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Final poll watch: No late movement

Still to come today: An election night cheat sheet, anything else that events warrant and a liveblog, of course. (And the prediction thread is still alive!)

A final round of polling released over the past 12 hours includes interviews conducted on Monday, allowing us to check whether McCain benefited from any last minute movement.

The verdict: McCain does not  gain as a result of Monday polling. In fact, Obama gains in Zogby and IBD/TIPP’s national poll and holds firm in a Marist poll entirely conducted on Monday. At the state level, SUSA’s Pennsylvania poll shows Obama improving his position over the past few days and seizing a 9% lead, while Zogby’s 8 polls from battleground states have trendlines going in both directions - but no significant movement.

This means that no pollster has detected any sort of McCain improvement over the past few days. Firms that have been trying to allocate undecided have suggested that they are not likely to break heavily towards the Republican nominee. (Not to mention that in many state the impact of a late-breaking surge would be limited: at least 64% of all active registered voters cast their ballot before Election Day in Colorado.)

If McCain somehow pulls a comeback, almost no pollster will be able to bask in the glory, as even outlets that have shown a tighter race fell in line (IBD/TIPP, Zogby). The only exception is the “Battleground poll” (whose result I never included in my polling watch because they arbitrarily imposed wide swings in their weighing), whose GOP half (Tarrance) is projecting the tightest margin among all pollsters (50% to 48%). Mason-Dixon could also be somewhat vindicated: though their last batch of state polls pointed to an Obama victory, McCain was not in as dismal a situation as we’ve seen elsewhere.

In other words: for McCain to prevail, all polls (even Mason-Dixon) would have to be dead wrong. That’s happened before, but the New Hampshire primary was a highly volatile 4-day campaign - and that means that there were a lot of reasons to explain the polling fiasco. We simply do not know what would possibly explain a similar debacle today (though I tried to outline some possible scenarios here). With all of this in mind, here are the last polls of the 2008 cycle:

  • Obama leads 48% to 42% in the final IBD/TIPP tracking poll; IBD/TIPP allocates undecideds to reach a 52% to 44% Obama margin.
  • The Battleground tracking comes out with two different projections: Its Republican half (Tarrance) has Obama leading 50% to 48% while its Democratic half (Lake) has him ahead 52% to 47%. Note that this is not a trend towards McCain at all; Battleground has always shown a tighter race than other pollsters.
  • Obama leads 51% to 46% in Research 2000’s final tracking poll. That means that R2000 has the tightest final margin of all trackings - a fascinating result given that it is funded by Kos, RCP inexplicably refuses to include it in its averages and Obama had some of his largest leads through September and October in R2000.
  • Pennsylvania: Obama leads 52% to 43% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday through Monday; that’s an increase from a 7% lead Obama enjoyed in a poll released on Sunday. Obama leads 51% to 41% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 14% yesterday).
  • Virginia: Obama leads 51% to 47% in an ARG poll conducted Friday through Monday. Obama leads 52% to 45% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 6% yesterday).
  • Nevada: Obama leads 53% to 42% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 8% yesterday).
  • Ohio: Obama leads 49% to 47% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 6% yesterday).
  • Florida: Obama leads 58% to 40% in a SUSA poll conducted Friday through Monday; he leads by 18% among those who have already voted (58% of the sample). McCain leads 49% to 48% in a Datamar poll conducted Saturday and Sunday; the candidates were tied at 47% a few days ago and Obama led by 5% earlier. Obama leads 49% to 48% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 2% yesterday).
  • North Carolina: Obama leads 49% to 48% in an ARG poll conducted Friday through Monday; African-Americans make up a relatively large 24% of respondents. McCain leads 50% to 49% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; McCain led by 1% yesterday).
  • Missouri is tied at 49% a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; Obama led by 1% yesterday).
  • Indiana: McCain leads 50% to 45% in a Zogby tracking poll conducted Friday through Monday (Thursday’s sample has been left out, Monday’s has been included; McCain led by 5% yesterday).
  • Washington: Obama leads 56% to 40% in a SUSA poll.
  • West Virginia: McCain leads 53% to 42% in an ARG poll taken Friday through Monday.

Meanwhile, in our final down the ballot numbers:

  • Christine Gregoire pulls ahead 52% to 46% in SUSA poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. This breaks a series of 8 SUSA polls that had the race within the MoE.

