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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  • Obama isn't going to win Utah, but the fact that McCain is doing more than 10 points worse than Bush did in 2004 really shows how much stronger the Democrats are in this election. The PA race is definitly going to be contested but I think that Michigan will be McCain's primary form of offense because Obama doesn't have any organization in the state thanks to the lack of a contested primary there, and McCain will see New Hampshire as his secondary target because of his popularity with the independents there. That means that PA is only number three, but one in which McCain can exploit if Obama is showing weakness among blue collars and women in MI. In Oregan SUSA shows it as close but I doubt McCain will spend his limited funds going after Obama in that state unless Obama is consistenly show to be weak there. Oregan, as well as Washington and some other democratic leaning west and midwestern states would have been easier for McCain to take if Clinton was the nominee, and money would probably be better spent protecting Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico rather than going after the pacfic northwest, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

    The New Mexico numbers are nice althrough I still think that it will be one of the tighest's states in November because the southwest is McCain's backyard, so McCain and Obama will be tight there.

    On the NM Senate Race, if other polls show Pearce with no GOP unity bounce, then he is toast. It it clear that Pearce was probably the weaker candidate for NM republicans to choose. Udall is not only getting a healthy amount of his own party and independents but 26% of Republicans: probably moderate Republicans who are POed at Pearce for smearing Wilson during the primary and who refuse to support Pearce. I do think that Republican will eventually colence around Pearce but he is too far behind Udall to eventually become competive. It seems that at worse the Democrats will get a net gain of one seat, which would mean Dem pick ups only in NM, VA, and NH, and Dem losses in LA and NJ (where polls currently show Zimmer pulling and upset over Lautenberg)

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 23 June, 2008 21:32  

  • "Steve Pearce might have hoped for a bounce off his primary victory, but this race appears to be increasingly in the bag for Democrats."

    I believe the Republicans have given up on this race, so yes, Pearce is toast.

    By Anonymous C.S.Strowbridge, At 23 June, 2008 22:06  

  • Obama is being way arrogant. go waste your money in Alaska and Utah and watch McCain walk in the White House next January. It's going to be fun to watch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 23 June, 2008 22:27  

  • I don't think that the Republicans have given up on New Mexico yet if only because more polls could come up in the future that shows Pearce doing better. This is unlike Virginia, in which they have given up because Warner has had an constant lead for months. I do think that if by July Pearce is still doing badly the GOP will probably abandon him. The most vulerable seat that they will seek to protect will be NH, where Sununu is in danger. I think that Sununu isn't making a real effort to campaign yet; probably waiting to see if the political situation will change a bit before he starts spending money on ads, but if he does so and is still behind he will be abandoned just like how the GOP abandoned Dewine in Ohio in 2006.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 23 June, 2008 22:29  

  • anonymous, Obama is not going to waste money in Utah. He isn't really doing that much better than John Kerry in 2004, it's rather than McCain is underperforming by only getting support in the 50s while Bush got 71% in Utah, his highest vote out of all of the states. As bad as the GOP brand is, Mormon heavy Utah is staunchly Republican so if Obama was to actually become competive, then a Reagan type landslide is in the making. In Alaska Obama is polling competively but I'm not sure if he will make any major efforts in the state based on its small electoral count, distance from the mainland United States, and its traditioal GOP lean. The general GOP in Alaska is not tarnished (I mean look at how popular GOP gov Sarah Palin is, approval ratings between 70% to 90%!) but of the ole GOP boys who have been in power for a long time like Stevens and Young are being tarnished and this is hurting John McCain. You would think that he would be more associated with the reformist Palin than with pork laden Stevens but I guess Alaskans see Palin as a more unique phenomon.

    I agree that Obama cannot get too cocky but McCain isn't going to walk away with this election. If McCain wins it will be by a narrow electoral vote margin, maybe even losing the popular vote.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 23 June, 2008 22:39  

  • I think it's great for Obama to contest all 50 states. He's not going to win the Idaho's, Utah's, Wyomings, etc, but he's laying a framework for the Democratic Party for future elections, both on a national level and a state level.

    I feel like the Northeast is solidly for Obama, although he needs to firm his support in NJ and CT.

    Right now I see the major battleground being MI, OH, VA, NC, FL, MO, NM, CO, NV, AK, and OR. The 50 state strategy will help him in MT, ND, and AR. What I'm surprised with is SD. In both 1992 and 1996, Clinton came within 5 points of winning this state, but Obama has been consistently behind in the double digits.

    The Democrats need to expand the map and show all Americans that the Dems want to help all Americans.

    By Anonymous Jim W, At 24 June, 2008 08:30  

  • In 92 and 96, there was an exceptionally strong 3rd party challenge in the form of Perot that siphoned votes most people believe would have gone to the GOP. Perot pulled some 26% of the vote in South Dakota and about 20% nationally. While Bob Barr will probably be a factor this fall, he has nowhere near the appeal that Perot was able to garner in the 90's.

    People that call the 50 state strategy "arrogant" make me smile. I mean, who needs party building, right? Screw all those other guys, this should be all about Florida and Ohio, always and forever.

    By Anonymous dannity, At 24 June, 2008 13:22  

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