Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Lack of GOP Front-Runner Is Atypical

Posted Mar 08, 2011 at 12:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports: "The close contest among Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney in Republicans' preferences for the 2012 presidential nomination is atypical for a party accustomed to having strong early front-runners. In all 10 competitive GOP races since 1952, one candidate started off strongly, and in 8 of them, he prevailed." Here is Gallup's chart:

Gallup Republican Primary Nomination Polls: Competitive Races, 1952-2008

Obama's 2008 Victory May Have Been Narrower Than It Seems

Posted Mar 30, 2009 at 2:03 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new analysis, in which the 2008 presidential election was re-run using a district-based system of awarding electoral votes, used only in two states (ME and NE), instead of the winner-take-all Barack Obama still would have defeated John McCain, though the Electoral College tally would have been closer than the actual 365-173 margin of victory.

The CQ Politics analysis concludes that Obama would have beaten McCain 301-237 "using a district-based system, under which a candidate receives two electoral votes for winning a state and one electoral vote for every congressional district he or she wins. Only Maine and Nebraska allocate electoral votes in this fashion. The analysis found that Obama won 242 districts and McCain won 193 districts. Obama also posted another 59 electoral votes by carrying 28 states and the District of Columbia, which is entitled to three electoral votes under the 23rd Amendment. McCain would have received another 44 electoral votes as a result of winning 22 states." PollTrack observes that such results suggest the country remains more politically divided than the initial 2008 results suggest, divisions that now appear to be playing out in the polling that gauges political sentiment in the upcoming congressional elections of 2010. Such surveys now indicate an electorate evenly divided between support for Democrtic and Republican congressional candidates.

Republican Voters See Their Party As Leaderless

Posted Mar 11, 2009 at 2:06 AM by Maurice Berger

A hefty majority of Republican voters now see their party as leaderless, according to a new poll. 68% of Republican voters say their party has no clear leader; another 17% are undecided:"Just 5% view either John McCain, the GOP's unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate, or new party chairman Michael Steele as the party's leader. 2% see conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh in that role, 1% name McCain's running mate, Alaska Govenror Sarah Palin. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner are each seen as GOP leader by less than one-half of one percent." These numbers suggest problems ahead for a party that needs to regroup and sharply hone its message in anticipation of the 2010 mid-term elections. 

Obama's America (Part 3): The State Of The Nation--A Sobered Opposition

Posted Jan 07, 2009 at 5:59 PM by Maurice Berger

Will president-elect Obama make good on his promise to end partisan bickering in Washington? The answer may well determine the relative success or failure of his new iniatives, especially his effort to pass a comprehensive economic stimulous package. With little less than two weeks to go until the new president takes office, recent opinion polls suggest that Obama has made remarkable inroads with self-described "conservative" Americans: "The extent to which Barack Obama is experiencing a post-election wave of good will from Americans is born out by his base of supprt among these espondents: "close to half of political conservatives -- 45% -- say they are confident in Obama's ability to be a good president. About the same percentage (46%) disagree." The 45% who say they are confident in Obama contrasts with the mere 23% of this group who supported him over John McCain in the election. In the end, "this relatively strong endorsement from conservatives boosts overall confidence in Obama well beyond the 53% of the national vote he received on Election Day." Overall, upawards of 65% to 70% of Americans now say they are confident Obama will be a good president, while only 27% are not confident and 8% are unsure. PollTrack suggests that the higher Obama's approval numbers with conservatives (and Republican voters of all stripes), the easier it may be for him to garner cross-over support in congress for a range of initiatives. This support may well tunr out to be the political cover right-of-center politicians will need to support Obama's programs.

Obama Fundraising: A $400 Record Setting Million Advantage Over Mccain

Posted Dec 05, 2008 at 1:25 AM by Maurice Berger

ABC News reports that the final fundraising figures for Election 2008 are staggering and historic: "President-elect Obama campaign raised roughly $745 million for his 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., raised roughly $320 million, including the $84 million from entering into the public financing system." ABC News reports that this total excludes funds from the Democratic and Republican National Committees: "When those numbers are taken into account, we expect the Democrats to have raised closer to one billion dollars, compared to roughly $630 million for the Republicans. Which means the President-elect had, roughly, a $400 million advantage."

Bloomberg News: How Much Did Race Matter In Election 2008?