Down-ballot polling: Hagan closes strong, Georgia heading to runoff, GOP set to pick up PA-11

The gigantic amount of presidential polling that has been released today leads me to do something I haven’t done for a while: devote a separate post to congressional polling. There is a large number of competitive Senate and House races, and they have tended to be overshadowed by the presidential race, so we might as well give them more room tonight.

At the Senate level, most of the attention tomorrow should be devoted to those races that look the most unpredictable, starting with Minnesota where there is no consensus as to which candidate has the lead. Al Franken and Norm Coleman have come out ahead in a number of surveys over the past few days, and the main disagreement between different outlets appears to be over the Barkley factor. Some surveys find Barkley drawing disproportionately from Democrats (for instance today’s SUSA poll), while others find him playing less of a spoiler effect, in which case Franken does much better.

In Georgia, meanwhile, three new polls suggest that the Senate race is likely to head into a runoff. Chambliss comes narrowly ahead in all three but there are very few undecided left for him to get over 50%. Furthermore, we know that at least SUSA predicts African-Americans to make up the same share of the electorate as they did four years ago (26%, up from 25%); given that African-Americans make up 35% of early voters (which are likely to be more than half of all voters), it would mean that tomorrow’s voters are overwhelmingly white for the racial breakdown to be at the 2004 level.

In the two races that are rated lean take-over in my latest ratings, Kay Hagan and Mark Begich confirm that they have the lead; Hagan especially appears to have pulled ahead even more in the final days, possibly because of the controversy over Dole’s Godless ad.

At the House level, both parties get good news: Democrats are looking good in AK-AL and their incumbents in NH-01 and IN-09 are heading into Election Day in a better position than most would have predicted a few months ago. Furthermore, VA-05, a district that has only recently been added to the list of competitive districts, looks ripe for a pick-up.

On the other hand, the GOP is poised to pick up PA-11, as Rep. Kanjorski is finishing in as week a position as he started. And SUSA’s dual polls from Minnesota bring good news to Republicans, as Erik Paulsen is not only alive but slightly ahead in MN-03 while Rep. Bachmann has stopped the bleeding.

  • Minnesota, Senate race: Coleman leads 44% to 39% in a SUSA poll, with 15% going to Barkley; Coleman led by 2% two weeks ago. Barkley draws 15% of Democrats and only 8% of Republicans.
  • North Carolina, Senate: Kay Hagan leads 51% to 44% in a PPP poll, expanding her lead and coming ahead by 15% among those who have already voted. Hagan leads 50% to 43% in a SUSA poll; she led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • Georgia, Senate: Saxby Chambliss leads 48% to 46% with 4% for Buckley in a PPP poll. Chambliss leads 48% to 44% in a SUSA poll, with 5% for Buckley; SUSA predicts blacks will make up 26% of the electorate; the two candidates are tied if we recalculate it with blacks making up 31% of the electorate (they made up 35% of early voters). Chambliss also leads 48% to 44% in a Strategic Vision poll.
  • New Hampshire, Senate: Jeanne Shaheen leads 48% to 42% in UNH’s final poll conducted Friday through Sunday.
  • North Carolina, Governor: Bev Perdue leads 49% to 48% in a PPP poll.
  • Washington, Governor: Christine Gregoire leads 50% to 48% in a University of Washington poll and in Strategic Vision.
  • Safe(r) seats: Mark Warner leads 62% to 36% in a PPP poll of Virginia’s Senate race. Jay Nixon leads 54% to 39% in a SUSA poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race. Mitch Daniels leads 60% to 37% in a PPP poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • In MN-06, Michelle Bachmann leads 46% to 45% in SUSA, a margin that is well within the MoE; it’s a slight improvement for Bachmann over Tinklenberg’s 47% to 44% lead 10 days ago.
  • In MN-03, GOP candidate Erik Paulsen leads 46% to 41% in SUSA after seizing a 1% lead a few days ago and trailing by 3% last month.
  • In PA-11, Republican challenger Lou Barletta leads 51% to 45% against Rep. Kanjorski in a new SUSA poll.
  • In VA-05, GOP Rep. Goode only leads 50% to 47% in the latest SUSA poll; he led by 13% a month ago and by 34% in August.
  • In NH-01, Rep. Shea-Porter leads 46% to 41% in UNH’s final poll conducted Friday through Sunday. Rep. Hodes leads 52% to 31% in NH-02.

