Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Updated Nielsen Numbers: Obama Infomercial Reaches Over 33 Million Viewers

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 8:53 AM by Maurice Berger

Nielsen's final rating for Obama's informercial on Wednesday evening suggests that the event was a success in terms of reaching a broad audience. The final numbers: 33.5 million viewers, remarkably more than half of the number who tuned into the second and most watched presidential debate.

Daily Tacking Poll Average: Obama Now Up +5.7%

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 7:06 AM by Maurice Berger

For the second day, Obama's daily tracking poll national average lead has inched upward. As of today, has holds a +5.7% advantage, 48.2% to 43.8%. Interestingly, the IBD/TIPP tracking survey (the most accurate national pollster in 2004) this afternoon reports that a whopping 13% of independent voters still say they are undecided, a scant four days before the election. This, combined with the large number of "persuadable" voters that register in many of these surveys, suggests a bit of volatility in the race.

Persuadables STILL A Factor: 1 in 7 Voters Could Still Switch Their Vote

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 4:46 AM by Maurice Berger

A stunning factor could still bring surprises in Election 2008: an extraordinary one in seven voters--or 14%--say they could still change their minds by election day. As PollTrack has been reporting, the number of persuadable voters, exceedingly large at this point, has been consistent for weeks. A new Associated Press/Yahoo Poll reports: "With the sand in the 2008 campaign hourglass about depleted . . . a stubborn wedge of people . . . somehow, are still making up their minds about who should be president. One in seven, or 14 percent, can't decide, or back a candidate but might switch . . . Who are they? They look a lot like the voters who've already locked onto a candidate, though they're more likely to be white and less likely to be liberal. And they disproportionately backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed run for the Democratic nomination." The make up of this bloc could be a warning sign for Obama. A similar pattern emerged in New Hampshire in the days leading up to the Democratic primary in January: while Obama lead by  +8.7% in PollTrack's  unpublished average--Hillary Clinton captured the state by +2.6%, a swing of 11 points. Significantly, as many as 25% of NH  Democrats--according to polls released in the 48 hour period before voting--said they could still  change their minds. While Obama maintains strong leads in states holding a total of 259 electoral votes, a dramatic shift in persuadable voters towards the Republican could make some of these races closer and swing red-leaning states, like FL, MO, IN, NC, and NV to  McCain.  (Rasmussen's daily tracker this morning, significantly, also reports around 10% of voters are uncertain, persuadable, undecided, or supporting a third party candidate. Among certain voters, Obama holds a +4% lead, 47% to 43%.) Still, the Democrat's structural advantages in statewide races--especially in most of the battlegrounds--make a McCain victory unlikely (but not impossible) at this point.

Today's Map: New Hampshire Moves To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 3:03 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers consistently strong in New Hampshire--and his polling average at +12.4%, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" to "Safe" Democrat.

Today's and Tomorrow's Map: Bellwether Nevada Moves From "Too Close" To "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 2:56 AM by Maurice Berger

With several polls indicating a solid rise of support for Obama in Nevada--and crucially an exhaustive survey released yesterday that now confirms both the solidity and enthusiasm of the Hispanic vote in the southwest for the Democrat--PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on both Today's and Tomorrow's Maps. The implications of Obama's advantage with Hispanic voters in the southwest cannot be clearer: McCain is now struggling even in his home state of Arizona, where his PT average lead has dropped well below the +10% mark. Nevada is also one of three bellwether states, so Obama appears to be in very good shape, now leading in Ohio and Nevada. Only Missouri remains too close to call on both maps.

Obama: Big Lead In Newspaper Endorsements

Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 1:43 AM by Maurice Berger

In another sign of Obama's dominance, Editor & Publisher reports that the Democrat maintains a significant lead in newspaper endorsements: 234 to 105, as of Friday afternoon. In 2004, Kerry barely edged out Bush in endorsements, 213-205. The website reports: "The circulation of the Obama-backing papers stands at over 21 million, compared with McCain's 7 million. . . . At least 47 papers . . . have now switched to Obama from Bush in 2004, with just four flipping to McCain. In addition, several top papers that went for Bush in 2004 have now chosen not to endorse this year, the latest being the Indianapolis Star in key swing state Indiana."

Uptick For Obama In Today's PollTrack Daily Tracker Average

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 8:08 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily tracker shows improvement for Obama over yesterday's results. He now leads 49.3% to 44.3%, for an aggregate advantage of +5.0%, a full +1% gain in 24 hours.

Obama Infomericial: Watched By One In Five Homes

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 6:53 AM by Maurice Berger

Nielsen's preliminary numbers report that Obama's 30-minute infomercial was viewed last night by 21.7% of all households watching television in the top 56 local television markets. Though a healthy number, the advertisement was seen by fewer households than watched the presidential debates--viewed, respectively, by 34.7%, 42% and 38.3% of households in these top markets.

Stay Up-To-Date With PollTrack in 2009

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 6:15 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack will be offering a range of features in 2009, including essays, analyzes, photos, and videos as well as polling averages and our political director's blog for elections and special elections to be held next year. To receive our newsletter, alerting you to new races and features, send your E-mail address to us through our submissions form on our Voices on the Ground page (let us know that you want to be included in our E-mail list in the body of blog post" box or E-mail us directly to: voices@polltrack.com. We will not share your address with anyone.

Election Night: Live Blog!

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 5:07 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack invites you to its Live Blog on election night. Starting at 6:00 EST, as results start coming in, PollTrack will explain and analyze the significance of wins and loses. Stay with us for an up to minute examination of electoral trends as well as a prediction of where the election is headed. We will clear the Election Day Map that morning, filling it in on election night, state by state, as results are confirmed.

Obama Owns the 50% Mark: Another Important Structural Advantage

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 4:47 AM by Maurice Berger

One significant, though unreported, structural advantage for Obama on the electoral map: of the 255 EVs he now leads "safely" (according to PollTrack's averages), he reaches or exceeds the 50% mark in all. In other words, he not only maintains a +10% advantage in these states, but rises above the 50% threshold, thus making it all the more difficult for McCain to catch up, especially considering that third party candidates are drawing at least a few percentage points in many of these states. Additionally in all of the remaining 51 EVs that now "lean" to Obama on Today's Map, but not by a "Safe" margin--Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico--he still rises above the 50% mark. And in one state, still "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map, Nevada, he has just inched up to the 50% mark. So the Democrat now reaches or exceeds the magic threshold in 270 EVs. McCain by contrast is "Safe" in 127 EVs, reaching or exceeding the 50% mark in all. He leans in an additional four states, but reaches the 50% threshold only in two, West Virginia and Georgia. Incredibly, in his home state of Arizona (as well as Montana) he fails to hit 50%. In the remaining states that are now rated "Too Close To Call"--Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota--Obama holds a very slight lead in all but IN, but does not hit the 50% mark in any. Nevertheless, even with polls reporting that McCain is narrowing the gap in some battleground states, these numbers add up to a map that fundamentally favors Obama.

"Leaners" Lean Towards Obama

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 2:45 AM by Maurice Berger

While polls contradict each other, some showing Obama significantly ahead, others indicating a close national or statewide race, it's usually the way "leaners" and persuadable voters are counted that makes the difference. In other words, when only voters who are certain of their choice are included in a sample, the race is somewhat closer. When voters who are persuadable or leaning one way or another are factored in, Obama often holds a solid advantage. There is a bit of good news in this for each candidate. For McCain, these numbers suggest a fluidity in the race: neither candidate has sealed the deal with voters. The fluidity of voters leaning towards Obama's may also suggest their reticence or anxiety about the candidate. The good news for Obama is really quite good: with leaning and persuadable voters included, he jumps well over the 50% mark in many surveys and states, suggesting that a solid majority of voters are ready--or nearly ready--to vote for him. The next few days are crucial for both camps. If Obama can successfully close, finally securing leaning, persuadable, and undecided voters he has the potential of a solid, and perhaps commanding electoral majority. But if these voters break for McCain, we may see a much closer race, though the structural stability of the Democrat's numbers--he leads by more than 10% on average in 255 EVs--will make any path to victory for McCain extremely limited and difficult.

Are New, Hispanic, and Younger Voters Under-performing?

Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 1:03 AM by Maurice Berger

An analysis of early voting data in Nevada suggests that in that state, at least, three of Obama's key constituents are under-performing. The Las Vegas Review-Journal writes: "As Nevadans continue to flock to the polls, turnout among those three groups is lagging, at least in the early going. While turnout statewide was nearly 25 percent through Sunday, it was just 20 percent among Hispanic voters, 14 percent among voters under 30 and 15 percent among those who didn't vote in the last three elections, according to an analysis of state early voting records through Sunday prepared by America Votes, an organization that works to mobilize voters." Such under-voting could be a problem for Obama in the most competitive and closely fought swing states, including skewing likely voter models in polls in the direction of voters who may not show up in anticipated numbers. 

Daily Tracking Average: Obama's Lead Narrows, Yet Again

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 8:44 AM by Maurice Berger

With four out of six daily tracking polls reporting only a +3% national lead for Obama (Gallup-traditional, IBD/TIPP, Rasmussen, and GWU/Battleground) and two others indicating a narrowing of the Democrat's lead over the past week, Obama's daily tracking poll average advantage has fallen to +4% DEM, 48.8% to 44.8%. This is the fourth straight day of decline for Obama and a three-point drop from the +7% lead reported on Saturday. There seems to be some evidence that undecided and persuadable voters are breaking, at least modestly, for McCain. Republican party sources are also reporting that some key statewide races are tightening as well. In Florida, where Obama had moved into a slight lead , tracking polls, according to party sources, are indicating a spike in support for McCain, who has moved into a 3-5% lead in the state. PollTrack will be watching these numbers very closely over the next few days.

Obama: Ad War Dominance

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 6:44 AM by Maurice Berger

In a sign of the economic disparity between the two presidential campaigns, Nielsen reports that Obama continues to outspend McCain in the key battleground states: "In Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, Obama placed 155% more ad units (62,022 vs. 24,273) than McCain between October 6 and October 26, 2008... Obama's advertising continues to be heaviest in Florida, where he ran 18,909 ads between October 6 and October 26, outpacing McCain's 5,702 ads by 232%." Over the past few days, Nielsen reports, McCain has closed the gap slightly. More eye-popping, perhaps, is the Republican's newest ad buy: Montana, a state George W. Bush won by nearly twenty points four years ago." Yet, despite this enormous disparity, the race remains close in most of these states, though all, except PA, lean Republican.

Is Pennsylvania Narrowing?

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 4:32 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama's polling average lead in Pennsylvania is over +10%, two new polls are actually reporting the race narrowing in the Keystone State. Rasmussen reports that Obama's advantage is down to +7%, 53% to 46%. Strategic Vision also reports a +7% lead, 50% to 43%. Still, the Democrat's lead is these polls suggests they "Lean Democrat," at the very least, though the state continues to be listed as "Safe Democrat" on Today's and Tomorrow's Maps. (The freshest polling from the state--Associated Press/GfK, Quinnipiac, and Franklin and Marshall--this morning also suggests that the fundamentals in the state favor Obama, he leads by +12% in the first two polls, 13% in the latter.) Yet, as the Boston Globe reports, "Obama's repeated visits here--he held rallies in Chester, outside Philadelphia, yesterday, and in Pittsburgh the night before-- suggest that his campaign is worried enough about the state, which he lost handily in the primary to Senator Hillary Clinton, to maintain a major presence this close to Election Day. One of Obama's top surrogates here, Governor Ed Rendell, said yesterday that McCain's heavy campaigning in the state, especially in southwestern counties around Pittsburgh, was whittling away Obama's lead. 'I never thought it was a 10-plus lead to begin with," Rendell said in an interview. "This is still not a given.'" The big question: are the campaigns' internal polls indicating a much closer race, as some suspect, or is the Obama campaign faking out McCain into pouring money, time, and resources into a state he cannot win? Even more dramatically: are the internal numbers in PA early harbingers of a "Bradley effect," in which white voters tell pollsters they are voting for the black candidate out of embarrassment or a sense of duty, even though they intend to vote for his white opponent in the privacy of the voting booth?

POLLTRACK in 2009: What Lies Ahead On Our Website

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 3:15 AM by Maurice Berger

Election 2008 was just the beginning of our new website. In the two weeks following the election, we will provide comprehensive analysis on how things turned out and why as well as voter, political, and cultural reaction to the election. Starting in mid-November, we plan a range of coverage--including continuation of Voices on the Ground, our page where voters speak their minds and serve as our eyes and ears, and Writing on the Wall our page for analysis, opinion, and debate in both national and local contexts. On these pages we will cover the transition of the new president and congress, inaugural events, and local reactions to the new president as well as the way political and cultural events of 2009 impact on voters. Tracking the Nation on our homepage will continue to chart a range of data about the state of the nation. And on our new page, Tracking the Nation Map and Blog, PollTrack Political Director, Maurice Berger, will offer daily updates on voter reactions to the transition and inauguration of the new president and administration as well as local initiatives, referendums, elections, and special elections (e.g. vacated congressional seats) of 2009--providing analysis of the state of these races on the ground as well as ongoing poll averages, from the campaign for mayor and other citywide offices in New York City and Los Angeles to the Governor's race in New Jersey. This page will also have a national map and chart that will allow visitors to track analysis for each state as well as the polling averages for 2009 races and ballot initiatives. We will look at the approval ratings, the implications of special and scheduled elections, and other "on the ground" markers of success for the new administration. And next fall, PollTrack will be up and running with our comprehensive coverage of the national cycle in 2010, US Senate Map and House Chart Map and Blog--with maps, polling averages, charts, and an ongoing blog by our political director on all of the key races, including all competitive US Senate and House elections to Governor's races and other local elections.

Six Days To Go: The Fundamentals Remain Strong For Obama

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 2:30 AM by Maurice Berger

While most tracking polls showing the race narrowing over the past few days (to within a few points according to IBD/TIPP, GWU/Battleground, Galup (traditional) over the past few days and Rasmussen this morning), the fundamentals of the election still markedly favor Barack Obama. The biggest plus for the Democrat: he now holds "Safe" level leads in states with a total of 255 electoral votes, 259 EVs with New Hampshire, which is trending "Safe." With this potential margin in the electoral college, Obama will need to pick off only one or two more states which now "Lean" to him: a combination of North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, or New Mexico, for example, or even just Ohio or Florida. The only hope for McCain rests on one odd factor in national polling: the large bloc of voters who say they are still persuadable. Rasmussen reports this morning, for example, that among "likely voters" Obama leads by +3%, 50% to 47%. Among voters who are absolutely certain of the decision, the Democrat leads by the same margin, but at 46% to 43%. In the latter numbers, Obama drops well below the 50% mark; just as significant, the pool of decided voters drops to 89%, leaving another 11% who are "leaning," wavering, not sure, undecided, or voting for a third party candidate. Yet, even if McCain were to make up the difference by election day--with a large swing of persuadable voters in his direction--he would still have a major structural disadvantage in the electoral college. If Obama now wins all the states that are now called "Safe Democrat" on Today's Map (a likely scenario if history is any guide), he would only need a few more states to win. With a +6% average in Ohio, +7 in Colorado, +7 in New Mexico, +6.5% in Virginia, +3 in Florida he has a much better shot at squeaking by in enough swing states to cross the finish line. Still if McCain's gains were dramatic--and other factors, such as the "Bradley Effect," which could be skewing polling results towards Obama--were operative, anything is possible. BUT, the opposite outcome may be even more likely: with "Leaners" now skewing slightly to Obama, he could benefit from a swing of persuadables in his direction, movement that could result in an electoral mandate in which true-red states, such as North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana, and red-leaning battlegrounds, such as Missouri, Florida, and Ohio fall into the Democratic column. Stay tuned.

