Saturday, September 13, 2008

Poll Watch Update

UPDATED & BUMPED 9/13: McCain's Gallup lead shrinks to 2 points, a statistical tie, while he remains up by 3 in the Rasmussen poll.

PREVIOUSLY: Today's Gallup shows McCain continuing to lead by 3 points among registered voters, which translates to a much larger lead among likely voters. Obama hasn't led the Gallup daily poll since Sept. 5.

UPDATE II: A new Associated Press poll shows McCain ahead 48-45 among likely voters. I'd say this is a Democrat-leaning result because (a) it was conducted over a weekend, Friday through Monday, Sept. 5-8, and weekend results favor Democrats, and (b) the internals show that the number of under-30s surveyed was nearly equal to the 65-and-olders. The results aren't cross-tabbed, but you know that McCain has a heavy advantage among geezers, and senior citizens are far more likely to turn out than 20-somethings.

PREVIOUSLY: The latest Rasmussen daily tracking poll shows McCain ahead by 3 points, a 9-point swing since Sept. 2, when Obama led by 6 points. Thursday's Gallup tracking report had McCain +4 (the fifth consecutive day with the Republican ahead by at least 3 points). Of the nine most recent national polls, the only ones not showing McCain ahead are NBC/WSJ (Obama +1) and CNN (tied).

What about the battleground states? The most important news is that several of the "red" states targeted by the Obama campaign (see the 18 states David Plouffe named in June) are trending toward safe Republican status:
Although RCP provides no poll data on North Dakota or Alaska, it's also safe to scratch from the list those states named by Plouffe as "battlegrounds." So, if McCain maintains his current leads, that would leave Team Obama with seven chances to pick off "red" states from 2004:
  • Iowa --Obama +15 (CNN); Obama's strong ground organization from the primary campaign makes this the most likely red-to-blue conversion. Iowa, however, has only 7 electoral votes (EVs).
  • New Mexico -- McCain +2 (Rasmussen), Obama +13 (CNN), McCain +4 (Mason-Dixon). A growing Hispanic population has this state trending toward the Democrats, but Maverick's pro-amnesty stance may blunt that impact. New Mexico has only 5 EVs, so even if McCain lost it and Iowa, he'd still finish with 274 EVs to Obama's 264.
  • Colorado -- Obama +3 (Fox). OK, here's a state where McCain's got potentially serious trouble. Simply adding Iowa (7 EVs), New Mexico (5 EVs) and Colorado (9 EVs) to Kerry's 2004 total wins the election for Obama, 273-265.
  • Nevada -- McCain +1 (Insider Advantage), Obama +5 (CNN), McCain +7 (Mason-Dixon). Another state out West where McCain has trouble, but only 5 EVs here. If McCain can't hold Colorado and/or New Mexico, Nevada won't really matter. If the election is close, expect to be up until the wee hours of N0v. 5 waiting on the results in these three western states.
  • Indiana -- No September polling here yet, but McCain was leading by significant margins before the Palin pick, and it is thus unlikely that he's fallen behind since then. Indiana went narrowly for Hillary in the Democratic primaries, and it's increasingly looking like a long shot for Obama this fall.
  • Virginia -- McCain +4 (CNN), McCain +2 (Fox), McCain +2 (Survey USA). The Old Dominion might be the new Ohio -- or maybe not. The Palin pick has really boosted McCain's support among traditionally Republican voters here. With 13 EVs, Virginia is more important to the GOP than Nevada and New Mexico combined.
  • Ohio -- McCain +1 (Insider Advantage), McCain +4 (U. of Cincinnati), Obama +5 (Quinnipiac), McCain +7 (Fox). Once again, the Buckeye State appears set to be the crucial swing state. If only Obama can hold the Kerry states from '04 and flip Ohio's 20 EVs,
    he wins 272-266. Having visited Ohio this week, I've seen how the choice of Palin as VP fired up the GOP base, and so it looks like Team Obama has got an uphill fight here.
That leaves two key swing states -- Pennsylvania and Michigan -- that were "blue" in 2004, but where McCain has mounted strong challenges. The Palin bump has made both states more competitive, and one recent poll even shows McCain with a 1-point lead in Michigan, a state with lots of hockey moms, an unpopular Democratic governor, and a recent Democratic scandal involving Detroit's Kwame Kilpatrick.

McCain will keep pushing in both Pennsylvania and Michigan, but I expect more emphasis on the latter in the final stages of the campaign. Pennsylvania would have been the likelier target if McCain had picked Tom Ridge as his running mate, and if Obama hadn't picked Scranton native Joe Biden. As it stands now, though, Michigan is the better prospect.

Trying to look at the situation objectively, there's really no reason for the panic reaction among Democrats that Charles Krauthammer discusses in his latest column. If McCain is merely enjoying a temporary post-convention bounce, then the polls will trend back toward Obama over the next couple of weeks, and there would be every reason for Democratic optimism that they could flip enough "red" states to carry the election.

Ah, but this wasn't the scenario Team Obama had promised. The triumphant march to victory wasn't supposed to boil down to the kind of 50-50 nail-biter that Democrats endured in 2000 and 2004. As evidence increasingly points to a close contest decided by a familiar handful of swing states, Democrats are beginning to regret Team Obama's wasted efforts -- e.g., TV ads in Georgia and North Carolina, that vainglorious Berlin speech -- and beginning to question the genius reputation of the Axelrod-Plouffe brain trust.

Should the current poll trend continue -- if McCain's bounce should grow into an undeniable advantage -- expect the Democratic panic to worsen. Such a reaction would be utterly irrational, but hey, they're Democrats.


  1. "I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time."
    That was McCain speaking about Mitt Romney.
    You'd have to agree that Romney is infinitely more qualified than Palin. Thanx Fox! If their commentators are going to insist on using campaign stump quotes against Obama, then payback is going to be a pitbull with lipstick.

    But back to the polls, you are correct in thinking that this " Dems are scared" jazz is being over-hyped. The narrative that Obama is off message and that supporters are having buyers remorse is the kind of psychological warfare campaigns engage in. Krauthammer under-estimates what Palin has done to the Left; ironically, while Palin has energized the Conservatives, she has also energized Democrats. But then, a Canadian expat like Krauthammer, and not unlike McCain, doesn't get it.....
    Forget the polls. The only barometer I am interested in is Right Wing radio. In one word: UNHINGED!
    Too funny.....

  2. There's something bigger happening: Peruse this Gallup poll article...

    Or via tiny url:

  3. FWIW, Wisconsin is +3 Obama as of Wednesday 9/10--and the pundits assert that if Obama holds only +3 on Election Eve, Obama loses (the Wilder effect...)

  4. As Dad29 noted WI is getting close and it should be put on the Battleground list. So too, should WA and OR.

    WA just came in at +2 Obama yesterday. That's down from +7 in August. Or has been a less than 5% win for the Dems in 2000 and 2004, whereas WA was in the high 5-10% Dem win in the those same years, but we haven't seen any Sept polling from OR.

  5. Young 4-Eyes:

    "I'm not ready to be President of the United States. I just got elected to the Senate"
    Barak Obama on Barak Obama

    I have to agree with Barak on this one.