Archive for the 'SD-Pres' Category

Poll watch: Obama maintains wide lead nationally, PA tightens a bit, Merkley might already have won

Update: A new national CBS News poll brings Democrats great news, as Barack Obama now leads 54% to 41% in a poll conducted Tuesday through Friday - up from the 11% lead Obama had in the previous CBS News poll (that one had been conducted from the 25th to the 28th). Once again, Obama is above 50%, McCain is in the low 40s. (I apologize for being repetitive, but the race has been remarkably stable for weeks).

In what is perhaps the GOP’s worst internal number of the poll, 48% say that McCain will raise their taxes versus only 47% who think Obama will do so - a sign that McCain’s tax offensive has failed to destabilize Obama. Furthermore, Obama leads by 19% among those who have already cast their ballot (about 20% of the sample), a margin that corresponds to other polls we have been seeing.

Original post: Three days from the election, Barack Obama retains a commanding lead that has barely budged over the past few weeks. There is no evidence of a last minute McCain push: the margin widens in four of the day’s seven tracking polls and it remains stable in two others. While there is some day-to-day variation, both candidates have been oscillating within the same range for weeks: Obama is at or above 51% in five of the seven tracking polls, while McCain is still in the low 40s (42% to 44%, with a high at 46% in Rasmussen).

Worse still for McCain, Obama is ahead in tracking polls that have a wide partisan gap (Washington Post/ABC, for instance) as well as those that hypothesize a far tighter breakdown (Zogby and IBD/TIPP, for instance). While the size of his lead varies according to the turnout model pollsters use, there is no disagreement on whether he is ahead.

In fact, the best news for Obama today might be that we are starting to get an answer on which turnout model best predicts this year’s election. Today marks the very first time that there is no difference between Gallup’s two likely voter models (the traditional and the expanded); Obama is usually further ahead in the expanded model. Gallup attributes this partly to the fact that 27% of respondents say they have already cast a ballot, locking them in the likely voter model no matter what their prior voting history. This suggests that sporadic voters are making a greater share of the electorate than the “traditional” LV format hypothesizes.

Then there is Zogby, of course, whose three-day average has a 5% lead for Obama but who warns that the tide might be turning. Last night, the Drudge Report treated its readers with a shock headline, proclaiming that McCain had seized a 1% lead in the Friday sample of Zogby’s tracking poll. Beyond the fact that one night samples are not meant to be treated as a full survey - which is the whole point of a tracking poll - this once again raises questions about Zogby’s theatrics and about his professionalism; it is silly to treat any movement as an earth-shattering change of momentum, and so is leaking your results to Drudge hours before posting them on your website. Furthermore, none of the six other tracking polls have found a similar Friday tightening - quite the contrary.

All of this said, Republicans can take some comfort in the latest Pennsylvania polls - and remember that there is no early voting so no one’s vote has been cast in stone just yet. The five most recent surveys - Rasmussen, Strategic Vision, Mason Dixon, Morning Call and Rasmussen again - have all found McCain gaining ground, and ARG’s first poll since mid-September has a 6% margin. Rasmussen and Strategic Vision have the exact same trend line (Obama up double-digit three weeks ago, up high single-digits last week and now up by 4% and 5%), while today marks the first time that Obama’s margin is down to single digits in Morning Call’s tracking poll.

That said, 4% to 8% gap might have made Democrats anxious three weeks ago, but we are now three days from the election and Obama remains ahead outside of the margin of error in all polls from the state. There is very little time for McCain to finish closing that gap, and it is important to note that Obama remains above 50% in both Rasmussen and Morning Call. Finally, Republicans are concentrating their efforts in the Keystone State (First Read reports that  push-polling is underway in the state) while Obama has no plan to visit the state until Tuesday, making some tightening inevitable.

The bottom-line remains: Pennsylvania has become a must-win for McCain, and even an upset in the Keystone State would need to be accompanied by a sweep of nearly all competitive red states (Obama is ahead in two new Florida polls and tied in a third, underscoring the magnitude of the challenge).

  • Trackings: Obama gains 1% in Rasmussen (51% to 46%), in Research 2000 (51% to 44%), in Gallup (52% to 42%, the same margin as in the LVT model in which Obama gains 2%; he leads by 11% among RVs) and 1% in IBD/TIPP (48% to 43%). The margin remains stable in Hotline but Obama crosses 50% (51% to 44%) and in Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%, though independents split equally). Obama loses 2% in Zogby (49% to 44%). Obama’s leads are thus: 5%, 5%, 5%, 7%, 7%, 9%, 10%.
  • Gallup finds that 27% of likely voters have already cast a ballot and that they skew more towards Obama than other voters, a development that might explain why the two LV models now coincide.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll conducted on Thursday, down from an 7% lead last week and a 13% lead three weeks ago; this is primarily due to Obama’s decline among registered Democrats, among which he receives 75% of the vote. Obama leads 52% to 44% in the Morning Call tracking poll, the first time since October 2nd the margin has been down to single-digits. Obama leads 51% to 45% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday. (For what it’s worth, PPP is saying that they are currently in the field in Pennsylvania and see very little for Obama to worry about.)
  • Florida: Two pollsters release their second poll in as many week - and find contrasting trends. Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Mason Dixon poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday; McCain trailed by 2% last week. The candidates are tied in a Datamar poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday (Obama led by 5% 4 days before). Finally, Obama leads 50% to 46% in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Iowa: Obama leads 53% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; he led by 16% at the end of September.
  • Indiana: The candidates are tied in an ARG poll conducted Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Minnesota: Obama leads 53% to 38% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • South Dakota: McCain leads 53% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll, a margin that has tightened over the past month.
  • Safe(r) states: Obama leads 57% to 38% in a SUSA poll and 55% to 39% in a Research 2000 poll of Oregon. Obama leads 60% to 36% in a SUSA poll of California (he leads by 19% among the 42% of respondents who have already voted). McCain leads 51% to 44% in an ARG poll of Arkansas.

