solid lead for the Illinois Senator. Overall, Obama is at or above 50% in eight of the nine national polls released today; McCain’s support ranges from 43% to 46%.

Despite what we are hearing left and right, this suggests that there isn’t that much discrepancy between national polls. And even if a number of surveys suggests that undecided voters are moving towards the Republican nominee, he will have to grab the lion share of undecideds while also pulling away support from Obama. That’s a tall order three days from the election, especially because a fair amount of remaining undecideds are disgruntled Republicans unhappy with Bush. Getting them home is a necessary condition for McCain to mount a comeback, but it is not sufficient.

What is perhaps most worrisome for McCain is that Pennsylvania might not even matter if Obama loses the Keystone State but sweeps Colorado, Nevada and Virginia - which new polls suggests he very well might, despite some tightening in polls from the Old Dominion.

However, here is what gives Republicans some hope: For one, the movement among undecideds. Second, the belief that nearly all pollsters are using a false turnout model. Today’s seven Mason-Dixon polls force us to take that possibility seriously, as Mason-Dixon is a very serious polling outfit that has had great success in past cycles. Like seemingly every other poll they have released this cycle, Mason-Dixon’s polls are more favorable to McCain than other pollsters, suggesting that if Mason-Dixon had a national tracking poll they would find a somewhat tighter race than other firms. The early voting data suggests that turnout will be favorable to Democrats, but such disputes are of course why elections are not decided by polls but by voters… (Note, also, that Mason-Dixon’s polls were conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, making them somewhat outdated.)

  • Obama leads 53% to 46% in CNN’s final national poll conducted Friday and Saturday. Obama has a 8% lead in a four-way race. He led by 5% in a poll conducted two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 52% to 46% among likely voters in Pew’s final national poll, conducted Thursday through Saturday. This is quite a drop from Pew’s poll conducted the previous week in which Obama led by 15% among likely voters (53% to 38%, implying that undecided voters have heavily broken towards the Republican). Obama leads by 11% among registered voters. 47% are sure they will not vote for McCain, while only 38% say the same about Obama.
  • Trackings: Obama gains 2% in Washington Post/ABC (54% to 43%), 1% in Zogby (50% to 44%). The margin is stable in Rasmussen (51% to 46%), in CBS News (54% to 41%) and Research 2000 (51% to 44%). Obama loses 1% in Gallup (52% to 43%, though he loses 2% in the LVT model for an 8% lead), 2% in Hotline (50% to 45%) and in IBD/TIPP (47% to 45%). Obama’s leads are thus: 2%, 5%, 5%, 6%, 7%, 9%, 11%, 13%.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama stops the bleeding in a Rasmussen poll taken Saturday, leading 52% to 46%; that’s up from the 4% he enjoyed in a Thursday poll but 1% down from a poll taken on Monday. Obama leads 52% to 45% in Morning Call’s tracking poll, his smallest lead since October 1st. Obama lead 51% to 44% in a SUSA poll conducted Thursday and Friday (he led by 12% two weeks ago).
  • Virginia: Obama leads 50% to 46% in a SUSA poll conducted Thursday and Friday, the tightest margin since mid-September. Obama led between 6% and 10% in the past four SUSA polls, though most of the change in this poll can be attributed to a much tighter partisan breakdown. Obama leads 47% to 44% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday. Of the 9% who are undecided, 75% live outside of Northern Virginia and more than 90% are white. Obama led by 2% ten days ago.
  • Colorado: Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. Obama leads among independents by an impressive 25%.
  • Nevada: Obama leads 47% to 43% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. That margin is just within the MoE.
  • Ohio: McCain leads 47% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday. He led by 1% two weeks ago. Obama leads 52% to 46% in a Columbus Dispatch poll that was conducted by mail and that should thus be taken with a huge grain of salt; it widely overstated Democratic support in 2006 though it has also had successes
  • North Carolina: McCain leads 49% to 46% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday; the candidates were tied two weeks ago.
  • Missouri: McCain 47% to 46% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday; McCain also led by 1% two weeks ago
  • Iowa: Obama leads 54% to 37% in Selzer & Co’s very reliable Des Moines Register poll conducted Tuesday through Thursday.
  • Minnesota: Obama leads 53% to 42% in a Star Tribune poll. He led by the same margin two weeks ago.
  • New Mexico: Obama leads 52% to 45% in a SUSA poll; Obama leads by 19% among the 60% of voters who say they have already voted.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Kentucky, Senate race: The two pollsters that had found a dead heat in mid-October now find McConnell pulling ahead. SUSA, which had a tie at 48%, now shows McConnell leading 53% to 45%. Mason Dixon has McConnell gaining four points to grab a 5% lead, 47% to 42%.
  • Colorado, Senate race: Mark Udall leads 47% to 43% in a Mason Dixon poll of Colorado’s Senate race, though independents vote for Udall by a large 19%.
  • Minnesota, Senate race: Al Franken leads 42% to 38% in a Star Tribune poll, with 15% going to Barkley. Two weeks ago, Franken led 39% to 36% with 18% for Barkley.
  • In NM-01, an Albuquerque Journal poll conducted this week has Democratic candidate Martin Heinrich leading 47% to 43%.

Mason-Dixon’s Colorado’s poll is further confirmation of the pollster’s GOP lean, as all other pollsters have found a wide Udall lead over the past two weeks; I am not saying that having a GOP lean disqualifies Mason-Dixon (we won’t know whose turnout model is most appropriate until Tuesday), but this one particular margin is not supported by any recent poll. Their poll from Kentucky, however, finds the same findings as SUSA and Rasmussen have this week: Senator McConnell appears to have pulled away. Lunsford is well within striking distance, but with 2 days to go the trendlines favor the incumbent.