I imagine a few more congressional polls might be released by mid-day tomorrow, but that will probably not change the fact that we have not seen any independent polling from a huge number of House races that are currently listed as vulnerable on my House ratings. And in some districts in which polling was released, we might not have gotten numbers in more than a month or two (say AL-02 or CO-04, for instance). This means that the results in a number of House races will be largely unpredictable and we should expect some big surprises - just as in 2006.

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.

Final gubernatorial ratings: Two races left to watch

Gubernatorial races were never going to be the hottest item of the 2008 cycle, but for a while we at least had four highly competitive races to follow. No longer: Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Mitch Daniels have gained a decisive edge in Missouri and Indiana and they should coast in their respective governor’s mansion with ease.

That leaves us with two toss-up gubernatorial races - but what toss-ups they are! In North Carolina, Beverly Perdue and Pat McCrory are locked in one of the most unpredictable races in the country; Perdue has not been able to benefit from Barack Obama and Kay Hagan’s coattails, leading to a startling situation in which North Carolina Democrats seem less likely to hold the governor’s mansion than to win the presidential and senatorial races! What has happened to the Tar Heel State?

In Washington, the rematch between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi is proving to be just as acrimonious as the bruising recounts that settled their first contests. In fact, given that Democrats seem unlikely to lose a Senate seat and that no other Democratic Governor is vulnerable, Gregoire is the most endangered Democratic incumbent to hold statewide office in the country. That she has been unable to put the race away in this pro-Democratic environment is a testament to how weak a position she is in electorally. In a neutral environment, Rossi would likely be ahead, but Obama’s coattails could be too much for the Republican to overcome.

While I might still make changes to House ratings and will certainly update my Senate rankings before Tuesday, this will be the final gubernatorial ratings for 2008… That’s how close we are to Election Day!

The full ratings are available here. Below are descriptions of the three races whose rating I am changing: Missouri, Indiana and Vermont.

Indiana, lean Republican to likely Republican
: Governor Mitch Daniels has been on the Democrats’ target list for years and rightly so: his unpopularity was a crucial factor in the GOP’s collapse in 2006 (when three of their House incumbents lost). The one obstacle to a Daniels loss was the state’s heavily conservative lean and the fact that he would benefit from the GOP’s presidential coattails. Who could have predicted that the exact opposite would happen? Democrats are unexpectedly competitive at the federal level and they have been unable to translate that into gains at the gubernatorial level. (A similar situation is unfolding in North Carolina.)

Former representative Jill Long Thompson has not had the money to compete with Daniels, she had to go off the air for a while in the fall and close campaign offices, meaning that she has no organization but Obama’s to rely on in the state’s more conservative regions. And the very same polls that have Obama and McCain in a dead heat show Daniels leading by wide margins. An upset is still possible - particularly if Democratic turnout is much higher than expected - but Daniels is far stronger than anyone could have expected a few months ago.

Missouri, lean Democratic to likely Democratic: Attorney General Jay Nixon was always expected to win this race, but the ease with which he is stream-rolling Republican congressman Kenny Hulshof is remarkable given that Missouri is certainly no easy state for Democrats to win in. Nixon’s lead in polls typically exceeds 15%, and Hulshof’s best efforts to dismiss him as too far to the left have not made a dent in polls.

Vermont, safe to likely Republican: In this three-way race in which independent candidate Anthony Pollina could very well come ahead of Democratic nominee Gay Symington, Republican Governor Jim Douglas is guaranteed to finish first. Yet, a quirk in state law complicates the situation: If no candidate crosses 50%, the election will be thrown into the legislature, controlled by Democrats. The legislature is likely to follow the will of voters and elect whichever candidate comes out on top (as they did in 2002), but nothing prevents them from seating Symington.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down the ballot polls:

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

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

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

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

Poll watch: As LV and RV models split, Obama leads VA, McCain stops bleeding in yet another FL poll

We are starting to see polling taken after the week-end (and thus after the Powell endorsement and McCain’s socialism charge), and there is little sign that McCain is closing the gap. He does gain a bit in two of the tracking polls, but he loses ground in four others, as Zogby, Research 2000 and Washington Post/ABC now all show Obama leading by double-digits. In all 10 of the national polls released today (including the AP survey, about which I will talk in a minute), McCain is stuck in the low 40s, between 40% and 45%.