Obama Winning The Expectations Game, BIG

Posted Oct 29, 2008 at 1:24 AM by Maurice Berger

In a sign of Obama's increasing public relations edge in this election, Gallup reports that he is way ahead in the expectations game: "By a 71% to 23% margin, Americans expect that Barack Obama will be elected president in next Tuesday's election, including a 49% to 46% ratio of John McCain's own supporters who say Obama, rather than their own candidate, will win."  Positive expectations can play a crucial role in an election's outcome, often convincing wavering or uncertain voters (the "persuadables") of the viability, attractiveness, or inevitability of a candidate. Reverse expectations can also depress voter turnout for the candidate who lags, since voters may believe their vote is wasted on a losing campaign.

Tomorrow's Map: New Hampshire Moves From "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 11:31 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama showing surprising strength in PT's poll average for New Hampshire (he's now up +11.4%), PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Daily Tracking Poll Average: Some Erosion of Obama's National Lead

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 8:48 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's daily tracking average lead jumping to +7% four days ago, it is noteworthy that today's tracker average indicates a further narrowing of the race (a trend that started on Sunday). Obama now leads McCain 49.3% to 45.0%, for an overall average of +4.3% DEM. (Gallup's traditional model for likely voters shows the race nearly tied, with Obama ahead, 49% to 47%.) PollTrack will keep a close eye on these numbers over the next few days.

Election Day Map: Obama-273 McCain-174 TCTC-91

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 7:02 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama coming on strong in North Carolina (he now holds a tiny lead in the state), PollTrack's new Election Day Map numbers have shifted once again: Obama-273 McCain-174 TCTC-91.

Today's Map: Arizona Moves From "Safe" To "Leaning Republican"

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 5:17 AM by Maurice Berger

With three new polls showing the race tightening considerably in Arizona, PollTrack moves the state from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Today's Map. That McCain is now struggling in his home state (one poll shows him with a scant 2% lead) is a truly amazing development, though PollTrack believes the Arizona Senator will pull the state out in the end.

Today's Map: Indiana Moves From "Leaning Republican" To "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 2:52 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama taking a fraction of a percentage point lead in PT's average for Indiana, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map.

Do Early Voters Prefer Obama More Than Election Day Voters?

Posted Oct 28, 2008 at 1:34 AM by Maurice Berger

It certain battle ground states Obama has a clear--even dramatic edge--among early voters (as much as two-to-one). Yet, might the reverse be true for voters intending to cast their ballots on Election Day. During the primaries, Obama tended to do much better with early voters (who are the most enthusiastic in the electorate at large). Clinton tended to out-pace Obama with late-deciders and voters who actually turned out on election day. Certain pollsters are recording a similar phenomenon in the general election. As PPD writes of its North Carolina numbers: "The deciding factor for President in North Carolina could be the weather on November 4th. Barack Obama is banking a huge lead among early voters, 63-36, who account for about a third of the likely electorate. But John McCain is up 53-42 with folks who plan to vote between now and election day. A rainy day could be to Obama's considerable benefit." Could a last minute surge in the election day set make for a closer race in some states? And with more than 250 electoral votes now called "Safe" for Obama (with +10% DEM leads on average) will it even make a difference?

VOICES ON THE GROUND: Be Our Eyes And Ears

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 9:58 AM by Maurice Berger

Submissions are welcome for our Voices on the Ground page. Over the past month, we've had an amazing response from voters across the country. Be our eyes and ears in the week leading up to Election Day 2008. What's going on in your community, either in the campaign for president or statewide races? Are reporters and journalists missing trends in your state or community? Help us out in the close and highly contested battleground states: How do you think your state will vote on November 4th and why? Please check out Voices on the Ground page and submit texts, photos, photo-essays, and video (via YouTube) that will give our readers a sense of what's happening, across the United States, from the perspective that matters most: with voters on the ground.

Daily Tracking Poll Average: The Race Is Narrowing A Bit

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 8:42 AM by Maurice Berger

With one poll showing Obama's lead slipping to 2.8% (IBD/TIPP, the most accurate pollster in 2004), and all of the other daily trackers reporting a tightening of the race to one degree or another, PollTrack wonders if the race could get closer before next Tuesday. Today's numbers favor Obama, 49.5% to 44.7%, for a lead of 4.8%. Obama's average lead just two days ago was 7.0%.

Come From Behind Victories Are Very Rare At This Point In The Campaign

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 6:26 AM by Maurice Berger

McCain has his work cut out for him if history is any model. According to Gallup, "there have been only 2 instances in the past 14 elections, from 1952 to 2004, when the presidential candidate ahead in Gallup polling a week or so before the election did not win the national popular vote: in 2000 (George W. Bush) and 1980 (Jimmy Carter). And in only one of these, in 1980, did the candidate who was behind (Ronald Reagan) pull ahead in both the popular vote and the Electoral College and thus win the election." Thus, the 1980 election represents the only time in over 50 years that a candidate behind nationally one week before the election went on to win the popular vote and an electoral majority.

Early Voting: Current Trends Suggest An Advantage For Obama

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 4:28 AM by Maurice Berger

While the population of early voters in 2008 may not increase appreciably from 2004, certain trends among these eager participants in the electoral process would now appear to favor Obama, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times: "In the 32 states that allow people to vote before Nov. 4 without a special excuse, election officials report heavy turnout as the presidential campaign reaches its frenzied last days. That's not surprising in a campaign that has received round-the-clock attention. . . . A surprise is the makeup of the early voters, election experts said. In past campaign seasons, Republicans have used early voting to their advantage, mobilizing a slice of the electorate that typically skews their way. Yet a look at voters in a handful of crucial states suggests that Obama is turning out his base in numbers that surpass those of Republican John McCain." This trend may be an even more significant development--offering a decided to the Democrat--if the statewide numbers tighten before election day, as some polls suggest.

The Persuadables: Still A Factor

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 2:25 AM by Maurice Berger

A St. Cloud State University poll released yesterday in Minnesota shows the presidential race tight, with Obama ahead--42% to 37%. (The poll, significantly, also includes cell phone users.) Yesterday's national tracking poll by IBD/TIPP also shows Obama ahead by a modest margin, 47% to 43%. While both polls may spell good news for Obama, both nationally and in an important battleground, they contain one potential red flag for the Democrat and sliver of opportunity for McCain: the large bloc of voters who still say they could change their minds or are undecided. Indeed, in polls that include leaners--voters who favor one candidate or another but say they're not sure--Obama tends to come out ahead nationally and in a number of the battleground states. Take these voters out of the mix by limiting the results to voters who are virtually certain of their choice: Obama leads in most of these surveys as well, but with enough fluidity among the remaining bloc of voters to really mix things up. Take this morning's Rasmussen's daily tracker. Among "certain" respondents, Obama leads, 46% to 41%. This result still leaves a large block that is either leaning, undecided or not entirely certain of their choice. With an enthusiasm level that greatly favors Obama, it's not surprising that he continues to hold an advantage among certain voters who are most committed to their choice. But an appreciable shift among the voters who remain could skew the outcome of election 2008. If those who are now leaning or wavering break for Obama by a large margin, he has the potential of a blow out. If these voters breat even, Obama will win by a modest margin. If they break dramatically for McCain, a much closer race. While Obama's lead in many of the swing states may make it very difficult for the Republican to reach the magic number of 270 (255 Electoral votes are rated "Safe Democrat," for now, on PollTrack's map), a truly historic, last-minute shift of these undecided and persuadable voters could change the dynamics of the race in its final week.

Both Obama and McCain Are Well Regarded By Voters

Posted Oct 27, 2008 at 1:32 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite voters preference for Obama in many surveys, Gallup reports (and a number of other polls confirm) that the two candidates for president are generally well liked by the electorate. Gallup notes that "recent favorable ratings of 61% among likely voters for Barack Obama and 57% for John McCain are two of the more positive assessments of presidential candidates this late in the campaign in recent elections. . . . Usually, by this late stage of the campaign, presidential candidates' ratings have settled in the 50% range. George W. Bush had the highest favorable rating at the end of the campaign for any president since 1992, at 58% just before the 2000 election."

Daily Tracking Average: Obama's Lead Narrows Slightly

Posted Oct 26, 2008 at 8:56 AM by Maurice Berger

The PollTrack average of today daily tracking comes gives Obama a +5.8% lead, 49.5% to 43.8%. This figure represents a +1.2% drop for the Democrat from yesterday's numbers. Several individual polls suggest a tightening; a few others a slight uptick for Obama.

Where Are The Three Bellwethers: Missouri, Ohio, Nevada?

Posted Oct 26, 2008 at 4:25 AM by Maurice Berger

As PollTrack has written (6 October 2008, Nevada: The New Bellwether?), three states have been bellwethers in presidential cycles over the past fifty years: Missouri, Ohio, and  Nevada. Missouri has voted with the winner in every presidential election since 1904 (save 1956), Ohio has picked the eventual victor since 1964 (no Republican has won the presidency without it, and only twice has a Democrat), and Nevada, beginning in 1980, has gone with the national winner, both in close elections (2000 and 2004) and blowouts (Reagan vs. Mondale in 1984). How are the candidates doing in these important indicator of the national mood? In two, Missouri and Nevada, Obama leads by a tiny margin. In Ohio, the state now leans slightly to Obama. So from the perspective of electoral bellwethers, it's now three up, Obama--a good place to be 10 days before a national cycle, though the race remains "Too Close To Call" in MO and NV.

Palin A Drag on the Republican Ticket

Posted Oct 26, 2008 at 2:11 AM by Maurice Berger

A Newsweek poll conducted on 22-23 October reports that Sarah Palin is now a big liability for John McCain: "If voters could cast ballots separately for Vice President, Joseph Biden would beat Sarah Palin 54% to 37%. She is viewed unfavorably by 46% of voters and favorably by 44% percent. Twenty-two percent of voters said the choice of Palin as running mate made them 'a lot less likely to vote for McCain.'" The VP candidate does little better on the issue of her qualifications to be president: by a 55% to 40% margin votes now say she is not qualified for the job.

Daily Tracking Poll Average: Obama Now Up +7%

Posted Oct 25, 2008 at 7:42 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily trackers indicates a +1% jump for Obama. The Democrat now leads, 50% to 43%, +7.0% DEM. Excluding the erratic Zogby survey, Obama's lead drops slightly to +6.5%. GWU/Battleground, which has shown the race close in recent days, does not release polling on Saturday and Sunday.

Early Voting Could Reach 30%

Posted Oct 25, 2008 at 4:02 AM by Maurice Berger

As much as 30% of votes this cycle may be cast before election day according to Gallup. The organization's daily tracking data indicate that "about 11% of registered voters who plan to vote have already voted as of Wednesday night, with another 19% saying they plan to vote before Election Day." Interestingly, despite the disparity in voter enthusiasm reported in most national and statewide polls, early voters are not just eager supporters of Obama, but are evenly split. According to Gallup, "the pace of early voting so far appears to be roughly on par with 2004."

McCain's Challenge IV: Money

Posted Oct 25, 2008 at 1:50 AM by Maurice Berger

Another challenge now facing McCain: money. With Obama opting out of public funding, he has virtually unlimited resources in the final ten days of election 2008. The biggest challenge for McCain, then, is getting his message out against a tidal wave of Democratic television advertising. Nielsen's accounting of ad expenditures confirms that over the past week, Obama's outlay for TC spots in seven key battleground states dwarfed McCain's by 150%: "In seven key swing states--Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia--Obama placed 150% more ad units (53,049 v. 21,106) than McCain between October 6 and October 22, 2008. Obama’s advertising has been most prolific in Florida, where he ran 15,887 ads between October 6 and October 22, 2008, outpacing McCain’s 4,662 ads by 240%." The bulk and frequency of TV ads are only one factor in the overall success of a campaign--and electoral history is littered with losers who outspent their opponents--but having this kind of ad advantage no doubt helps Obama in the homestretch of this campaign.

Election Day Map: Obama-273 McCain-189 TCTC-76

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 3:51 PM by Maurice Berger

With Ohio moving from "WIN McCain" into the "Too Close To Call" column in Ohio, the Election Day Map now predicts: Obama-273 McCain-189 TCTC-76.

Election Day Map: Ohio Moves From "WIN McCain" to To "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 3:51 PM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's average PT lead in Ohio over +6%, PollTrack moves the state from "WIN McCain" to "Too Close To Call" on the Election Day Map to "Too Close To Call."

Today's & Tomorrow's Map: Ohio Moves From "Too Close" to "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 3:49 PM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's PT average now at +6.6%, PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's and Tomorrow's Map.

Daily Tracking Poll Average: Uptick For Obama

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 9:25 AM by Maurice Berger

With all of today's daily tracking polls indicating a slight uptick in Obama's numbers (save the erratic Zogby survey), the Democrat now has a +5.9% average lead in PollTrack's daily calculation, 49.6% to 43.6%. (Without Zogby, Obama's lead drops to 5.1%.)

Tomorrow's Map: Colorado Moves Into The Blue

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 7:49 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers stable in Colorado, PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Obama Winning Over Jewish Vote

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 5:36 AM by Maurice Berger

An important marker for success in battleground states with large Jewish populations--like Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania--Gallup reports that Obama is winning over the Jewish Vote: "Jewish voters nationwide have grown increasingly comfortable with voting for Barack Obama for president since the Illinois senator secured the Democratic nomination in June. They now favor Obama over John McCain by more than 3 to 1, 74% to 22% . . . Support for Obama among Jewish voters has expanded more gradually, from the low 60% range in June and July to 66% in August, 69% in September, and 74% today." Several other national polls, less exhaustive than Gallup, show the race to be somewhat closer among American Jews.

Tomorrow's Map: Montana Moves From "Safe" To "Leaning Republican"

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 3:15 AM by Maurice Berger

With one survey (Montana State University) showing Obama up +4% in Montana, and three others giving McCain a slight lead, PollTrack moves the state from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Tomorrow's Map.