In New Mexico, both open races remain highly competitive. (NM-01 is rated lean Democratic in my latest ratings while NM-02 is a toss-up.) The high number of undecided voters in NM-02 leaves hope to Republicans, as that is a conservative district where Republicans could come home.

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.

Poll watch: Obama leads in MO, OH, FL and PA; Chambliss within MoE, Merkley gains

The window is closing for McCain to alter the state of play - something he needs to do to have a chance at saving his ticket in the multitude of red states in which he is now endangered. Yet, it is Obama who continues to post impressive gains day after day, for instance surging ahead to a dominant lead in a new poll of Missouri and taking the lead for the very first time in a Rasmussen poll of Ohio.

As always, the take-away lesson of these polls is the fact that Obama looks untouchable in blue states (he has two new double digit leads in Pennsylvania) and the high number of red states in which he has either tied McCain or looks to be ahead. Rasmussen’s weekly survey of 5 red states shows that McCain doesn’t have the lead in a single one, and Obama’s advantage is outside of the MoE in Florida - a state in which he has now led in the 9 most recent polls. Add to that new Obama leads in Nevada and in North Dakota (!), a second Obama lead in Ohio and it becomes obvious that McCain needs to dramatically change the dynamics at the national level.

Particularly noteworthy are the fact that Obama is leading in two MO surveys (including 8% in SUSA) and in ND. Even if the latter poll doesn’t come from a known pollster and should thus be taken with a grain of salt, it is telling that Obama’s surge has reached such proportions that states from which he pulled out (ND) or briefly decreased his ad spending (MO) in September now show him ahead. It will take a lot of effort for McCain to put these states back in the box, let alone cut Obama’s new-found edge in more obvious battlegrounds like Colorado, Virginia and Florida. On to the day’s full roundup:

  • Obama continues to dominate the tracking polls, though his lead slightly diminishes. He leads 52% to 40% in Research 2000 (-1%), 48% to 44% in Zogby (-1%), 48% to 42% in Hotline (-2%), 50% to 45% in Rasmussen (-1%). In Gallup, Obama leads 51% to 41% (+3%) but only by 7% in a tighter likely voter screen.
  • Obama leads 53% to 43% in an ABC/Washington Post national poll. His lead is 13% among registered voters. This is a clear improvement over ABC’s previous poll two weeks ago, where Obama was ahead by 4%. Obama’s position is very strong among Democrats.
  • Obama leads 49% to 45% in a Marist poll of Ohio, including 89% of Democrats. Among registered voters, Obama leads 48% to 40%. Obama’s favorability rating has jumped up to 60%, while McCain is 54%.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Ohio. This is the first Rasmussen poll to ever have Obama ahead in the state.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Florida. He led by 3% in the previous Rasmussen poll.
  • Obama leads 53% to 41% in a Marist poll of Pennsylvania. He leads 49% to 40% among registered voters. His favorability rating has surged upwards to 65%, compared to 55% for John McCain.
  • Morning Call’s latest daily poll numbers from Pennsylvania have Obama leading 51% to 38%, his biggest margin yet in this tracking poll.
  • Obama leads by a remarkable 51% to 43% in a new SUSA poll of Missouri. He trailed by 2% in late September. The two are tied among white voters and Obama gets 89% of Democrats, up from 82% two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Virginia. He led by 2% last week.
  • The candidates are tied in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina. Obama led by 1% last week.
  • Obama leads 55% to 40% in a SUSA poll of New Jersey.
  • McCain leads 51% to 43% in a SUSA poll of Georgia. Obama leads among the 18% of respondents who say they have already voted.
  • Obama leads 61% to 34% in a SUSA poll of New York.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Kay Hagan leads 44% to 39% according to her internal poll of North Carolina’s Senate race.
  • Jeff Merkley leads 46% to 41% in a SUSA poll of Oregon’s Senate race. He led by only 2% in a survey two weeks ago. Constitution Party candidate Dave Brownlow gets 7%.
  • Jay Nixon crushes Kenny Holshof 56% to 34% in a SUSA poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race.
  • Saxby Chambliss leads 46% to 43% in a SUSA poll of Georgia’s Senate race. Chambliss led by only 2% two weeks ago.
  • Frank Lautenberg leads 51% to 38% in a SUSA poll of New Jersey’s Senate race.
  • In NV-03, Rep. Porter leads 43% to 40% in a Mason Dixon poll. The margin of error is very large, especially for an independent poll - 6% - so this is well within that.
  • In FL-25, an internal poll for the Garcia campaign finds GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart leading 45% to 42%.
  • In LA-06, a DCCC internal finds Rep. Cazayoux crushing Bill Cassidy 46% to 29%, with 9% going to Democrat Michael Jackson.

Statewide: Strong numbers for Democrats, who confirm their good dispositions in Oregon and North Carolina’s Senate races (both essential to their hopes of having a good congressional Election Night). Neither Hagan nor Merkley have put the race away, certainly, but polling numbers have shifted towards both of them in recent weeks. As for Georgia, it is looking highly competitive - a late breaking race that might be remembered as the ultimate sleeper of the 2008 cycle. Whether Martin has a chance of pulling an upset likely depends on the size of the African-American turnout.

House: This is the second poll Democrats have released showing Cazayoux crushing Cassidy in LA-06. I am still as doubtful that the two Democrats combined could be 26% ahead of the Republican candidate in this conservative a district, but the GOP still has to produce any counter poll. The district is currently rated lean take-over, but that could soon change based on what the NRCC does. The Republican committee commissioned a poll from the district a few days ago. If they go out with an ad buy or release the results in the coming days, they must like their chances in the district. Otherwise, the race is indeed far less competitive than we thought.