Posted Dec 01, 2008 at 5:03 AM by Maurice Berger

A just published Bloomberg News analysis examines the subject of race and whether the racial breakdown of election 2008 represented a new Democrat-tilting realignment. His conclusion: the republicans may be in trouble, yet if the racial and generational composition on Nov. 4 had been identical to four years ago, John McCain may well have won: "A deeper look at the changing shape of the electorate suggests more fundamental problems for Republicans. Their core constituencies are shrinking, and the wedge issues that used to plague Democrats are now more divisive for Republicans. . . . Non-whites comprised 26 percent of the electorate, up from 23 percent in 2004. Obama carried 80 percent of these voters. African-Americans turned out in record numbers, and almost all of them voted for the first black president. Republicans once hoped to score well among Hispanics, the fastest-growing slice of the population. They were 9 percent of the electorate last month, with almost three times as many Latino voters as just 16 years ago. Obama carried Hispanics, 67 percent to 31 percent, according to exit polls. That gave him a cushion in heavily Hispanic-populated states like New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- all of which were in the Republican column four years before -- and in places like Iowa and North Carolina, which have growing Latino populations."

Election 2008: Voters Were Often Fickle And Wavering

Posted Nov 28, 2008 at 1:52 AM by Maurice Berger

A post-election analysis by Associated Press/Yahoo reports that voters often wavered in the choice for president, flip-flopping from Obama to McCain and vice versa a number of times throughout the 2008 campaign: "Inch by inch, voter by voter, Barack Obama and John McCain labored for more than a year to lock down supporters and woo defectors. It turns out, though, that the nation's voters were a lot more fickle than commonly expected, and far more prone to switch allegiances. An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll that tracked the same group of about 2,000 adults throughout the long campaign reveals a lively churning beneath the surface as people shifted their loyalties - some more than once. Over the long haul, 17% of those who eventually voted for Obama had expressed support for McCain at least once in a series of 10 AP-Yahoo News polls conducted since November 2007, before the party primaries began. And 11 percent of McCain's eventual supporters had backed Obama at least once . . . Election polls that showed only gradual shifts in support for Obama and McCain were masking a much more volatile electorate. Few voters made unwavering, long-term commitments to either candidate . . . Just 28 percent of those saying they voted for Democrat Obama, and 27 percent saying they backed Republican McCain on Election Day, said they would vote for that party's candidate in all 10 AP-Yahoo News polls."

Sen. John McCain Officially Wins Missouri

Posted Nov 19, 2008 at 2:48 PM by Maurice Berger

More than two weeks after the election, Sen. John McCain officially wins Missouri. The final electoral count for Election 2008: Obama-365, McCain-173. The state's 104 year-streak of serving as the nation's bellwether (missing only 1956) may be coming to an end, as its demographics are tilting slightly Republican in recent years.

Electoral College Stands Tentatively At Obama-365 to McCain-173

Posted Nov 19, 2008 at 1:47 AM by Maurice Berger

With the Associated Press calling Nebraska's Second Congressional District for Obama (the state and Maine are the only two not winner take all) and NBC calling Missouri for Obama, the tentative electoral count for the 2008 presidential cycle is 365 to 173. When the Missouri tally is made final by the state, PollTrack with enter the final on the Election Day Map and archive it (and the blog). we will continue to have updates on the election and its aftermath over the next month.

Wny Obama Won: The Palin Factor (That Cuts Both Ways)

Posted Nov 14, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

The Palin factor was a big one in this election. McCain nomination of the Alaska governor as his running mate would prove a blessing and a curse for the Republican ticket. There is no question that the devout, Evangelical governor helped McCain ignite the Republican Party base, heretofore very slow to warm to the Arizona Senator. Indeed, on Election Day, McCain owed many of his 57 million votes to Palin, who helped excite and galvanized the party. But critically, she slowly began to turn off independents, especially women. As the campaign wore on, Palin's standing with voters wore down. As PollTrack observed on 14 October: "Rasmussen reports that Delaware Senator Joseph Biden is now viewed more favorably than the Republican VP candidate: "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%." By Election Day, a clear majority of voters believed that Palin was not qualified to be commander in chief. While it is true that vice-presidential picks rarely impact on the eventual outcome of a presidential cycle--voters after all are mainly endorsing or rejecting the candidate at the top of the ticket--on the whole, Palin's lack of traction with voters in the middle was a decided plus for the Obama-Biden ticket.