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

  • Proposition 8 remains very close, though SUSA has the “no” gaining. Down 6% a month ago and 3% two weeks ago, the “no” is now narrowly ahead 50% to 47%. That is primarily due to movement among Democrats and African-Americans. Early voters (42% of the sample) split 50% “no” to 48% “yes.” It could still go either way, but it looks like the “no” has at least stopped the bleeding.
  • The “no” is also gaining in Proposition 4 (abortion), which now trails 46% to 40% and leads by 8% among early voters.
  • Oregon, Senate race: Jeff Merkley leads 49% to 42% in a SUSA poll conducted over the past two days. More than 70% of respondents say they have already voted, and Merkley leads by 10% among those voters. Merkley leads 48% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday; Merkley leads by 40% among those who say they have already cast a ballot.
  • Kentucky, Senate race: Mitch McConnell leads 47% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • Minnesota, Senate race: Norm Coleman leads 43% to 40% with 15% going to Barkley in a Research 2000 poll conducted Monday through Wednesday.
  • In WY-AL, GOP candidate Cynthia Lummis takes a 49% to 45% lead in a Research 2000 poll. Gary Trauner led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • In NV-03, the candidates are tied at 44% in a Mason Dixon poll; GOP Rep. Porter led by 3% three weeks ago.
  • In NV-02, GOP Rep. Heller leads 50% to 37% in a Mason Dixon poll; he led by the same margin 3% ago.

With the vast majority of Oregon ballots already cast (ballots have to have arrived by Tuesday, meaning that many voters have already mailed them in), it looks like Jeff Merkley will be the next Senator from Oregon as SUSA’s poll (as well as PPP’s yesterday) are now measuring the way the electorate has arleady voted rather than how it is going to vote). The Kentucky and Minnesota Senate races, however, are still toss-ups, particularly the latter in which the Barkley factor is too unpredictable to venture any guess as to who will come out on top. Democrats will likely have to win at least one of these two seats if they want to rise to 60 seats.

At the House level, Research 2000’s poll of WY-AL finds that the race is still within the margin of error but the trendline is worrisome for Democrat Gary Trauner: We knew that most of the undecided were Republican and that Lummis had to get those voters to come home, and this poll suggests that this might be happening. Note that this is a very important race for Democrats: Getting people like Trauner elected would give them a bench from which to potentially contest Senate races in a few cycles.

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: Obama dominates in Colorado, varying fortunes for GOP incumbents in long-shot districts

Another day, and another round of polls show no sign of tightening. In fact, there is nothing in today’s release for McCain supporters to grasp as a potential sign of hope. In the national polls, it is Newsweek’s turn to find Obama leading by double-digits. Taken together, the day’s eight national surveys paint a very similar picture: Obama is at or above 50% in seven of the eight polls, and McCain is in the low 40s in all eight, oscillating between 40% and 44%.

This is where the race has stood for weeks, with most of the movement occurring within those ranges. That both candidates’ numbers have been so static throughout October makes it difficult to see how McCain could benefit from some last-minute shifting.

At the state level, there wasn’t a lot of polling released today, but the Rocky Mountain News’s poll of Colorado is very important, as it suggests that Obama has opened a commanding lead in a crucial state. More than a quarter of registered voters (and more than 30% of the number of 2004 voters) have already cast a ballot in this state, so time is pressing for McCain to change voters’ minds. Keep in mind that McCain needs to win a blue state if he loses Colorado. And how likely is that to happen? Obama is closer to winning South Dakota than McCain is to winning Pennsylvania in today’s polls. Enough said.

  • Obama leads 52% to 40% in a Newsweek national poll. Among registered voters, he leads by 13%. (Obama led by 11% two weeks ago.) This survey confirms that Sarah Palin’s image has deteriorated, as it is the first Newsweek poll in which Palin’s favorability rating is a net negative.
  • Obama maintains his dominant position in the tracking polls. He extends his lead by 1% in Rasmussen (52% to 44%) and Gallup (51% to 43%). The margin remains stable in Research 2000 (52% to 40%), Hotline (50% to 43%), Washington Post/ABC (53% to 44%) and IBD/TIPP (46% to 42%). Obama loses 1% in Zogby, but remains largely ahead 51% to 42%. So his leads are: 4%, 7%, 8%, 8%, 9%, 9%, 12%.
  • Obama leads 52% to 40% in a Rocky Mountain News poll of Colorado. The poll was taken by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies.
  • Ohio: Obama leads 49% to 46% in a University of Cincinnati “Newspaper poll.”(McCain led by 2% two weeks ago). Obama leads 51% to 44% in a PPP poll (he gets 86% of Democrats and leads independents by 12%).

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls, where we get a lot of news from House races:

  • Jeanne Shaheen leads 52% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of the New Hampshire Senate race. She led by 5% three weeks ago.
  • In MO-09, GOP candidate Bruce Luetkemeyer leads 47% to 42% in a Research 2000 poll. He led by 9% a month ago.
  • In AL-02, GOP candidate Jay Love leads 47% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll. However, the share of the African-American vote is about half of where it ought to be.
  • In IN-09, Democratic Rep. Baron Hill leads 53% to 38% in a SUSA poll. He led by the same margin last month. Hill leads by 32% among the 12% of the sample that has already voted.
  • In NJ-05, Rep. Garrett leads 47% to 40% in a Research 2000 poll. He led by 15% a month ago.
  • In SC-01, GOP Rep. Brown leads 48% to 37% in a Research 2000 poll. 32% of African-Americans are undecided, versus only 10% of white voters, so Democratic challenger Linda Ketner has room to grow.
  • In SC-02, GOP Rep. Wilson leads 47% to 45% in a Research 2000 poll. Here again, most undecided voters are African-American, which could boost Democratic challenger Miller’s numbers.

