Monday polls: Why can't every day have more polls from Utah than from Pennsylvania?

A number of presidential polls were released over the past 24 hours, including (strangely enough) two polls from Utah. While Barack Obama might be putting a lot of red states in play this year, Utah, which gave George Bush 72% of the vote in 2004, is not one of them. In both polls, however, there is a narrow tightening compared to the 2004 margin:

  • Deseret finds McCain crushing Obama 57% to 29%.
  • Rasmussen's poll shows it a bit narrower, with McCain leading 52% to 33%.
While Utah might not be high up on Obama's priority list, a traditionally staunchly red state that is looking like a surprising bright spot for Democrats this year is Alaska. There have been a number of presidential polls finding a tight race, including Rasmussen's latest survey showing McCain leading Obama by 4% last week. Add to it now another poll, commissioned and leaked by the DSCC:

  • McCain and Obama are in a toss-up, with the Republican edging out the Democrat 44% to 42% with 3% for Bob Barr.
  • This poll was actually mentioned in the Washington Post a few days ago but came to my attention only now.
The Alaska Republican Party is in a particularly bad shape, with many of its major figures entangled in a corruption scandal that is threatening to end the careers of Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens in the coming months. That dismal predicament is spilling over to the presidential race, as Alaska voters are clearly not as eager as usual to support a Republican candidate. And the positive effect is mutual: Down-the-ballot Democrats running in a red state in a presidential year have to fight counter-current and escape negative coattails, so for Obama to truly contest Alaska (and he has an ad buy there) will help Democrats in the Senate and House races.

Other major polls released today include:

  • Rasmussen's latest survey from Pennsylvania, that finds Obama leading 46% to 42%, up from a 2% lead last month but down from an 8% lead in early April.
  • Obama's favorability rating (58%) is comparable to McCain's (57%) though Obama has higher very favorable and very unfavorable numbers.
  • In Oregon, the latest SUSA poll finds Obama dropping from a 9% lead to a 3% lead, 48% to 45%. The partisan ID is comparable to 2004's in this poll, whereas SUSA usually shows a swing towards the Democrats.
  • Finally, Obama gets good news from New Mexico in the latest Rasmussen poll. He leads 47% to 39%, holding on to his May lead.
It's difficult to know what to think of New Mexico as Rasmussen and SUSA are the only institute to release polls from the state. If Obama can manage to win back New Mexico and Iowa (the only two Gore states won by Bush in 2004), he will only be 5 electoral votes from a tie, making those early leads in both NM and IA particularly important. Much of the outcome of the race in New Mexico will depend on the Hispanic vote, but it's worth noting that the state was among the closest in the country in both 2004 and 2000.

As for Pennsylvania, I moved the state to the Lean Democratic column in my second presidential ratings last week. That was not meant to imply that the race is no longer competitive -- indeed every sign, including this poll, suggest that it will -- but that it is possible to say that Obama has a slight edge there based on a narrow but consistent lead in polls, massive gains by his party in registration results and the state's move towards safer blue in 2006. But there is no question that McCain will play very heavily in the Keystone state, and Republicans are no doubt aware that the margin here was tighter than in Ohio back in 2004. Pennsylvania is as close to a must-win as Democrats have in the list of swing states, as it would be difficult for Democrats to overcome the loss of these 21 electoral votes. And would the loss of PA not seal that of Ohio and perhaps of Michigan?

Finally, we got down-the-ballot polls today:

  • In New Mexico, Rasmussen finds that Tom Udall is still increasing his lead over Republican Steve Pearce, now trouncing him 58% to 30%. Udall's favorability rating is 66%, compared to 54% for Pearce.
  • In TX-32, an internal poll for the Democratic challenger's campaign finds Eric Roberson trailing Rep. Pete Sessions 52% to 43%.
Steve Pearce might have hoped for a bounce off his primary victory, but this race appears to be increasingly in the bag for Democrats. Combine it with Virginia and New Hampshire, and that's a very likely base of 3 gains for Senate Democrats. But I am very skeptical of the TX-32 survey -- as we should often remember to be with internal polls. Roberson is an unknown candidate with little money in a district that has been gerrymandered to insure Republican victory and in which Bush got 60% of the vote in 2004. In fact, Democratic Rep. Frost was shoved into this district by Tom DeLay and lost to Sessions in 2004 by 10% despite being as high-profile a Democrat as the party can hope for here. So don't cross your fingers for TX-32. For now, there is very little to see.

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