SUSA releases 50 polls from 50 states, with both Dems leading McCain

Taking advantage of its automated survey techniques, SUSA conducted 30,000 interviews in 50 states, testing both possible general election matchups. And the result is an amazing collection of polls -- a political junkie's dream -- that provides us with very valuable insight into what will be the fall's battlegrounds and what are the two Democrats weaknesses and strength.

Clinton and Obama put together a very different collection of states. They get different red states in play, and they struggle in different blue states. But at the end of the day they both very narrowly beat John McCain in the electoral college vote, 280 to 258 for Obama and 276 to 262 for Clinton.

SUSA's polls confirm that, whatever the final match-up, the electoral map will not look like that of 2000 and 2004, and many states that were not that competitive in the past two contests (starting with Texas, but also Virginia, New Jersey) could be the top swing states this time around.

Before looking at numbers from the most interesting states, here are the two electoral maps, courtesy of SUSA:

As you can see, there are many differences between the two maps, and it is remarkable that both candidates come to roughly the same totals:

  • Once we weight the polls according to their state's size to get national numbers, Clinton leads 48% to McCain's 46%. McCain and Obama are tied at 46%.
  • The round-up of all 50 Clinton-McCain match-ups is here. The roundup for McCain-Obama match-ups is here.
  • States that only Clinton wins: Arkansas, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

  • States that only Obama wins: Oregon, Washington, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, North Dakota (!)
  • Red states that they both win: Only Ohio
It is evident from this list that Obama's strength is in the West: He comfortably keeps Oregon (+8%) and Washington (+14%) blue, two states Clinton loses (-5% and -2% respectively) and he carries New Mexico (by 7% versus 4% for Clinton). He then picks up Nevada (by 5%, while Clinton loses by 8%) and Colorado (by 9%, while Clinton loses by 6%).

All of this we are used to seeing, as Obama's edge in Western states like Washington and Colorado has been among the only consistent electability results over the past few months. But the extent of his advantage is considerable -- especially when we take into account the incredible fact that he puts the mountain states -- some of the reddest in the country -- in play! He narrowly wins North Dakota (Clinton loses by 19%), gets two out of five electoral votes in Nebraska, trailing 45% to 42% and loses South Dakota by only 4%!

But Obama is comparatively weak in the Northeast, and in many states are crucial for a Democratic victory come November: Clinton carries New Jersey by 5%, but Obama loses it in a tie at 43%. McCain continues to be competive in Massachusetts against Obama, trailing by 9% (18% against Clinton). In Pennsylvania, Clinton narrowly edges McCain by 1%, whereas the Republican beats Obama by 5%. An important exception is New Hampshire, in which Obama leads by 2% but Clinton trails by 8%.

Overall, it looks like McCain is succeeding in putting many traditionally blue states in play for his party: He is looking very strong in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey against both candidates, and he is competitive in other states in which both Democrats are leading, including places like Maryland and Delaware. Whoever the nominee is will have to move quickly to consolidate this region -- and if McCain manages to raise money quickly in the next few weeks he should try and build himself up in the Northeast before the Democratic candidate has a chance to counter-attack; it could be very damaging to Democratic chances in the fall.

But McCain is in danger in much of Red America -- or at least states that are must-wins for him. For one, he trails in Ohio by 10% against both Democrats. That's not a loss he can afford. Second, he is crushed in Florida by Hillary Clinton, 51% to 42% -- though he beats Obama 47% to 45%. It is very hard to imagine the Republican win the White House if he loses both Ohio and Florida. McCain's biggest nightmare could (unexpectedly) be... Texas! The poll shows McCain leading both Democrats by single-digits in the biggest red state of the country: He is up Obama 1% and up Clinton 8% -- and Hillary is weaker because she gets a low percentage of the black vote. Not a good sign for McCain.

There are other very worrisome numbers for McCain across the South: in South Carolina (where he is up 6% against Clinton and 3% against Obama), Tennessee (where Clinton ties him, though Obama is far) and North Carolina (he is up Obama only 2%, Clinton up 8%). In Virginia, a must-win for the Republican nominee, Obama ties him though he leads Clinton by 10%, though in West Virginia it is Clinton who conquers and Obama who stays back. In both Oklahoma and Kentucky, however, it is Clinton who gets within single digits. And if Hillary emerges as the Democratic nominee, McCain can kiss Arkansas -- her former home-state -- good-bye.