Why Obama Won: The Failed Republican Brand

Posted Nov 13, 2008 at 12:50 AM by Maurice Berger

One important advantage that Obama held in Election 2008 was the poor standing of the Republican brand. The incumbent president dropped to the lowest approval rating in history during this cycle. Voters routinely blamed the Republicans--and pointed to a perceived sense of incompetence or mismanagement on the part of the party--for the Wall Street Crisis and subsequent economic meltdown. As much as John McCain attempted to distance himself from the George W. Bush and his own party, the devastation of the Republican brand made it very difficult for him to break the wave of advantage that Obama rode for all but three weeks of the cycle. Even so, McCain was able to pull ahead of Obama after the conventions, a sign that the Democrat's victory was not inevitable and that the damaged Republican brand had not entirely hamstrung the Arizona Senator, who positioned himself as a maverick and an independent. Still, the president's low approval had a profound effect on the outcome of the election. MSNBC reports: "With the single exception of Missouri (which barely went for McCain after a delayed call from NBC News), Obama won every state where Bush’s approval rating was below 35% in the exit polls, and he lost every state where Bush’s approval rating was over 35%. The state with the highest Bush rating? Utah, at 47%, which supported McCain by a 29-point margin. The place with the lowest? Washington DC, at 8%, where McCain got just 7% of the vote." It's hard to imagine a more inhospitable political environment for a party in power.

Why Obama Won: "The Fundamentals Of The Economy Are Strong"

Posted Nov 06, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

On 18 September 2008, PollTrack's tally of electoral votes was starting to suggest that McCain was beginning to pull ahead of Obama: McCain-216 Obama-202 Too Close To Call-120. In the following weeks these numbers would steadily reverse in the wake of a comment made by the Republican nominee just days before the harrowing dimensions of the Wall Street Crisis and subsequent economic meltdown would be known: "The fundamentals of the economy are strong." When the history of the extraordinary 2008 campaign is written, it is this sentence that will read as one of the greatest game changers of the race. The remark, in and of itself, may not have been fatal for another candidate. For McCain, however, it achieved one of the most damaging results in politics--affirming the electorate's underlying anxiety or fears about a candidate. Earlier in the primary season, McCain admitted that the economy was not his strong suit. A nation on the brink of economic disaster is a frightened nation; the gnawing sense that the Republican candidate--not to mention a Republican party widely blamed by voters for the economic mess--was not competent on the economy transformed McCain into the risker choice. Yet, public opinion on the subject changed relatively slowly. On September 20th, PollTrack observed the following: "Gallup reports a slight--but only slight--benefit for Obama in the voters' candidate preferences, vis-a-vis the current economic crisis--'Even though Americans divide evenly as to which candidate can better handle the Wall Street crisis, Barack Obama seems to benefit politically, as slightly more voters say it increases their likelihood of voting for him (29%) than say it makes them more likely to vote for John McCain (23%)'" As time passed, however, and voters became more worried, they took notice of Obama's cool, steady, and authoritative demeanor. If voters approached the first debate demoralized and frightened by the economic news that resonated around them, they also approached the event with a sense of longing--desire for problem solving and intelligent, wise leadership and action. In the end, many voters felt safe with the Democrat, unnerved by the Republican, and desirous of change.

Three States Remain "Too Close To Call": Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina

Posted Nov 05, 2008 at 1:09 AM by Maurice Berger

Of the five states that PollTrack marked as "Too Close To Call," three remain virtually tied this morning: Missouri, Indiana, and North Carolina. At nearly a perfect 50% to 50% it may take a few days to get final results from these states, AFTER absentee and provisional ballots (and in some cases military ballots) are counted. As of 9:00 AM EST, Missouri leans ever so slightly to McCain, Indiana and North Carolina ever so slightly to Obama. The extraordinarily high African-American vote in NC is no doubt a key factor in this decidedly red-leaning state possibly flipping into the Democratic column.

McCain Wins His Home State

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 3:44 PM by Maurice Berger

A fitting coda to John McCain's gracious concession speech: the AP projects that the Republican will win his home state of Arizona. Obama's significant inroads with Hispanics--in many states his margin of victory among these voters approaches 30%--actually tightened the contest in Arizona in recent weeks.

Obama Wins Florida and Colorado

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 3:38 PM by Maurice Berger

NBC News has called Colorado for Obama. Less expected--and very significant--the network has also call Florida for the Democrat. Bill Clinton won the state once. But in recent cycles, Florida has been a difficult threshold for Democrats.

President Obama: The Democrat Wins Ohio

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 1:37 PM by Maurice Berger

It's now just a formality. Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. With the Democrat now declared the winner in Ohio, it's mathematically impossible for McCain to forge an electoral majority. Ohio, one of the three national bellwethers, has gone with the winner since 1960. More important, no Republican in has won the White House without it. Congratulations to the new president!

McCain Wins Georgia . . .

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 1:16 PM by Maurice Berger

A highly elevated African-American vote in Georgia was not enough to carry Obama over the top in that state. With McCain keeping Georgia in the Republican column, the South may give the Republican his strongest regional showing.