Beyond the obviously competitive races of AL-02 and MO-09 (both of which look competitive though the Missouri numbers must be a relief for Republicans), Daily Kos commissioned Research 2000 to conduct surveys in a number of long-shot races. NJ-05, SC-01, SC-02, TX-10 and NC-10: These are all races that were on no one’s radar screen as of two weeks ago.

Keep in mind that Democrats are unlikely to win more than a few of these late breaking races, but any pick-up in this list would be considered a huge upset and icing on the cake for Democrats. In all of these districts but TX-10, the Republican incumbent leads outside of the margin of error, though only Rep. McHenry crosses the 50% threshold. That justifies our keeping a watch on NJ-05, TX-10, SC-01 and SC-02.

Eleventh presidential ratings: Obama consolidates electoral college lead

A week after Obama surged to a dominant position, the ratings remain relatively stable, with only one state shifting in or out of a candidate’s column. There is movement under the surface, however, as McCain’s base continues to erode while Obama solidifies his hold on a number of states; a total of 26 electoral votes move from the lean Obama to the likely Obama column, giving the Democratic nominee a base of 260 electoral votes.

In my September 20th ratings - posted exactly a month ago - 18 states were listed in a competitive category (lean or toss-up). Of these, not a single one is today in a more favorable category for McCain but fourteen have shifted towards Obama. In fact, 8 of these states are no longer competitive at all - and they now all belong to the Democratic nominee. They have been replaced by four new red states that were solidly anchored in McCain’s column a month ago and are now considered competitive.

What better way to illustrate how much the electoral map has shifted towards Obama over the past month, and how most of these changes will not be erased no matter how much McCain closes the gap in the final 16 days. Unless some major event turns the campaign on its head, Michigan or Iowa, for instance, are now out of contention.

This also illustrates how narrow McCain’s electoral strategy has become: He needs to sweep nearly all of the 14 states currently rated as competitive, including all three red states that are in the Obama column. That is no small feat, and it is revealing of just how much Obama is command. That said, there is a reason these states are still listed as competitive: they could go either way, and a slight wind pushing McCain over the final two weeks could help him accomplish that.

Without further delay, here are the eleventh electoral college 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, Montana, Nebraska’s 2nd district, West Virginia (24 EVs)
  • Toss-up: Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio (65 EV)
  • Lean Obama: Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia (53 EVs)
  • Likely Obama: Iowa, Oregon, Maine (at-large + 1st district + 2nd district), Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin (107 EVs)
  • Safe Obama: California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont (153 EVs)

This gives us the following map and totals:

  • Safe + Likely Obama: 260 electoral votes
  • Safe + Likely + Lean Obama: 313
  • Toss-up: 65
  • Safe + Likely + Lean McCain: 160
  • 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 two weeks:

Alaska, likely McCain to safe McCain: Like in other red states Obama had been eying, McCain jumped to a commanding lead in Alaska in the aftermath of the GOP convention and of the Palin pick. Unlike in some of these other red states (say, North Dakota and Montana), McCain’s surge has not faded over the past month. The Sarah Palin effect is strong, and it appears to have put Alaska’s once-promising 3 electoral out of Obama’s reach for good. In fact, the GOP’s recovery is so pronounced that it could very well save Sen. Stevens and Rep. Young.

Arkansas, safe McCain to likely McCain: Arkansas is very rarely polled, but perhaps there would be some interesting results to be found. The state remains heavily Democratic, though it is made up of conservative Democrats who vote GOP in federal races. Obama was not expected to do well among conservative Democrats and blue-collar voters, but the startling finding that he is competitive in West Virginia means that he is making inroads in the type of constituency that could help close the gap in Arkansas.

Maine’s 2nd district, lean Obama to likely Obama: Despite a week of GOP advertisement and a visit by Sarah Palin, the GOP does not appear satisfied with the odds of snatching away one of Maine’s four electoral votes, as we learned this week that the RNC is moving out just as quickly as it moved in to help protect red states. The McCain campaign is staying on the state’s airwaves but a recent Research 2000 poll showing Obama with large leads in both districts and statewide suggest that the RNC’s pull-out was a wise decision.

Minnesota, lean Obama to likely Obama:  On paper, Minnesota should not have been have been as vulnerable as neighboring Wisconsin or Michigan, but the polls here tightened more than in other blue states throughout August and September. But a sign of Democratic confidence came from the two campaigns’ expenditures: Minnesota is the only state in which Obama let McCain outspend him by significant amounts, signaling that he believed Minnesota remained solidly anchored in his camp. Now, Obama is matching McCain’s spending (another sign of Democratic confidence given that Obama is outspending his opponent by massive amounts in every other battleground state but Iowa), and polls are reflecting the state’s return to its Democratic roots. Obama leads by double-digits in CNN/Time, Research 2000, Star Tribune, Quinnipiac… Even SUSA now has Obama leading outside of the margin of error. Do I need to say anything else?

