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.
- Wisconsin: Obama leads 52% to 42% in a University of Wisconsin poll conducted from the 21st to the 28th.
- 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.