It is as unclear what we should make of the numbers from NV-03, currently rated lean take-over. Porter is clearly vulnerable (at 43%), though he is clearly still in the game. The margin of error is large enough that it hard to draw any conclusions. As for the Florida internal polls, they confirm what we have known: FL-25 is highly competitive, while the GOP appears to have put up a solid firewall in FL-13.

Poll watch: Obama leads in IA, PA, MI while IN remains very tight; Dems lead in AK-AL and CO-04

Another day of strong polling results for Obama - this time at the state level. SUSA confirms that the Illinois Senator can feel more confident about Iowa than about many Kerry states, Marist finds larger leads than we have seen lately for Obama in the crucial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania (two states that are quasi-must wins for Obama) and two surveys from Indiana find the race within the margin of error. Who knew the Hoosier State would be polled so much?

What is fascinating about the Marist polls is that the surveys were taken over the week-end (thus before the financial crisis exploded) in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and at the beginning of this week in Michigan. The share of voters who say that they are most concerned about the economy is far greater in the Michigan poll (51%), which explains why Obama has such a large lead and confirms that the dominance of economic issues this week is helping fuel Obama’s comeback. Here’s the full roundup of today’s polls:

  • First, the trackings, where the movement is less uniform than it was yesterday: Obama gains one in Research 2000 (leads 49% to 42%) and in Gallup (leads 49% to 44%). Rasmussen doesn’t move (tied at 48%) and McCain gains 3% in Diego Hotline (but still trails 45% to 44%).
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Marist poll of Ohio. The two are tied among registered voters. Those who say that the economy is the most important issue for them vote Obama by 14%. Obama gets 90% of Democrats. This poll was taken Thursday through Sunday.
  • Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Marist poll of Pennsylvania. The margin is 3% among registered voters. Obama gets 87% of Democrats and leads among independents. This poll was taken Thursday through Sunday.
  • Obama leads 52% to 43% in a Marist poll of Michigan. The margin is the same among registered voters. Obama gets 92% of Democrats, leads by 14% among those who say the economy is the most pressing issue. This poll was taken Tuesday and Wednesday, after the Wall Street collapse.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana. He led by 6% in August.
  • McCain leads 47% to 44% in an ARG poll of Indiana.
  • Obama leads 54% to 43% in a SUSA poll of Iowa. He gets 89% of Democrats and leads by 11% among independents. Among voters who are sure of their vote, he leads by 15%.
  • McCain leads 53% to 42% in an ARG poll of North Dakota.
  • Obama leads 50% to 44% in an ARG poll of Washington.
  • McCain leads Obama 64% to 31% in a SUSA poll of Alabama.
  • McCain leads 61% to 34% in an ARG poll of Oklahoma.

There is good news for McCain as well in this batch of surveys, most notably his strong margin in North Dakota (a state Obama has been contesting). A Rasmussen poll last week had found McCain jumping to a strong lead there after struggling through the summer. Republicans will also be satisfied to see that Obama is struggling in yet another poll from Washington - confirming that the Northwestern state is far less safe than people thought a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot:

  • Betsy Markey leads Rep. Marilyn Musgrave 47% to 38% in a Grove Insight poll for Emily’s List of CO-04.
  • Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil are tied at 36% in a DCCC poll of MD-01.
  • Mark Begich leads Ted Stevens 50% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll of Alaska’s Senate race.
  • Susan Collins leads 55% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Maine’s Senate race.
  • Mitch Daniels leads Long Thompson 56% to 40% in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • Daniels leads Long Thompson 46% to 42% in a Selzer poll of that same race.
  • Dino Rossi inches ahead 48% to 47% against Gregoire in a Strategic Vision poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race.
  • Lautenberg leads 49% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of New Jersey’s Senate race.
  • Chambliss leads 52% to 33% in an internal poll conducted for his campaign in Georgia’s Senate race.
  • Inhofe leads 55% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll of Oklahoma’s Senate race.

The House races bring some excellent news for Democrats. Musgrave and Young are among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, and those are not isolated polls. The CO-04 survey, for instance, confirms what SUSA found a few weeks ago. Democrats have been trying to kick Musgrave out for a few cycles, and it looks like this could be their year. As for MD-01, it has a very high percentage of undecideds, and in a heavily conservative district they are more likely to vote Republican. But it remains remarkable that Democrats are competitive in a district the GOP should be safe in.

As for the Senate races, Democrats will be satisfied that Begich is holding on to a lead, though the race is undoutedly much tighter than they would like it to be. There isn’t much else for the DSCC to get excited about here. Tom Allen, Bruce Lunsford, Jim Inhofe and Jim Martin are making little to no inroads in their respective Senate races, making it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to contest more than the 9 races they have already put in play.

Poll watch: Obama recaptures CBS lead, tight swing states getting tighter

[Updated] In the clearest sign yet that Obama has rebounded and that McCain’s bounce has faded, Obama recaptured the lead in the Gallup tracking poll for the first time in 11 days and the new CBS/New York Times poll found Obama taking his first national lead outside of the margin of error since the GOP convention started.

But what is also remarkable in this latest round of state polls is that most battleground states appear to be tightening - shifting in Obama’s direction if they are generally McCain-leaning and in McCain’s direction if they are generally Obama-leaning. After ARG found competitive races in West Virginia and Montana this morning, new polls find Obama regaining his footing in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina and McCain gaining in Wisconsin and Oregon, two states in which Obama looked to be more solidly ahead over the summer.