One possible worry for Obama is that the size of his national lead is due to his gains in states that will not influence the electoral college: We have been seeing Obama open dramatic leads in safe blue states like California and Washington and cut margins significantly in places like Texas and Kentucky. The trends in places like Ohio and Florida are at a much smaller scale (surely because the volume of campaigning and advertisement makes these states less susceptible to follow national trends). So could the size of Obama’s lead in non-battleground states be obscuring a tighter race in the electoral college?

There isn’t much evidence of that in polls from battleground states, where Obama continues to get strong numbers - though he hasn’t put it away the way the way he appears to have secured a popular vote lead. But he dominates in Virginia, where CNN/Time finds him leading by double-digits yet again. Mason-Dixon does find the Old Dominion within the margin of error, but its previous survey had been the only one with McCain ahead since September. Furthermore, Obama leads outside of the margin of error in three out of the five CNN/Time polls (VA, Nevada and Ohio) and is leading within the MoE in two polls of North Carolina.

The good news for McCain comes from Florida: his lead in Mason Dixon is well within the margin of error, but it is the fourth survey in a row to find McCain gaining in the Sunshine State, a significant break from Obama’s fifteen consecutive - many of which were outside of the margin of error.

The second good news for McCain comes from the much-discussed AP poll that has a 1% lead. But three remarks apply here. First, McCain is stuck in the same range as every other poll (the low 40s), and Obama is much lower than his national average. As long as McCain cannot break 45% (or 46% in his best Rasmussen days), he doesn’t have much hope of besting Obama nationally. Second, Marc Ambinder remarks that evangelicals make up about twice as much of the sample as they usually do. Third, this gets us to the important slip between registered voters and likely voters.

Obama leads by 5% among registered voters in AP’s poll, a differential that also exists in Gallup’s tracking (+9% among registered voters, +5% or +8% among likely voters). And it is most dramatic in CNN/Time’s state polls. In all five, Obama performs better among RVs than among LVs (especially in Nevada, where he is ahead by 13% among RVs). What this means is very simple: Obama will benefit from higher turnout, and the size of his lead is partly dependent on how tight a likely voter screen pollsters apply.

There are clear indications that turnout will be larger than usual, particularly among Democrats, meaning that Obama’s lead could range somewhere between the LV screen and the RV results. Early voting numbers are going through the roof among Democrats and African-Americans in North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada; furthermore, Gallup’s tracking poll acknowledges that the traditional LV model might not apply - which is why they have an expanded model which closely mirrors the RV results.

That said, it is impossible to predict how large turnout will be and whether Obama’s organization will fully function. And that’s why we have elections. On to the full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Obama remains in command of the tracking polls, though they are not moving as uniformly in his direction yesterday. Obama gains 2% in Zogby (up 52% to 42%), 2% in Research 2000 (up 51% to 41%), 2% in Rasmussen (up 51% to 45%) and 2% in Washington Post/ABC (54% to 43%). Hotline finds a stable margin (47% to 42%). McCain gains 2% in Gallup’s expanded likely voter model (52% to 44%, with a 9% lead for Obama among RVs and a 5% lead in the traditional LV model), 2% in IBD/TIPP (46% to 42%). To recap, Obama’s leads are: 4%, 5%, 6%, 8%, 10%, 10%, 11%.
  • Obama leads 49% to 40% in a national Fox News poll conducted Monday and Tuesday. He led by 7% two weeks ago. Who knew a few months ago that Obama would achieve the support of 88% of Democrats (versus 83% of Republicans for McCain)? Interestingly, 66% of Democrats and 47% of independents think that spreading the wealth is a good idea.
  • Obama leads 44% to 43% in a national AP/GfQ poll conducted Thursday through Monday. He led by 7% three weeks ago. Obama leads by 10% among all adults and by 5% among registered voters, however.
  • Obama leads 50% to 42% in a national poll conducted by Ipsos/McClatchy conducted Thursday through Monday.
  • Obama leads 54% to 44% in a CNN/Time poll of Virginia. Among registered voters, Obama leads 54% to 42%. When other candidates are included, he leads 51% to 44%.
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Virginia. McCain led by 3% two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a CNN/Time poll of Ohio, just within the margin of error. Among registered voters, Obama leads 51% to 45%. When other candidates are included, he leads 49% to 44%, with 2% for Barr (50% to 43% among registered voters).
  • Obama leads 48% to 46% in a WSOC-TV poll of North Carolina.
  • Obama leads 50% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of North Carolina, just outside of the margin of error. Among registered voters, Obama leads 51% to 46%. When other candidates are included, he leads 51% to 46%, with 2% for Barr.
  • Obama leads 51% to 46% in a CNN/Time poll of Nevada. Among registered voters, Obama leads 54% to 41%. When other candidates are included, he leads 49% to 43%, with 3% for Nader and 2% for Barr.
  • McCain leads 46% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Florida. Obama led by 2% two weeks ago.
  • Obama leads 52% to 41% in a Research 2000 poll of Wisconsin, conducted Monday and Tuesday.
  • Obama leads 51% to 38% in a Wisconsin Public Radio poll of Wisconsin. However, the poll was was conducted form the 9th to the 17th, so it is not at all an indicator of what is going on currently on the ground.
  • Obama leads 55% to 36% in an Elway poll of Washington.
  • McCain leads 53% to 42% in an Ivan Moore poll of Alaska. McCain led by 17% two weeks ago.
  • McCain leads 53% to 44% in a CNN/Time poll of West Virginia, just outside of the margin of error. Among registered voters, Obama leads 51% to 44%.
  • McCain leads 42% to 41% in a one-week old poll of West Virginia conducted by Democratic-firm Rainmaker.
  • McCain leads 54% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Tennessee. He led by 19% last month.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

