Presidential Polls – IN, NC, NV, MO, OH, WV, VI

A plethora of polls have been released over the week for individual states. Certainly more than 50. You’ll notice I don’t write about polls as much as I did in the primaries – this is because the primaries came hard and fast, and to keep up with a 50 horse race over 4-6 months, and to mark the progress made by Obama, polls were the best way of gauging the contest. With the presidential election though, polls come and go, and there isn’t much fluctuation in real numbers. The polls out of swing states will often vary widely – but you need to look at the trend in polls, the ground work each candidate has put in, the historical and current trends of the state to make anything out of the polls. Not only is it done on thousands of other websites, but there’s hardly ever enough stability in the race at this point to write anything that will be meaningful beyond the end of the week.

So for this post, I’ve picked out a few of the polls that are noteworthy and will be indicative of current trends. Starting with Indiana. It’s worth 11 electoral college votes, making it a handy state to have in the pocket. It’s traditionally been a stalwart Republican state – having gone Republican since at least 1968. It went Democrat in 1964, but going back to 1860, the state’s gone Republican 30 times to Democratic 7. So in the past, it’s been a reliable 11 EVs for the Republicans. (Current) President Bush won the state by 16% and 21% in 2000 and 2004 respectively.

However, this year, the state has been ruled swing, and only on polling averages (based on 2004 equations) and its history, does it slightly tilt to McCain. The last few polls have showed a very tight race in Indiana even with the McCain convention bounce. At the end of August there was a 45% to 43% McCain’s way poll and mid-September yielded a 51% to 45% McCain’s way poll. Today, two groups released polls. Big Ten Battleground had the state at 47% to 43% McCain’s way, which followed trends based off 2004 numbers (like all the previous).

But the most interesting poll came from Ann Selzer. Ann Selzer is based in Iowa and predicted, against all odds, that Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee would win their primaries back in January. They did, and even more surprising, she plotted Hillary Clinton to come in third. Then she predicted Mitt Romney would win Michigan – he did. She has been the most accurate pollster this election season – beating all of the ‘big’ polling companies by far. So when she released a poll saying 47% to 43% Obama’s way, everyone sat up and listened.

In it, Obama is losing every regional are except Indianapolis, the city centre (which continues trends Obama showed through the primaries). Selzer runs her polls off her own formulas – not looking to history for numbers, but history for trends, and then current statistics for numbers. So, in reality, he polls are based on the current situation on the ground more than other polls. So people take notice when her polls come out. I expect the numbers are encouraging to Obama, and scaring McCain. I also suspect that these numbers are what Obama’s internal polling show – he has, after all, set up 35 field offices and invested stacks of money into the state, while McCain has done nothing. It also helps that the state borders with Illinois – and the whole Northern part of the state is like a suburb of Obama’s home state.

Indiana is going to be another state like North Carolina to watch closely, especially after the debates and then when the results come in.

Speaking of, North Carolina had another poll put out, this time by CNN/Time, that showed an effective tie – 48% to 47% McCain’s way. The state’s history is generally Republican – not having gone blue since 1976 and neighbour Jimmy Carter was running. And of course, like any Southern state, it has a long history of being Democratic before this. However, it’s generally considered a safe Republican seat.

Now, as I detailed in an earlier post about registration numbers, this state is going to be very close indeed. With polls like the CNN/Time ones, combine that with the ground game and Obama wins. Even polls like the Civitas’ 47% to 44% McCain’s way, Public Policy’s 48% to 44% McCain’s way all have the numbers there that can lead to an Obama win in the state. 15 EVs are nothing to laugh at, and should Obama win them, he will win the presidency. They aren’t must win for him though – but they are McCain. It’s very hard to see McCain winning the race without North Carolina.

If the election were held today, and these 2 state polls are accurate, Obama would win them both. I don’t see his numbers going down after the debates either, meaning that McCain really has a struggle on his hands with them. I’m not saying they are guarentees – policy discussion and investment by McCain could actually sway the state’s back to their traditions. But if Obama is left long enough to establish the better ground game in both of them without check, then it won’t matter if McCain invests or not.

Nevada is all over the place: the latest polls have 2 with 49% to 46% McCain, a 39% to 38% (with 23% undecided!) to Obama, and then a 44% to 43% to Obama too. It is obvious by the trends Obama has made great in roads with the state, and he has brought it to a toss-up. Anyone who watched The West Wing will know what it’s like to wait on this state. It’s 5 EVs could prove decisive again.

With the economy the #1 issue at the moment, it only helps Obama with Nevada. The demographics are there for him to jag a 4% turn-around, but not much more. I think he will want to see a few more polls that have less undecided, and a 2% lead for him before he (and I) would be happy to move this state to leaning Obama. But for now, it’s totally up in the air.

Missouri has been brought back into the swing state status (after previously being ruled ‘Likely McCain’) after the latest 3 polls. American Research (who I have little faith in) has the race at 50% to 45% McCain’s way, Rasmussen has 51% to 46% McCain’s way., and CCN/Time has 50% to 45% McCain’s way too. 5% difference isn’t much, and the state is truly swing looking at its history.

I doubt Obama will win it. It’s not set up for him to be able to turn around a 5% deficit in a few weeks with simple investment, ground work, and minimal visits. He is more concerned with holding onto some of those if-y Kerry states than winning extra swing states. But Missouri might be worth revisiting after the debates, to see if the numbers have got any closer.

Ohio is in the same boat as Missouri. It was earlier being called a likely McCain, simply because Obama couldn’t get much footing in the polls – generally always in a tie, or trailing by 3-5%. The latest rounds of polls make this a bit closer: CNN/Time have a 49% to 47% Obama’s way; Big Ten Battleground have a 49% to 45% Obama’s way. Some interesting numbers there. They are based on 2004 numbers, and the state did go Bush’s way that year (51% to 49%).

Obama had some big problems with the state during the primaries, if you remember. Calls of racism were heard everywhere, and I think some voters haven’t got over that. But with the economy taking front and centre, this state is poised to swing over to the ‘Leaning Obama’ column after the debates (if he puts in a good performance). Investment and ground game is key to turning this state over, and with 20 EVs, it’s the most valuable of the true swing states (with Florida being called ‘Leaning McCain’ at the moment). I think the state still is trending McCain at the moment, but if Obama is able to pull both Indiana and North Carolina into the grey area, then Ohio might just well be a hard contest too. Watch this state carefully.

West Virginia, a generally Democratic Southern state, has a poll in which Obama is just 4% down – 49% to 45%. Hillary Clinton would have won the state no questions asked. Obama, much like Ohio, had race problems there in the primaries. Since then, he has generally ignored the state. He might have been too hasty from the looks of things. I doubt he will turn to it (as it’s another state worth 5 EVs, and you can only target so many small states before it’s redundant), and it might be too late to actually capitalise on such a small difference (if it really exists). But you never know what will happen with the economy the top priority with voters, and the debates coming up.

And finally, in Virginia, McCain’s convention/Palin bounce is fading in the polls. There’s a 48% apiece tie from FOX/Rasmussen, then a 50% to 46% Obama lead, and a 48% to 46% Obama lead. The state is starting to come back around to Obama. Again, economy and debates: These will help decide this state. With the Northern suburbs growing and getting bluer, and with registration at a big high for Democrats, this state is much like North Carolina in that it is set up to out-perform the polls more than other states. It will be a very close, and very important, state to watch as well.

Thomas.


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