Add to that continuing tight numbers in states like Indiana (CNN today), Colorado, Nevada, Virginia (PPP and ARG this morning), and the election has become a large collection of toss-ups. That’s good news for Obama, but also for McCain as he is now much more competitive than he used to be in a number of blue states and as it looks like Obama will also be forced to play defense. Here’s the day’s full roundup (and I apologize for the very poll-heavy past two days, as I have not had time to take a step back and consider the race as a full - which will hopefully happen soon):

  • First, the trackings: Obama takes his first lead in Gallup’s tracking since September 4th and is ahead 47% to 45%. He leads 48% to 44% in Research 2000, 45% to 42% in Diego Hotline. Only Rasmussen finds him trailing, 48% to 47%.
  • Update: The new CBS/NYT poll finds Obama grabbing a 49% to 44% lead, a 7% gain from last week’s poll and Obama’s biggest advantage since the Republican convention. The poll was taken Friday through Tuesday. The two groups that had swung towards McCain after the convention (white women and independents) have now gone back in the Democrat’s direction. Obama leads by 2% among white women (16% among all women) and 5% among independents. Palin’s favorability rating has gone from 44-22 to 40-30, a sharp drop. In a problematic result for McCain, only 37% (versus 60%) say he would bring change to Washington.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a CNN poll of Ohio. The margin stays the same in a five-way race, with Nader at 4%. All the CNN polls were conducted over the week-end.
  • The candidates are tied at 48% in a CNN poll of Florida. In a five-way race, Obama leads 48% to 44%, with 4% for Nader and 1% each for McKinney and Barr.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in a CNN poll of North Carolina. In a five-way race, McCain leads 46% to 45% with 2% each for Nader and Barr.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a CNN poll of Wisconsin.
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Wisconsin. That’s a drop from his four point lead last month.
  • McCain leads 51% to 45% in a CNN poll of Indiana. He leads by 5% in a five-way race, with 4% for Nader.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Oregon. He led by 10% last month.
  • McCain leads 48% to 39% in a CNU poll of Virginia. I had never heard of CNU before, and no other pollster is showing any comparable margin in a state that is polled relatively often.

As I mentioned above, Democrats will be reassured seeing these numbers from Ohio and Florida, as McCain was leading in most polls released from those two states over the past 10 days - more often than not outside of the margin of error. The shift in Florida between the two-way race and the five-way race is also a reminder that there will be other candidates in the ballot, and that could certainly have an impact in close races. We will have to take a close look at numbers in places like Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington. If those states remain competitive, it could prove a major obstacle to Obama’s determination to play offense in a large number of McCain states.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot races:

  • Gordon Smith is up 46% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Oregon’s Senate race. He led by 8% last month.
  • Tom Udall leads 57% to 41% in a DSCC poll of New Mexico’s Senate race.
  • In PA-11, Lou Barletta leads Dem Rep. Kanjorski 44% to 35% in a Franklin & Marshall (independent) poll.
  • Seemingly in response, the DCCC quickly released an internal poll of PA-11 that finds Kanjorski leading 48% to 39%.
  • In FL-16, an internal poll for the campaign of Republican Tom Rooney finds him trailing Rep. Mahoney 48% to 41%.
  • Mark Warner leads 57% to 33% in PPP’s poll of the Virginia Senate race.

The Oregon Senate race is unlikely to break one way or another in the next few weeks, and will likely be decided by whichever party has the momentum heading into Election Day. A 1% margin is pretty much what we expect to see at this point. The polls of PA-11 and FL-16, on the other hand, are very interesting.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Kanjorski is very clearly in trouble. This internal DCCC poll has him leading by 9%, but the DCCC has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on his behalf, a clear indication that they are more worried about him than about most Democratic-held seats. Two polls released by Barletta had the Republican leading, and the fact that an independent poll now has Barletta leading by 9% should be cause of great concern for Democrats. As for FL-16, it has long been one of the GOP’s priorities this cycle, and they are very excited about Rooney’s candidacy. That Mahoney is leading by 7% in a Republican firm does suggest that he might not be as endengered as I had thought, but Rooney just won the GOP primary and is shifting gears to the general election. This will stay competitive to the end.

Poll roundup: McCain ahead in OH, MO while WA tightens; Merkley, Udall, Rossi lead

After the week’s deluge of state polling (particularly yesterday), today brought a welcome drop in the number of surveys released today, so we get a chance to take a breath, remember that there are more than seven weeks left and assess how much the field of play has changed since the GOP convention.

McCain has closed the gap nationally, and after trailing in nearly every poll from May onward now has a slight lead. His gains among indies are impressive and they are lifting the entire Republican Party, as Gallup reports in its latest congressional survey. But most polls that have been released were in the field in the week after the GOP convention; and we are still getting surveys (for instance today’s Ohio poll) that were taken over the week-end.

So we will have to closely monitor polls in the coming days to see whether McCain’s bounce - and particularly his numbers among independents - start fading. Today’s Diego Hotline tracking is one of the first hints that they might be. If they do not, it might mean that the GOP has durably improved its image and that the playing field on all levels (including the House and Senate battles) should no longer be viewed as tilting Democratic.

Also, the bounce is being felt unequally in different parts of the country. In the most crucial battleground states, the numbers have not moved that much since the GOP convention. On the other hand, it is fascinating that the states in which Obama is losing the most ground are states like Washington and (perhaps) New Jersey in which campaigns are not spending money:

  • The day’s four trackings split equally, with two going to Obama and two going to McCain. In Gallup, McCain slips within the margin of error for the first time since Sunday’s release, but he still leads 48% to 45%. Rasmussen finds the same numbers, a 3% improvement for McCain. Diego Hotline, however, finds a 3% improvement for Obama who captures a 1% lead, 45% to 44%; this is fueled by Democratic gains among women and independents (McCain leads by 6% in the latter group now, down from 19% a few days ago). Finally, Research 2000 finds Obama at 47% to 46% with 2% each for Nader and Barr; McCain leads by 3% among independents.
  • McCain leads 48% to 44% in a AP GFQ national survey. The poll finds that 50% of respondents think that McCain would take the country in a new direction rather than follow George Bush’s policy, one of the first signs of a shift on that question.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in an AP Ipsos national poll. Among all adults - not registered voters - Obama is ahead 48% to 42%.
  • McCain leads 48% to 44% in a University of Cincinnati poll of Ohio. The poll was taken Friday through Wednesday, so mostly at the height of the post-convention bounce.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Washington. He led by 12% last month. Obama’s lead in the state similarly collapsed in the SUSA poll earlier this week.
  • Obama leads 46% to 39% in an Oregon poll conducted by Hoffman Research, a GOP firm.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in an Insider Advantage poll of Nevada, but this poll is simply not reliable: McCain leads by 73% among African-Americans, who make up 7% of the state electorate. Adjusting for that would give Obama a comfortable lead.
  • McCain leads 51% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Missouri. He led by 6% in August.
  • Obama leads 48% to 45% (LVs) and 47% to 40% (RVs) in a Marist poll of New Jersey. Another poll from the state released a few days ago showed Obama’s lead tightening to 6%. I don’t particularly trust the survey’s partisan breakdown, however (see more below). At the very least, Obama is where he needs to be in different groups, as he cannot lose in New Jersey if he leads independents by 10%.

The most interesting numbers in today’s release are those from the Northwestern states. Some Republicans have been suggesting that the Palin pick could play well in Oregon and Washington, and this is indeed the second poll of WA in a row to find a dramatic drop in Obama’s numbers. When Obama’s is closer to losing Washington than winning Ohio and Missouri, there certainly is a problem. This is so surprising a shift that we will certainly be looking for more confirmation before drawing any conclusions, and it will be interesting to see whether the McCain campaign decides to move in these two states. The same is true of New Jersey, a state from which Democrats are used to getting bad September numbers.

This is the second day in a row that Insider Advantage serves us a survey from a key battleground state with unbelievable numbers among African-Americans. Yesterday, Obama’s 48% among blacks in Ohio allowed McCain to lead by 1%; today, the Nevada survey has McCain at 73% in that constituency. Similarly, I have problems with Marist’s partisan breakdown: Though the exact numbers are not provided, the candidates enjoy similar party loyalty while Obama leads by 10% among independents. If the poll’s electorate partisan breakdown was the same as 2004, Obama would be ahead by 7% among likely voters, not 3%. Most people would argue that it should have improved for Democrats, but Marist’s partisan breakdown is skewed towards the GOP.

Meanwhile, we got a lot of down-the-ballot races today:

  • In the Oregon Senate race, an internal poll for the Merkley campaign shows the Democrat leading the Republican incumbent 43% to 41%, with 6% for the Constitution Party candidate. In August, Merkley’s poll had Smith leading 47% to 38%.
  • In the Colorado Senate race, an internal poll for the Udall campaign finds the Democrat leading Bob Schaffer 45% to 34%, with 5% going to other candidates.
  • In the Washington gubernatorial race, a Rasmussen poll finds Dino Rossi surging ahead, 52% to 46%. Christine Gregoire led by 4% last month.
  • In IN-09, SUSA finds Baron Hill expanding his lead against Mike Sodrel, 51% to 40%.
  • In the New Jersey Senate race, Frank Lautenberg leads 51% to 40% in Marist.
  • In Missouri’s gubernatorial race, Jay Nixon maintains his large lead against Kenny Hulshof, 54% to 39%.
  • In North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, Bev Perdue leads Pat McCrory 40% to 39% in the latest Civitas poll.
  • In the Georgia Senate race, Strategic Vision contradicts the past few polls and finds Saxby Chambliss leading Jim Martin 54% to 36%.
  • In IN-03, an internal poll for the campaign of Democratic challenger Mike Montagano finds GOP Rep. Mark Souder leading 50% to 37%. That’s an improvement over April’s 55% to 28% margin, but the district does not join the vulnerable list. This is a district in which Bush received 68% of the vote in 2004.

Many interesting polls here, starting with the Oregon Senate race, where Merkley’s lead is only his second ever. The race has been heated in the past few weeks, as the DSCC has finally moved in to air attack ads against Gordon Smith - perhaps they are taking their toll on the incumbent. In Colorado, Udall’s survey is a response to a NRSC poll released earlier this week that had him leading by only 1%. Udall’s poll is more in line with other results we have been seeing from the state. And in Georgia, the past two polls had Chambliss leading by 5% and 6%, prompting Democrats to speculate that they might have an opening; I would love to see more polling in this state, but is this not one of those races that became even more of a long shot for Democrats after Palin energized the GOP base?

Down-ballot: Stevens stuck in DC; Landrieu, Shaheen open leads; Hagan ties Dole

Whatever chances Ted Stevens has of winning re-election involve him being acquitted this fall - but considering that he already faced a tough re-election battle before his indictment, even that would hardly be enough to allow him to come back in the 111th Congress. Assuming Stevens wins the primary on August 26th (and the latest polling suggests that he will), he will face a tough two months joggling his court dates and his campaigning duties.

The road ahead just got much tougher for Stevens, as a D.C. judge refused today to move his trial from Washington to Alaska, as Stevens had requested. This means that Stevens is now stuck in D.C. from mid-September onward, and while the trial is scheduled to be completed by Election Day, this leaves little time for Stevens to engage in any campaigning activities. His plan was to move the trial to Alaska to be able to hold events in evenings and on week-ends. Now, Mark Begich will essentially have the state for himself in the weeks leading up to the election, and the only headlines Stevens is likely to earn in the local press will be those devoted to his trial.

