Tuesday polls: Stunning toss-up in Indiana, as Obama leads in MI and CO's Udall continues to inch ahead (Updated with new LA Times poll!)

Update: Well, well, well, that Newsweek poll has company! A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll finds a 12% lead for Obama, 49% to 37%. In a four-way race including Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, Obama is ahead 48% to 33%. The key, once again, is the poll's partisan breakdown: 39% of voters identify themselves as Democrats versus only 22% as Republicans. That is simply too big a difference for McCain to hope to survive.

Original post: After yesterday's wave of good poll news for Obama that showed the Democrat gaining in swing states like New Hampshire and in traditionally red state like Alaska, today's shocker comes in the form of a SUSA poll from Indiana -- not the first state you think of when you wonder where the next exciting presidential poll will come from:

  • In a state in which George Bush crushed Al Gore and John Kerry, SUSA finds a toss-up race, with Obama edging out McCain 48% to 47%.
  • No surprise as to the reason: There is a 16% swing from the partisan breakdown of 2004. That year, 46% of voters were Republicans and 32% were Democrats. In this poll, 38% of respondents identify themselves as Democrats and 36% as Republicans.
It is increasingly evident how big an obstacle to McCain's election this shift in partisan breakdown, about which I have written numerous times before, has become. It is what explains Obama's 15% lead i a recent Newsweek poll, and what also accounts for Obama's gains in a number of red states like Indiana. Keep in mind that the Illinois Senator has chosen to run his first ad of the general election in this state which should not be dismissed: While it doesn't cost him that much to run ads in similarly red Montana and Nebraska, Indiana does have an expensive media market (Indianapolis) and the Obama campaign has to be at least somewhat confident that they can tighten the race here and force McCain to play defense.

The day's second good news for Obama comes from Michigan:

  • PPP finds Obama to be ahead 47% to 38%, with 78% of Democrats supporting him versus 74% of Republicans supporting McCain.
This will not come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog who know that I tend to view Michigan as more dangerous for Obama than Pennsylvania, but this is the biggest lead Obama has ever posted in a Michigan poll. The state is likely to remain competitive to the end, just as it did in the past two elections, but it would be a huge boost to Obama if the state at least comes back to its Democratic leanings. We will have to wait for confirmation from other polls to see whether PPP marks Michigan's return to its more traditional role of a lean-blue state or whether it overstates Obama's support.

The third and last presidential poll of the day comes from New Mexico:

  • Obama narrowly leads McCain 49% to 46% in the latest SUSA poll, based on a 54% gender gap and the support of 63% of Hispanics. The two were tied at 44% last month.
Yesterday's Rasmussen poll of the race found an 8% lead for Obama, in what is one of two Gore states to have switched over to Bush in 2004. Polls here remain tight, though Democrats are hoping that claiming an early edge New Mexico and Iowa will put them within striking distance of the White House (6 evs) before contesting more difficult red states. The fact remains that while Obama is putting states like Indiana and Alaska in play he has not been able to open a consistent and clear lead in states that ought to swing to his side more easily if he has a national advantage. And that's what keeps this race so suspenseful.

Finally, four down-the-ballot polls:

  • In Colorado's senatorial race, Democrat Tom Udall has opened a 9% lead (46-37) against Republican Bob Schaffer according to an internal poll released by the DSCC.
  • In Indiana's gubernatorial race, Gov. Daniels leads Democratic challenger Long Thompson 50% to 45% (in the SUSA poll).
  • In Nebraska's senatorial race, former Gov. Mike Johanns crushes Scott kleeb 60% to 33% in Rasmussen's latest poll. He ld 55% to 40% last month. Johanns's favorability rating stands at 63%, versus 50% for Kleeb.
  • Finally, PPP accompanied its presidential poll with the uninteresting finding that Carl Levin is leading 54% to 32% in his uninteresting match-up against Republican Jack Hoogendyck.
Long Thompson was unexplicably trailing big in the last 2 polls of the race, though this survey is a return to what we have seen most of the year: Mitch Daniels is a vulnerable incumbent though he has somewhat recovered in the past year, making this race unpredictable. As for the Nebraska race, it remains the Democrat's big disappointment of the year as Bob Kerrey's running would have made this one of the hottest pick-up opportunities of the year rather than a blowout which Kleeb has little chance of tightening. In fact, the Democrat himself probably views this as a resume-boosting name ID-enhancing run.

As for the Colorado poll, it is an internal survey but this is the second poll after Rasmussen's that shows Udall extending his lead a bit. Democrats have long been hoping that Udall will repeat the gubernatorial scenario of Gov. Ritter in 2006, when the Democrat unexpectedly opened a huge lead in what was expected to be a close open seat race and he never looked back. The environment is still as bad for the GOP and the state has only trended more blue in the past two years but Udall has been unable to inch ahead of Schaffer. If these latest polls are confirmed, however, it will be a very positive development for Democrats.

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