Thursday poll: The Michigan question, continued, and Mississippi's racial puzzle

A number of state polls were released today, none more important than EPIC-MRA's Michigan poll. EPIC is the state's best pollster, and its numbers confirm the analysis I wrote 24 hours ago of the "Michigan question." No matter how unlikely a development given how hard the economic crisis has hit in Michigan, it does look like the state has joined Ohio and Pennsylvania as the holy trio of this year's battleground states:

  • This poll shows McCain narrowly ahead of Obama 44% to 40%. He is largely leading among independents, 41% to 28%.
  • However, in a match-up between an Obama/Clinton ticket and a McCain/Romney ticket, the Democrats shoot up to lead 51% to 44%.
There is nothing in these polls that suggests that Democrats are in terrible trouble in Michigan, but it is hard to deny that, considering the strong numbers Obama is posting in states like Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon and Washington, Democrats were allowed to expect better results out of Michigan.

The second important poll of the day is a national survey by Pew, whose polls are always noteworthy because of the detailed crosstabs and analysis that the institute provides:

  • Clinton is ahead of McCain 48% to 44%, while Obama leads 47% to 44%, down from a 6% lead last month and a 7% lead in February. Obama and McCain are tied among independents, though the former led by 9% last month.
  • Also, 44% say that McCain would continue Bush's policies, versus 45% who say that he will not. Obama is viewed as more capable on the economy, while the two are within the margin of error on Iraq.
Obama continues to enjoy a very small edge in most national polls, but the election clearly remains a toss-up at this point. It is had to determine who should be the most relieved: Obama that he has survived such a tough primary and weeks of bad press on Wright and Ayers while still looking competitive, or McCain for being largely ignored by the media since February and for running in such an awful year for his party but still looking like he has a road to win.

A series of other polls was released from states that are less central to the fall campaign:

  • In Kansas, SUSA found McCain leading 49% to 39%, which is actually a very respectable showing for Obama in a staunchly red state. SUSA also tried some VP match-ups, but Governor Sibelius does not particularly help Obama. The closest he gets is a 2% loss if McCain chooses Pawlenty and he chooses Edwards.
  • In New York, Rasmussen finds both Democrats crushing McCain, though Obama's margin is a bit inferior to Clinton's. He leads 52% to 33% while she trounces McCain 59% to 29%. Obama's favorability raitng (64%) is superior to Clinton's (55%) and McCain's (44%).
  • No surprises in Alabama, where Rasmussen finds McCain leading Clinton 54% to 34% and Obama 60% to 32%.
  • Finally, a last Rasmussen poll from Mississippi finds surprisingly tight results: McCain is ahead of Clinton 48% to 38% and leads Obama 50% to 44%. McCain's favorability rating (55%) is superior to Clinton's (33%) and Obama's (44%).
Mississippi is a state some Democrats murmur could be competitive in the fall, though it is hard to see where Obama would get the remaining 6%. Mississippi's vote is among the country's most racially polarized, and it should be so even more with a black candidate on the ballot. Obama will need a humongous surge in turnout among black voters (which would not just mean for African-Americans to vote at their level of the population, but for black turnout to be superior to white turnout) and he will also need to poll somewhat better among white voters than past Democratic candidates.

This is a tall order for Obama in any Southern states, but if it looks like he is on the path to making numbers move and results tighten in Mississippi, it could mean that he is in much better shape than expected in other states with a very large black population, especially Georgia and South Carolina. Both states are still safely in the McCain column, but the Obama campaign is planning massive registration efforts and we will soon be able to better assess whether there is any chance that numbers move in the Deep South.

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