The GOP has already sank so low in Alaska that it might as well take this as good news: Anything that might convince Stevens that he is waging a losing battle and that would be better off dropping off the ballot (thus allowing state Republicans to replace him) is welcome news to a desperate Republican Party. Of course, it is unclear which GOPer could serve as a savior and replace Stevens on the ballot, but any mid-level Republican could be a better option than an indicted Stevens stuck in DC because of a corruption trial.

Meanwhile, it was primary day yesterday in Wyoming and Washington, and voters in both states set the general election field. The only contested primary was held in WY-AL, where Republican voters chose former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis over a self-funding rancher, Mike Gordon. Lummis will now face off against Democrat Gary Trauner, a Democrat who came close to defeating Rep. Cubin two years ago. In late May, an independent poll had Trauner narrowly ahead of Lummis, 44% to 41%. It would of course be a huge upset if Trauner were to prevail in one of the most Republican seats in the country, but the 2006 results combined with this May poll show that it is very much a possibility. It is unclear how Lummis will fare compared to Gordon; that she is more conservative should not necessarily hurt her chances in Wyoming, and this is not an expensive enough state for Gordon’s self-funding to be that much of a boost.

Meanwhile, Senate polling finds great news for a trio of Democratic women:

  • In the North Carolina Senate race (polling history), Insider Advantage finds a tie between Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan, both at 40%! The poll pits the black vote as 21% of the sample - slightly higher than 2004 - but Hagan only gets 61% of those voters.
  • In the Louisiana Senate race, Rasmussen has Mary Landrieu jumping to her biggest lead yet: 53% to 37% - compared to a 5% margin last month.
  • In the New Hampshire Senate race, Rasmussen finds Jeanne Shaheen expanding her lead against Republican Senator John Sununu, back to where it was in June. She is now up 51% to 40% (52% to 43% with leaners) compared to her 5% lead in July.
  • In SUSA’s poll from the Indiana gubernatorial race, Mitch Daniels has opened a large lead against Jill Long Thompson, 52% to 38%.
  • In New Jersey’s Senate race, a new Zogby poll has Frank Lautenberg leading 50% to 32%.
  • In the South Dakota Senate race, a Democratic poll has Tim Johnson crushing his Republican challenger, 61% to 34%.
  • In the Missouri gubernatorial race, it’s 48% for Nixon and 42% for Hulshof in PPP’s poll, compared to a 10% race last month, before the GOP primary.
  • In NE-02, a race that is on few people’s radar, an internal poll conducted for the Democratic challenger has him trailing Republican incumbent Lee Terry 47% to 38%.
  • And still a tight race in the AK-AL primary, as a Club for Growth poll shows Steve Parnell at 44% to 42% for Rep. Don Young.

Remember that if Obama picks Evan Bayh, the winner of the Indiana gubernatorial race will appoint Bayh’s successor - at this point that would mean the GOP would be looking at gaining a seat. In other words, the Daniels-Long Thompson match-up could soon become a de facto Senate race, and one that does not look too good for Democrats at the moment. A race that looks better, certainly, is Louisiana’s, where Kennedy has not yet been able to justify the hopes Republicans have put in him. LA is rated a toss-up in my latest Senate rankings, but Landrieu’s harsh attack ads appear to be working.

The numbers from the New Hampshire race, meanwhile, are very important as the last two polls (from UNH and Rasmussen) had found an unexpectedly tightening race. Sununu has a large war-chest that he is reserving for a post-Labor Day ad blitz, though that could be blunted by Shaheen’s own financial success and the DSCC’s commitment to putting this race away as soon as possible. The bigger Shaheen’s cushion heading into the fall, the less she will have to fear from Sununu’s ads.

As for the North Carolina Senate race, this is the second poll that finds Dole losing ground, and an incumbent at 40% is sure to be in trouble - whatever the circumstances, whatever the state. The last time Hagan got this close to Dole was in May, before the incumbent unleashed a wave of advertisments that gave her a solid lead once again. Since then, Kay Hagan has gone up on air, the DSCC has aired two advertisments, reserved $6 million of ad time for the fall and even MoveOn has gotten involved with a substantial ad buy that starts airing this week. North Carolina is looking increasingly certain to feature one of the year’s hottest Senate races.

McCain leads in two national polls, in Ohio and Missouri; Obama stays strong in Iowa and NE-02

Polls are coming in at a quick pace in this pre-convention week and they are continue to show McCain erasing whatever advantage Obama had built nationally and in key battleground states. One poll can be statistical noise, and trend lines within the margin of error certainly don’t lend themselves to any grand conclusion. But the tightening that we have been observing over the past few weeks is being confirmed with this wave of pre-convention polls. Two national polls released this morning are only the second and third non-tracking national surveys that have found McCain ahead by any margin since early May:

  • A new Reuters/Zogby poll finds a 12% swing towards John McCain, who goes from a 7% deficit to a 45% to 40% lead. This is the biggest non-tracking lead for the Republican since a… Zogby poll released in early March. This is swing comparable to that of the LA Times poll yesterday.

While Obama did lead in yesterday’s Quinnipiac and LA Times polls, he did lose ground in both - by 10% in the LA Times survey, a swing comparable to Zogby’s numbers. Yesterday, I provided some perspective as to how seriously we should take this tightening given that we are on the eve of the national conventions and the VP picks, and explained that these numbers should be heartening to Republicans but should not lead Democrats to panic at all - you can refer back to that analysis, as it is only confirmed by these numbers.