First Time And Younger Voters May Not Show Up

Posted Oct 24, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports that its surveys do not see a marked increase in first time voters who say they will participate in this election: "Gallup finds 13% of registered voters saying they will vote for president for the first time in 2008. That matches the figure Gallup found in its final 2004 pre-election poll." The polling organization also reports, surprisingly, that its polling of young voters suggests that they may not turn out in greater numbers than in previous elections. Gallup writes of its analysis of young voters in the 2008 election: "Although Barack Obama leads John McCain by almost 30 percentage points among 18- to 29-year-old registered voters, these younger voters are still less likely than older voters to report being registered to vote, paying attention to the election, or planning to vote this year . . . At the most basic level, younger voters are significantly less likely than those who are older to report that they are registered to vote. Perhaps most importantly, younger voters are much less likely to self-report that they are likely to vote." On the ground evidence, at this point, seems to back up Gallup's finding: Florida and North Carolina, states which release updated election-related data daily, report that young voters are less than eager this year. The Wall Street Journal reports that in Florida, "voters under 30 years old account for 44% of those who registered between November 2007 and the beginning of October. So far this week, the under-30 crowd accounted for only 26% of the ballots cast by new voters. North Carolina’s young voters are more enthusiastic, but not much: They accounted for 47% of new voters, but only 36% of the ballots cast by new voters since early voting began last week." These patterns match Gallup's reporting on earlier elections, thus could spell trouble for the Obama's campaign's youth outreach and turnout campaigns (though the Democrat maintains a modest lead in their daily tracking surveys, even when the lower turnout model is applied to younger voters).

Gallup: Hispanic Voters Divided By Religion

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 9:02 AM by Maurice Berger

A Gallup survey released on Tuesday reports that while Hispanic voters support Barack Obama by a wide margin over John McCain, there is a significant difference in the Hispanic vote by religion: "Catholic Hispanics support Obama by a 39-point margin, while Hispanics who are Protestant or who identify with some other non-Catholic Christian faith support Obama by a much smaller 10-point margin." Obama's leads overall among all Hispanic registered voters by 62% to 30%. It is doubtful that this disparity will impact on the outcome of the election, unless, of course, it is very close.

Daily Trackers: Obama at +5.5%, But With Odd Anomalies

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 7:27 AM by Maurice Berger

Is John McCain gaining traction in the waning days of election 2008? Yesterday, AP/GfK and GWU/Battleground, contradicting most other polling, showed the race drawing to a virtual tie, with Obama leading by 1% and 2% respectively. Today's PT average of the Daily trackers gives Obama a +5.5% lead, 49.3% to 43.8% (the same as yesterday. If we drop out the Zogby survey--polling that has been erratic and out of sync with most other organizations--Obama's lead drops to 4.2%, 48.8% to 44.6%. Odder still, are the results of the IBD/TIPP daily tracking poll (worthy of notice, because TIPP was the most accurate pollster in 2004, predicting the outcome within a fraction of a percentage point): they show the race virtually dead even nationally. IBD/TIPP writes: "McCain has cut into Obama's lead for a second day and is now just 1.1 points behind. The spread was 3.7 Wednesday and 6.0 Tuesday. The Republican is making headway with middle- and working- class voters, and has surged 10 points in two days among those earning between $30,000 and $75,000. He has also gone from an 11-point deficit to a 9-point lead among Catholics."

Obama Holding Steady in Pennsylvania

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 5:07 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's aggregate lead in Pennsylvania over the 10% threshold--and new polling confirming this lead--PollTrack tends to discount stories reporting that the Democrat's own internal polls show the race at +2 DEM. Unless information comes to light to the contrary, the state remains "Safe Democrat" on Today's Map. UPDATE: Four polls released today all show Obama with leads in the PollTrack "Safe" range in PA: Survey USA (+12 DEM), Big10/battleground (+11), Morning Call (+10 DEM), and Quinnipiac (+13 DEM).

McCain's Challenge III

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 3:17 AM by Maurice Berger

Another of McCain's challenges--filtered through the ever watchful eyes of PollTrack--can be summed up in four words: Obama's "Safe Democrat" advantage. As of this morning on Today's Map (and trending similarly on Tomorrow's Map) Obama approaches the magic number of 270 electoral votes even without "Leaning Democrat" states: of his 286 EVs on Today's Map, 255 are "safe," meaning that his average PT lead is large enough (at this point) to probably overcome  a range of possible problems, from the so-called Bradley Effect to lower turn-out among his most ardent supporters. By contract, McCain now holds on to 137 "safe" EVs. On Tomorrow's Map, McCain's "safe" EV count jumps slightly to 160. The good news for Obama: no matter the apparent fluidity and/or variations of his lead in the national numbers, his substantial leads in many states may be impossible for McCain to overcome. Indeed, the 10% or greater advantage Obama now maintains in many states has historically held: candidates this far ahead in statewide polling in mid-October inevitably win those states in November. Could this election defy history? Yes. But with each passing day, Obama is looking increasingly secure in enough states to dramatically limit his opponent's path to victory.

Tomorrow's Map: ME, MN, NJ All Move To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 1:18 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's polling averages and dramatic improvement in his advantage in Minnesota, Maine, and New Jersey, PollTrack moves the three states from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Today's Map: MN, MI, WI, ME All Move To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 1:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With polling averages around the +10% mark and recent polling suggesting a surge for Obama in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maine, PollTrack moves all four states from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat."

Powell Endorsement: Only Modestly Helpful To Obama

Posted Oct 23, 2008 at 12:57 AM by Maurice Berger

A just released Gallup poll suggests Colin's Powell's endorsement of Obama for president is only of modest help to the candidate: "While 80% of registered voters are aware of [the endorsement], only 12% of this attentive group say the endorsement makes them more likely to vote for Obama, while 4% say it makes them less likely to vote for him." How such endorsements play out unconsciously in the mind of voters is another story, a factor that even the best polls cannot measure.

Check Out "US Senate Race Chart" on WRITING ON THE WALL

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 9:23 AM by Maurice Berger

Check out are first of a series of charts that analyze the upcoming US Senate races and predict the balance of power in the new congress.

New Feature: WRITING ON THE WALL

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 9:20 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has just launched its newest feature: Writing on the Wall. This section posts observations, opinion, essays, and reports by political writers, activists, legislators, and community leaders on the state of politics, the electorate, and the nation at large. Content will be ongoing and will cover both contemporary elections and electoral history as well as the contemporary political landscape of the country, both nationally and locally. Check out Writing on the Wall.

A McCain Surge In Pennsylvania?

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 8:01 AM by Maurice Berger

Rumors are circulating today of a McCain surge in Pennsylvania. While Obama's statewide lead is more than +10% according to PollTrack's average, sources report that "Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has written two separate memos to the Obama campaign in recent days begging for Sen. Obama to come back and campaign in his state. In the memos, Rendell, a former Hillary Clinton supporter, admits to being 'a little nervous' about Obama's chances in the Keystone state." According to a report on America Online, "Obama's own internal polling shows him with only a two-point lead in the state." Last week, US Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said that the state could prove difficult for Obama because some in western Pennsylvania might be reluctant to vote for a black candidate. Murtha later apologized, but the two stories--coupled the stepped up presence of the Republican ticket in the state in recent days--suggest that something is going on in Pennsylvania. Whether it all adds up to a McCain surge is unclear at this point. UPDATE: The Hill has also just reported that "an internal Barack Obama campaign poll has the Democrat ahead of John McCain by just two percentage points [in PA]. WILK radio host Steve Corbett said Tuesday he obtained an Obama campaign e-mail about the internal poll showing a tight race." Stay tuned. 

Daily Trackers: It's Still Only A 5% Race

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 6:16 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's PollTrack average of the daily tracking polls shows a slight uptick for Obama: 49.1% to 43.6%, +5.5%. What is interesting about this averaging is that the distance between McCain and Obama narrows even more when the Zogby survey results--which have been extremely erratic over the past few weeks--are dropped: 48.5 % to  44%, giving Obama an aggregate lead of 4.5%. Of the six polls in our sample, five show the race stable (Rasmussen) or tightening slightly (Gallup, Hotline/FD, IBD/TIPP) and one rates it a virtual tie (GWU/Battleground), with Obama up by +2%, 49% to 47%. Combined with the high number of still persuadable voters, the race remains somewhat competitive, with the decided edge going to Obama. The periodic surveys are equally inconclusive, with Obama registering as little as a 1% lead (Associated Press/GfK) to as much as a +10% lead, NBC News/Wall Street Journal. The probable  reason for this variation: the race remains close among voters who are certain of their choice. The more polls include "leaners," the greater benefit to Obama, who now leads with persuadable voters (who say they may still change their minds).

Kids Pick The President: Obama By A Hair

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 3:47 AM by Maurice Berger

Kids Pick The President, Nickelodeon's online poll of children's electoral preferences has correctly predicted the outcome in four of the past five cycles. (In 2004, the kids picked John Kerry, who scored a whopping 57% of the vote.) This time around, with over two million votes cast, it's the Democrat again: 51% to 49%. Perhaps more fascinating: Obama's margin of victory, a slim +2%. Is this a precursor of a close election? Another misreading? Or simply a barometer of the relative success of each party in getting out the children's (or any other online participants') vote?

McCain's Challenge II

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 3:46 AM by Maurice Berger

Another big challenge for McCain--one that may be impossible at this point to overcome--is his standing with independent and unaffiliated voters. Last night's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had sobering news for the Republican: with 13 days to go, Obama has opened a breathtaking 12% lead among independent voters, 49% to 37%. While it is true that Obama does not break the 50% mark with these voters, and some may still be persuadable, these numbers present an enormous roadblock to McCain, who is facing renewed Democratic enthusiasm and a dramatic jump in new Democratic voters. In effect, in a two-party system that is now closely divided by affiliation, unaffiliated voters are the tie breakers. Why are they moving to Obama? [1] His campaign has been very effective at reaching these voters. Obama's first debate performance will probably be seen as a turning point in the election: cool under fire, eminently knowledgeable and focused, detailed in his response to complex questions and issues, the Democrat went far in allaying the doubts (and prejudices) of non-partisan voters. [2] The fundamentals of the economy are NOT strong. McCain's politically devastating remark, made hours before the full impact of the Wall Street crisis would become known, undermined his credibility on the economy at a time when most voters were losing confidence in the country and its direction. With under 10% of the nation believing the nation is "headed in the right direction," a national record, the electorate (and especially non-partisan voters) want a president who can make things better. [3] The Republican brand is suffering. With President Bush also breaking records with an all time low in public approval of his performance--and the Republicans in general blamed for the economic meltdown--independents may be ready for a change. Until the meltdown, McCain's own reputation as an independent and maverick helped to convince these voters that he, too, was an agent of change from the policies of the current administration. Indeed, until the Wall Street disaster it appeared as if he could actually win, despite the ailing Republican brand. What a difference an economic crisis makes.

McCain's Challenge

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 3:45 AM by Maurice Berger

With each day that Obama holds onto a statistically significant lead comes a growing sense of inevitability. As Charlie Cook, one of the country's most thoughtful electoral observers, notes--and as PollTrack has affirmed in recent days--the underlying fundamentals of Election 2008 now favor Obama. Cook writes: "First, no candidate behind this far in the national polls, this late in the campaign has come back to win. Sure, we have seen come-from-behind victories, but they didn't come back this far this late. Second, early voting has made comebacks harder and would tend to diminish the impact of the kind of late-breaking development that might save McCain's candidacy." In short, barring an extraordinary, game-changing news event, public opinion may be hardening (and ballot boxes may already be brimming with Democratic votes). As long as the story of the failing economy dominates the media, only a catastrophic event (or revelation) could overtake upcoming news cycles. Yes, the number of persuadable voters--now at around 12%--does suggest that many voters can still change their minds. But unless McCain is able to take command of independent and unaffiliated voters--who have been steadily moving over to Obama since the Wall Street crisis began--he will have a daunting road ahead of him. The return of Republican and conservative voters will not be enough to overcome several powerful fundamentals that now tilt the map blue: Obama's longstanding wave of advantage in most polls (broken only for a few weeks following the conventions), the intense enthusiasm of his supporters, the Democratic Party's extraordinary advantage in new voter registrations, and an economic calamity of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression. Can McCain still win? Yes, but with each day, his chances diminish, unless he--or events beyond his control--recapture the imagination, fears, prejudices, or aspirations of millions of voters who now say they continue to be open to his message.

Today's Map: Washington Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 1:17 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama taking a commanding +15% average lead in Washington, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat."

Daily Tracking Polls: Obama Inching Up Again

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 9:09 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily tracking polls suggests that Obama's lead is once again expanding: Obama 49.2%/McCain 44.0%,  +5.2% DEM. This represents a slight uptick of +3% from yesterday.

Is McCain Giving Up On New Hampshire and Wisconsin?

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 6:51 AM by Maurice Berger

The political world is buzzing with another rumor--just up on ABC News--about McCain's on-the-ground operation: that his campaign is giving up on New Hampshire and Wisconsin. If this is true--and so far, such reports have not been entirely accurate--then the Republican playing field has narrowed once again, and perilously for McCain. Both states were won by John Kerry in 2004. Obama now leads in both, in the latter by more than +10% according to PollTrack's average. If McCain withdraws from the two states, he is also effectively withdrawing to the very limited boundaries of the 2004 political map. He now must win nearly all of Bush's states to beat Obama--a difficult proposition since the Democrat leads by a healthy margin in several, including Colorado, New Mexico, and Iowa, and by a slight advantage in a few others, including North Carolina, Nevada, and Missouri.

Persuadable Voters: How Much Of A Factor?

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 4:54 AM by Maurice Berger

With one tracking poll this morning showing the race virtually tied (GWU/Battleground: 48% to 47%, +1 DEM) and another showing the Democrat with a healthy lead of +8%--and the latter, Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby, leaping from a virtual tie on Monday--it looks like things are a bit fluid right now. What might account for these differences? For one variations in likely voter models and other statistical markers and methods. For another: persuadable voters. As PollTrack has been reporting, certain voters account for about 85% of the electorate right now, according to most polls. A small number more are undecided or are voting for third party candidates. The lion's share of those remaining, the roughly 12% of the electorate who are "persuadable," say they could change their minds. This effect is registering in some of battleground state polls as well. Here is the Concord Monitor/Research 2000 analysis of its most recent polling in New Hampshire: "Obama has solidified his support, according to the poll, with 45 percent of those polled proclaiming themselves "firm" in supporting the Illinois senator. McCain, an Arizona senator, garnered the firm backing of 40 percent of those polled. Still, 15 percent of those polled said they could change their minds, leaving the race still fluid with two weeks to go before Election Day." Indeed, the day before the New Hampshire Democratic primary, Obama had an average lead of +8.0%. What no media outlet noticed (except PollTrack, though you'll have to take our word on this): the large number of persuadable voters still in play less than 24 hours before the vote. And, of course, Hillary Clinton went on to win the state. Will persuadable voters produce an election day surprise? Or will they continue to break for Obama (leaners now favor him by a small margin), thus assuring him a solid win? Let's take a look at the persuadable numbers a few days before the election.