Intensity Of The Kerry-Blue States

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 12:30 PM by Maurice Berger

The intensity of Obama's victories in the Kerry-Blue states thus far--large enough to allow the networks to call many of these state based on exit poll data alone--bodes well for the Democrat's overall performance. By 9:00 PM, with New York and other big-blue states reporting, Obama's should start pulling away from McCain in his electoral advantage.

NBC News: Pennsylvania Called For Obama

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 12:11 PM by Maurice Berger

NBC News has just called Pennsylvania for Obama. If this prediction holds, it may be impossible for McCain to build an electoral majority. Additionally, exit poll demographic data suggests that Obama may be outperforming McCain in Indiana among key groups won handily by Bush in 2004, from older voter to Evangelicals. Both are VERY good news for Barack Obama.

Predictions Market Gives Obama A 92.7% Chance Of Victory

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 6:10 AM by Maurice Berger

On Intrade, the nation's preeminent futures market, where online traders bet on the outcome of upcoming events, traders are almost positive they know who will be our next president: Obama. Futures traders now give him an 92.7%+ chance of victory in today. McCain is at his lowest point to date on Intrade--this afternoon coming in at a paltry 8.0%. Intrade very often gets it right; sometimes it can be startlingly off, as it was on the morning of the New Hampshire Democratic primary this January, when traders predicted a staggering 99% chance of victory for Obama. Hillary Clinton went on to win the primary later that day.

FINAL Daily Tracking Poll Average: Obama, +6.1%, 51.6% to 45.5%

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 4:29 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's FINAL election day daily tracking poll average puts Obama in the lead by +6.1%--51.6% to 45.5%. One poll indicates that undecided voters have moved sharply in McCain's direction (GWU/Battleground-Tarrance model), another indicates a big shift of undecided and persuadable voters for Obama (IBD/TIPP). One thing to consider: with Obama racking up enormous margins in many of the nation's most populous states (CA, NY, IL, MA, for example), leads as high as +25% or more, as well as many of the Kerry-blue states--and McCain taking a number of red states by very modest margins--this final tracking number may not reflect the relative closeness in a number of the remaining swing and battleground states.

Morning Report: Obama Well Over The Mark, 291 to 163, with 84 TCTC

Posted Nov 04, 2008 at 1:41 AM by Maurice Berger

On election morning, it is clear to PollTrack that the fundamentals of the race decidedly favor Obama. He has wracked up significant margins in early voting according to nearly all polls, though in a few states, preeminently Florida, its unclear who has the edge and by how much. He maintains "Safe" leads in virtually all of the Kerry-blue states from 2004, and robust leads in a few Bush states as well (Iowa and New Mexico). Additionally, he holds a modest, but statistically significant, advantage in another two: Colorado and, amazingly in a state that hasn't gone Republican since 1964, Virginia. McCain, on the other hand, maintains 127 "Safe" electoral voters, and 32 "Leaners," one comfortably (West Virginia), and three by a very slim margin, helped by red-leaning statewide demographics (Montana, North Dakota, and Georgia). The Republican, unlike Obama, leads in NO Kerry-blue states (though his campaign insists it has a chance in PA) and is struggling in several states won by Bush: Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri, all three virtually tied and thus remain too close to call. And the two candidates have drawn the mother of all battleground states, Florida and Ohio, to a tie. Indeed, of the 12 true swing states in 2004, Obama now leads in all but these two states. If Obama simply maintains most of the states he now takes on PollTrack's map, he wins. McCain, on the other hand, would have to run the Bush-red deck now on the map, including all red-safe and red-leaning states, the five that are now too close to call, AND pick off a Kerry-blue state or two from Obama. In the end, turnout means everything in this--and all--elections. And the "wave" matters, too. If momentum remains sharply with Obama--e.g., voters are comfortable with him and angry about what they see as Republican mismanagement of the economy--the Democrat will win an electoral landslide. If McCain's newfound "momentum" turns out to be real and more than moderate--indeed, in most statewide surveys, voters who have already cast their ballots favor Obama by a significant margin, those who plan to vote today, lean to McCain, to varying degrees--the race could end closer. In this regard, Obama has another structural advantage in many states: with voting going on since early October in some places--a time when the Democrat was riding high in the polls--he comes into today's contest with a real edge. Yet, if turnout is unprecedented then the make-up of the electorate could determine the outcome of close states. This explains the near impossibility of predicting the outcome of states are now virtually or literally tied--MO, IN, FL, OH, and NC--simply from present-day polling, historical voting models, and demographics. Will this show of voter enthusiasm merely underscore Obama's longstanding popularity and the intensity of his supporters, or might Republicans, Evangelicals, and center-right white working class voters come home to McCain in larger than expected numbers?

