Thursday polls: Color Arkansas red

The first general-election poll from Arkansas last summer made it clear that this would be the one state which would undoubtedly go from "Safe Democratic" to "Safe Republican" depending on the identity of the Democratic nominee. Arkansas is voting like Hillary Clinton's home-state, more so than New York. It gave her 70% of its vote in the primary and a new general election poll confirms that she would be in a strong position to carry it in November:

  • Rasmussen shows Clinton leading McCain 53% to 39% in this red state. McCain, however, leads Obama 57% to 33%, a 38 percent gap.
  • Clinton's favorablility rating is at 60%, including 35% who have a very favorable view of her (14% for McCain).
With Obama now the presumptive nominee, it looks like we can color Arkansas red (perhaps it could get competitive if he chooses Hillary or Clark as his vice-president?). But two new polls from Washington and Iowa confirm that those are two states in which Obama is well positioned, as they have been two states in which most polls show him faring considerably better:

  • In Washington State, SUSA shows Obama leading McCain 54% to 42%. Clinton is ahead 49% to 45%. Obama is polling better among registered Republicans and independents. The margins are roughly what they were a month ago.
  • In Iowa, Rasmussen finds a tight race within the margin of error for both candidates. Clinton trails McCain 45% to 42% and Obama leads 44% to 42%. Both races have tightened since last month.
McCain is looking to make Washington and Oregon competitive despite both states voting against Bush twice. Judging by this poll it will be difficult for him to do so because Obama has a firm grasp among the registered Democrat vote -- that is not the case in every state, so McCain would have more potential success by concentrating on purple/blue state where Obama is weak among registered Dems (starting with Florida, the South and some places in the Midwest; but not the West).

Finally, national general election polls continue showing a slight edge for Democrats:

  • Quinnipiac shows Obama leading McCain 47% to 40%; Clinton is ahead 46% to 41%.
  • POS/GQR finds Clinton trailing by 1% and Obama leading 48% to 43%.
  • An ABC News/Washington Post poll has Clinton leading 49% to 46% and Obama ahead 51% to 44%.
  • Gallup, however, finds Obama and McCain tied at 45% while Clinton is leading 48% to 45%.
It will be interesting to see whether national pollsters decide to not include Clinton in a poll before she drops out. My guess is that they will continue including her for fear of being criticized, but we'll keep an eye on that too. By the way, it is always remarkable to see McCain competitive at all in some of these polls considering the internal numbers many of the polls include and that reveal just how awful an environment Republicans are facing in the fall. It does look like only McCain could have made this tight -- and the question now is whether he can save anything for the GOP in down-the-ballot races.

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  • Obama won`t win Arkansas but he will put safely out of harms reach WA and OR. These two states along with MI, PA, WI and MN have been the weak link for the Dems in 2000 and 2004. They had to spend time and money on the defence just trying to hold them. Now at least with Obama the Dems can go on the offense and put hitherto Red states in play like IA, VA, CO, NC which will make McCain spend time and (valuable) money on defending those rather than attacking in OH, PA, CA etc.

    Bush was very succesful in making Kerry play defensive - Bush had many states he didn`t need to bother defending because they were so safe. This freed him up to go out for WI, OR etc and make Kerry give up any real attempt at getting FL etc.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 15 May, 2008 13:34  

  • It has been clear for months that Arkasnas was a state that Clinton would win easily against any Republican except for Huckabee. It wasn't always clear that another democrat would lose Arkansas just as easily as Clinton would have won, but I guess rammuseen polls shows that Arkansas will again vote for the Republicans.(West Virginia, another state Clinton would probably win in 2008, will also go for McCain).

    Taniel its intresting that you are talking about Oregan when the poll you cite is from Iowa, but barring this I would say that McCain has little chance in the Pacific coast states and in many of the mid/north west states. The weak dem states of MN, OR, and WA will probably be more solidly blue states because Obama's greatest strength is in the west. I'd say the only western Dem state McCain should concentrate on taking over is WI based on it only barely going for Kerry 2004 and being very close in 2008 polls, the other western/mountain states should protecting the ones that voted for Bush in 2004 (i.e CO, NV, NM, IA, ND, maybe SD althrough it less close than ND).