The Midwest, however, is yet another story, and McCain holds his own outside of Ohio. He survives with narrow leads in Missouri (+4% against Clinton, +6% against Obama). He holds both Democrats in single-digits in Minnesota, and he is very competitive in Michigan (he trails Obama by only 1% and ties Clinton). Michigan's 18 electoral votes flirted with Bush in 2000 and 2004 but they remained promised to the Democrat throughout those elections; this is not a state the Democratic nominee wants to have to think about.

Overall, both Democratic candidates have their weaknesses and strengths, and so does John McCain. Here is a regional summary -- and keep in mind that nearly all these lessons are confirmed by other polls we have seen recently:

  • The Big Three: Ohio and Pennsylvania have switched places, with the former appearing strongly Democratic and the latter a complete toss-up. Exchanging them does not do Democrats much good, and Florida seems as always all over the place -- with Clinton posting a strong lead and Obama trailing.
  • West: This is where Obama has his greatest potential to put McCain on the defensive in many red states (starting with NV and CO), while this is by far Clinton's weakest region (and she seems consistently unpopular in places like OR and WA) .
  • Northeast: Obama's most vulnerable region is also the one in which McCain appears to have the mots potential, as independents in many of these must-win blue states appear ready to flirt with the Arizona Senator (particularly New Jersey).
  • South: Between each other, the two Democrats put most of the states of this region within single-digits, testifying to McCain's weakness in red America.
  • Midwest: This region looks ready to be the nation's tightest area once again, with Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan (and, of course, Ohio) all posting very competitive races.

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  • To me Texas is the most interesting of these new battleground states. With the huge turnout for the Dems this week and a lot of interesting downstream elections this could be the new Florida. It will be interesting to see if/how Repubs use Bush to campaign here in the fall.
    I also think the Senate battle between Cornyn;with his Bush/Cheney like military service record;and Afghanistan war vet Noriega will be much closer than predicted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 March, 2008 08:07  

  • Very interesting polls. National poll numbers always mean less than the actual state wide figures - although at this early stage the numbers can of course change. It is fascinating that in must win Democratic states like Washington and Oregon (collectively similar EV to Ohio) Obama does so much better. Whereas he is weaker in NJ. Also interesting that in Ohio which Clinton won recently both she and Obama do equally well in the General Election.

    Obama not winning PA in the GE bodes ill for his primary chances. Just like Clinton not winning Oregon in the GE bodes ill for her primary chances. PA is even more poor and ill educated than Ohio so Obama will be doing well if he keeps his loss to the same as he lost Ohio by. But then Obama does not need to win PA in the GE to win the Presidency.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 March, 2008 08:16  

  • It is good to see the map not stay the same as 2000 and 2004. Both of those were unusual elections. I would like to see the obsession with OH and FL fade away. The previous two elections have the CW being you have to win at least one of these to get the presidency. That is not the case if you collect enough smaller states such as Virginia, Oregon, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire etc. All states count not just a couple of large ones.

    By Anonymous Guy, At 07 March, 2008 08:18  

  • Some amazing results if you look at the detail such as Obama losing NC by 2% and Clinton losing by 8%. NC has 15EV's so is not small and insignificant.

    Washington states swing massively - Obama wins by 15% and Clinton loses. Even NJ Clinton only wins by 5% with Obama tied with McCain. The 2008 map will be different to 2000/2004. Small matters - Clinton has found that out by Obama winning small states in the primaries (along with larger states like VA, WA, MD, WI) and she has benefitted by winning small counties in OH and TX compared to Obama winning the larger counties containing Columbus, Houston, Dallas, Cleveland etc. He won in the traditional democratic areas.

    One last thought - Al Gore would have won in 2000 if he had won New Hampshire (which did switch to Democrats in 2004) - large states are not always all that matter.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 07 March, 2008 09:10  

  • There's not much difference between the two in terms of electability. However, I think Obama has the edge.

    (Also, I find it hard to believe he would lose New Jersey. The polls have him tied, but I think he would pick up more on the undecideds and win it. He might be able to do the same in Texas and other states. On the other hand, Clinton is less likely to win over the undecideds.)

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 07 March, 2008 13:09  

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