One Reason The Polls May Be Narrowing

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 2:31 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack would like to suggest one reason why the presidential contest may be tightening somewhat: Republican voters--and conservative leaning independents--are coming home. Over the past decade, the nation has tended to be polarized along party lines; in the past four presidential and national cycles, party loyalists and fellow travelers eventually dropped back into the fold. Another, related reason may be that Obama peaked too soon. Generally, a candidate wants to reach peak numbers as close to the election as possible. With Obama polling as much as a +14% lead just a week ago, the only way his numbers can go is down as Republicans and conservative voters come home to their party.  Despite this narrowing, the underlying dynamics of the race have remained relatively stable for the past three weeks, with Obama in the high-40s, McCain in the mid-40s. Thus even if wayward Republican and conservative voters fall into line, it will difficult for McCain to make up his current deficit of around -5%. (This is true, of course, as long as independent voters favor the Democrat; after the conventions, they tilted sharply to McCain for a few weeks.) The electoral math may be even more daunting, given the Democrat's significant lead in all of the blue states and a modest advantage in most of the battleground states. With McCain rumored to be pulling out of Colorado (a rumor denied by the candidate and the RNC), he will need to pick off a blue state or two in order to reach 270 EVs. His campaign hints that it will fight for Pennsylvania, where Obama now has a +11.5% advantage according to PollTrack's average (though the internal polls of both campaigns apparently show a closer race).

ABC News/Washington Post: Palin Undermining Confidence In McCain

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 1:14 AM by Maurice Berger

A new ABC News/Washington Post survey indicates yet another problem for John McCain: voters perception of his judgment relative to his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate: "On the vice presidential candidates, 52% of likely voters say McCain's pick of Palin has made them less confident in the kind of decisions he'd make as president; that's up 13 points since just after the selection, as doubts about Palin's qualifications (also voiced by Powell on Sunday) have grown. Just 38% say it makes them more confident in McCain's judgment, down 12 points." For the Democrat, these numbers are reversed: 56% of likely voters say his choice of Biden makes them more confident in Obama's decision-making, 31 percent less so. 

Fox News/Rasmussen: McCain Gaining Ground in Florida and Ohio

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 10:23 AM by Maurice Berger

Two new polls of Ohio and Florida by Fox News/Rasmussen-- following several other surveys that indicate a narrowing race in the states--now report a very modest lead for McCain. In Florida, the Republican leads 49% to 48%, in Ohio he is ahead by +2%, 49% to 47%. PollTrack will be watching these states closely in the next few days. Of the two states, Rasmussen writes: "A week ago, Obama was up by five points [in Florida] and the week before he held a seven-point lead. The current polling shows McCain’s support at its highest level since mid-September. McCain also moved slightly ahead again in Ohio with a 49% to 47% advantage over Obama. A week ago, those numbers were reversed and Obama had the two-point advantage. As in Florida, the current poll shows McCain at his highest level of support since mid-September." Both states remain a toss up on Today's Map.

Daily Trackers: Tiny Uptick For Obama

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 8:32 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily tracking polls indicates a tiny tenth of a percentage point uptick for the Democrat: Obama 48.8% McCain 43.9% +4.9% DEM.

Today's Map: Montana Moves From "Safe" To "Leaning Republican"

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 6:42 AM by Maurice Berger

With McCain's average lead in Montana dipping well below the 10% mark, PollTrack moves the state from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Today's Map.

Is McCain Recovering in West Virginia?

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 4:42 AM by Maurice Berger

Two polls out yesterday--from NBC/Mason-Dixon and PPD--report that McCain is retaking a statistically significant lead in West Virginia, at + 8% and +6% respectively. Are the narrowing national poll numbers now starting to show in the more competitive battleground races? Stay tuned.

Two Weeks Out: The Fundamentals Favor Obama

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 2:35 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama leading in all of the states won by John Kerry in 2004--and McCain behind or struggling in a number won by George W. Bush--the fundamentals of the election still favor the Democrat. Perhaps the most positive sign for Obama is the stability of the national numbers over the cycle. Although there is evidence that these numbers are drawing closer (PT's polling average is inching below the 5% mark), the baseline number for each candidate has remained the same for all but a few weeks in September: Obama in the upper forties, McCain in the mid 40s. Only Obama has been able to register above the 50% mark for more than a few days (indeed, all of the daily trackers have placed him at or above 50% at some point during the past three weeks). The durability of these numbers suggests an underlying dynamic that tilts decidedly blue at this point. Having said this, even a durable and longstanding wave of support can break down in the waning days of an election. Indeed, Al Gore--facing an Republican opponent who rode a yearlong wave of support--made up a 10% deficit in the final month of the 2000 campaign. The other issue (all too relevant to 2000): the popular vote may not reflect McCain's ultimate strength on the electoral map. As Obama wracks up enormous leads in many of the blue states (including many of the blue battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan)--far out-pacing either Gore or Kerry--his leads in a number of battlegrounds are tenuous at best. McCain has drawn Ohio down to a tie. His numbers are perking up in West Virginia and Florida. Indeed, if McCain can solidify or win back support in Republican leading states--in other words if the electoral map returns to its traditional divisions--the election could come down to two states with dramatic voter registration shifts in recent years: Colorado and Virginia, both traditionally Republican but increasingly hospitable to Democrats. With Obama ahead in the three 2000/2004 "swing" states (New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa swung between the two parties in the last two close elections), however, McCain's route to victory is nevertheless far narrower and more difficult than his opponent.

Joe The Plumber: Gaining Traction With Voters

Posted Oct 20, 2008 at 12:49 AM by Maurice Berger

One reason McCain's numbers are ticking slightly but steadily upward: Joe the Plumber. According to a survey released last night by Rasmussen: "61% of voters have been following news stories of Joe the Plumber somewhat or very closely. Among those following the news story, just 40% agree with Obama’s statement--["When you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody"]--and 47% disagree. 44% of voters have a favorable opinion of Joe the Plumber, while another 41% have an unfavorable opinion and 15% are not sure. Among those following the story, the numbers for Joe are 58% favorable and 37% unfavorable." Time will tell if Joe the Plumber--and the Republican's underlying message about him--are resonating enough with voters to impact on the national and statewide numbers.

Daily Trackers: A Tiny Narrowing Once Again

Posted Oct 19, 2008 at 8:35 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily tracking polls indicates a tiny narrowing from yesterday: Obama-48.6% to McCain 43.8%, for a Democratic lead of +4.8%.

NBC/Mason-Dixon: McCain Is Closing The Gap In Ohio

Posted Oct 19, 2008 at 4:10 AM by Maurice Berger

Yet another poll reports that McCain is picking up steam in Ohio. NBC/Mason-Dixon out this morning gives the Republican a scant +1% lead--46% to 45%. But given Obama's recent advantage in statewide polling, it's significant that the freshest numbers show the race narrowing in McCain's direction.

Election Day Map: Obama-273 McCain-209 TCTC-56

Posted Oct 19, 2008 at 3:38 AM by Maurice Berger

With Missouri narrowing down to a dead heat--and Obama drawing a record crowd of 100,000 in St. Louis--PollTrack has moved the state from "WIN Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Election Day Map. The newly calibrated map stands at: Obama-273 McCain-209 TCTC-56.

"Persuadables": Why So Many At This Point?

Posted Oct 19, 2008 at 1:38 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama enjoys a national lead of around +5%, PollTrack notes a trend inside many of the national (and statewide) polls: an unusually high number of uncertain or persuadable voters. Rasmussen, yesterday, reported an Obama lead of +5%, at the PT national daily tracking average. But when voters were pressed as to the certainty of their vote, the race breaks down thusly: "Forty-four percent (44%) of voters are certain they will vote for Obama and not change their mind. Forty percent (40%) say the same about McCain. Thirteen percent (13%) have a preference for once candidate or the other but still say they might change their mind." At this point in a presidential cycle, the pool of persuadable voters usually winnows down to single digits. Why the uncertainty? And when will these voters decide? Indeed, an appreciable shift in one direction or another could still alter the dynamics of the race, though it is important to note that the Democrat's lead among "certain" voters mirrors his +5% national advantage among likely voters, giving him a significant head start with leaners who also now tilt slightly in his direction.

Daily Trackers: Slight Narrowing

Posted Oct 18, 2008 at 9:21 AM by Maurice Berger

With two polls showing the race stable, one showing it narrowing a few points, and one expanding a few points, the trackers are all over the place. PollTrack's average of these daily tracking polls indicates a slight narrowing from yesterday: Obama-48.6% to McCain 43.6%, for a Democratic lead of +5%.

Today's Map: ND Moves From "Leaning Red" to "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 18, 2008 at 3:34 AM by Maurice Berger

In a blow to the McCain campaign, yet another red state appears to be faltering. With a third poll in so many days (Research 2000) reporting the race virtually tied in North Dakota, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map.

Is McCain Gaining Ground In Ohio and Florida?

Posted Oct 18, 2008 at 12:58 AM by Maurice Berger

With the national polls narrowing modestly, it's noteworthy that Rasmussen is reporting a dramatic tightening of the race in the mother of all battleground states: Ohio. The survey indicates a tied race, at 49% each. Rasmussen is unsure whether this marks a trend: "McCain’s support in Ohio has ticked up two points in this latest poll, but the long-term trend has been in Obama’s direction. This is the 10th straight poll in the state dating back to mid-August in which support for Obama has either increased or remained stable. It’s the second straight poll in which Obama has enjoyed support from 49%, his highest total of the year." McCain last led in Rasmussen's Ohio poll in early September, when he enjoyed a 51% to 44% advantage over the Democrat. Similarly, Survey USA (one of the most accurate pollsters during the primary season) reports that McCain has once again pulled into the lead in Florida, another key battleground state. The poll now has it, 49% McCain to 47% Obama. Stay tuned.

Obama Ahead In Key Counties

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 10:01 AM by Maurice Berger

According a just released survey by Politico/Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research, Obama is expanding on recent Democratic gains in three suburban counties crucial to winning their respective states— Pennsylvania’s Bucks County (+6 DEM, 47% to 41%), Missouri’s St. Louis County (which does not include the city of St Louis, +16% DEM, 53% to 37%) and Virginia’s Prince William County (+8 DEM, 50% to 42%). In Ohio’s Franklin County, which covers Columbus and its suburbs, Obama also leads, but by a smaller margin (+%, 45% to 40%). These numbers bode well for the Democrat, who must carry these counties by a healthy margin to assure statewide victory. One note of caution, all four polls still register a large portion of undecided or uncertain voters, numbers that are unusually high at this point in a presidential cycle. Another Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research poll issued earlier in the week reported Obama leading in three other key counties in battleground states: Washoe County, Nevada, Wake County, North Carolina; and Hillsborough County, Florida. McCain's sole lead is in Jefferson County, Colorado.

Contribute Photos, Videos & Texts To VOICES ON THE GROUND

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 8:33 AM by Maurice Berger

Our Voices on the Ground page has been up and running for a few weeks. Contributions have been amazing. PollTrack would like to hear your voice in Election 2008. What are you seeing or hearing on the ground? What political or cultural events, patterns, tremors, or trends in your state or town are the mainstream media missing (or ignoring)? Whether you are campaigning, registering voters, or casually observing, become our eyes and ears, and let us know. It's very easy to contribute through the submission form on the Voices tool bar. You may also send photographs and texts directly to voices@polltrack.com.

Daily Trackers: Is The Race Getting Tighter?

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 7:36 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's PollTrack average of the daily trackers indicates a slight uptick for the Democrat. Obama now leads McCain by 48.8% to 43.3%, a lead of 5.5%. One survey in the lot, however, GW/Battleground appears to be an outlier, indicating a greatly expanded Obama lead, while the other trackers all show a narrowing or stable race. If the GW/Battleground is omitted from the average, Obama's lead drops to +4%--48.8% to 44.6%. Furthermore, an AP/Yahoo poll to be released today shows the race a virtual tie, with Obama leading by scant +2% (among registered voters), 42% to 40% (with an enormous block of voters still undecided or wavering; Obama's lead jumps to 5% among "Likely Voters"). Gallup's "traditional" method also calls it a two point race (Obama, 49% to 47%), while its "expanded" tally gives the Democrat a +6% advantage.

Today's & Tomorrow's Map: ND Moves From "Safe" To "Leaning Republican"

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 5:46 AM by Maurice Berger

With two new polls showing a growing bloc of undecided voters  and a slight lead for Obama in the North Dakota--indicating as much as a 14% swing in the past month--PollTrack moves the state from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Today's and Tomorrow's Map.

A Red Flag Out Of The McCain Campaign

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 3:44 AM by Maurice Berger

In a sign that republicans may be worried about Obama's inroads into Republican leaning states--such as Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri (where several new polls indicate a modest Democratic lead)--the McCain campaign appears to be giving up on the idea of competing hard in most, if not all, of the states that John Kerry won in 2004. In other words, the Republicans are now plotting a very limited path to victory, one that includes most of the 2004 red states and a handful of blue states not now in play, such as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania: "Confronting an increasingly bleak electoral map," the campaign of Sen. John McCain is "searching for a 'narrow-victory scenario' and [will] focus in the final weeks on a dwindling number of states, using mailings, telephone calls and television advertisements to try to tear away support from Sen. Barack Obama." Barring a dramatic turnaround in McCain's numbers--one that would narrow the national race down to a point or two--the Republican's electoral deficit at this point in the campaign will be very difficult to overcome.

Party Weighting: The Great Unknown Of Election 2008

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 2:13 AM by Maurice Berger

One way pollsters process raw data from samples is to filter it through party weighting models. In other words, a model that organizes voters by party and then weights the sample to reflect the percentage of likely voters from each party (as well as independents). With Democrat enthusiasm up this year, most pollsters give the party a considerable edge. In Rasmussen's weighting, for example Democrats outnumber Republicans  39.3% to 33.0%. For Zogby, it's closer: 38% to 36%. This weighting, in part (but several others factors are also at play), is responsible for the large swing in national numbers, from an Obama lead of +2% to +14%. PollTrack wonders: as national results are clearly narrowing, is Republican interest in the election gaining on Democratic? While Obama's campaign has fired up certain demographic groups --African-Americans, single women, young voters, for example--what of the traditional Republican constituencies: the over 65 set, Evangelicals, conservative Christians, and older white men? The latter groups tend to have exceptionally high turn out, literally making the difference for George W. Bush in 2004. There is anecdotal evidence that Evangelical voters, for a range of reasons--from anxiety about Obama to excitement about Sarah Palin--are growing increasingly enthusiastic about the Republican ticket. While some periodic polls (like CBS News/New York Times and Pew) show a very large lead for the Democrat, are these surveys underestimating the potential turn out of groups that--as a rule--vote in consistently and often extraordinarily numbers? Pollster John Zogby notes: "What troubles me is when I see some of my colleagues have 27% of the respondents that are Republicans. That's just not America, period. [Party affiliation fluctuates over time] it doesn't change "day-to-day, and it never fluctuates by eight points in a short time period." Will the 2008 election break the mold--resulting in an unprecedented jump in Democratic turn out--or will Republican and conservative voters also show up in significant numbers, thus drawing the race much closer (especially in battleground states that already tilt Republican, such as MO, NC, FL, NV, CO, and OH)?

Last Debate: 56.5 Million Viewers

Posted Oct 17, 2008 at 1:29 AM by Maurice Berger

Viewership of last night's presidential debate was down slightly from the second debate, at 56.5 million according to Nielsen. The first debate had 52.4 million; the second 63.2 million; and the VP debate drew the highest ratings, at an extraordinary 69.9 million viewers.

Daily Tracking Poll Average Narrows Again

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 9:15 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday, our daily tracking poll average reported a lead of 5.2% for Obama. Today, this lead has narrowed once again: Obama 48.7% to McCain 44.0%, up +4.7% DEM. Will last night's debate impact on McCain's very modest but steady momentum in the daily trackers? (A week ago, the Democrat's lead was +7.3%--2.6% higher than today.)

