Presidential polls: Tracking the bounce

The expectation that Obama would enjoy a bounce after Clinton's concession had been set for months, with the McCain campaign trying to increase the pressure by publicly stating that it expects Obama to surge ahead as he is declared the Democratic nominee. We do not yet have enough polling data to determine how high Obama will rise but can certainly start monitoring the polls. For now, today's national polls find mixed results.

The two tracking polls have found Obama gaining since last Tuesday, when he clinched his party's nod. Both Rasmussen and Gallup find him leading by 6 percent (50% to 44% for the former, 48% to 42% for the latter). This margin is the largest Obama has achieved in Gallup's tracking poll. While this is a very favorable sign for Obama, it is worth noting that Democrats expect to see more of a bounce as the level which Obama will achieve will be regarded as a sort of ceiling. As the campaign gets settled in general election mode in the coming days and as the reality of Clinton's withdrawal sets in, we will see whether Obama can open up more of lead.

At the state level, five polls were released today -- none showing surprising results though we have some interesting findings:

  • In South Carolina, a Rasmussen poll shows McCain to be leading 48% to 39%.
  • In Wisconsin, the race is very tight with Obama edging out McCain 45% to 43%. A month ago, McCain led 47% to 43%.
  • Both candidates have a high favorable rating here, with McCain posting a particularly strong 60%. Obama is at 55%.
  • In New Jersey, Obama leads 48% to 39%. Rasmussen found McCain slightly ahead 46% to 45% in late March so this is a net progression for Obama though it places him where we expect him to be.
  • Here again, the candidates have high favorability rating: 60% for Obama (36% very favorable) and 59% for McCain (though only 18% very favorable).
  • In Texas, McCain is ahead 52% to 39%. A month ago, he was only leading by 5%. As I will soon write about, the Senate race has also dramatically swung towards the GOP, implying that there is a sampling difference between the two surveys.
  • 38% of Texas have a very unfavorable view of the Illinois Senator.
  • Finally, a poll from Indiana shows that McCain starts ahead, 47% to 38%, in a state Bush won by 20%.
Of these five states, only Wisconsin is rated as a toss-up in my latest electoral college ratings, a status that is confirmed by this poll. Some Democrats believe Obama should be stronger than previous Democrats in one of his most crucial primary victories, but his strength with Midwestern independents should help him put Minnesota out of play before Wisconsin and we should expect that the latter stay competitive to the end.

As for the four others, they are all states that Obama and McCain want to believe they can make competitive: The Democratic advantage in New Jersey has been diminishing and, though the state has not been kind to Republicans, McCain's strength among independents could help him in the Garden State. As for South Carolina, it should be the last of the Southern states where Obama wants to increase black turnout to fall (after NC and GA). In Texas, it is possible that Obama will choose to spend some resources to force the race into single-digits and force McCain to spend a lot more than he would want to defending a must-win state for the GOP.

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