Thursday, October 30, 2008

Morning Polls

Today's theme will be Mason Dixon, not the line, the pollster. First, a word from our national trackers:

Gallup Likely Voter Model II (which even Republicans admit is probably the more useful measure) holds steady at Obama +7. But Obama moves from up 4 to up 5 even in the traditional likely voter model. Rasmussen expands back from Obama +3 to Obama +5. The movement in this tracker had me (very slightly) concerned yesterday. Obama is back up to 51% in the tracker. Hotline moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6. R2000 moves from Obama +6 to Obama +5. All that adds up to ... probably nothing. Nothing is good. Just like in that Seinfeld episode where George gets a "negative" result on his biopsy and panics initially. Negative is good! There are also two new national polls out this morning. Fox has Obama up by 3. The Economist has Obama up by 7.

At the state level, John McCain is moving all his chips in on ... Mason Dixon. Here are the state polls out this morning:

Arizona (Mason Dixon) - McCain +4
Arizona (CNN/Time) - McCain +7
California (Field) - Obama +22
Colorado (Marist) - Obama +6
Colorado (National Journal) - Obama +4
Florida (National Journal) - Obama +4
Idaho (Harstad) - McCain +23
Indiana (Selzer) - Obama +1
Minnesota (Mason Dixon) - Obama +8
Minnesota (MPR) - Obama +19
Nevada (CNN/Time) - Obama +7
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +24
New Jersey (R2000) - Obama +16
North Carolina (CNN/Time) - Obama +6
North Carolina (National Journal) - Obama +4
Ohio (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Ohio (National Journal) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Mason Dixon) - Obama +4
Pennsylvania (CNN/Time) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +11
South Carolina (NBC) - McCain +11
South Dakota (GQR) - McCain +5
Texas (UT) - McCain +11
Virginia (National Journal) - Obama +4
Virginia (Marist) - Obama +4

Let's start by talking about Mason Dixon. Mason Dixon is not an awful pollster at the state level (see Zogby, John) but they are not the best either and they do seem to have a slight Republican lean (that's just my non-systematic sense - Nate Silver will likely have something more systematic to say later today). I say all this because, if you're John McCain and you're looking at this list of polls (by the way, John McCain spending time on this blog would not be close to his worst decision of the campaign), the Mason Dixon result in Pennsylvania is the really good news that jumps out at you. CNN/Time and Muhlenberg have Obama up by low double-digits this morning. The way things are headed, McCain really has to win in Pennsylvania and this is the closest McCain has been in any publicly-released poll in Pennsylvania since mid-September. At that time, Mason Dixon had McCain behind by just 2. So is Mason Dixon right? I don't think so. But let's say they are. McCain would still be behind by 4 points. That's no small thing. Mason Dixon also has Minnesota (Obama +8) closer than others do including MPR who has Obama up by 19. But, again, let's just say Mason Dixon is the best pollster out there and they are right across the board. If so, John McCain is as likely to lose Arizona as he is to win Pennsylvania. That's not a useful tradeoff. I doubt John McCain will lose Arizona. But I also don't think Barack Obama is going to lose Pennsylvania.

Basically all of the rest of this polling is just awful, awful stuff for McCain. Look at North Carolina. I noted yesterday that, contrary to Bill McInturff's memo, the African-American vote in a state like North Carolina is probably being underestimated. Today, we have two polls showing Obama ahead there. CNN/Time seems to have a slight Democratic lean giving these two polls very similar readings. North Carolina would cancel out a McCain upset in Pennsylvania. So would Ohio. So would Florida. So would Indiana (more on that below). So would Missouri. Believe it or not ... so would Nevada! "Really?" you ask. Yes. Do the math. If Obama wins all the Kerry states except Pennsylvania plus Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia (leads in all these states for a long time now), he still wins if he just carries tiny little Nevada and nothing else.

Now, let's talk about that Indiana poll by Ann Selzer. Nate Silver is a big fan of Ann Selzer's work and it is hard to argue with her results in the primaries in states like Iowa and Indiana. One of the things that makes Selzer's polling different than others is that she is anticipating higher youth turnout than most other pollsters. This is part of her polling prior to the Iowa Caucuses was more accurate than others. Young voters did turn out in the numbers she predicted. The same thing happened in the Democratic Primary in Indiana. She now has Obama up by 1 in Indiana. Is she right? Nobody knows for sure but Obama is going to Indiana tomorrow, Biden is there on Saturday, and Indiana is one of the states where Obama's organizing advantage on the ground compared with McCain is HUGE. If I had to bet today, I would be on an Obama win in Indiana ... but I'm not a gambling man.

Overall, this is not a day where we're seeing the narrowing that John McCain needs to see. 5 days to go!!! Breathe in, breathe out.

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