Nielsen: Last Night's Debate Viewership Down 9%

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 8:52 AM by Maurice Berger

Nielsen reports that last night's debate viewership declined almost 9% from the previous presidential debate a week ago. While more viewers tuned into last night's event than the first presidential debate, it was far outpaced by the Vice Presidential match up two weeks earlier. PollTrack should have final ratings later today.

Voters Preoocupied With The Faltering Economy

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 6:46 AM by Maurice Berger

In yet another indication of the potential for the economy to impact on this election, a just released USA Today/Gallup poll finds "66% of Americans saying the events of the last month have harmed their own financial situations, and an even more ominous 70% thinking the events of the past two weeks will hurt them financially in the long run." Yet, with a number of newly released tracking polls suggesting that the race may be tightening--Gallup's own tracker suggests a virtual tie using its traditional likely voter model--Obama 49% to McCain 47%--it is unclear how the bad economic news will ultimately influence the election.

Prediction Market Gives Obama A More Than 85% Chance Of Victory

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 4:46 AM by Maurice Berger

On Intrade, the nation's preeminent futures market, where online traders bet on the outcome of upcoming events, Obama is walking away with Election 2008. Futures traders now give him an 85%+ chance of victory in November. McCain is at his lowest point to date on Intrade--this morning coming in at a paltry 14.0%.

Could A Narrowing In National Numbers Be Significant?

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 2:45 AM by Maurice Berger

A reader asks: why is a narrowing in the national polls significant, especially with Obama more than 100 electoral votes ahead of McCain on Today's Map? With nearly twice as many persuadable and undecided voters than at this point in the 2004 election--and 45% of respondents saying that Obama is not qualified to be president (only Michael Dukakis in 1988 had a higher rating in this regard)--any tightening of the race could be meaningful. And if history is any guide, the survey that now shows the race the closest--IBD/TIPP--was also the most accurate in predicting the outcome of the last presidential election. (Given PollTrack's reliance on polling averages, you might want to take this observation with a grain of salt.) National numbers, however, are not the whole story: we elect presidents not through natiowide totals but 51 winner-take-all statewide contests (save for NE and ME, where EVs are split by congressional districts). Ultimately, national advantages often trickle down to the states. As national numbers change, so eventually can the numbers in battleground states. The average lag between national and statewide trends is a week or two. Indeed, today, we're seeing a slight tightening--and improvement in McCain's polling averages--of several states, including North Carolina, West Virginia, Missouri, and Colorado. Still, a number of national polls report a wide lead for Obama, so statewide trending could also increase the Democrat's advantage in the battlegrounds.

The Erratic West Virginia Polls

Posted Oct 16, 2008 at 1:02 AM by Maurice Berger

With one poll showing a slight Obama advantage in the state--and others indicating a McCain lead--West Virginia is turning out to be difficult to read. PollTrack continues to rate the state "Leaning Republican" on Today's Map. The Public Policy Polling organization thinks it has the answer: the difficultly of securing accurate and representative polling samples in the state. PPP writes:  "If someone can get me a random sample of people who voted in the 2004 general election, 2006 general election, or 2008 primary in West Virginia then we will poll it. Concern about being able to get a sample of sufficient quality there is what makes us, and I'm guessing other companies that do registration based sampling, hesitant to poll there. That's not a problem with most other states."

Daily Trackers Narrow Once Again: Obama 48.7% McCain 43.5%

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 9:54 AM by Maurice Berger

Obama's lead in today's daily tracking poll average has narrowed once again from 6.3% yesterday to 5.2%--48.7% to 43.5%--a difference of more than a percentage point (and 2.1% down from his high of a week ago). This is the third straight day of narrowing in the daily trackers.

Today's Map: Virginia Moves from 'Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 8:41 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama above the 50% mark in Virginia--and holding an average lead of 8.6%--PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's Map.

USA Today/Gallup: Obama Perceived As More Empathetic Than McCain

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 6:19 AM by Maurice Berger

A poll released yesterday by USA Today/Gallup finds that by a large margin, voters perceive Obama as more empathetic than McCain: "Americans are much more likely to believe that Barack Obama understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives than to believe John McCain does. Throughout the campaign, Obama has been viewed as a candidate who understands the public's problems, but the 73% who say this about him in the current poll is the high for the year." Only 48% say that McCain understands their problems. 

Tonight's Debate: Trying To Convince The "Persuadables"

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 3:59 AM by Maurice Berger

One interesting detail of todays Rasmussen's daily tracker suggests that tonight's debate could be important: the number of still persuadable or undecided voters is now at +15%. "Just 42% are certain they will vote for Obama while 40% say the same about McCain. That two-point gap is much closer than the overall numbers. It’s also much closer than the 45% to 38% advantage among core supporters enjoyed by Obama heading into the second Presidential Debate last week. Overall, 12% of voters remain persuadables who favor one candidate or the other but could change their mind. Those, plus the 3% who remain undecided, are the target audience for both candidates in tonight’s debate." Rasmussen reports a +5% lead for Obama (50% to 45%). Other surveys indicate a broad spectrum of leads for the Democrat--from +14% to +3%. These variations may also impact on the actual number of persuadable voters.

Another Reason Why The National Polls Are All Over The Place

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 2:08 AM by Maurice Berger

Another reason for the broad variations in polling results (beyond differences in polling models and methodology) is the unusually dramatic, indeed traumatic, news cycles of late. The economic meltdown has injected a big dose of uncertainty and fear into the emotional lives of voters. And nervous voters tend to make impulsive or tentative political decisions. As John McCain's pollster Bill McInturff observes: ""The financial tsunami has produced one of the most difficult and volatile times to conduct polling in modern times. During these uniquely volatile last few weeks, I have seen as much day-to-day movement as I have witnessed in my 20 plus year career as a pollster." The erratic polling engendered by the "financial tsunami" may persist as long as the economic crisis in first and foremost on the minds of voters.

Likely Voter Models: Hard To Figure Out

Posted Oct 15, 2008 at 1:21 AM by Maurice Berger

It looks like polling organizations are having difficulty determining likely voters this cycle. With so many newly registered voters--as well as a significant increase in younger voters during the primary season--some pollsters worry about using classic models and questions for determining a respondent's likelihood of voting. Will younger voters, for example, show up on Election Day, or--as in virtually every presidential cycle in recent years--will they stay home? Will African-American voter participation increase or stay the same? (Georgia election officials report an enormous black turn-out in early voting; Ohio reports the opposite: a relatively modest number of African American voters at this point.) Will newly registered voters show up? The problem is so daunting, that the Gallup organization is releasing three tallies in its daily tracking poll: [1] Registered: all registered voters, [2] Traditional Likely: likely voters determined by the "traditional" Gallup methodology, "which takes into account the intention to vote in the current election as well as [respondents'] self-reported voting history," and [3] Expanded  Likely: only voters who "self-profess likelihood to vote in 2008, [without factoring in] whether respondents have voted in past elections." Given the extraordinary spread in recent surveys--from Obama +14% (CBS News/New York Times) to Obama +2% (IBD/TIPP)--variations in models used to determine likely voters and voter enthusiasm may, in part, be to blame.

Tomorrow's Map: Wisconsin Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 14, 2008 at 9:10 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's lead grazing the +10% mark in Wisconsin, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Daily National Tracking Poll Average: Creeping Closer

Posted Oct 14, 2008 at 6:14 AM by Maurice Berger

Over the past week, the daily national tracking poll average has drawn a tad closer each day, from a high of 7.3% to 6.3% today (Obama now leads 49.3% to 43.0%). With some polls last week reporting a +11% lead for Obama, most today report a Democratic lead in the 5-6% range. Thus, it appears that the race is retracting. How much (and for how long) is anyone's guess. The spread between polls is staggering--a swing related to variations in polling methodologies and wildly divergent likely voter models--with  GW/Battleground reporting a +13% lead for Obama, and IBD/TIPP Tracking indicating that the national race has drawn down to a virtual tie, with Obama leading by a scant +2%--45% to 43%. Also crucial is the extend to which any national tightening will be reflected in the candidates' statewide numbers.

Three Weeks To Go: Is It Over?

Posted Oct 14, 2008 at 3:58 AM by Maurice Berger

Perusing the latest round of national and statewide polls--and looking back at the numbers over the past two weeks--it's fair to sat that the momentum is clearly with Obama. For one, the Democrat has grazed the 50% mark continuously for more than two weeks in most daily tracking polls. Just as important is the consistency of McCain's numbers, hovering around the 45% mark. Since June, the race has remained relatively stable, save for a few weeks in early September when McCain lead by a few points. Another positive for Obama: he's up as much as +10% in a number of key battleground states--including robust leads in PA, MI, WI--advantages that may well be insurmountable at this point. The Democrat is also ahead in all of the states won by John Kerry in 2004. So the overarching dynamic of the race has favored Obama, allowing him to ride a more or less consistent wave of support that has placed him 3-5% ahead of his opponent for most of the past four months. He's also winning the expectations game, as voters by a significant margin expect him to win. Still, the election is not over. Indeed, over the past half century, competitive presidential cycles have often seen dramatic movement in the last few weeks. In 1980, Carter lead by 5-8% until the final weeks, when Reagan rapidly came up from behind to overtake him. In 1968, Democrat Hubert Humphrey made up an large deficit in the last month of the campaign against Richard Nixon.  In 1976, Gerald Ford closed a significant gap, nearly defeating Jimmy Carter after months of lagging way behind. In 2000, Al Gore made up a 7% deficit in the final weeks of the campaign. And in 2004, a series of solid debate performances helped Kerry to close within a few points of George W. Bush. The good news for Obama: the longer the underlying dynamics of the race remain the same, the more likely voter sentiment will begin to solidify. Yet, a large bloc of voters remain undecided or say they could still change their mind (more than 10% according to most national surveys). Will tomorrow's debate--like the first two--help Obama to seal the deal with voters? Can McCain alter the dynamics of the race, by changing the subject from the ailing economy to other matters? Will news events intervene? And what about an October surprise? Might it be just around the corner?

Sarah Palin: A Problem For McCain?

Posted Oct 14, 2008 at 1:58 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen late yesterday reported that Delaware Senator Joseph Biden is now viewed more favorably than Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin: "Palin continues to be an emotional lightning rod for voters. 56% now have a favorable view of Biden, including 25% who say that view is Very Favorable . . . 53% view Palin favorably, but 35% say their opinion of her is Very Favorable. 47% have an unfavorable view of the first-term Alaska governor, compared to 41% who say that of Biden." In a survey released September 24, nearly a month after they were nominated, Palin was viewed more favorably than Biden, 54% to 49%. The newest poll also indicates a particularly worrisome trend for the McCain-Palin ticket: women have a more favorable opinion of Biden by a significant margin. 

Democratic Enthusiasm May Help Obama

Posted Oct 14, 2008 at 12:34 AM by Maurice Berger

Last night, a Gallup study reported a striking enthusiasm gap in the electorate: "Only 51% of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in previous years, compared to 71% of Democrats, marking a shift from October 2004, when enthusiasm was about the same for both partisan groups." Voter enthusiasm is an important barometer for assessing the likelihood of turnout on Election Day.

Missouri: Another Troubling Sign For McCain

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 10:12 AM by Maurice Berger

Missouri is a bellwether state that has voted with the winner in every presidential cycle since 1904, with one exception, 1956. (The state has been trending Republican in recent cycles; still as of 2004, its record survives.) Last month, McCain saw great improvement in his numbers in Missouri, pulling into a modest but solid lead. Two new polls released today, by Fox News/Rasmussen and Survey USA, suggests a surge of sorts for Obama in the Show-Me State, with leads of +3% and +8% respectively. (The Survey USA poll also suggests that McCain lead among white voters has "evaporated.") Despite its red-ward trend, is MO still a bellwether for the country, mirroring McCain's diminished national standing?

What's Up With North Dakota?

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 8:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With McCain holding a very solid +8.3% lead in North Dakota--50.3% to 42.0%--today's survey from Forum Poll/Minnesota State University is either off-base or an ominous sign for the Republican. The poll has Obama leading by an insignificant +2%, 45% to 43%, with a whopping 12% still undecided. At this point, PollTrack is inclined to treat the poll as an anomaly (given the state's demographics, voting history, and other recent surveys giving McCain, on average, a more than +11% advantage). Polltrack will reevaluate ND pending the next round of statewide polling.

Hotline/FD: Obama Way Ahead in The Battleground States

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 6:23 AM by Maurice Berger

Hotline/FD tracking, this morning, reports that although the national numbers have drawn a bit closer, with Obama up +6%, the Democrat continues to hold a collective double-digit lead in the battleground states--51% to 38%--defined in the survey as Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The finding may be misleading, however. For one, these states together represent an appreciably smaller sample than the national poll as a whole, thus are subject to greater statistical variations. Also: these numbers do not reflect differences in the intensity of state to state support for the candidates. In other words, while the Democrat, according to most polls, holds a substantial lead in some swing states (PA, NH, MI, WI), the race appears to be considerably tighter in others (OH, FL, VA, NV, CO). The enormous upside for Obama: he is leading (in some cases by significant margins) in all of the states won by John Kerry in 2004, while McCain is struggling in a number of Bush states.

George W Bush's Approval Ratings: A Problem for McCain?

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 4:24 AM by Maurice Berger

An ABC News/Washington Post national survey released today--indicating a +10% lead for Obama--has another piece of bad news for John McCain: 51% of registered voters think McCain as president would lead the nation in the same direction as the profoundly unpopular Bush, as persistent a problem for McCain as experience has been for Obama." Given the president's historically low approval ratings, is the damaged Republican brand too much for McCain to overcome?

Rasmussen & Zogby Also Report The Race Tightening

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 2:26 AM by Maurice Berger

This morning, both the Rasmussen and Zogby daily tracking polls--like Gallup's yesterday--suggest the race is tightening. Rasmussen gives Obama a +5% lead (50% to 45%), down from a high to +8% earlier in the week. Zobgy reports a 4% lead (48% to 44%). The good news for Obama: his base numbers have remained steady over the past two weeks, within a point or two, either way, of 50%, while McCain hovers around the 45% mark. The good news for McCain: despite a succession of bad news cycles for the candidate (and the Republican brand), Obama is not walking away with the election according to these surveys. Still, several periodic polls released over the weekend, report a big advantage for the Democrat: Newsweek--+11%, ABC News/Washington Post: +10%. The latter survey suggests that Obama's lead may be insurmountable: "Though every race is different, no presidential candidate has come back from an October deficit this large in pre-election polls dating to 1936." The same poll, however, also indicates an unusually fluid bloc of voters in the middle, some undecided, others swinging from one candidate to the other.  PollTrack will carefully monitor the daily trackers (as well as periodic surveys) over the next week to get a better sense of the state of the race. Also monitored: the extent to which any changes in the candidates' national numbers, if any, make their way into the battleground states. Generally, state polling lags behind national surveys by a week or two. Are two polls released over the weekend in Ohio and North Carolina--both showing McCain retaking a marginal lead--outliers or trend catchers? Stay tuned.

