5.23.2008

Friday polls: Obama polls better in Ohio, dogged by low numbers with registered Dems

As the Democratic primaries are heading towards their conclusion, more polling outlets are releasing general election surveys, leading to a daily drumbeat of interesting results. Today, we ought to start with the two surveys from Ohio and Pennsylvania, among the most important states in the general election:

  • SUSA released one of the first surveys from Ohio that is favorable to Obama for a long time. The Illinois Senator leads John McCain 48% to 39%. Note that the sample contains a very high number of registered Democrats (52%), though it's also important to notice that Obama reaches his highest level of support among registered Democrats in any SUSA poll from Ohio: 76%.

  • This is a poll meant to test VP support, so there is no match-up with Clinton. I will not detail the VP tests, but the range goes from +2 McCain for Huckabee/Rendell tickets to +18 Obama for Pawlently/Edwards tickets.

  • Meanwhile, a Rasmussen poll from Pennsylvania shows Clinton crushing McCain 50% to 39% while Obama is only ahead 45% to 43%. Last month, Obama trailed by 1 and Clinton led by 6.

  • Obama's support among registered Democrats is very low: 63%. McCain and him have comparable favorability levels.
A long series of polls -- cumulating in yesterday's Quinnipiac poll that showed Obama trailing McCain while Clinton crushed him -- suggested that Obama had a big problem in Ohio. This SUSA poll does not fully dispell that notion considering the strange partisan breakdown and the fact that the majority of respondents are registered Democrats. But it also should serve as a reminder that, even if Obama might have electoral maps that are more appropriate for him than the emphasis on OH and FL that could work better for Clinton, Ohio at least still remains competitive and the Obama campaign has enough money to compete there forcefully even while focusing on Virginia and Colorado.

As for Pennsylvania, it merely confirms the series of PA/OH/FL polls I mentioned above that show Clinton polling more strongly than Obama in those states. Yesterday's Quinnipiac poll showed similar results. PA is not a state that the Obama campaign can ignore, to say the least. Not only does it lean more Democratic than OH and FL, but losing all three swing states would make it extremely difficult for Obama to climb back to 270 electoral votes. Meanwhile, two other polls from important swing states were released:

  • In Nevada, Rasmussen finds Clinton polling surprisingly better than Obama given that Western states are supposed to be more welcoming to him: Clinton is ahead 46% to 41% and McCain leads Obama 46% to 40%. Obama only gets 65% of registered Democrats.

  • In New Hampshire, Rasmussen finds both Democrats reversing the April trend and leading McCain. Clinton is leading 51% to 41% and Obama is ahead 48% to 43%. In the all-important (and symbolic, given what happened on January 8th) battle for independents, Obama is ahead of McCain by 11%.
The two Southwestern states (New Mexico and Nevada) and New Hampshire will feautre some of this year's tightest battles, though none of them offer a lot of electoral votes. The Southwstern showdown, however, will be key to future presidential elections, as Democrats need to make gains in the region as their Northeastern strongholds will continue to lose electoral votes.

Note, however, that in both Nevada and Pennsylvania Obama's principal weakness comes from registered Democrats, a phenomenon that we have documented at great length by now but that is nonetheless always surprising to notice. The Illinois Senator will surely rise above numbers like 63-66% support as the party is reunited, but there is no doubt that he will face major difficulties in his efforts to solidify the base. How well he addresses the concerns of registered Democrats reluctant to support him appears to be the key to November.

Finally, three polls were released from states that should safe for one party or the other:

  • In Mississippi, a Research 2000 poll found McCain beating both Dems,54% to 39% against Obama and 55% to 36% against Clinton.

  • In California, Rasmussen finds both Democrats leading, 52% to 38% for Obama and 55% to 36% for Clinton. McCain's favorability rating is at 46%, Obama's at 57%.

  • PPIC also polled California and found Obama with a bigger lead, 54% to 37%, while Clinton's lead was 51% to 39%.

  • Finally, Behavior Research Center finds McCain leading in his home-state of Arizona: 50% to 39% against Obama, 51% to 36% against Clinton.
Democrats should be heartened that all four of their leads in California are double-digits. If California polls show any sign of tightening, Democrats would be forced to spend precious time and resources defending these must-win 55 electoral votes. Meanwhile, McCain's numbers in Mississippi and Arizona are underwhelming. Some around the Obama campaign insist that states like Mississippi could be in play as Obama will boost black turnout, but the internals of the Research 2000 polls show that will come at a price: white voters will turn to the GOP more than they usually do. Obama only got 18% of the white vote in this Mississippi poll.

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