  • Mark Begich is ahead 47% to 46% in an Ivan Moore poll of the Alaska Senate race. Begich led by 4% two weeks ago.
  • Kay Hagan leads 44% to 43% in a WSOC-TV poll of North Carolina’s Senate race.
  • McConnell leads 50% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. He led by 9% three weeks ago.
  • Mary Landrieu leads 54% to 34% in an internal poll of the Louisiana Senate race.
  • Chris Gregoire leads 51% to 39% in an Elway poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race.
  • Perdue and McCrory are tied at 44% in a WSOC-TV poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race.
  • In AK-AL, Ethan Berkowitz leads 51% to 43% against Don Young in an Ivan Moore poll. He led by 9% two weeks ago.
  • In FL-18, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen leads 48% to 41% in an internal poll for Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo.

No big surprises in this batch of congressional polls. If anything, the news is good for the GOP as Sens. Stevens and Dole stay within the margin of error in their respective cases (as we await the verdict of the Stevens trial) and as Mitch McConnell remains ahead outside of the margin of error in Rasmussen’s survey. But the Louisiana numbers are naturally excellent news for Democrats; while Landrieu’s own survey might be overstating her lead, it does confirm the conventional wisdom that the incumbent is ahead.

Down-ballot: DSCC expands to Georgia, GOP hits Gregoire and Shea-Porter

Twelve! A week after Kentucky, the DSCC has decided to go up on Georgia airwaves to attack Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss. This means that the DSCC is pouring in money in ten GOP-held seats, with two more (VA and NM) being such locks for Democrats that the national committee does not need to move in.

One of these twelve seats is Maine, where there is little evidence that Susan Collins is at all vulnerable but which is a cheap enough state that it does not cost the DSCC that much to air ads. By contrast, the DSCC’s spending in Georgia is relatively cheaper, $500,000 for the upcoming week.

$500,000 is certainly not a lot of money, especially against a well-funded incumbent, but how much more can the DSCC do without endangering its positions in the (many) other states it is trying to contest. North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oregon, Minnesota, Mississippi - all of these races are still very much contested, and the DSCC cannot spread its resources too thin. This is also why the DSCC asked Barack Obama’s (cash-flooded) campaign to divert some of its money to Senate Democrats to allow the DSCC to invest in more races; the Obama campaign refused to do so.

That said, even this money is a crucial investment if Democrats are hoping to pull Jim Martin through. The former state Senator does not have enough money himself to conduct a strong campaign and take advantage of the current climate. And early voting started weeks ago in the state and half-a-million people have already voted, so a late Martin surge risks falling short because of voters who cast their ballot before Democrats went on air. Furthermore, African-Americans look to be voting early, meaning that many voters who are sure of voting Democratic have already cast their ballot or will do so in the coming days. If Martin’s profile isn’t high enough, he risks losing some of these votes, which is why the DSCC’s involvement is important.