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

Posted Nov 03, 2008 at 11:20 AM by Maurice Berger

With two of the most recent polls in Ohio showing McCain ahead in the state by +2%, several indicating Obama with a small lead, and one showing it a virtual tie, PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call on Tomorrow's Map.

Daily Tracking Average: Obama Bumps Up An Additional +1.6%

Posted Nov 03, 2008 at 8:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's daily tracking poll average indicates a comfortable national aggregate lead of +6.6% for the Democrat, 50.6% to 44%. Still, with Obama up as much as +25% in states with some of the largest populations--such as CA, NY, MA, IL, MI--this national number may not reflect the relativeness closeness of the race in several key battleground states, including OH, NC, and FL. Much of today's polling continues to indicate an unusually large bloc of undecided or still persuadable voters. IBD/TIPP puts the figure at an amazing 9.5% undecided. A just issued CBS News periodic poll indicates a 6% undecided block. And Rasmussen still indicates that 10% of voters remain uncertain, lean to one candidate, or intend to vote for a third party candidate. The large undecided bloc that continues to register in some polls is unusually high the day before a national cycle, particularly one with as much voter enthusiasm as this one. Where will these voters wind up, if and when they vote?


Variable #3: The Bradley Factor

Posted Nov 03, 2008 at 6:55 AM by Maurice Berger

The so-called "Bradley Factor" in contests with black candidates--in which white voters tell pollsters they are undecided or voting for the African-American candidate out of embarrassment or fear of being judged as racist, only to vote for the white challenger in the privacy of the voting booth--is the greatest variable in this presidential cycle. Since no African-American has ever served as the presidential nominee of a major party, there are no national models on which to gauge and understand the Bradley factor. As of this morning, there are enough very close battleground states--at this stage containing large, even unprecedented blocs of undecided and persuadable voters--to make this effect meaningful (if it were to occur). In Ohio, where a number of polls out this morning report only a +2% lead for Obama, any sharp movement of remaining wavering or undecided voters could throw the state to McCain. Ditto other races that are exceedingly close as of this afternoon: Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Indiana (though Obama could lose all five states and still win). The good news for Obama is that his lead in nearly all Kerry-blue and some swing states is by sufficient margins (and over the 50% mark) to offset any potential McCain advantage vis-a-vis the Bradley effect. BUT, there are signs out there that the ghost of Bradley is lurking, exemplified by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell's publicly stated fear that PA is not a done deal for Obama (or Democratic Congressman Murtha's impolitic musings on the "racism" of western Pennsylvanians). Even though Obama holds a healthy aggregate lead in PA of +7.6% (a lead that is increasing as of this morning)--requiring at least an 8% swing to reverse the Democrat's numbers--a swing of a far greater magnitude, and with a within a much more liberal voting base, took place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary this January, when Obama entered Election Day with a +8.3% lead, but lost to Hillary Clinton by +2.6%. That a number of battleground states have drawn very close within the past 48 hours may, in fact, suggest that undecided voters (who now are predominantly center-right, older, and demographically disinclined to vote for Obama) may already be breaking for the Republican. If a substantial shift were to occur towards McCain, another question arises: will Obama's enormous advantage in early voting (and new voter registration) offset any of McCain's gains in the now surprisingly large bloc of voters who now call themselves undecided or still persuadable? And has the dramatic tightening in a few key swing states in recent days made the Bradley Effect more of a factor?

Morning Report: The Fundamentals Remain Strong For Obama

Posted Nov 03, 2008 at 1:43 AM by Maurice Berger

A close examination of polling out this morning suggests that while a few states have drawn very close--Florida, North Carolina, Montana, and Missouri in particular--the race is appearing to stabilize for Obama. Ohio and Virginia, though having drawn much closer over the past three days--and remain "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map--appear to lean to the Democrat as of this morning. Several states now appear to be leaning to McCain--West Virginia and Indiana. The great news for Obama: all nine states were won by George W. Bush in 2004. The Democrat holds a solid, unusually commanding lead in nearly all of the states won by Kerry, except Pennsylvania (and according to the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll this morning, Minnesota, where the race has drawn down to 49% to 46% for Obama). The slight bit of good news for McCain, enough voters remain undecided or are persuadable in enough states to produce a few surprises. (This result would imply that these voters, now mostly white and center-right, would trend towards their demographic--as undecided voters often do--and thus would favor McCain by a considerable margin.) But with Obama at or above the 50% mark in many of these battleground states, McCain would also have to pick off a fairly large bloc of voters who now say they are committed to the Democrat. Obama's overall structural advantage in the Kerry-blue states of 2004 also leaves him in much better shape than McCain: the Democrat's lead in "Safe" electoral votes--in which a candidate has a demographic advantage in a state, leads beyond the margin of error, and has a top-line of 50% or more-- now stands at more than 100, 238 to 127. (Obama's number here could drop to 228 if more polls corroborate a narrowing race in Minnesota.) As of this morning, the map solidly favors Obama. PollTrack expects an enormous amount of fresh polling throughout the day, so stay tuned for updates.