As for state polling, McCain also got some good numbers yesterday in states like FL, NC and MN and the polling data is consistent enough that these are no longer isolated trends. While most state polling has remained stable, John McCain has scored clear gains in recent polls in important states like Colorado and in Minnesota. Today’s surveys continue painting a worrisome picture for Obama, who collapses in Missouri:

  • In Ohio (polling history), Rasmussen finds McCain ahead, but his margin is down since last month. He leads 45% to 41% (48% to 43% with leaners). Last month, McCain was ahead by 6% and 10% - though that was somewhat of an outlier. The worrisome news for Obama: his favorability rating is now negative, with 48% holding a favorable opinion (60% for McCain!) and 51% an unfavorable one.
  • In Missouri (polling history), PPP shows Obama collapsing to a double-digit lead, 50% to 40%. Obama trailed by only 3% last month.
  • In Arizona, a University of Arizona survey finds McCain leading 40% to 30%, with 28% undecided.
  • In Nebraska’s Omaha-based second district, a poll conducted for a House candidate finds John McCain leading 46% to 42% - a surprisingly tight margin. Don’t forget that the winner of the district will be awarded an electoral vote.

In July, PPP and Rasmussen had found strangely big (and diverging) leads (PPP had Obama up 8%, Rasmussen had McCain leading by 10%). They are now both showing a tightening: In the August surveys, PPP has a race tied and Rasmussen has a 4% race. Ohio is as tight as ever - not that we didn’t already know that. The Missouri numbers are particularly worrisome for Obama. McCain has been considerably outspending him in the Show Me State and McCain has opened a clear lead in a number of polls now in a state that has leaned red in the past few elections but that looked promising to Democrats a few months ago.

The day’s other state polls, by contrast, are rather good news for Obama. Iowa, a state won by Bush in 2004, looks like a surer bet for Obama than many of the 2004 Kerry states. It is also one of the states in which McCain is outspending Obama the most (by $700,000) and it is reassuring that the Democrat is keeping a comfortable lead. As for Arizona, the last two polls had McCain leading by double-digits - and the last thing McCain needs is to have to think about his home-state.

As for NE-02, Democrats have had their sights on this lone electoral vote for a while now, and they are helped by a simple geographical factor: This Omaha-based district is in the media market of Western Iowa, so voters there see the candidates’ ads without the campaigns’ making an actual decision to invest in Nebraska. And do not dismiss the importance of one electoral vote, because that’s all Obama needs to add to Iowa and Colorado to get to 269 EVs, throw the election to the House and most probably get to the White House.

Thursday polls: McCain inches ahead in CO, gains in MN; Udall ahead, Franken stays close

We got more down-the-ballot polls than presidential surveys today, but Republicans will surely feel enthusiastic about Rasmussen’s new Colorado poll - the second survey ever from this state to find McCain ahead (the first from Rasmussen):

  • In Colorado (polling history), Rasmussen finds McCain inching ahead for the first time, 47% to 45%. With leaners, it’s 49% to 48% for McCain. That’s quite a reversal from the 7% lead Obama lead last month.
  • In Minnesota (polling history), McCain posts some big gains in Rasmussen’s poll. Down 18% in June, 12% in July, McCain is now 4% behind - 46% to 42% (49% to 45% with leaners). McCain has very strong favorability rating, 60%. Obama’s is also good, at 56%.
  • In Texas (polling history), McCain is up 43% to 33% with 5% to Bob Barr and 2% to Ralph Nader in a University of Texas poll. This poll was taken in mid-July but appears to only have been released now.
  • An IBC/TIPP national poll shows Obama leading 43% to 38%.

McCain’s lead in the Rasmussen Colorado survey is certainly within the margin of error, but it does mark a 9% swing in the Republican’s favor in the past month. Furthermore, only a Quinnipiac poll released on July 24th had found McCain ahead by any margin in this state, and while Obama’s lead in Colorado surveys was narrow, it was also consistent. Colorado was never thought to be strongly leaning towards Obama, but that polls are now finding both men leading, suggesting that the race has turned into a true toss-up, has to be a relief for Republicans as losing the state’s 9 electoral votes are enough to put McCain in a very precarious position. However, keep in mind that the Democratic convention will be in Denver and the local coverage could help Democrats gain a narrow edge.

The Minnesota poll is the second in a row to find some dramatic gains for McCain. The late July Quinnipiac poll found the Republican closing in to a 2% deficit. This is a state that Obama looked to have put away, and that he certainly cannot afford to lose on November 4th. If the race has truly closed to such narrow margins, the Republican convention in the twin cities could help McCain close the rest of the gap. (That the Senate poll (see below) shows relatively stable numbers suggests this poll’s sample isn’t unusually skewed towards the GOP.)

As for Texas, this poll is in fact the first time since Obama won the nomination that has McCain leading by double-digits - but it is difficult to make much of the survey since it was taken more than a month ago. Obama is not airing ads in the state, and though he has volunteers on the ground, that makes it unlikely McCain can be scared enough into putting money in the state.

Down-the-ballot polls:

  • In the Colorado Senate race (polling history), Mark Udall leads Bob Schaffer 47% to 41% in Rasmussen, 50% to 42% with leaners. That’s a slight improvement over his 4% lead in July.
  • Another poll of this race, conducted by CBS’s Denver station, finds Udall leading Schaffer 44% to 38%.
  • In the Minnesota Senate race (polling history), Rasmussen shows a toss-up, with Norm Coleman and Al Franken tied at 45%. With leaners, however, Coleman takes a 3% lead, 49% to 46%. Both candidates have low favorability ratings, but Franken’s is quite dramatic - 38% versus 48% unfavorable (and 30% of very unfavorable opinions). That’s not a good place for a challenger to be.
  • In the New Jersey Senate race, a Republican poll conducted for the Club for Growth finds Frank Zimmer at 36% and Sen. Lautenberg at 35%.
  • In the Texas Senate race, the University of Texas survey finds Senator Cornyn getting 44% to 31% for Rick Noriega.
  • In the Virginia Senate race, Rasmussen finds Mark Warner is still increasing his lead, now up 59% to 33% (61% to 35% with leaners). Warner’s favorability rating is a stunning 68%.

