Monday polls: Virginia is indeed a toss-up, and is it worth looking at Kansas?

It is one thing for David Ploufe to insist that the campaign does not need to win Ohio and Florida to get to the White House, it is quite another for pollsters to impose a seeming blackout on polls from these two mega-battleground states. No survey from either has been released since mid-May and in the meantime we got plenty of polls from states like Washington and just today two from New York. A new survey from Virginia released today keeps things interesting:

  • Rasmussen finds that the presidential race in this traditional red state is a toss-up, with Obama edging McCain 45% to 44%. This is a small swing from last month's survey, in which McCain led by 3%.
  • While McCain's favorability rating is a bit higher, Obama has a higher proportion of respondents who say they have a very favorable impression of him. However, the familiar pattern of Obama's very unfavorable rating also being much higher holds in this poll.
  • In New York, two polls confirm the Democrat's overwhelming advantage. The Sienna poll has Obama leading 51% to 33%. He led by 11% last month and 5% two months ago.
  • The New York Times poll, meanwhile, has Obama leading 51% to 32%.
  • In Kansas, finally, Rasmussen finds McCain ahead 47% to 37%, down from a 21% lead last month.
  • Obama has a mediocre favorability rating, however (49% versus 62% for McCain) and very low very unfavorables (31% versus 12% for McCain).
Of these polls, the Virginia survey is naturally the most interesting. While I did not hesitate to include it in the list of toss-ups in my first electoral college ratings, it is always somewhat of a shock when Obama performs so well in a poll from the Commonwealth. This is, after all, a state that has not voted for a Democrat since 1964. Yet, Rasmussen's poll is certainly not a surprise. The latest SUSA poll showed Obama leading by 8% three weeks ago and Obama has made no secret that flipping it will be one of his priorities, so far so that there are 3 potential VP picks that come from the state (Webb, Kaine and Warner). He even organized his first general election campaign stop in Virginia. There is no question that McCain losing this state would make it very hard for him to get to 270 electoral votes.

Meanwhile, a number of down-the-ballot polls found some interesting results as well:

  • In Virginia, Mark Warner is widening his lead over Jim Gilmore and is now ahead 60% to 33% in Rasmussen's poll! Warner has a 70% favorability rating compared to 46% for Gilmore... and don't forget this is a GOP-held seat!
  • Dems get more good news in Louisiana, where Mary Landrieu is up 49% to 33% in a new poll. However -- and this is a big one -- this is an internal poll conducted for and released by the Landrieu campaign. But until Kennedy responds with his own poll (and he did release an internal showing him ahead in December), this is positive for Landrieu.
  • In Kansas, meanwhile, Pat Roberts continues to post surprisingly low numbers for an incumbent that no one is really paying attention to. After 3 polls from 3 different polling groups showing him up 12% against former Rep. Slattery, Rasmussen's latest survey finds the incumbent under 50% and in single-digits, leading 47% to 38%.
  • Roberts's favorability rating remains high, however, at 60%.
  • In Nevada, Mason-Dixon polled two House races (both currently held by Republicans) and found good news for both parties. In NV-01, Rep. Porter and Dina Titus in a toss-up with the incumbent up 45% to 42%. Porter's job approval is a dismal 36% to 56%. Note that Titus ran a statewide gubernatorial race in 2006, so she is better-known than your average House challenger.
  • In NV-02, Rep. Dean Heller has a much strong lead against Democrat Jill Derby in a rematch of their 2006 race. Heller is up 53% to 39%.
  • In TX-10, a poll taken for the Democratic challenger in a race few people have on their radar screen (and which I confess I have not included in my latest House ratings) shows the incumbent Mike McCaul leading Democrat Larry Doherty 43% to 34%.
  • As SSP points out, an independent poll from IRV that I managed to miss just last week has Doherty trailing by only 6%, 52% to 46%. Doherty's decision to release a poll today that shows him faring a bit worse is no doubt due to his desire to prove that the IRV survey was not an outlier and that TX-10 is indeed competitive.
  • Finally, a poll from New York's gubernatorial race of... 2010, which will interest everyone given how chaotic the state political scene has been lately. This is also important because whether Mike Bloomberg decides he should run will determine whether he tries to change the term limits law in NYC in the coming months. The Sienna poll referred to above has Bloomberg ahead 45% to 34% in a match-up against recently promoted Governor Paterson (who is not that much ahead of AG Andrew Cuomo in a primary).
The Kansas Senate race is too me the most interesting poll of this group because it confirms -- and accentuates -- the results of three polls that have been released in close proximity (here, here and here). Looking at the latest Rasmussen polls of the second and third-tier of Senate races, Roberts now looks weaker than Dole and Cornyn and he has repeatedly polled lower than Sen. Collins ever has in Maine (well there was one poll showing her leading by only 10%)! Even Chuck Schumer, when trying to tout his attempts to expand the map, refers to Oklahoma more readily than Kansas. So at one point does the DSCC start looking in Kansas's direction? Given Schumer's determination to test the vulnerability of incumbents, it would not be a surprise if the DSCC conducts a poll and sends in a few staffers.

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  • Taniel,

    In Kansas, it's not John Roberts, who is the Supreme Court Justice, but instead it's Pat Roberts (sorry to be particular, but it threw me off for a sec).

    Your analysis is dead on. Virginia becoming a blue state is almost to good to be true.

    By Anonymous Jim W, At 16 June, 2008 20:20  

  • My guess with Ohio and Florida is that these polling firms are working out a likely turnout model. This is especially true in Florida where Obama hasn't yet campaigned, but is in the process of making a large organizational push there.

    The Obama campaign really plays havoc with polling firms this far out because of the way they're determined to shake up the electorate. Those polls will come, but this far out, they'd be next to worthless anyway.

    By Anonymous dannity, At 16 June, 2008 22:05  

  • It will be interesting to see if Obama; or McCain for that matter: does serious campaigning in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and other borderline states this summer. Which states get get attention from the nominees is as important a tell (a poker term) as polls at this early stage of the campaign. Note Obamas attention to Michigan lately.

    By Anonymous fritz, At 17 June, 2008 05:48  

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