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

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 2:55 PM by Maurice Berger

With McCain's numbers tightening in Georgia (his PT lead is +3.0%)--and African- American early voting breaking records in the state--PollTrack moves GA from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map. Additionally, the state moves from "Safe" to "Leaning Republican" on Tomorrow's Map.

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

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 9:10 AM by Maurice Berger

With McCain's PT average falling below 4% in Montana to 3.8%--and Democrats making significant inroads in statewide races in recent years--PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map.

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

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 8:57 AM by Maurice Berger

Obama's aggregate lead in Virginia has dropped this afternoon to under + 4% to 3.8%. Additionally, Survey USA reports signs of momentum for McCain in the state: "Compared to [our] poll 1 week ago, McCain is up 3, Obama is down 2. Among voters age 35 to 49, McCain leads today for the first time in 7 weeks. Immediately after the GOP convention, McCain led by 22 points among white Virginians. That narrowed to a 9-point McCain lead when the stock market fell. Now, at the wire, McCain is back up to a 17 point advantage among whites. In the Shenandoah, McCain moves ahead of Obama. In the DC suburbs, McCain slices into Obama's lead." PollTrack moves the state from "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call."

Daily Tracking Poll Average: National Average Tightens Overnight

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 5:31 AM by Maurice Berger

This afternoon, four of five tracking polls out today report that the race has tightening over the past 24 hours (except for the erratic Zobgy survey). Today's PollTrack daily tracking poll average indicates that Obama's lead is down -1.3% from yesterday to 49.8% to 44.8%, for an aggregate advantage of +5% DEM. One poll, TIPP, the most accurate in 2004, reports a dramatic tightening of the race (Obama by +2%, 47% to 45%): "The race tightened again Sunday as independents who'd been leaning to Obama shifted to McCain to leave that key group a toss-up. McCain also pulled even in the Midwest, moved back into the lead with men, padded his gains among Protestants and Catholics, and is favored for the first time by high school graduates." One other thing to consider, with Obama's national lead down to 5%--and his lead in high-population Kerry-blue states such as NY, IL, CA, MA, and NJ ballooning to 15-25% in most--the shrinking national total might also suggest that the races in more highly competitive battleground states may be drawing closer. Stay tuned.

As National Lead Narrows Somewhat, Are States Getting Closer, Too?

Posted Nov 02, 2008 at 2:00 AM by Maurice Berger

While national polling indicates a somewhat narrowed race from a month ago--Obama now has an aggregate lead in our daily tracking average of a little over +6%--this effect carries through only in some states. As of this morning, Obama maintains a commanding, "Safe" lead in almost all of the states won by John  Kerry in 2004 plus Iowa, for a total of 239 "Safe" electoral votes. McCain now safely holds on to 127 electoral votes. These numbers, of course, suggest a strong structural advantage for Obama in the electoral college, especially considering that his average leads in these "Safe" states rise to or well above the 50% mark. But something interesting is going on: in a some of the swing and red-leaning states that went for Bush in 2004, but in which Obama has been leading in recent weeks--Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Missouri--the momentum seems to be with McCain over the past two-three days. The most recent polls indicate that the race may be moving into the two-close-to-call range in all of these states. Additionally, Pennsylvania has narrowed considerably in the last three days of polling--three polls show the race at +4% DEM, another, Morning Call Tracking, which had Obama up by as much as the mid-teens, now reports the race is down to +7% DEM--and thus PollTrack moves the state on Today's and Tomorrow's Map from "Safe Democrat" to "Leaning Democrat." Ohio may be narrowing as well: Obama's PT average has dropped to +4.2%, while one poll out this morning, Mason-Dixon (one of the most accurate pollsters over the past two cycles), reports that McCain has pulled into a very modest +2% lead, 47% to 45%. Additionally, Obama's aggregate top-line in the state has dropped below the 50% mark to 48.8%. While early voting in Ohio should favor Obama in the end, PollTrack moves the state on Today's Map from "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call." An in Indiana, where Obama has drawn the race to a virtual tie, PollTrack moves the state on Tomorrow's Map from "Leaning Republican" to "Too Close To Call."

