Sunday, October 05, 2008

Scenes from the Gopher State

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With McCain trailing badly in the polls, in terms of both the national popular vote and the electoral college vote, and giving up on Michigan, his campaign is focusing on three key battleground states: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The polls show Obama well ahead in Pennsylvania. The RCP Average is Obama +9.6, and the trend is clear: He's been expanding his lead steadily over the past couple of weeks. Two recent polls give him a double-digit lead.

The race is closer in Wisconsin, there the RCP Average is Obama +5.0. His lead is smaller than it was back in June and July, when it was in double digits, but, as in Pennsylvania, he's expanded his lead somewhat over the past couple of weeks.

But what about Minnesota?

Obama has been ahead pretty much the entire race, and the RCP Average is currently Obama +7.6. He lead was in double digits back in June and July, when he was ahead by as many as 17 points. The race narrowed in early September, with Obama ahead by just two points in several polls and the race even in a Star Tribune poll from September 10-12.

Right now, the polls seem to be all over the place. A SurveyUSA poll actually has McCain up by one point, but, as Nate Silver pointed out on Friday, it looks like an "outlier." As Kos notes, "Minnesota is the one battleground state in which McCain continues to outspend Obama, and it's shown in the polling." Alongside the Star Tribune poll, a Quinnipiac poll from September 14-21 had Obama up by just two points.

But McCain's outspending may not be making much of a difference. Or, rather, it may not be enough to help him at this point in the race, given the current dynamics.

A new Star Tribune poll, reported today, gives Obama a massive 18-point lead, 55 to 37. This poll may also be an outlier, but this is the same organization that had the race tied less than a month ago. Here's why:

The new poll shows that Obama's surge in the state can be attributed to voters' belief in his ability to deal with the nation's worsening economy, his performance in the first presidential debate and an increase in the number of Minnesotans who call themselves Democrats.

Obama appears comfortably ahead among men, women, and voters of all ages and educational attainment.

Which is good news indeed with just over four weeks to go. McCain may very well continue to campaign heavily in these battleground states, but he has significant and apparently increasing gaps to make up in all three.

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