New Mexico, lean Obama to likely Obama: New Mexico was the second red state to move to the Obama column - and it did so early. In fact, Obama started enjoying double-digit leads in New Mexico polls well before he did in blue states like Minnesota or Michigan. One significant factor has been Obama’s strength among Hispanics; when it was still believed (back in primary season) that Obama might have problems among that group, it looked like the Southwest could be promising territory for McCain. But it will be hard for the Republican to stay competitive in the state unless he can perform at Bush’s level among Latinos - and every indicator suggests that he is underperforming.

North Dakota, likely McCain to toss-up: Three successive polls released over the past week have found an Obama lead or an exact tie in a state that Democrats abandoned in mid-September, after McCain’s post-convention surged appeared to put North Dakota and the rest of the Mountain West out of contention. With 15 days to go until Election Day, there is increasing speculation that Obama is looking to put resources in the state in a last-minute bid to recapture its electoral votes - and polls indicate that would be a wise decision. One interesting fact about this state is that it does not have any voter registration: any one who has lived in a precinct for the past 30 days can show up and cast a ballot.

South Dakota, safe McCain to likely McCain: The latest polls from the state find a large lead for the Republican nominee, but we have had no result since mid-September. Since then, Obama has made gains in the Mountain West, and it is unlikely that he has been able to tie the race in Montana and North Dakota without also making some inroads in South Dakota.

Wisconsin, lean Obama to likely Obama:  Among the tightest states of the 2000 and 2004 contests, Wisconsin does not look like it will be decided in the early hours of the morning this year. In fact, the Badger State never emerged as a true battleground this year; only during a brief patch in mid-September did Obama’s lead descend in the mid single-digits - certainly nothing to be panicked about. Since then, Obama has recaptured a double-digit lead, and while Quinnipiac’s 17% margin might be overstating his advantage, but the Univ. of Wisconsin, SUSA, or Research 2000 aren’t that far off. And we got confirmation of the fact that Wisconsin is no longer in the top-tier of competitive races when the RNC’s independent expenditure arm pulled out of Wisconsin this week; it had been airing ads in the state since its very first wave of expenditures back in June.

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

  • October 20th: + 153 Obama (313 for Obama [153 safe, 107 likely, 53 lean] and 160 for McCain [116 safe, 20 likely, 24 lean])
  • October 12th: + 150 Obama (313 for Obama [153 safe, 81 likely, 79 lean] and 163 for McCain [122 safe, 17 likely, 24 lean])
  • September 27th: + 55 Obama (239 for Obama [154 safe, 43 likely, 42 lean] and 174 for McCain [122 safe, 38 likely, 14 lean])
  • September 20th: +6 Obama (222 for Obama [154 safe, 19 likely, 49 lean] and 216 for McCain [119 safe, 41 likely, 56 lean])
  • August 31st: + 16 Obama (243 for Obama [154 safe, 29 likely, 60 lean] and 227 for McCain [93 safe, 75 likely, 59 lean])
  • August 20th: + 14 Obama (238 for Obama [151 safe, 32 likely, 55 lean] and 224 for McCain [90 safe, 75 likely, 59 lean])
  • July 30th: + 38 Obama (238 for Obama [151 safe, 42 likely, 45 lean] and 200 for McCain [90 safe, 75 likely, 35 lean])
  • July 16th: +28 Obama (255 for Obama [150 safe, 43 likely, 62 lean] and 227 for McCain [90 safe, 78 likely, 59 lean])
  • July 2rd: +11 Obama (238 for Obama [143 safe, 50 likely, 45 lean] and 227 for McCain [93 safe, 78 likely, 56 lean])
  • June 18th: +22 Obama (238 for Obama [86 safe, 97 likely, 55 lean] and 216 for McCain [87 safe, 87 likely, 42 lean])
  • June 4th: +20 McCain (207 for Obama [76 base, 107 likely, 24 lean] and 227 for McCain [97 safe, 77 likely, 53 lean])

9th presidential ratings: NC and FL’s move to toss-up column gives Obama largest lead yet

The presidential race has seen quite a few dramatic momentum swings over the past few weeks, and that is reflected in the bounciness of my presidential ratings. The margin between Obama and McCain was relatively stable from mid-June to late August, but McCain’s momentum the first two weeks of this month allowed him to close the gap to only 6 electoral votes in my most recent electoral ratings. Since then, however, the economic crisis and the natural fading of McCain’s bounce have allowed Obama to regain his footing and jump to his biggest lead yet - 55 electoral votes.

Obama’s new found advantage comes primarily from the erosion of McCain’s base. Only 174 electoral votes are rated McCain, which is by far his lowest ever (see full history). While the Arizona Senator seems to have solidified his hold on the Mountain West (Obama gave up on contesting North Dakota, and Montana polls suggest that McCain has recaptured a double-digit lead), there is little question that other states that McCain should be winning comfortably have become dead heats: Last week, I moved Indiana to the toss-up column. This week, it is North Carolina’s turn to head out of the McCain column, in what is a devastating development for McCain; Florida also returns to the toss-ups, though that is less dramatic a move, and Obama is close to erasing McCain’s advantage in Missouri as well.

What is most worrisome for McCain in this erosion is that late September is a time a candidate wants to start locking away his most secure states. Instead, the GOP has had to expand its advertisement to Florida late last month, North Carolina two weeks ago and Indiana starting next week. In fact, Indiana and North Carolina’s move to the toss-up column isn’t due to any dramatic and surprising change in those states’ numbers but rather to the fact that we have now reached the final stretch with no sign that these states’ usual partisan affiliation is kicking in.

(Also, note that Indiana and North Carolina - the two reddest states which are now part of the toss-up category - were the two states that held their primaries on May 6th. Could Obama have been this competitive in either state this late in the game had it not been for the extended primary?)