Daily Tracking Poll: Obama Up Again

Posted Nov 01, 2008 at 9:29 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's PollTrack daily tracking poll average shows Obama up +6.3%, 50.2% to 43.9%. This is a slight uptick from yesterday, though one poll--GWU/Battleground which has shown the race at around +4% DEM all week--does not issue trackers over the weekend. Several things to note: IBD/TIPP today reports the undecided block at +8.7%. Zogby, one of this cycle's more erratic pollsters, writes this morning that the McCain "made solid gains in Friday's single day of polling," pulling into a lead on that single day, 48% to 47%. And AP/Yahoo yesterday reported a staggering 14% of voters who say they are undecided or still persuadable and thus could change their mind by Election Day. Is this volatility real? Hard to say. The good news for Obama: he leads in all national surveys, has a near lock on almost every state won by John Kerry in 2004, has McCain struggling in a number of true-red states (NC, VA, IN, ND, MT), and has a considerable structural advantage in many battleground states --from early voting that favors him to a top-line above the 50% mark on average in many of these contests. The possible good news for McCain: most of the undecided and much of persuadable bloc is made up of voters who demographically trend Republican. Most undecided voters, if they actually vote, usually break towards their demographic. (Many polls actually indicate a very high degree of enthusiasm among uncertain voters, a sign that they may show up in the end.) A large bloc of undecided voters--if it is true that this bloc hovers around the 8-10% mark nationally--moving lockstep in one direction or another could still significantly impact the race. 

What's Going On With Pennsylvania?

Posted Nov 01, 2008 at 3:36 AM by Maurice Berger

With several new polls showing the race in Pennsylvania drawing closer, the question of the day is why. Rasmussen this morning reports on the narrowing trajectory over the past month: the latest "survey of voters in the state shows Obama with 51% of the vote while McCain picks up 47%. That four-point advantage for Obama is down from a seven-point margin earlier in the week and a 13-point advantage for Obama earlier in the month." First it is important to note that the Democrat does lead, has held this advantage for more than a month, and passes the 50% threshold. The competitiveness of the race, however, may relate to the state's demographics, which tend to be evenly divided among Democrat- and Republican-leaning voters (the old joke about PA: it's New York in the big cities at either end of the state; Alabama in the middle). Kerry won the state very narrowly four years ago. The state has one of the oldest populations in the nation (+65 voters tend to favor McCain), a large and politically active bloc of gun owners, and a large contingent of conservative, working class white voters. Even among Democratic primary voters in April--who trended considerably more progressive than the statewide electorate at large--Hillary Clinton defeated Obama by nearly a +10% margin. Indeed, during the fall campaign, PA has been the one Kerry/Gore blue State that has given Obama the most trouble. PollTrack was the first polling website to note Obama's problem in the state, writing on 11 September: "With three new polls all showing the race in Pennsylvania drawing down to a statistical tie --Obama now leads by an average of just over 2%--PollTrack moves the state on Today's Map from 'Leaning Democrat' to 'Too Close to Call.' It is quite possible that the RNC and Palin are helping McCain in the more conservative middle section of the state--an area rich in small towns, Evangelical and Christian conservative voters, and gun owners." (NOTE: the previous passage is a quotation from PollTrack's post in early September: PA remains "Safe Democrat" as of 1 November and until further evaluation on Today's and Tomorrow's Map) If Pennsylvania, and its unique demographics, represents an isolated example of a narrowing race, Obama may hold enough of a structural advantage in the electoral college to win handily on Tuesday. But if PA is a harbinger of a broader national pattern--say, for example, indicating a tendency of white working class and Reagan Democrats to vote for McCain, whether they are admitting this to pollsters or not--certain statewide contests could draw closer as well, particularly Ohio and Missouri.

Obama Voter Outreach Reaching More Voters

Posted Nov 01, 2008 at 1:40 AM by Maurice Berger

According to one study, the Obama campaign may be doing a better job of reaching voters. More U.S. voters say the Democrat's campaign has contacted them at some point in the last few weeks than say the McCain campaign has done so, 38% vs. 30%.

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 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 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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

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."

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%.)

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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%.

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%.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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%.

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.

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. 

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?

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: 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.

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.

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.

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. 


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.

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.

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.

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? 

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.

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)?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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?

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.

Third Party Candidates: Can They Swing This Election?

