Polls: Dems get good presidential day, GOP enjoys good Senate news

One of the most surprising fixtures of this early campaign season has been the number of Massachusetts polls finding a surprisingly tight race between Barack Obama and John McCain. SUSA's latest poll had the Democrat leading by 5% -- and that was an improvement over previous dismal SUSA findings. Other polls Obama up by 12-13%, certainly a stronger showing, but these surveys also pointed to a surprising Obama weakness in the state by finding him performing much more weakly than Hillary Clinton. Now, however, we finally get a Massachusetts poll in which Obama performs as strongly (even stronger) than he needs to:

  • Suffolk released its general election survey of the state, finding Obama leading 53% to 30%.
One or two more of those and we will be ready to move MA from "Likely Obama" to "Safe Obama." Of course, Massachusetts isn't the most interesting general election state but it has long been a puzzling one which is why I chose to lead with it. Other important state polls that are making news today are:

  • In Wisconsin, the renowned Badger poll released a poll finding Obama leading 50% to 37% -- a very impressive margin in one of the tightest races of the past 2 elections.
  • A key finding: The partisan breakdown has shifted 12% towards Democrats since 2004.
  • In New Jersey, Quinnipiac found Obama leading but struggling to open a substantial margin. He is ahead 45% to 39%.
  • In Iowa, the 2004 red state that looks the most susceptible of falling in the Democratic column, Rasmussen finds Obama increasing his lead to a 7% margin, up from 2% last month.
  • He now enjoys the support of 77% of registered Democrats, versus 71% last month, though McCain has also increased his support among his base.
  • In the important state of North Carolina, finally, Rasmussen shows a tight race with John McCain barely ahead 45% to 43%. This is actually only a 1% tightening, and the two were tied at 47% two polls ago, but North Carolina is rarely included in the list of top tier states and every poll that shows this tight a race is treated as surprising news.
  • In Oklahoma, finally, Research 2000 released a poll showing McCain leading by only 14% in a state that Bush won by 32%.
Any sign of North Carolina being a true toss-up this November is indeed a nail in the coffin of John McCain, as it is difficult to imagine the Arizona Senator losing such a traditionally red state and somehow get an electoral college majority. An Obama upset in North Carolina would signal major difficulties for McCain in a number of other (former) Republican strongholds, starting with Virginia. Even ruby red Oklahoma is showing signs of tightening!

As for the other state, it is important to realize that as long as Obama keeps all of the Kerry states he can win a majority by simply pulling in three states that are already tinkering on the brink -- Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado. Substitute the latter by Nevada and you have an electoral tie. That's why the recent surveys showing Obama posting huge leads in traditionally tight blue states like Wisconsin and Washington are very important, as they reduce the number of places in which the Illinois Senator will have to play defense.

Fortunately for Republicans, they got great Senate news today -- and unexpectedly so given the streak of terrible news that has fallen on the congressional GOP:

  • In North Carolina, Rasmussen finds Elizabeth Dole leading Kay Hagan by fourteen points following Hagan's 1% lead last month.
  • In Oklahoma, a third-tier race that Dems have made some noise about, Sen. Inhofe leads state Senator Rice 53% to 31% in a Research 2000 poll.
The previous Rasmussen poll was taken right after Hagan's primary victory, and it seemed that the Democratic candidate then enjoyed a short-lived bounce. In fact, there were a number of polls showing a very tight contest between the two North Carolina women mid-May, so Rasmussen's toss-up poll should not be read as a stand-alone outlier. While the evolution is a bit more brutal than expected, the trend lines make sense as it will take more work for Democrats to get Dole truly in trouble. In any case, pulling this race out of the first-tier is essential for Republicans if they want to have a chance of limiting their losses in November. Note that the NC Senate poll is accompanied by a gubernatorial survey that finds the opposite trend:

  • Democratic Lieutenant Governor Perdue now edges out Charlotte Mayor McCrory 47% to 46%. The Republican posted a 45% to 39% lead last month.
It was clear as soon as McCrory announced his candidacy that this race woud go down to the wire, and nothing that has happened ever since has disproved that.

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