In other spending news, the Republican strategy seems to be to put its money in far smaller races - but make sure to fund those contests as much as possible! In Washington’s gubernatorial race, for instance, the Republican Governor’s Association is spending $3.5 million against Christine Gregoire, while the Building Industry Association of Washington has reached $7 million of spending. That is a lot of money for an outside group. Another race in which heavy outside expenditures are being made is Minnesota’s Senate race, where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is going after Al Franken.

In NH-01, meanwhile, the NRCC has bought a lot of TV time against Rep. Carol Shea-Porter who is facing one of the most competitive races in the country. The Republican committee is throwing $400,000 in the race - a striking amount given that the GOP is cutting so many of its incumbent and challengers off. The NRCC’s ad against Shea-Porter (who is being helped by hundreds of thousands of DCCC expenditures) attacks her for having voted to let sex offenders and felons live in public housing. The ad does not explain what should be done with these people instead and whether Republicans believe they should be left homeless:


Another tough-hitting ad is being aired in Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell’s latest spot features a widow accusing Bruce Lunsford’s clinic of having helped kill her husband! This has been part of McConnell’s major push to indict Lunsford’s health care company.

Finally, the day’s prize for the ugliest negative advertisement goes to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. In Mississippi, Wicker is now running a ridiculous spot that accuses Ronnie Musgrove of promoting gay rights by featuring a group of Village People-like people handing over money to his campaign. In a particularly slimy moment, the campaign official says “let me guess” when he first sees the cowboy-dressed man who is supposed to represent the gay agenda:


It is hard to ever predict how such cultural war ads will play, though the ad’s low production-quality shouldn’t help Wicker. But to the extent that Republicans have been falling over the past month because of the economic crisis, it is thus doubtful that voters will come to make up their minds on other issues - if McCain can’t get through and talk about about terrorism, can Wicker be effective talking about gay rights and abortion?

Poll watch: Obama surges ahead in NV, NH and WA, falls in MN; Shaheen, Coleman lead

Strikingly few presidential polls were released over the past 24 hours, but enough for the now familiar Obama surge to be obvious. He improves his position in the tracking polls, which now range from a 6% lead to an 11% lead. He jumps ahead to double-digit leads in three surveys from New Hampshire and Washington (two Kerry states in which he struggled throughout September) and surged to a lead in Nevada.

That said, there is one highly problematic poll for Obama in today’s roundup: SUSA finds McCain inching ahead - though within the margin of error - in Minnesota. This might seem like an outlier, as it does contradict the 11% lead Obama had in CNN/Time’s survey on Wednesday. Yet, CNN’s poll was further from what we have been seeing lately than SUSA’s survey is. Not only did SUSA’s previous poll have a 2% race, but a lot of other polling firms have shown a narrow race over the past six weeks. A quick glance at polls released since mid-September only shows a 1-2% race in Quinnipiac, ARG and the Big Ten, while the Star Tribune found a tie.

Furthermore, there is a possible explanation for why Minnesota might not be trending back towards Obama as other blue states are doing: McCain has been investing money in the state, but Obama has not (only in markets that touch neighboring battleground states) - and I believe this is the only state in the country in which this is the case. Not to mention that Minnesota has an independent streak. All of this is to say that  Democrats should not dismiss McCain’s strength in Minnesota - 10 electoral votes are on the line. On to a full roundup of the day’s polls:

  • Obama maintained a robust advantage in the day’s tracking polls. He leads 51% to 40% in Research 2000, 51% to 44% in Rasmussen, 48% to 42% in Diego Hotline (+1) and 49% to 42% (+2) in Gallup.
  • McCain leads 48% to 47% in a SUSA poll of Minnesota (polling history). This is his first lead in the state since from March, but he has been close in a number of polls - including trailing by only 2% in the most recent SUSA survey.
  • Obama leads 51% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Nevada. He trailed by 3% in July and in August.
  • Obama leads 53% to 43% in a Rasmussen poll of Washington. Obama only led by 2% in early September. This is the second poll of the state to find Obama expanding his lead.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot polls:

  • Jeanne Shaheen recaptures a 50% to 45% lead in Rasmussen poll of New Hamphsire Senate race (polling history). Sununu led by 7% last month, in what was only his second lead ever.
  • Norm Coleman once again leads by double-digit in a SUSA poll of Minnesota’s Senate race (polling history). He is ahead 43% to 33% with 19% going to independent candidate Dan Barkley, who appears to be taking more votes from Franken.
  • The DSCC immediately released an internal poll showing Franken leading 38% to 36% with 12% going to Barkley. This poll has a much higher number of undecided voters.
  • In NM-02, Democratic candidate Harry Teague leads Ed Tinsley 47% to 43% in a Research 2000 poll. This is a very conservative district that Bush won 58% to 42%, but McCain only leads 49% to 42%.
  • In PA-10, an internal poll for the Carney campaign finds him leading 50% to 36%. He led by 27% in August, however.
  • In FL-13, Rep. Buchanan has a big lead in a SUSA poll, 49% to 33%.
  • No surprise in KY-04, a state that is not on anyone’s list of competitive races. Rep. Davis leads 58% to 36% in a SUSA poll.
  • Rep. Donnelly leads Republican Luke Puckett 53% to 35% in a South Bend Tribune poll of IN-02. This is not considered a competitive race, but the GOP had very high hopes for it at the beginning of the cycle.
  • Gregoire and Rossi are tied at 48% in a Rasmussen poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race. Rossi led by 6% last month - his biggest lead yet. Most polls have shown a complete dead heat.

Senate: Rasmussen’s New Hampshire poll is a huge relief for Democrats, though it certainly does not mean that Sununu’s late comeback should be dismissed. There is now little question that Rasmussen’s September poll was an outlier - no other pollster has found a result anywhere close to that for the past 10 months! But a number of polls have shown the race tightening, and Sununu, who routinely trailed by double-digits until the summer, is within striking distance.

Minnesota’s polling has been as confusing as the attacks the candidates are hurling at each other or Jesse Ventura’s decision process - and this latest dual release confirms that it is difficult to know what is going on. That said, the best news for Coleman isn’t that he is leading by 10% in SUSA but that independent candidate Barkley is hurting Franken more than he is hurting him. Coleman’s ads against Franken have been very personal, and that could mean that a lot of voters who do not want to vote for Coleman because of his party (the DSCC is heavily on the air as well, after all) now have a third-party option to voice their anger! If Barkley and Franken divide the anti-Coleman vote, the incumbent could survive.

House: Research 2000’s survey from NM-02 is without a doubt the most interesting of the day’s polls. This is a conservative district, but it embodies the GOP’s open seat headaches. Along with MD-01, MO-09 or AL-02, this is a district Republicans should have no trouble defending - and perhaps in no other year than in 2006 or 2008 would Democrats have a shot at a pick-up. But Teague looks ideally placed to ride the Democratic improvements in the district and his opponent’s weakness. An internal poll for the Teague campaign found him leading just a few days ago, and this independent survey confirms that finding.

Gubernatorial rankings: Fate of two Dem-held seats could depend on Obama’s coattails

Gubernatorial races have never been a focus this year since only four seats are in any sense competitive - and of these four two have grown less interesting over the past few months. In Missouri, Attorney General Jay Nixon has been in a strong position for months, but Republicans were hoping that Rep. Kenny Hulshof’s primary victory would give him enough of a bounce to make this race more suspenseful; that does not appear to have happened. In Indiana, incumbent Governor Mitch Daniels has solidified his position since the spring, and the financial difficulties of Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson are forcing her to rely on Obama’s ground game to pull an upset.

That only leaves two highly competitive races, both of which are currently held by Democrats. In North Carolina, Beverly Perdue and Pat McCrory continue to pounce each other but neither appears to be getting an edge; in Washington, Governor Gregoire looks very vulnerable in a rematch of her controversial 2004 match-up, as the assumption that she would have had time to entrench herself does not appear to have played out. What is interesting is that the fundamentals in both states should favor Democrats. Washington leans blue - especially in such a Democratic year. And not only does North Carolina typically vote Democratic in state-level races, but Barack Obama’s stunning competitiveness reduces Perdue’s need to convince voters to split their vote. In both Washington and North Carolina, therefore, Barack Obama’s coattails could be enough to carry Gregoire and Perdue across the finish line, but any last minute show of strength by John McCain could improve the GOP brand and allow Rossi and McCrory to upset historical trends.

