In new polls, Virginia and North Carolina look to be in play even with McCain's nomination

A number of interesting general election polls were released today, but first come the last two polls from the Wisconsin primary, both of which have good news for Barack Obama:

  • The only pollster that had Hillary Clinton ahead in the state has revised its projection within a few days. ARG has a survey out today that shows Obama leading 52% to 42%, in line with other polls but a 16% swing from ARG's last survey!
  • Meanwhile, Research 2000 has a poll of its own, showing Obama up 47% to 42%, stable from last week.
We are only a few hours from polls closing in Wisconsin, so there is no need to engage in extensive analysis of these numbers. except to say that no poll has shown the trendlines favoring Clinton at this point. Most surveys show a tight race in mid-single digits, with PPP (and now ARG, ironically enough) the only pollster that has Obama up more comfortably. If these numbers are confirmed tonight, it would meant that Clinton's strategy of drawing more extensive contrasts has not succeeded in gaining new voters, but it would also mean that it has allowed Clinton to halt Obama's momentum and prevent new voters from joining his candidacy. That lesson could be very important for Clinton's campaign given that they still look to be ahead in Ohio and Texas and need to prevent Obama from gaining ground.

  • General election polls
Meanwhile, four general election polls were released this morning from four different states (and 3 different pollsters):

  • In Iowa, SUSA shows a wide discrepancy between Obama and Clinton. The Illinois Senator leads McCain 52% to 41%, while McCain leads Clinton 51% to 41%.

  • In Virginia, the race is also very competitive, with Obama leading McCain 51% to 45% but Clinton trailing 48% to 45%.
  • This is great news for Dems, however. The previous SUSA poll of Virginia released a few weeks back had both Obama and Clinton looking very strong against all Republicans except McCain, who crushed Clinton 52-43 and Obama 52-40.

  • No such miracle, however, in Alabama, where a new poll has McCain trouncing Clinton 58% to 29% and Obama 59% to 31%.

  • Finally, PPP has in a survey of North Carolina that implies that yet another red state is in play next year. McCain leads both Democrats by 5%, which is about 10% weaker than Bush's totals in 2004. He is ahead of Clinton 48% to 43% and of Obama 47% to 42%.
Two major lessons out of these surveys: (1) The most consistent feature of the electability discussion has been that Clinton polls consistently better in red states, especially in the South. In states like Virginia, Alabama and Kentucky, poll after poll showed her faring much better than Obama did (while the Illinois Senator usually did better out West). While Obama looks stronger in this month's wave of general election polls, this set is the first one from places like Virginia that shows him either tied or running better than Clinton. Of course, this has to be relativized given that the two candidates are getting very different treatment right now, and that one is on the rise while the other is hurting, but this is the first significant development in general election polls.

(2) Democrats were worried that McCain's nomination would remove states like Virginia and North Carolina from the competition. For months now, genearl election polls testing different GOP candidates showed McCain running way ahead of Giuliani and Romney, and states like Kentucky in which Clinton looked to have a chance against some candidates looked totally out of reach against McCain. As I pointed above, the same was true in Virginia. But polls like these that show Democrats holding their own against McCain should reassure those that predict a doom scenario for the Democratic nominee.

On the other hand, it is undeniable that McCain is polling stronger right now than another GOP nominee would. For a party that was trailing in countless polls in states that are absolutely must-win in November, it is very reassuring to see that they are now back ahead in places like North Carolina -- and even in Alabama, which would seem obvious but where some polls showed the GOP to be on shaky grounds.

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