    Similar to what Taniel said, McCain's best chance of winning Dem states is in MI, a tossup state now, and in the east, where Obama is weak among democrats in PA and in NH, where McCain is leading and can take that state back for the GOP. NJ is probably a lost cause now based on recent polling, and I doubt MA will go for McCain or even make it close.

    Also on CA, I know McCain would like to take it, and that if he won it would be almost impossible for Democrats to then win the white house. But California is extremely expensive to campaign in, and with McCain likely to talke public fiancing it would probably be foolish to waste money there. Yeah, the governator was able to win, but Arnold faced a very unpopolur Gov in 2003 and had weak opposition in 2006. Obama is nothing close to week in a strong Democratic state like CA. Maybe McCain can get within 8 or 7 points, but it will cost too much money to get any closer without jepordizing his chances in taking more vulerable Dem states and holding weak GOP states.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 15 May, 2008 15:01  

  • One more thing about McCain still being competitve: yes it's probably true that McCain was the best choice the GOP could have chosen this year. A more conservative candidate like Fred Huckabee and Fred Thompson would be ill-equipped to attract independents and moderate Democrats needed to win in a Democratic year. Mitt Romny was (unfortantly) the target of anti-Mormon bigotry and could have easily been labeled a flip-flopper by dems because of his varying positions. Giulani gave the GOP their best chance to make inroads in traditional Democratic states in the North east, especially NJ, CT, and even NY if Clinton wasn't the nominee but he had an extreme weakness with social conservatives and probably could have been challanged by a right wing 3rd candidate who would be a spoiler.

    John McCain is positioning himself as a moderate-conservative: conservative enough to allay the cocerns of the right wing in the GOP, yet his maverick status makes him appealing to independents and moderate democrats. Despite this however the mood is still strongly democratic and I believe that the reason he is still so competive is because there are strong tensions and anger within the democratic party becasue of discourse between Clinton and Obama. Once Clinton withdraws from the race (NOT when Obama becomes the presumptive nominee by getting the majority of delegates) Obama will likely get a huge boost in his approval ratings and poll numbers against McCain as Clinton supporters will start to get used to the idea of Obama as the nominee. McCain's true test in electablity will be on how much he can shorten and lower the inevtiable boost Obama will get from Clinton's witdrawal. If McCain has the same poll numbers he has in October as he does now, (or especially what McCain had in March and April), then Obama is in trouble, if not, then McCain's current competivness as more to do with the tensions in the democratic party and less to do with his personal appeal.

    Also on his status on down-ballot races, I don't think that McCain will have any effect on them with the possible exception of his home state of AZ. I think that if McCain wins the election it will be based on voters seeing him as a exception among Republicans, not the new standard in which the entire Republican party should be based on. Remember that in 1988 the First Bush won a comfortable victory in the presidential election, but the Democrats still gained seats in Congress.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 15 May, 2008 15:25  

  • Mike: Iowa has always been competitive. Gore won there by less than 2% points and Kerry lost by about the same. I don’t think Barack is going to do any better this time around. But is good that WA, OR and WI seem to be safer for him. I am from VA, and I really do not understand this narrative developing that the state is about to embrace Barack in the general election. There are going to be a lot of disappointed folks out there if they really think VA and NC are even in the bubble. Is not going to happen. Same with CO. Senator McCain is not an unattractive candidate to the Latino voters in the state. CO is a place that if, had there been a primary instead of a caucus, Obama would have not carried the state. I have to admit to a more pessimistic view of the general election, but, I know the south. Believe me; Obama is not going to carry VA and NC. That is not going to happen.

    By Anonymous Robert_V, At 15 May, 2008 16:26  

  • Rasmussen always shows IA far closer than it really is. Obama still has a margin average (rolling polling) of over 7% in IA.

    The magic number for Clinton is now:


    This is the percentage she must win in all 5 remaining contests in order to surpass Obama in the PDs.

    The complete math is here on my blog

    By Blogger Mark, At 15 May, 2008 16:51  

  • Robert V - I live in NC and I agree Obama probably will not win NC and might not win VA but if he puts up a strong challenge and the polls suggest that he is competitive then it forces McCain onto the defensive and reduces the time and effort McCain can spend on weak Democratic states like MI and WI.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 15 May, 2008 17:32  

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