Gallup: Third Party Candidates Receiving "Minimal Support"

Posted Oct 13, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

A recent Gallup Poll in which "four third-party candidates were explicitly listed for voters along with the two major-party candidates found only minimal support for any candidate other than John McCain or Barack Obama. Ralph Nader (independent candidate) received 2% of voter choices, Bob Barr (Libertarian Party) and Cynthia McKinney (Green Party) 1%, and Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party) received less than 1%." Although the implication of Gallup's finding is that these candidates are not in a position to win, can they nevertheless affect the election? While Nader's support has declined from 4% a month ago, for example, the question remains: in a close election, as in 2000, can he siphon off enough votes to swing key battleground states from the Republican to the Democrat, or vice versa in the case of Bob Barr?

Gallup: The Race Is Tightening . . . Once Again

Posted Oct 12, 2008 at 7:27 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports today that it sees signs that the presidential race is tightening. Earlier in the week, Obama led as much as +11% among registered voters. Today, Gallup has his lead down to +7%. Among likely voters--depending upon two different models now being employed by Gallup--Obama's lead drops even further to +5% or +6%. Gallup also notes of its rolling (three-day) average: "Obama has led in each of the last three individual days' polling, but by less than double-digits each day, suggesting that the race is, in fact, tightening." PollTrack's daily tracking poll average is 6.8% today, down from +7.3% earlier in the week.

Today's Map: Obama Passes The Magic Number

Posted Oct 12, 2008 at 4:00 AM by Maurice Berger

For the first time since PollTrack's launched in late-August, one candidate--Democrat Barack Obama--has met the 270 electoral vote threshold on Today's Map. (The Democrat is now at 273EV.) Tomorrow's and Election Day Maps have Obama at +277EV and 273EV respectively, suggesting significant momentum at this point in the campaign.

Today's Map: Colorado Moves From "Too Close" to "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 12, 2008 at 3:57 AM by Maurice Berger

With a just released Public Policy Polling survey reporting that Obama is up +10 in Colorado--and his PT average at +5.2%--PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's Map.

The "Experience" Issue

Posted Oct 12, 2008 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

Just how much is the issue of "experience" a factor in this election? On the surface, McCain's relative experience versus Obama's relative youth might seem like a plus for the Republican. When voters are anxious, they often inflect their own sense of instability onto the nation, and vice versa. And when voters feel unstable, they sometimes go towards the candidate they perceive as more familiar and experienced (thus, American voters do not vote out incumbent presidents in time of war). Sometimes during exceedingly difficult times, however, voters turn against the status quo--the fateful  1932 victory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt comes to mind--especially as they grow more familiar and comfortable with a "riskier" candidate who espouses dramatic change. Indeed, it was not until the last week of the 1980 campaign, another trying economic time, that Ronald Reagan wrapped up the election, having convinced millions of voters through a calming and commanding debate performance that he was not the right-wing extremist some feared. The present-day economic meltdown, and the anxiety it engenders in voters, has created an opening for Obama. In recent weeks, he has emerged as the reassuring candidate by appearing level-headed in a time of crisis, a quality communicated through his thoughtful and measured debate performances. Whether the Democrat will finally seal the deal with American voters may depend on three factors: [1] if he continues to be seen as the candidate who can best handle the failing economy (given the tendency of voters to blame Republicans for the present-day economic failures, Obama has a decided advantage in this regard); [2] if undecided or wavering voters can get past their anxieties, uncertainty, or prejudices about him; and [3] if the economy--and not another pressing domestic or international event--remains the number one issue on election day.

Today's Map: Oregon Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 11, 2008 at 6:14 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers in Oregon rising steadily--he's now at +10.4% in PT's poll average--PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Today's Map.

The Undecided or Uncertain Voter: Still A Factor

Posted Oct 11, 2008 at 2:57 AM by Maurice Berger

In a just released Rasmussen survey, voters by a +40% margin--an advantage nearly identical to yesterday's Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey (see below)--anticipate a Democratic presidential victory in November. Yet, despite these numbers, a surprisingly large bloc of voters remain undecided or fluid, suggesting that they could change their minds by Election Day. Rasmussen, for example, reports in today's tracking poll that if only voters who say they are certain of their choice are counted, Obama leads 45% to 38%, with a very large additional bloc of voters who are undecided or capable of flipping between now and November 4th. Is Obama in a better position to win? Yes, much better. But given the Democrat's relatively modest lead at this point--and the large number of undecided, uncertain, or fluid voters--the election is not over. These voters could split evenly, handing Obama the election. They could largely break for the Democrat, handing him an impressive victory. Or they could move substantially in McCain's direction, resulting in a modest Republican win.

Is West Virginia Slipping Way From McCain?

Posted Oct 11, 2008 at 12:54 AM by Maurice Berger

With a recent ARG poll showing Obama up +8 in West Virginia, the Republican trending state--once of the most reliably Democratic in the nation--may suddenly be a problem for the McCain campaign. The Republican's overall PT average lead in the state is now at +2.3%. But if the activity of the McCain campaign is any indicator, West Virginia may once again be trending blue. As CNN reports: " In what may be another signal that the troubled economy is forcing John McCain’s campaign to play electoral map defense, Sarah Palin has scheduled a bus tour for Sunday through West Virginia, a state that’s been leaning red throughout this presidential race. Palin had already scheduled a bus tour of Pennsylvania on Saturday, but she will now repeat that act on Sunday by making various unannounced stops throughout West Virginia, culminating in a campaign event in southeast Ohio."

Daily Trackers Now Agree: Obama Ahead By +7%

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 9:14 AM by Maurice Berger

All five tracking polls averaged in PollTrack's daily survey show a solid lead for Obama, ranging from +5% to +10%. The overall average for today: Obama, just grazing the 50% mark, at 49.6% to McCain, 42.6%. This give the Democrat an average daily tracking lead of +7%, just shy of his fall-campaign high of +7.3%, registered earlier this week.

Is Obama Winning The Expectations Game?

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 7:59 AM by Maurice Berger

Sometimes the hardest thing to overcome in politics is the widespread expectation that your opponent is going to win. Winning the expectations game often translates into inevitability--a bandwagon onto which undecided and unaffiliated voters jump. Who's ahead in this measure of political success heading into the final three weeks of Election 2008? According to a just released Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey, the answer is Barack Obama: Voters believe by a margin of 61% to 18% that the Democrat will win in November; even Republicans agree, by a far slimmer 39% to 35%. Yet, another hurdle for McCain to overcome. 

 

Today's Map: Georgia Moves from "Safe" To "Leaning Republican"

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 7:11 AM by Maurice Berger

In another sign of McCain's troubles, reliably red Georgia is growing closer by the day. With a new Insider Advantage/Poll Position survey reporting that the race is down to a very modest +3% lead for McCain--and the candidate's overall statewide average shrinking to just under +7%--PollTrack moves Georgia from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Today's Map.

McCain In Trouble With Hispanic Voters

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 5:40 AM by Maurice Berger

John McCain, who bucked his own party to support controversial immigration reform legislation--a bill embraced by Hispanic voters--is now struggling with this all-important Demographic, falling well below the level of support that helped lift President Bush to the White House. A Gallup poll conducted last week reported a staggering 42% national lead for Obama among Hispanics: 64% to 26%. This deficit is especially detrimental to the Republican in key battlegrounds with large and influential Hispanic populations--including Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Virginia--states where he is now behind or tied.

Intrade: Futures Market Points to Obama Victory

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 4:02 AM by Maurice Berger

Intrade, the preeminent online futures market, where bets are placed on the likely outcome of upcoming events, has some bad news for McCain. The money is now on Obama to win in November, by a wide margin. For the first time since the fall campaign began, the Democrat now grazes the 80% mark (this morning Obama was trading at 79.1 vs 22.0 for McCain). The market itself is highly impressionable, responding quickly to the ebb and flow of news events and public opinion polls. And it sometimes gets it wrong: the day before the New Hampshire Democratic primary in January, Obama was trading at +95.0. Clinton, of course, went on to win. In state by state trading, Obama's lead is just as lopsided, with bettors predicting a 353 to 185 electoral vote advantage for the Democrat.

Gallup: Race A Neutral Factor In This Election?

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 1:46 AM by Maurice Berger

In what may rank as one of the odder observations by a pollster in this cycle, Gallup reports the following: "While 6% of voters say they are less likely to vote for Barack Obama because of his race, 9% say they are more likely to vote for him, making the impact of his race a neutral to slightly positive factor when all voters' self-reported attitudes are taken into account." Polltrack would like to know: since when do people "self-report" racial prejudice, something implied in an affirmative answer to Gallup's question? While race and racism may not determine the outcome of this election, Gallup's conclusion, that racial prejudice does not appear to hurt Obama, disregards the unconscious and complex nature of our attitudes about race--the anxiety, ambivalence, and confusion that inflects our view of racial difference. (Indeed, scores of studies have examined the psycho-social impulse to conceal from public view racial anxiety or animus.) This is why PollTrack continually cautions against interpreting public opinion through pure numbers or numerical formulas. What sometimes gets left out in pollster's findings is the gray area that makes public opinion fluid, nuanced, and sometimes hard to pin down.

Tomorrow's Map: Michigan Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 10, 2008 at 1:11 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama holding steady in Michigan and the McCain campaign pulling out of the state, PollTrack moves MI from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map. (Keep in mind that rumors have been circulating of a Republican ad buy in Michigan, so McCain could go back in and contest the state. Stay tuned.)

Tomorrow's Map: Virginia Moves From "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 9:24 AM by Maurice Berger

With recent polls continuing to show gains by Obama in Virginia, PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Tomorrow's Map: Florida Moves From "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 9:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's average lead in Florida now no higher than +2.5%--and a number of recent polls showing a tight race (one indicating a narrow McCain lead)--PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call" on Tomorrow's Map. The state remains "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map

Today's Map: Minnesota Moves from "Safe" to "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 7:50 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's PT average in Minnesota dropping to +8.3%--and two new polls showing him up by only +1% (ARG) or +7% (Rasmusseun)--PollTrack moves the state from "Safe" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's Map.

Video Series: "ReConstitution" on VOICES ON THE GROUND

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 6:10 AM by Maurice Berger

While the political and electoral news today is no doubt distracting, Polltrack would like to turn your attention to ReConstitution, an exciting series of videos just up on Voices on the Ground. The videos were created by Sosolimited, a three man audio-visual ensemble. They have written software that analyzes the spoken words, gesticulations, and cadences of candidates throughout the presidential debates. Their videos are fascinating. Take a look.

Discrepancy Persists in Tracking Polls

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 5:34 AM by Maurice Berger

With four daily tracking polls giving Obama, on average, a +5% national lead, Gallup still reports a substantial lead for Obama, at +11%, 51% to 41%. It's hard to say what accounts for this discrepancy, though variations in party affiliation weighting and likely voter models are partly to blame. Taking all five daily trackers into consideration, the Democrat's national lead is +5.8%--49% to 43.2%--down from the Democrat's +7% advantage earlier in the week.

63.2 million Watch Second McCain-Obama Debate

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 3:39 AM by Maurice Berger

According to Nielsen, 63.2 million viewers watched the second McCain-Obama presidential debate. This is 10.8 million more than watched the first debate, but well shy of the nearly 70 million who tuned into the VP debate between Biden and Palin. 

Electoral Math: Another Positive And Important Sign for Obama

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 1:55 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers up nationally and leaping in many battleground states, it's worth nothing another barometer of the Democrat's success of late: the rapid and steady rate with which states have moved into the safe Democrat column on Today's Map. Generally, if a candidate is ahead in a state in early-October by a percentage outside the margin of error, he wins the state in November. (The margin of error is the numerical fluctuation that accounts for statistical error in a poll, as much as +5% in either direction). To lead Safe in PollTrack's assessment is to cross a far higher threshold: a PT safe advantage is usually +10%, well outside the margin of error.  PollTrack relies on more than just numbers and mathematical formulas (a problem with most other electoral websites--they make determinations based on formulas, not a deeper assessment that includes events on the ground, demographics, and historical precedents.)  So a safe designation on PollTrack implies  a truly solid lead, based on polling data and history and  supported by recent demographic and voting trends in the state.On Today's Map this morning, Obama has 206 safe electoral votes; McCain has 158. More significant: McCain has NO safe votes in battleground or swing states. Obama, on the other hand, maintains safe leads in three: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Iowa. Additionally, another six swing states are "Leaning Democrat." Discounting the Obamican/50-state theory--the argument made early on by the Obama campaign that it could dramatically flip Republican and independent voters in traditionally Republican states--historically red states are not battlegrounds. And it is only in these states that McCain leads. Only West Virgina can bee seen as a marginal battleground, though it's gone Republican in the past two cycles. The upshot: McCain has a difficult, uphill battle. Right now he has little traction on traditional Democratic turf (Obama now leads in all the states won by Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000, including the three that flipped: New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa). McCain is struggling even on traditional Republican turf (take Indiana and North Carolina, for example). Is a McCain win impossible? No: the national numbers suggest that Obama is not walking away with this election and enough swing states remain competitive to keep the race relatively close. Still, though national polls may be tightening, so is McCain's electoral playing field.

Today's Map: New Jersey Moves To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 09, 2008 at 1:07 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's New Jersey PollTrack average now at +10%--in a state that has trended decidedly Democratic in recent cyles--PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Democrat" to "Safe democrat" on Today's Map.

Voter Dissatisfaction With Direction of Nation At All Time Low

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 9:09 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports this afternoon that "only 9% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States -- the lowest such reading in Gallup Poll history. The previous low point for Gallup's measure of satisfaction had been 12%, recorded back in 1979, in the midst of rising prices and gas shortages when Jimmy Carter was president. Gallup has recorded a 14% satisfaction level at several points -- once in the senior Bush's administration in 1992, and several times earlier this year."

Election Day Map: Obama-273 McCain-220 TCTC-45

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 8:05 AM by Maurice Berger

With Nevada rapidly dwindling to a tie--and no clear edge for either candidate--the state moves from Republican WIN to "Too Close To Call" on Election Day Map.

A Month To Go: Blowout, Modest Win, or Squeaker?

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 7:22 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama retaking the momentum in Election 2008, he is clearly better situated to win in November. Yet, the coming weeks provide opportunities and perils for both candidates. For Obama, momentum may turn into inevitability: voters may decide that Obama is a winner and that he has wrapped up the election. Thus, undecided voters may fall into line behind him. Inevitability, however, can lead to complacency: as voters sense inevitability, they often lose interest (and sometimes do not turn out on election day). The other good news for Obama is that he's been riding a four-month, albeit modest, wave of support over McCain, broken only by a two week stretch following the conventions, when the Republican took a modest lead. For McCain, opportunity may have less to do with his campaign and more to do with the nation's innate political divisions--the "Red" vs. "Blue" state dichotomy. It's hard to underestimate just how divided the nation is culturally and politically. Thus, the political landscape may be tougher for Obama than it now appears. National cycles in recent years have been sharply divided, riven by cultural, racial, economic, ideological, geographic, and religious considerations, allegiances, and differences. One need only look at recent history to confirm the durability of these divisions: 2000, when the presidency hinged on 500 votes in Florida; 2004, when the presidential race was won by 100,000 votes in Ohio; and 2006, when the Democrats took back the Senate by 3,000 votes in Montana and 8,000 votes in Virginia, in a year when the Republican brand was on life support. As 2008's electoral map slowly migrates back to 2000/2004 divisions--with a few new battlegrounds thrown in (VA, NC and possibly IN)--it's important to be cautious in accessing or predicting the election's outcome. Other issues--from Obama's race to McCain's age--could disrupt expectations and patterns. The next seven days are critical. If Obama can cement his lead, his chances on election day remain strong. If McCain can draw the race closer, the outcome becomes less clear. One important note in this regard: in the three close national cycles of late--2000, 2004, 2006--significant movement occurred in the last few days of the campaign, enough to determine the outcome in each instance. Whether 2008 will be a blowout, a modest win, or a squeaker remains to be seen.