All of this does not mean that McCain is doomed, because Obama has not yet been able to expand his base. This week, 239 electoral votes are rated Obama this week - and that is more or less the level the Illinois Senator has been at for months. He has been able to solidify his hold on Iowa and New Mexico, but other states (notably Minnesota and Wisconsin) have tightened. And while Virginia and Colorado showed signs of moving towards Obama this week (with a number of polls showing Obama leading outside the margin of error in both), a few days of strong polling for Obama in one of his best weeks isn’t enough to remove either from the toss-up column. Yet, Michigan returns to the Obama camp - the only state to move out of the toss-up column this week. McCain has deployed tremendous efforts in the Wolverine State, but it seems like the financial crisis has allowed Obama to finally gain an advantage.

For Obama, the path to 270 remains far more clear than it is for McCain. With Iowa and New Mexico tilting in his direction, Obama needs to retain four endangered blue states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota) and pick-up one more state, with Colorado then Virginia looking like the most promising at the moment (if Obama wins either of those, he would not need to save New Hampshire since 269 should be enough). Those 6 states thus look like the most important at the moment - and take this as further proof that no, it does not all come down to Ohio or Florida this year.

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

  • Safe McCain: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska (at large + 3rd congressional district), Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming (122 EVs)
  • Likely McCain: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Nebraska (1st and 2nd congressional districts), North Dakota, West Virginia (38 EVs)
  • Lean McCain: Missouri, Montana (14 EVs)
  • Toss-up: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia (125 EV)
  • Lean Obama: Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin (42 EVs)
  • Likely Obama: Iowa, Oregon, Maine (at-large, 2nd district), New Jersey, Washington (43 EVs)
  • Safe Obama: California, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine’s 1st district, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont (154 EVs)

This gives us the following map and totals:

  • Safe + Likely Obama: 197 electoral votes
  • Safe + Likely + Lean Obama: 239
  • Toss-up: 125
  • Safe + Likely + Lean McCain: 174
  • Safe + Likely McCain: 160

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 two weeks:

Florida, lean McCain to toss-up: McCain was expected to have a more comfortable time in the Sunshine State than Bush did in 2000 and 2004, but the millions Obama poured in the state throughout the summer allowed him to close the gap and have forced McCain to invest in the state - something he did not want to do. But it seems that the Democrats’ goal was not simply to put McCain into a defensive position, and the Obama campaign is dead serious about winning Florida’s 27 electoral votes (and, with them, almost certainly ensuring that they get to 270 electoral votes).

Obama spent a lot of time in Florida last week - and a candidate’s time in late September is a sure sign that the race is hot. David Plouffe has said that his campaign intends as much as $39 million in Florida this fall (that’s almost half as much as McCain can spent nationally), and the Obama campaign dramatically increased its ads last week, as they are now spending about $2 million a week - more than in any other state. While McCain had a consistent edge in August and early September, both men have been leading in recent surveys, almost always within the margin of error.

Iowa, lean Obama to likely Obama: Iowa becomes the only state rated likely or safe Obama in which McCain is airing ads, but we always knew that the Hawkeye State would be very difficult terrain for McCain. He skipped the state’s caucuses both in 2000 and 2008, simultaneously angering residents and missing opportunities to introduce himself to voters. Obama, on the other hand, built an extensive organization here in the lead-up to his January 3rd victory and that network boosts his November 4th prospects. The latest polls have Obama regularly leading by double-digits, and it would surprise no one if McCain were to pull out of Iowa in the weeks ahead to concentrate in resources in states he has a better chance of winning.

Michigan, toss-up to lean Obama: Throughout the spring and early summer, it looked like the GOP was looking to replace Pennsylvania with Michigan as the biggest endangered blue state - and Obama was clearly struggling to perform at the level of a generic Democrat in a state in which his weakness among blue-collar Democrats looked like it could be fatal. And McCain and Palin’s frequent visits to the state confirmed how high it was on the GOP’s priority list. That made it particularly curious to notice earlier this month that the McCain campaign was spending significantly more in Pennsylvania than in Michigan, perhaps a sign that Republicans noticed they were losing ground here.

And as Obama has gained ground nationally in the aftermath of the financial crisis, he was boosted that much more in Michigan - taking a stunning double-digit lead in a number of recent polls (especially the major Michigan pollster EPIC-MRA). Nowhere are Democrats in a better position when the conversation turns to the national economy than in Michigan, one of the most hard-hit states. That said, McCain remains highly competitive in the state, and the race could tighten again if national security comes to occupy a greater place in the campaign in October. And the amount of legal action in the state testifies to its continuing competitiveness.

North Carolina, lean McCain to toss-up: I wrote a long post devoted exclusively to North Carolina’s tightening just two days ago, so you can read that for a full analysis. Obama’s North Carolina numbers had been stunningly strong in the Tar Heel state since the beginning of the year, but the fact that McCain kept a consistent (albeit narrow) edge in every public poll suggested that the state remained McCain’s to lose. That has changed over the past week, as PPP and Civitas released two polls that had the candidates tied (those were only the second and third surveys ever to find such a result, and the first since April) and Rasmussen had Obama narrowly leading - his first edge ever in North Carolina! And there are other indications that North Carolina is highly competitive: The McCain campaign finally went up on the air earlier this month, and the Tar Heel state was Obama’s first campaign stop after the first debate.