Rasmussen remains the only institute to find a close race in the Minnesota Senate race. All other recent polling (from Quinnipiac, SUSA and the University of Minnesota) has found Coleman holding a substantial lead. Franken has been roughly attacked in the past few weeks, not only by Coleman but also by a low-profile but tough-hitting primary opponent. It will be interesting to see whether other polls than Rasmussen find him standing by the end of the summer.

Mark Udall retains a clear lead in Colorado, but it still hovers in the mid-single digits. Democrats were hoping to have a more solid lead in this race by now to put it alongside Virginia as a sure pick-up. Udall’s margin in the Rasmussen poll is in line with what other polls are showing in this race. And speaking of VA, it is rare to have reverse coattails in a presidential year - but at what point does Gilmore’s dismal showing start hurting John McCain?

That leaves us with New Jersey, an always puzzling state. How much stock should we put in polls taken in the Garden State before mid-October? Is there any recent statewide election in which Democrats looked good in the summer - even though Kerry, Corzine and Menendez all ended up winning by healthy margins. Other polls have found Lautenberg under 50% - and there is no doubt that the electorate does not particularly favor him. Whether or not a poll has been conducted for a Republican outlet and however much undecideds are pushed, an incumbent polling at 35% is never a good sign. But past elections have shown that uncommitted voters hold back from the Democratic Party only to realize they don’t like the opposition by the end. Republicans certainly have an opening in the state - but it is unlikely they will do much to exploit it or invest that much in this race, not after the disappointment of 2006.

Tuesday polls: Obama ahead in Alaska, McConnell leads but Chambliss and Lautenberg look weak

Presidential polls have brought few surprises over the past few weeks, with surveys in most battleground states finding surprisingly steady results - for instance yesterday when Obama was, as usual, narrowly ahead in Colorado, a bit more in Iowa and tied in Virginia. But today’s polling delivery does contain a surprise: The first Alaska poll to find Obama ahead (for that matter, this is probably the first Alaska presidential poll in quite a while to find any Democrat ahead)!

  • In Alaska (polling history), a poll by the Hays Research group has Obama leading 45% to McCain’s 40%. The survey included Ralph Nader (who got 2%) but not Bob Barr, who is also on the Alaska ballot. The poll’s margin of error is rather high, however, at 4.9%.
  • In Kentucky, however, McCain shows little sign of weakening, as he leads Obama 55% to 37% in SUSA’s latest poll. Obama gets 59% of the Democratic vote.

Alaska, of course, is one of the 7 red states (along MT, ND, NC, GA, IN and I believe FL) in which Obama is on the air and organizing but McCain is not. For now, we had already seen Obama rise in ND and MT and erased the Florida lead McCain held through the spring. In North Carolina and Alaska, the margin had been tight for months but McCain has had a consistently narrow lead in both. In Alaska, 5 of the last 6 polls have McCain’s lead within 5% (the 6th had him leading by 10%).

Of course, one Alaska poll with Obama ahead does not change the conventional wisdom about the state - especially as the margin of error is rather high. And we will want to see more polls before concluding that Obama’s investment is having an effect. At the very least, however, it is clear that Alaska’s 3 electoral votes have become a prime pick-up opportunity for the Illinois Senator and that John McCain will soon be forced to divert some resources here. After all, it’s not like either candidate can afford to ignore 3 electoral votes: If Obama adds CO and IA to the Kerry states, he will be 2 electoral votes away from 270.

And on to down-the-ballot races:

  • In the Georgia Senate race, the DSCC released an internal poll finding Sen. Chambliss leading 42% to 36% against Jim Martin.
  • In the Kentucky Senate race, Senator McConnell leads Bruce Lunsford 52% to 40% in SUSA’s poll. In June, the margin was only 4%. Lunsford needs to improve his share of the Democratic vote.
  • In the New Jersey Senate race, Quinnipiac finds Sen. Lautenberg leading only 48% to 41% among likely voters (45% to 37% among registered voters). Republican challenger Zimmer has a narrow lead among independents.
  • In AK-AL, LG Steve Parnell released an internal poll that showed him narrowly leading Rep. Young, 42% to 38%. A third candidate, Gabrielle LeDoux, looks to be rising after a wave of advertisement and now gets 8%.

The Kentucky Senate race has been one of the most active in terms of advertisements, as Mitch McConnell has a huge war chest that he has been using to air a mixture of positive and negative spots. He has been hitting Lunsford repeatedly - particularly on energy issues. Lunsford has been airing ads of his own, but McConell has been working hard to overcome his (quite obvious) vulnerabilities since the fall. The race remains a plausible pick-up but McConnell retains a very clear edge.

It is interesting that the margins in the New Jersey and Georgia race are much tighter than that of Kentucky, since neither of those two contests have been considered particularly competitive. In New Jersey, polls have showing Lautenberg ahead by varying margins (the last two showed him leading by 18% and 10%, for instance). Launtenberg is too unpopular and too old to build a stronger margin. But New Jersey notoriously flirts with GOPers to give itself to an unpopular Democrat at the end; we have yet to see evidence of why Zimmer might be more successful than Kean was in 2006.

As for Georgia, it is rated 17th on my latest Senate ratings but Jim Martin’s Senate victory last week certainly upped Democratic chances. The DSCC released a triumphant press release announcing that Georgia was now a competitive race and they will now take this poll they commissioned as a sign that Chambliss is vulnerable. The DSCC’s determination to put Georgia on the radar screen is reason enough to consider a Democratic pick-up plausible (though for now improbable), especially if the DSCC invests a significant sum in the state.



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