Those Pesky Snap Polls

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 3:39 AM by Maurice Berger

Another reason to be wary of post-debate snap polls: they are limited to voters who actually watched the debate. And that's where the trouble begins. According to Nielsen, viewers of the first two debates did not exactly reflect the voting population at large: "Both debates drew audiences made up mostly of white viewers with higher levels of income ($100,000+) and education (4+ years of college). Older viewers (age 55+) made up the largest portion of the TV audiences for both debates (42% - 46%).  However, the Biden-Palin V.P. debate (median age: 52) drew a slightly larger portion of younger viewers than the first Obama-McCain debate (median age: 54)." Thus, these flash results--already suspect, since voters are being asked to respond instantaneously to a complicated political event--represent a relatively unrepresentative sample. So even if an instant poll is correctly weighted vis-a-vis party affiliation, it may miss the complexities of race, age and class, enormous factors in the way voters are thinking about this election.

Daily Tracking Polls: National Numbers Appear To Be Narrowing

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 2:02 AM by Maurice Berger

Four of the five daily tracking polls (Gallup is not released until 1:00 PM) suggest that the national race for president has narrowed, in some cases to a virtual tie. As of this morning: Rasmussen: Obama +6% (down from +8% yesterday), GW/Battleground: Obama +4%, Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby: Obama +2%, Hotline/FD: Obama +1%. If this trend holds, we should begin to see tightening in the battleground states in a week or so. A question: did last night's debate help either candidate? 

Obama Outspending McCain 3 to 1 In Swing States

Posted Oct 08, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

According to the Washington Post: Obama is outspending McCain "at nearly a three-to-one clip on television time in the final weeks of the presidential election . . . a financial edge that is almost certainly contributing to the momentum for the Illinois senator in key battleground states.. . . The spending edge enjoyed by Obama has been used almost exclusively to hammer McCain as both a clone of the current president and someone who is out of touch on key domestic issues -- most notably the economy." No doubt this edge has helped Obama to get his message out in swing state and thus to significantly improve his numbers in the battleground states, including six that went to Bush in 2000 and 2004 (OH, FL, NC, NV, CO, VA).

Tomorrow's Map: NC Moves To "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 9:43 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama actually taking a tiny aggregate lead in the traditionally Republican state, PollTrack moves North Carolina from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Tomorrow's Map.

Today's Map: Minnesota Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 9:32 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama above the 50% mark on average, and with a commanding +10.5% aggregate lead in Minnesota, PollTrack moves that state from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Today's Map.

Today's & Tomorrow's Map: PA Moves From "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 7:23 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's PT average for Pennsylvania at the 50% mark with an aggregate lead of +11, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" To "Safe Democrat" on Today's and Tomorrow's Map.

Contradictory Polls

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 5:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With today's Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls showing Obama up +9% and +8 respectively and Hotline/FD and CBS News reporting a Democratic advantage of only +2% or +3%, it's clear that national polling is contradictory. The discrepancy might be due to party affiliation weighting or variations in likely voter models. It could be that some polls are picking up a trend others are missing. Whatever the reason, PollTrack will be watching these numbers very carefully.

VOICES ON THE GROUND: Send In Your Submissions!

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 3:32 AM by Maurice Berger

Our new page, Voices on the Ground, has been up for a week. Voices tracks events and opinion on the ground, from snapshots and reports sent in by our readers and correspondents across the nation to homegrown political advertisements on YouTube. Check it out! We've received fascinating photographs, photo-essays, and texts about Election 2008. What are you seeing or hearing in your state or city? Let us know and become a part of Voices on the Ground.

Is The Race Narrowing Again?

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 2:33 AM by Maurice Berger

While several tracking and periodic national polls continue to report a healthy lead for Obama (Rasmussen, ABC News/Washington Post, and GW/Battleground), four nationwide polls released over the past 24- hours show the race narrowing dramatically. CBS News: Obama-48%/McCain 45% (+3 DEM), Democracy Corps: Obama-49%/McCain 46% (+3 DEM), Reuters/CSPAN/Zogby: Obama-48%/McCain 45% (+3 DEM), and just released, Hotline/FD: Obama-46%/McCain 44% (+2 DEM). Are we seeing a trend back to the very close race that has held for much of the past month and a half? Significantly, Hotline/FD reports an appreciable tightening of the race in the past 24 hours. Could McCain's negative campaign be working?

Going Negative

Posted Oct 07, 2008 at 1:07 AM by Maurice Berger

Does going negative work? While public opinion surveys continually register voter disapproval of negative campaigning, all-too-often hardball rhetoric and attacks ads do work. The McCain campaign has just intensified a new negative strategy: exploiting Obama's ties to controversial associates, from the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. to William Ayers, a founder of the radical Weathermen group responsible for a string of domestic bombings more than 30 years ago. The Obama campaign has counter-punched with talk of McCain's perceived "instability" or his involvement in the Keating Five scandal back in the 1980s. McCain's strategy, in a number of ways, mirrors that of the Gerald R. Ford campaign in 1976. In the summer of 1976, the incumbent Republican president was more than thirty points behind his Democratic challenger, a newcomer to national politics, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Over a four month period, Ford and his surrogates relentlessly attacked Carter as untested, inexperienced, untrustworthy, and relatively unknown, even to Democratic primary and caucus voters, who the Ford campaign asserted picked the charismatic newcomer in a rush to judgment. Ford and his surrogates implied that Carter's tone was messianic; his supporters cultist. By Election  Day, Ford lost by a whisker (and may well have won if not for one amazing debate blooper). While Obama is ahead right now, both public opinion surveys and reporting in a number of swing states continue to suggest an undertow of discontent, anxiety, or uncertaintly about the Democrat (due to factors as diverse as racism, the candidate's relative youth, and his perceived  "liberalism."). For the time being, the dire economic news has helped the Democrat get out his message and overcome these doubts to some degree. But is the Illinois Senator vulnerable to the onslaught of negative messages about him now being disseminated by the McCain campaign, the Republican party, and 527 groups? Conversely, will the Obama campaign's negative counter punch--painting McCain as unstable, unpredictable, and unable to handle a crisis--create doubt of its own in the minds of anxious voters? Will either of these strategies backfire?

Election Day Map: Obama-273 McCain-225 TCTC-40

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 11:00 AM by Maurice Berger

Check out PollTrack's just updated Election Day Map, now: Obama-273 McCain-225 TCTC-40. For the first time, one  candidate--Obama--makes it over the top in PollTrack's Election Day projection. Keep in mind, this map predicts the outcome of Election 2008 based on the state of the race today as well as clear trends in individual states. Check back for updates: the map will change as numbers and trends change.

Tomorrow's Map: Florida Moves From "Too Close To Call" To "Leaning Democrat."

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 10:48 AM by Maurice Berger

With all surveys over the past week giving Obama the lead in Florida--and his monthly polling average at +4%--Polltrack moves Florida from "Too Close To Call" To "Leaning Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map. For the time being, it remains "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map.

Today's & Tomorrow's Map: Missouri Moves From "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 10:39 AM by Maurice Berger

With the polling average in Missouri drawing town to a virtual tie, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's & Tomorrow's Map.

How Scared Are American Voters?

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 9:14 AM by Maurice Berger

How scared are Americans about the current economic crisis? So afraid, according to analysts that their "confidence may have been too shaken for them to resume their free-spending ways any time soon." This crisis of confidence is, no doubt, an important reason for McCain's dip in the polls. The tendency of most voters to blame the economic meltdown on the present administration--and on Republicans in general--may be transforming McCain into the riskier alternative for many. (According a just released CNN/Opinion Research national survey, "56% say McCain's policies would be the same as Bush's, up from 50% a month ago.") Questions about a candidate's personality, character, patriotism. or identity--directly or indirectly raised by the McCain campaign, for example, with regard to Obama's perceived liberalism, elitism, otherness, or aloofness--can drive an election in a time of relative stability (the ease with which  George H. W. Bush was able to paint Michael Dukakis as an elitist, tax-and-spend liberal with un-American values is a case in point). But in a time of war or crisis, voters may be far more inclined to cast their vote for the candidate they believe can best bring about stability or assure their safety (indeed, American voters have not turned out an incumbent president in a time of war, to wit: 2004). The big question: have voters made up their minds? Have they decided that Obama is the more reassuring choice in a frightening time  (regardless of their doubts about his experience, race, or politics)? Or can the Republicans reignite voter doubts this week by recirculating stories about the Democrat's controversial associates (such as his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. or Williams Ayers, one of the founders of the radical Weathermen group)?

New Hampshire: Trending Blue On Tomorrow's Map

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 6:59 AM by Maurice Berger

Obama's PollTrack statewide average in New Hampshire now stands at +8%--49.8% to 41.8%. Even more impressive: his lead jumps to more than 10% on average in the three latest surveys from the Granite State. Thus PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Obama's Lead

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 5:32 AM by Maurice Berger

Polltrack's average of Monday's daily tracking polls continues to show a statistically significant lead for Obama (+7.3%)--a figure that also places the Democrat a tiny fraction shy of the 50% mark: Obama-49.8% to McCain-42.5%. The big question: can the Republican ticket erase this increasingly durable Democratic advantage a month out from the election. One poll released today, by Democracy Corps shows a much closer race--Obama-48%, McCain-45%, Nader-3%, Barr-2%--so PollTrack will be watching the height and depth of Obama's national support over the next week. One red flag for the McCain campaign: the Democrat's national lead is translating into dramatically improved numbers in many battleground states.

Sarah Palin In Nebraska?

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 3:20 AM by Maurice Berger

Why did Sarah Palin make a surprise visit to Omaha, Nebraska yesterday? The state has been reliably Republican since 1940 (the only Democrat to win it since then was Lyndon Johnson, in his 1964 electoral landslide) The answer may lie in the way Nebraska apportions its five electoral votes. It is only one of two states (the other, Maine) that is not winner take all, aloting three of its electoral votes by congressional district. (Each state is allocated as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in the US Congress. Nebraska's two "Senate" votes go to the overall victor in the state.) Since Nebraska instituted this method in 1992, all of the congressional districts in the state, one of the most reliably red, have gone Republican. Could Palin's presence in Nebraska be a tactic to force Obama to spend money and resources in state he will not win. Or it could be that the Democrat is starting to poll well in the 2nd Congressional district, home to Omaha and other cities with significant blocs of Democratic and independent voters?

Nevada: The New Bellwether?

Posted Oct 06, 2008 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

Since 1904, every victorious presidential candidate has won Missouri, save Eisenhower in 1956. In that cycle, favorite son Harry Truman asked the voters of his beloved state to support Democrat Adlai Stevenson (and show the nation that they still loved Truman, who left office four years earlier, battered in the polls). They did. One other deviation, re: Missouri: Bush won the state in 2000; but Gore won the national popular vote that year. Still, the state voted for the eventual victor in the race. And a caveat: Missouri has been trending Republican in recent cycles, though Democrat Claire McCaskill won its closely fought US Senate race in 2006. Ohio has been a bellwether of sorts for one party: no Republican has won the presidency without it. It has also picked the eventual winner in every election since 1964. The question: are there any new bellwethers on the horizon. Perhaps, one: Nevada. In the last seven presidential cycles, beginning in 1980, the state has gone with the national winner, both in close elections (2000 and 2004) and blowouts (Reagan vs. Mondale in 1984). With its population rapidly expanding--and its demographics shifting accordingly--the Silver State is starting to look more like the rest of America. How does the presidential race look in Nevada these days? All but tied up (+1.8% DEM), with Obama and McCain exchanging leads over the past month. I would keep my eye on Nevada. (Though it might not be a bad idea to keep Missouri and Ohio in your sights, as well.)

Tomorrow's Map: Massachusetts and Connecticut Move To "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 05, 2008 at 8:28 AM by Maurice Berger

With both Massachusetts and Connecticut holding very steady for Obama, PollTrack moves the states from "Leaning"  To "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Tomorrow's Map: Colorado Now "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 05, 2008 at 2:19 AM by Maurice Berger

With yet another poll showing Colorado deadlocked--44% to 44% according to a just released survey by the Denver Post/Mason-Dixon--PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call" on Tomorrow's Map. Party registration in the state is closely marched, though titling slightly to the Republicans. Thus, the outcome will depend on independent and unaffiliated voters. Right now, Obama is doing well enough with these voters to draw the red leaning state to a tie, according to the Denver Post.

Tomorrow's Map: Washington Trends "Safe Democrat"

Posted Oct 05, 2008 at 1:37 AM by Maurice Berger

With the most recent polls in Washington showing Obama maintaining a healthy lead, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning" to "Safe Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

Obama's Milestones: At the 50% Mark AND +7% In Daily Tracking Average

Posted Oct 04, 2008 at 12:23 PM by Maurice Berger

The week ends with two major milestones for the Obama campaign: a national lead in most surveys at or near the 50% mark and a statistically significant advantage over his Republican rival. With today's PollTrack national daily tracking poll average showing Obama up +7%, the Democrat is heading into the last month of Election 2008 in a position of strength. Obama's lead is larger than either candidate's thus far (and he is the first to hover at the 50% mark for more than a day or two). The longer Obama can remain at or near the 50% (or surge above it) and maintain a lead beyond the margin of error of most national polls, the harder it will be for McCain to remake the dynamics of the race. Yes, as this morning's post suggests, it's far from over for the Republican. The fortunes of the two candidates have swung dramatically over the past month. But the McCain campaign must act quickly or risk loosing a large bloc of independent and unaffiliated voters, who are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of an Obama presidency, especially in light of the faltering economy. The two milestones confirmed by today's polls--and Obama's surge over the past week in a number of battleground states, including traditionally Republican ones, like Indiana and North Carolina--suggest that the Republican path to victory has grown narrower and more difficult.

Minnesota Senate Race: Who Is Really Ahead?