Lean take-over (1 R)

1. Missouri (Open; Previous rating: 1)

Rep. Kenny Hulshof prevailed in a very heated Republican primary back in August, and that is likely to be his only victory of the 2008 cycle. Attorney General Jay Nixon has been campaigning for the gubernatorial position for nearly four years now, and he is being further boosted by this year’s Democratic environment. Nixon has led throughout the contest, and he is comfortably ahead in the most recent polls. One added bonus for Nixon is that Barack Obama is showing no sign of giving up on the Show Me State so that he will be able to rely on Obama’s turnout machine to boost his own totals; that was not the case for Claire McCaskill in 2004.

Toss-up (2 D)

2. North Carolina (Open; Previous rating: 2)

Who knew that North Carolina’s top three statewide races would all be rated toss-ups - the only state in the country that is in such a position. Just as Republicans John McCain and Elizabeth Dole were expected to have an edge in the presidential and senatorial races, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue (or Bev Perdue, as ballots will be marked) looked favor to keep the governorship in Democratic hands. But Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is proving to be a strong candidate for Republicans.

McCrory is pounding Perdue on ethical issues, seeking to make an issue of the Democrats’ hold on state government and corruption scandals that have erupted over the years. While Perdue has never been involved in any, she has been working in state government for decades and McCrory is hoping to take advantage of that by directly referencing the “culture of corruption” and hitting Perdue as part of the “power elite.” Meanwhile, and in a telling sign that North Carolina is not as reliably conservative as some might expect, Perdue is not hesitating to duplicate the strategic blueprint Democrats have been using in bluer parts of the country. She is hitting McCrory for his support of Bush’s agenda and for benefiting from Bush’s help - and she is also invoking social issues by running ads against McCrory hitting him on stem cells. Those spots have led to some of the toughest exchanges of the race, and McCrory accused Perdue of exploiting the sick for political purposes.

The latest polls are showing a dead heat, with a number of surveys finding McCrory holding an edge. But the only surveys that have found McCrory leading outside of the margin of error have also shown McCain leading comfortably, suggesting that McCrory’s fate is dependent on a strong result at the top of the ticket - and the fact that Obama has a far superior ground game and has registered thousands of new Democratic-leaning voters could make the difference in Perdue’s favor if the election remains close.

3. Washington (Gov. Gregoire; Previous rating: 4)

This is the first time that I am rating this race a toss-up. It seemed likely that Christine Gregoire would be able to rely on the advantage of incumbency in a blue state in a Democratic year to take a decisive advantage over Dino Rossi. Instead, the contest looks just as tight as it did four years ago - so tight, in fact, that SUSA’s surveys have found the margin to be within the MoE for seven polls in a row. Other pollsters also find a dead heat.

All of this points to the simple fact that Gregoire remains eminently vulnerable, and that she was not able to fully legitimize herself after her controversial 2004 victory on a second recount. Her fate largely depends on the national environment on Election Day, as a Democratic breeze would likely be enough to push her across the finish line. Rossi needs the GOP brand to improve a bit, and he is fully aware that the biggest obstacle to his election is his party label. That is why he has gotten to be listed on the ballot as “GOP party” rather than as “Republican.” Democrats sued against Rossi’s maneuver, but a judge just ruled in Rossi’s favor.

Lean retention (1 R)

4. Indiana (Gov. Daniels: Previous rating: 3)

You can’t blame Democrats for having high hopes for toppling Mitch Daniels. The incumbent was so unpopular two years ago that he contributed to the state GOP’s catastrophic results in the 2006 midterms. And polls throughout the spring showed Daniels locked in a dead heat against the two Democrats who were vying to oppose him. But it looks like the May 6th primary was the high point of Jill Long Thompson’s campaign. She is now in a difficult position financially and she was recently forced to close some offices and cancel TV advertising for at least an entire week of September. And Daniels has opened a decisive lead in the polls of the past few months, usually above the 50% vulnerability threshold. Long Thompson is still not out of contention, but her fate appears to be largely dependent on that of Barack Obama, and she will need to ride Obama’s organization and ground game to reach voters she would not be able to organize herself.

Full rankings of all 11 races here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot polls:

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

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

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.

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