Oregon, lean Obama to likely Obama: Oregon was one of the most endangered blue states in both 2000 or 2004, but Obama has always looked stronger the average Democrat in the Northwest. When Clinton was still in the race, general election surveys showed that this region was one of the only ones in the country in which it seemed safe to say that one candidate looked more electable than the other. And the last few months have confirmed Obama’s strength in Oregon: He now regularly leads by double-digits in a state Gore won by only 7,000 (14% according to Research 2000, 11% according to SUSA and ARG).

South Dakota, likely McCain to safe McCain: This deeply conservative state was not rated in the safest of McCain’s columns because of Obama’s surprising strength in the Mountain West throughout the summer. While Obama had only invested in North Dakota and in Montana, some polls suggested South Dakota might not be entirely out of reach - but that door appears to have slam shut as McCain has regained his footing throughout the region.

Washington, lean Obama to likely Obama: Surprisingly, Obama is having more trouble pulling ahead in Washington polls than in Oregon, which is generally considered to be a more competitive state than its Northern neighbor. But what I wrote about Oregon applies here, namely that Northwestern independents and Democrats appear to harbor warmer feelings for Obama than those in the rest of the country, allowing Obama to hold an edge in a region McCain would have loved to contest. And while I had moved the state to the lean Obama column last week, the Democrat has since then recovered in national polls; it is unlikely McCain can contest Washington without holding a national edge.

History of Campaign Diaries’ electoral ratings:

  • September 27th: + 55 Obama (239 for Obama [154 safe, 43 likely, 42 lean] and 174 for McCain [122 safe, 38 likely, 14])
  • September 20th: +6 Obama (222 for Obama [154 safe, 19 likely, 49 lean] and 216 for McCain [119 safe, 41 likely, 56 lean])
  • August 31st: + 16 Obama (243 for Obama [154 safe, 29 likely, 60 lean] and 227 for McCain [93 safe, 75 likely, 59 lean])
  • August 20th: + 14 Obama (238 for Obama [151 safe, 32 likely, 55 lean] and 224 for McCain [90 safe, 75 likely, 59 lean])
  • July 30th: + 38 Obama (238 for Obama [151 safe, 42 likely, 45 lean] and 200 for McCain [90 safe, 75 likely, 35 lean])
  • July 16th: +28 Obama (255 for Obama [150 safe, 43 likely, 62 lean] and 227 for McCain [90 safe, 78 likely, 59 lean])
  • July 2rd: +11 Obama (238 for Obama [143 safe, 50 likely, 45 lean] and 227 for McCain [93 safe, 78 likely, 56 lean])
  • June 18th: +22 Obama (238 for Obama [86 safe, 97 likely, 55 lean] and 216 for McCain [87 safe, 87 likely, 42 lean])
  • June 4th: +20 McCain (207 for Obama [76 base, 107 likely, 24 lean] and 227 for McCain [97 safe, 77 likely, 53 lean])

Poll watch: Obama can count on NM and IA, gains in MI; 4 VA polls split; Cazayoux, Hagan lead

A deluge of state polls released over the past 24 hours test the presidential election in almost all states we might want to have results from. And, as will often be the case over the next 6 weeks, the overall picture is inconclusive, with different polls finding differing results from the same state. Today’s example of such confusion is Virginia, where both candidates lead in two polls (update: I should have noted that McCain’s two leads are within the margin of error and Obama’s two leads are outside.) The take-away lesson is clear: Results from the most competitive states are more often than not within the margin of error. That includes, in today’s polls alone, NV, NH, PA, OH, VA, MN and NC.

That said, a few results seem significant enough to merit more attention. First, Obama leads by double-digits in yet another New Mexico poll, and has a comfortable advantage in a new Iowa survey. Both of these states were won by Bush in 2004, and both appear to be solidly anchoring themselves in the Obama column. That’s not a surprise for Iowa, but New Mexico looked extremely competitive at the beginning of the summer, so while we might be getting used to Obama leads in both of these states, it is a crucial development in the presidential race as it means that Obama can count on 12 electoral votes from red states - not enough to win him the White House, but enough to put him in striking distance.

Another significant result is Rasmussen’s poll of Michigan, where Obama extends his lead to 7%. This is the second poll in a week (after Marist’s poll) to find the Democrat gaining a comfortable advantage in what is generally considered the most endangered blue state. While other surveys in the same period have shown Obama’s lead within the margin of error, this could mean that Obama is improving his position in one of the states that is hurting the most economically. It should also be noted that today’s polling roundup contains the first good news for Obama from Minnesota in quite a while (he leads by 8%) and a survey that finds him with some breathing room in Wisconsin (he leads by 5%). On to today’s full roundup:

  • Obama leads 51% to 47% among likely voters in a CNN national poll; among registered voters, he leads 51% to 46%. In the previous post-convention CNN poll, the candidates were tied at 48%. In a five-way-race, Obama leads 48% to 45% with 4% for Ralph Nader and 1% each for Barr and McKinney. Also: 47% of respondents blame Republicans for the financial crisis, while 24% blame Democrats; voters trust Obama more to deal with an economic crisis; and Obama leads by 14% when respondents are asked who represents change.
  • As for the trackings, Obama leads in all fours: He is suddenly boosted up in Diego Hotline (49% to 44%), maintains a 1% lead in Rasmussen and a 4% lead in Gallup (48% to 44%) and loses one point to lead 48% to 42% in Research 2000.
  • Obama leads 51% to 45% in a SUSA poll of Virginia. Obama led by 4% last month. He trails by 3% among independents and looks very solid among Democrats.
  • McCain leads 50% to 48% in a Rasmussen poll of Virginia. Both candidates have high party loyalty, independents favor McCain.
  • Obama leads 49% to 46% among likely voters in an ABC/Washington Post poll of Virginia; among registered voters, he leads 50% to 44%. Both candidates have very strong party loyalty, while independents split. [Update: I should have noted this, but Obama has a 5% lead among likely voters (outside of the MoE), when Barr and Nader are included. Among registered voters, Obama leads by a full 51% to 43% in a four-way race!)]
  • McCain leads 48% to 46% in an ARG poll of Virginia.
  • McCain leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina. He led by 4% last month. Obama and McCain have a comparable favorability rating.
  • Obama leads 46% to 44% in a Mason Dixon poll of Pennsylvania. The poll was taken last Tuesday to last Thursday.
  • Obama leads 48% to 45% in a Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania. Last week’s poll found a tie. The swing here is among independents - who have gone from McCain to Obama.
  • Obama leads 51% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Michigan. He led by 5% two weeks ago. He gets an impressive 90% among Democrats.
  • McCain leads 51% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Florida. He led by 5% last week as well. Obama is still under 80% among independents Democrats.
  • McCain leads 50% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Ohio. Obama has managed to get himself above 80% of Democrats, but his party loyalty is still weaker than McCain’s and he trails among independents. The margin of error in this poll is a relatively high 4.5%, so McCain’s lead remains with the MoE.
  • Obama leads 53% to 42% in a PPP poll of New Mexico. Obama’s lead among Hispanics (59% to 35%) is a bit smaller than we have seen of late.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in a Suffolk poll of Nevada. The poll was taken over the past week.
  • McCain leads 47% to 45% in a University of New Hampshire poll of New Hampshire. That’s a 5% improvement for the Republican in what is a trusted poll in the Granite State.
  • Obama leads 52% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Minnesota. He led by 4% last month.
  • Obama leads 48% to 47% in an ARG poll of Minnesota.
  • Obama leads 50% to 45% in an ARG poll of Wisconsin. Obama leads by 7% among independents.
  • Obama leads 51% to 44% in an ARG poll of Iowa.
  • Obama leads 51% to 42% in an ARG poll of New Jersey.
  • McCain leads 57% to 39% in an ARG poll of Georgia.
  • McCain leads 55% to 39% in an ARG poll of South Dakota.
  • Obama leads 55% to 39% in an ARG poll of California.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • In Minnesota’s Senate race, Norm Coleman is up 48% to 47% against Al Franken in Rasmussen’s latest poll. Last month, his lead was 3%. Third-party candidate Dean Barkley only has 3% (other polls have found him much higher).
  • In North Carolina’s Senate race, Kay Hagan leads Elizabeth Dole 51% to 45% according to Rasmussen’s latest poll. Dole lead by 12% in Rasmussen’s July poll.
  • In NJ-05, GOP Rep. Scott Garrett leads 49% to 34% against Rabbi Shulman in a Research 2000 poll. McCain leads Obama 52% to 37% in the district (Bush won 57% to 43%).
  • In MO-09, Blaine Luetkemeyer leads 49% to 40% against Democrat Judy Baker in a Research 2000 poll.
  • In LA-06, an internal poll for the Cazayoux campaign has Rep. Don Cazayoux leading 48% to 32% for Bill Cassidy and 9% for Michael Jackson, a Democrat who is running as an independent. In July, Cazayoux only led by 5%. A key factor in Cazayoux’s improvement appears to be his exposure during Hurricane Gustav, as 64% approve of his Gustav-related work.

Some of these results are very encouraging for Democrats, particularly on the Senate side. There is no doubt remaining that Elizabeth Dole is in very serious trouble, as this is the second poll in a row (after PPP’s week-end survey) to find Kay Hagan leading outside of the margin of error. Those DSCC polls appear to have truly damaged Dole’s image. Democrats will also be comforted that Al Franken remains highly competitive despite the Republicans’ best attempts to discredit him.

As for House races, it would be very interesting to see independent polling out of LA-06. Don’t forget that Jackson is taking most of his votes from Cazayoux, so it is somewhat difficult to believe that Cazayoux could have that high a level of support with another Democrat hovering around the double-digit mark. But if Cazayoux enjoys any kind of advantage, that would already be a boost for Democrats, as he is one of the only Dem-held seats that are rated lean take-over in my latest House ratings. But Research 2000’s poll from MO-09 brings good news for Republicans and should damp Democratic hopes in an open seat that is deeply conservative; a SUSA poll released earlier in September found Luetkemeyer leading by 12%.

Poll watch: Tight races in MN and NV, Franken closes the gap

Relatively few polls were released today, but they confirm what we have observed through the week: While numbers have shifted significantly towards the Republican in marginally competitive states, the numbers in the most crucial battlegrounds have been more stable. Today’s surveys find the margin remaining the same in Nevada and Minnesota but McCain surging in South Dakota - just as he jumped to a big lead in Montana and North Dakota polls over the past week:

  • First, the tracking polls: Rasmussen stays stable at a 3% McCain lead, while McCain’s margin drops to 2% in Gallup. Research 2000 finds a tie at 47%, while Diego Hotline has a 2% swing towards the Republican who is now up 45% to 44%.
  • The race is tied at 46% among registered voters in a Newsweek national poll. The two are tied among independents, and McCain’s party loyalty is higher than Obama’s.
  • McCain leads 49% to 46% in a Rasmussen poll of Nevada. He led by the same margin in August.
  • Obama leads 49% to 47% in a SUSA poll of Minnesota. He led by the same margin in August.
  • McCain leads 54% to 37% in a Rasmussen poll of South Dakota. He led by 4% in August.
  • Norm Coleman is up 41% to 40% against Al Franken in a SUSA poll of Minnesota’s Senate race. Independent candidate Dean Barkley gets 14%. Last month, SUSA found Coleman leading by 7% - and that was already a drop for the Senator.
  • Also today, Zogby released its latest round of interactive polls. act, Zogby seems to have recognized the absurdity of his August online surveys that found Barr at 10% in a number of states, so he did not include Barr these months. As usual, I will not discuss these numbers nor will I include them in my polling page, but here’s a quick rundown: McCain leads by 6% in OH, 5% in PA, 10% in FL, 7% in VA, 8% in NV, Obama leads by 2% in NC and 6% in MI. The polls are just as skewed towards McCain as they were skewed towards Obama in August. Not to mention that if a large number of people had signed up to Zogby’s polls to vote for Barr (we know that libertarians are organized online…), those 10% of Barr voters are more likely than not to have chosen McCain this time since Zogby arbitrarily cut Barr’s name out.

That SUSA’s Minnesota margin is the same as it was in August should not obscure the fact that blue states look more vulnerable than they did at the beginning of the summer, when states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and even Pennsylvania seemed to be firmly anchoring themselves in Obama’s column. All of these states drifted back in the competitive column in August (before the conventions) and Obama does not seem able to solidify his lead there.

SUSA’s Senate poll is also very interesting: SUSA and Rasmussen have been contradicting each other for months now, as Rasmussen repeatedly found a dead heat between Coleman and Franken while SUSA showed Coleman leading by wide margins since March (check the race’s summer polls); the last SUSA poll to find Franken and Coleman within the margin of error was released in February. This suggests that Democrats have been successful at putting the spotlight on Coleman, though we will have to wait and see whether Coleman’s latest hard-hitting ad has any impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday polls: Diverging margins in Mississippi, and the state of do-over primaries

The Democratic candidates are preparing for two more contests in the next few days — Wyoming and Mississippi — on which there has been no public polling. Until today, that is. Two polls were released of the Mississippi primary, which is expected to go heavily for Obama. The share of the African-American population in this primary could be higher than in any other contest’s — but these polls suggest that the higher a state’s black population the more whites vote for Clinton. We had witnessed this racial polarization in South Carolina and Georgia, and now here it is in Mississippi:

  • ARG shows Obama leading 58% to 34%, a very large margin that hides big disparities: Clinton wins white voters 61% to 22%, while Obama carries African American voters 87% to 11%.
  • Insider Advantage — which has had a very good track record in most states it has polled, and which picked up Clinton’s Texas rise first — shows Obama up only 46% to 40%. Now, IA itself acknowledges that Obama’s margin is likely higher because a full 20% of black voters tested in this poll are undecided, putting Obama at 66% — he will almost certainly be much higher on Tuesday. But IA also shows Clinton winning an astonishing 71.8% of the white vote.
  • Another very strange result in which both polls are consistent is that Clinton does better among men than among women, which suggests that Mississippi white men are not willing to back a black candidate…

If this level of racial polarization holds on Tuesday, it would provoke some very strange delegate distribution scenarios, as Clinton and Obama would both be close to being shut out in different parts of the state depending on the racial make-up of different districts.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen came out with two very interesting polls today from Florida and Michigan, testing the two candidates in possible do-overs. The results are very different:

  • In Michigan, Clinton and Obama tie at 41%. In January, Clinton had gotten 55% of the vote without any opposition.
  • In Florida, Clinton gets 55% to Obama’s 39%, which is a healthy lead. On January 29th, Clinton had beaten Obama 50% to 30%.

It goes without saying that Clinton is likely a few points below Obama in a Michigan caucus if she can only tie him in a primary, so that poll is not a good sign for the Clinton campaign. One of their most important arguments is Obama’s inability to win the largest states, and an Obama win in Michigan — particularly after Clinton broke 50% on January 15th — would make it much more difficult for Clinton to put forward her big state edge.

Another interesting poll this morning — also from Rasmussen — tests the South Dakota presidential race:

  • McCain beats Clinton 50% to 38%, and beat Obama 48% to 38%.
  • Yesterday’s SUSA poll of South Dakota had McCain up Obama by 4% and up Clinton by 12% as well.

A very Republican state that Bush won by overwhelming margins, South Dakota is much closer than anyone would expect in both of these polls.While it is very unlikely that either Democrat will end up within single-digits in South Dakota (and if they have a chance of winning here it probably means that they are on their way to routing McCain). But it does coincidence with a lot of evidence that the Mountain states — usually among the most reliable for Republicans — are flirting with Democrats this time around. SUSA showed Obama with a narrow lead in North Dakota and taking some electoral votes in Nebraska.

Finally, we have a few polls from congressional races:

  • Rasmussen accompanies its presidential poll with a Senate survey (it’s actually the other way around), and it confirms that Democratic Senator Johnson has very little to fear next year. He crushes both his (declared and potential) Republican opponents by significant margins and gets 62% and 63%.
  • Meanwhile, Michigan pollster EPIC releases a survey from MI-07, where Democrats are confident they can get freshman Rep. Walberg in trouble. The poll shows Walberg leading Democrat Schauer 51% to 40%, but after a biography of both candidates is read the Democratic candidate edges out Walberg 49% to 48%.

Polls with biographies are obviously very shady, since no candidate gets to define himself in a vacuum, and no House candidate can possibly introduce himself to 100% of voters (not even close). The poll does show a baseline vulnerability for Walberg, but he does get above 50% in the first match-up, and that should reassure him a bit. But given the financial advantage the DCCC has over its counterpart this cycle, they are sure to test incumbents like Walberg and unless the RNCC can step in to help he is likely to see his numbers drop in the coming months.

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