Posted Oct 04, 2008 at 9:12 AM by Maurice Berger

While this blog and map do not cover US Senate races, the contest in Minnesota may well impact on the presidential race and vice versa. In the past few presidential cycles, this once reliably Democratic state has trended very close. Recent polls in the state are also instructive to PollTrack readers in another way: they sometimes contradict each other. A poll issued this morning by the Minneapolis Star Tribune Minnesota Poll reports the opposite of yesterday's Survey USA results. In the MST poll, Democrat Al Franken leads Republican first-termer Norm Coleman, 43% to 34%, with 18% for Independence Party candidate, Dean Barkley. Both polls agree on one thing: Barkley is coming on strong. What accounts for these contradictory readings: variations in likely voter models, skewed samples or voter party identification weighting, or statistical blips could be the culprit. PollTrack rarely reports on individual polls, relying instead on poll averages (see tool bar at right: A Note On Poll Averages). Once in a while, when two or more recent statewide polls report a dramatic shift from previous surveys--McCain's ominous dip in Michigan, the leveling off of Obama's support in Colorado, or the two most recent polls in Minnesota showing a statistically significant lead for Coleman (before today's MST poll) and an upswing in McCain's numbers--PollTrack will report on it. Overall, poll averages offer a better (and consistently more accurate) picture of the state of the race, and this blog will continue to rely on them, along with knowledge of statewide demographics and voting history, relevant local and national news events, and the on-the-ground movements and strategies of the campaigns. 

The 50% Mark: Is Obama Over The Top?

Posted Oct 04, 2008 at 3:04 AM by Maurice Berger

Notable is Rasmussen Reports observation this morning about the baseline numbers of Obama and McCain. For over a week, Obama has held steady in their daily tracking poll at 50% to 51%. McCain, similarly, hangs on to a 44%-45% baseline support. While PollTrack's national poll average for Obama continues to show him slightly under 50%, these numbers nevertheless indicate that the McCain campaign is in trouble. (That third party candidates are currently polling at 4% to 5% collectively in some polls, adds to the significance of Obama's 48% to 49% standing in PollTrack's national average.) It is possible, at this point, for the Republicans to regain the lead? It certainly is. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore made up a 6% deficit in the last two weeks of the election, ultimately winning 500,000 more popular votes than George W. Bush. In 1976, Gerald Ford made up a 20% deficit in two months. The pattern of this election, thus far, suggests a volatile and fluid electorate: in early-August Obama held a 4-5% lead. By early September, it was +2% McCain. Now, it's hovering around +5% Obama. Indeed, in the two week period from early to mid-September, the election swung 8%. The danger for McCain: that the long-term "wave" of support for Obama--he has led in national polls for all but a few weeks since the end of the Democratic primaries in June--may begin to solidify. The danger for Obama: the passage of the bailout bill--coupled with Sarah Palin's well received debate performance--has given the Republicans an opening to change the subject and retake upcoming news cycles, perhaps with negative stories about Obama, his associates (e.g. Rev. Wright, Ayers, Rezko), and the idea that his "liberal" positions are out of step with middle America. The latter could be a potent strategy if voters remain impressionable and uncertain: the nation has not elected a left-of-center president since FDR, in his last re-election bid in 1944. Yet, with the economy in crisis and job loses way up, will an anxious electorate reject these attempts to cast doubts about Obama?

Is The Democratic Brand Shaky In Minnesota?

Posted Oct 04, 2008 at 1:09 AM by Maurice Berger

Is the Democratic brand shaky in Minnesota? Yesterday, PollTrack reported that McCain took an insignificant, but still noteworthy lead in the state in one poll conducted by Survey USA. But McCain may not be the only candidate benefiting from the shifting demographics of a state that was once one of the most reliably Democratic, but has seen inroads by Republicans in recent years. The same polling organization reports that incumbent US Senator Norm Coleman may have the upper hand in his race against Democrat Al Franken. First-termer Coleman leads Franken by +10%, 43% to 33%. More extraordinary is the strength of third party candidate, Dean Barkley, who polls at a phenomenal 19%. Other surveys also show Coleman in the lead, but with lower support for Barkley. A Washington Post/Wall Street Journal/Quinnipiac survey conducted Sept. 14-21 had Coleman up, 49% to 42%.The poll did not include Barkley.

VP Debate: 69.9 Million Viewers

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 11:05 AM by Maurice Berger

Almost 70 million viewers tuned into the last night's Vice Presidential debate between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and US Senator Joe Biden. The match up drew over 17 million more viewers than last Friday's presidential debate.

Today's Map: New Hampshire Turns Blue

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 8:12 AM by Maurice Berger

New Hampshire is one of three states that flipped in the past two election cycles (Iowa and New Mexico are the others). It went for Bush in 2000. Kerry (from neighboring Massachusetts) in 2004. Two new polls out today, suggest that the state may be trending blue. Rasmussen gives Obama at 10% lead. Saint Anslem College/SRBI reports a 12% lead for the Democrat. PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's Map. For now, the state remains gray on Tomorrow's and Election Day maps, pending further polling.

Astonishing Viewership For VP Debate

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 5:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Preliminary Nielson overnight ratings suggest that last night's VP debate was the most watched since Clinton/Bush in 1992. Nielson reports an astonishing 33% upswing in viewers over last Friday's debate between McCain and Obama. PollTrack will have final numbers later today. The relatively strong performance of both Biden and Palin should help both campaigns. But given McCain's need to change the subject from the bad economic news dominating recent news cycles, the Republicans may have benefited more from last night's tussle in St. Louis. Stay tuned.

Minnesota: New Poll Suggests Movement To McCain

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 4:55 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Survey USA poll in Minnesota suggests movement towards McCain over the past few days. The survey reports a 1% lead for the Republican in the state, 47% t 46%. More importantly, it suggests that Obama has lost a bit of ground in the state over the past two weeks. Is this result suggestive of a trend--is the pendulum swinging once again in a volatile, traditionally Democratic state that's seen much improved numbers for Republicans in recent cycles--or is it just statistical noise, an outlier. Survey USA writes: "Compared to an identical SurveyUSA poll 20 days ago, Obama is down 3 points. How much of this is movement and how much of this is "noise" is unclear. Minnesota behaves unlike other states in some respects. Among women, there is movement to McCain, at a time when McCain is losing ground among women elsewhere. Among voters younger than Obama, there movement to McCain, at a time when Obama is consolidating support among young voters elsewhere. Among voters older than McCain, there is movement to Obama, at a time when older voters elsewhere are sticking by McCain." Could this be why the McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan yesterday? Are they redirecting their resources from a state they believe they can't win to a battleground that is looking better for them in recent days? Let's see where the polling goes in Minnesota over the next week.

Steep Unemployment Increase: More Trouble For McCain?

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 2:50 AM by Maurice Berger

The US Department of Labor reports that employers cut 159,000 jobs in September, a two-fold increase from August or July. This is the biggest decline since 2003. Back then, jobs were still being lost in the wake of the 2001 recession. Today's labor report may add fuel to the idea that the Wall Street Crisis is only the tip of a bigger economic iceberg (since September job loses began well before the meltdown of two weeks ago). Will the continuing bad economic news further upset already anxious voters, many of whom blame the problem on the outgoing Republican administration (and the party in general)? If so, will these numbers make it difficult for McCain to change the subject?

Why Is Colorado Still "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map?

Posted Oct 03, 2008 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

Several readers have asked why Colorado has not been called on Today's Map. While Obama has an average lead in the state of 4.4%, PollTrack notes that recent polling has been ambiguous. Two new polls from Fox/Rasmussen and Ciruli Associates both give Obama a statistically insignificant +1% lead. Another poll, from CNN/Time shows it +4% Obama. Another + 9% for the Democrat.  Additionally, several of these polls indicate a large bloc of undecided or undeclared voters in the state. And the Fox/Rasmussen survey also reports a decline in the Democrat's support since last week's poll. Since Colorado has gone Republican in recent presidential cycles (though is trending Democrat in Congressional races of late), PollTrack will wait for a few more polls to get a better sense of the race there.

Beware of Snap Polls

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 3:42 PM by Maurice Berger

Several snap polls released within the hour suggest Biden won tonight's debate. CNN, for example: 51% Biden/36% Palin. But on another key barometer--on who is the more typical politician--Biden is viewed more negatively, by a wide margin. PollTrack suggests taking these polls with a grain of salt. For one, they are registering an instantaneous reaction to a complicated news event. Since they only include responses from voters who say they actually watched the debate, these surveys may skew with regard to party affiliation (Indeed, John King of CNN reported that debate watchers were disproportionately Democratic.) Chances are this evening's debate will not alter the general dynamics of the race. But whether it does or not, snap polls will do little to clarify the effect of this event on public opinion.

Tomorrow's Map: Wisconsin Moves From "Too Close" To "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 9:13 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama holding onto a +5% lead in Wisconsin, PollTrack moves the state from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Tomorrow's Map.

McCain Campaign: Michigan Now Out Of Reach

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 7:30 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's lead rapidly expanding in Michigan--where a Public Policy Polling issued today gives the Democrat a healthy 10% advantage, 51% to 41%--the New York Times reports this afternoon that McCain will pull his campaign from the state: "John McCain’s decision to cancel a campaign event in Michigan next week was not a matter of scheduling: Mr. McCain is giving up his effort to take the state back into the red column, concluding that economic distress there has simply put the state out of reach, according to Republicans familiar with the decision." This is a big concession (more ominous than the decision of the Obama campaign to abandon the three electoral votes of North Dakota a fews week ago) and a testament to the ever increasing problem the Republican is having holding onto traditionally Republican turf. The move will allow the McCain campaign to redirect time and money to states that are now more competitive, such as the traditional battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida (both went to Bush in 2000 and 2004) and states that are traditionally Republican but are now surprisingly close, such as Indiana and North Carolina.

Sarah Palin's Challenge

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 4:40 AM by Maurice Berger

Another reason for the Republican ticket's lag in recent weeks: the falling popularity of Sarah Palin. Thus, the VP candidate's biggest hurdle in tonight's debate: convincing voters that she is prepared to be president. Monday's ABC News/Washington Post poll had some sobering news for Palin: six in ten voters doubt her qualifications to be president. ABC/WP's analysis continues: "In advance of her debate against Joe Biden tonight, Palin now looks like more of a drag than a boost to the GOP ticket." The number of voters who said that John McCain's choice of Palin made it less likely they would vote for him rose from 19% three weeks ago to 32% this week. 23% said they are more likely to vote for McCain because she is on the ticket, about the same number as in early September, and 45% responded that her presence on the ticket makes no difference.

One Reason Why McCain Has Fallen Behind

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 2:05 AM by Maurice Berger

There may be a reason why Obama's poll numbers are improving in places like Florida and Nevada: the inside statistics of many national and statewide public opinion surveys suggest that older voters--both the most reliable and heretofore the most Republican demographic--are shifting towards the Democrat. Why? Because the failure of the House to pass bailout legislation effects seniors inordinately, many of whom rely on the immediate flow of retirement funds now locked up in the market. Because they do not have the luxury of time--and thus cannot move their money around to protect long-term growth--voters over 60 have been flooding Congress with phone calls and E-mails. While much of the nation continues to view the bailout negatively, seniors have come around. Who do they blame for Washington's inaction on the matter? Republicans. By increasing numbers, voters now rate the economy as the number one problem facing the country and say that it is the Democrats, in general, and Obama in particular, who are best able to handle this issue. The longer the crisis continues, the more at risk the McCain campaign becomes. Yet, if the past two weeks have represented a big opening for the Obama campaign, the election itself is far from over. For one. Obama's aggregate lead hovers around 5%--a good but by no means foolproof margin. The electorate has been highly--and unusually--volatile this year. If the election was held two weeks ago, the Republican may well have won. Today, the Democrat would be victorious. The big question: will the wave of support that has kept Obama on top for all but a few weeks since June catapult him over the finish line in November? Or is an astoundingly fluid electorate setting us up for yet another momentum shift?

Tomorrow's Map: Nevada Moves From "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call"

Posted Oct 02, 2008 at 1:20 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama taking a razor thin lead in Nevada, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Tomorrow's Map.

Today's Map: Minnesota Moves From "Too Close" To "Leaning Democrat"

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 9:15 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers improving in the state--and reflecting a national upswing in support--PollTrack moves Minnesota from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democrat" on Today's Map.

Tracking The Nation: New Third Party Category

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 8:46 AM by Maurice Berger

To reflect the possible influence of third party campaigns on Election 2008, PollTrack has just introduced a new category for its Tracking The Nation chart on our homepage: National Polling Average With Third Party Candidates. This category will be updated when data becomes available (not all surveys consider the strength of third party candidates).

The Fluid Independent Voter

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 7:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday's ABC News/Washington Post survey observed that independent voters appear to be unusually fluid this cycle: "Movement continues among independents, quintessential swing voters and a highly changeable group this year. They favored McCain by 10 points immediately after the Republican convention, swung to Obama last week and stand now at a close division between the two – 48 percent for McCain, 45 percent for Obama" Another key voter bloc, Catholic voters--they've gone with the winner in last eight presidential elections--also appear to be quite fluid: "Preferences in this group are steady from last week,but essentially evenly divided – 47-46 percent, McCain-Obama. They had tilted heavily to McCain after his convention." Have these vital groups of swing voters settled into place? The fact that Obama's lead has decreased by 6% from last week's ABC News/WP survey (the Democrat's advantage was +9% last Tuesday; other polls continue to show a 4.5% lead on average)  suggests that the election may continue to be fluid. The answer could very well determine the outcome and/or the closeness of this election.

Ohio: Improvement For Obama

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 5:55 AM by Maurice Berger

After weeks of trailing McCain in Ohio in PollTrack's poll average, Barack Obama has taken a small lead in the state. This is another sign of the Democrat's momentum over the past week and an indication that the Republican is having trouble holding on to some of the battleground/swing states won by George W. Bush in 2004.

Americans Evenly Divided On Wall Street Bailout

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 2:59 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen reports that American voters are evenly split on the bailout question: "Voters are evenly divided over whether Congress should take action to help the troubled financial industry or just let Wall Street work out its problems on its own, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Forty-five percent (45%) say Congress should take action, but 44% say Wall Street and the financial industry should take care of their own problems. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided."

Bush Approval At All-Time Low: How Will This Effect Election 2008?

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 1:17 AM by Maurice Berger

President Bush's approval rating has dropped to an all-time low, according to Gallup: "Before the U.S. House of Representatives voted down a proposed financial rescue plan endorsed by the Bush administration, just 27% of Americans said they approved of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, the lowest of his presidency and already down 4 points since the financial crisis intensified." To what extent, PollTrack wonders, is this decline, coupled with the voters' tendency in recent surveys to blame Republicans in general for the present economic crisis, contributing to McCain's declining polling numbers? Over the next month, will it be possible for McCain to transcend the negative standing of his party? Is his fate inexorably linked to the success or failure--or the public perception thereof--of the bailout package and its economic aftermath? Interestingly, while McCain's numbers have drawn back to pre-convention levels--and Obama's are up accordingly--the Democrat still does not break the 50% mark in most national polls. PollTrack observes that there remains a undertow of resistance to Obama in the electorate at large. This inability to seal the deal with the American voter may be due to a number of factors--including uncertainty about the candidate's experience, his inability to lock up support from working class and so-called Reagan Democrats (thus, McCain's leads in OH, TN, WV, and KY) and die hard Hillary Clinton supporters, overt or unconscious racism, or the perception that the Democrat is somehow "foreign" or "out of touch" with middle American values. Will the nation's economic implosion help Obama to seal the deal or will McCain retake the momentum?