Posted Sep 30, 2008 at 11:22 AM by Maurice Berger

On our new Voices on the Ground page, reader Oliver Wasow asks about the Barr/Nader factor and whether third party candidates can make a difference in this election. While Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are barely registering in national polls--their PollTrack averages are 3% and 1.5% respectively--they can make a difference in this election. Take the new ABC News/Washington Post Poll released this evening: Obama 50% to McCain 46%, a net plus of 4% for Obama. Add in the two third party candidates, and the numbers change subtly, but significantly: Obama 48%, McCain 45%, Nader 3%, Barr 2%. There is no guarantee that Nader and Barr will continue to draw the same level of support on election day; but the reverse is also true--their numbers could increase. If the election draws closer again--keep in mind, that the three point margin for Obama is within the poll's margin of error--third party candidates could draw away enough votes from the Democrat or Republican to swing a very close state or two.

Florida: It Could Be The Economy

Posted Sep 30, 2008 at 6:35 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Florida suggests that the faltering economy is helping Obama in the state, who now leads by 3% (PollTrack's average still gives McCain a minute +0.03% lead): "64% of Floridians surveyed say the economy is their top issue, and Obama has a 55-40 lead with those voters. In a January PPP poll just 26% of voters in the state said they were most concerned with the economy. The events of the last few weeks seem in particular to have helped move independents into the Obama camp. Three weeks ago the candidates were tied, now Obama has a 48-40 advantage with those voters."

New Election Day Map Projection: Obama-269, McCain-225

Posted Sep 30, 2008 at 3:55 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has new a new projection for its Election Day Map: Obama 269/McCain 225. Our long-term prediction now sees Virgina, Florida, and New Hampshire as "Too Close To Call."

Obama's Daily Tracking Poll Average Drops Back A Bit

Posted Sep 29, 2008 at 7:02 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's daily tracking poll average shows Obama up by 4%, a drop of 2.3 from yesterday. What does this mean? Perhaps nothing. Rolling samples taken mostly over the weekend are often unreliable, since its harder to capture representative samples as leisure-time activities draw large blocs of voters out of the home (and away from pollsters' phone calls). It could be the inclusion of the GW/Battleground daily tracker in today's average--a poll not issued on Saturday or Sunday--that is driving the Democrat's numbers slightly downward. (The poll has consistently given McCain a modest lead of 1% to 2% over the past week, contradicting other surveys. The pollster's models for likelihood of turnout and party affiliation and enthusiasm may be responsible for this variation.) Or is the bloc of undecided voters--that 8% to 12% of the electorate now in the middle--fluid and therefor easily impressed by shifting news events or campaign strategies? In a few days, these samples may settle into something approximating a trend. Or not. Stay tuned.

Will The Economic Crisis Have A Lasting Effect On Election 2008?

Posted Sep 29, 2008 at 1:47 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday's PollTrack daily tracking average gave Obama a significant 6.3% edge. These results suggest that last week was a bad one for John McCain. His assertion that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong"--just days before the full gravity of our economic crisis became clear did not help his numbers. Surveys last week also indicated that the electorate is inclined to blame Republicans for the economic mess. Additionally, Sarah Palin took a hammering in the media as did McCain's effort to suspend his campaign. The big question: has the economic crisis--and McCain's response to it--provided Obama with an opening? Do Obama's numbers indicate that the tide is turning in election 2008? Or will the pendulum swing back in the coming weeks? October is a tricky month in presidential campaigns, a time when voter sentiment can harden, but also a period in which the debates, political strategies, and unexpected news events have made a difference (to wit, the expression, "October Surprise"). Al Gore began October 2000 with an large deficit in the polls. By month's end, he was tied with his opponent, winning 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush on election day. Conversely, in October 1988, a series of withering Republican campaign commercials and weak debate performances by Democrat Michael Dukakis resulted in a durable Republican advantage that carried George H. W. Bush well across the finish line. Yet, in 1980, the one--and only debate--between Reagan and Carter in late October shook up a heretofore tied up race and yielded the Republican a stable and significant lead. One major qualifier: US presidential elections are not decided by the popular vote (as 2000 dramatically confirmed). In this sense, neither candidate has come anywhere near sealing the deal. In fact, from an electoral perspective, the race is closer to a tie than Obama's modest national lead might suggest. More later.

Bloomberg/LA Times Poll: First Debate Did Little To Alter Race

Posted Sep 29, 2008 at 12:49 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a poll released last night by Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, last Thursday's presidential debate "changed the preferences of few voters, reinforcing previous perceptions about the candidates' strengths and continuing to give Sen. Barack Obama an advantage over Sen. John McCain. . . .  Obama scored much higher among these voters on the economy, as he did in a national poll last week, and McCain reaffirmed the perception that he is better on national security." Several other polls released on Sunday suggested that voters, by varying margins, gave the debate win to the Democrat. What effect these perceptions will have on the election is unclear.

Five Weeks Out: Who Is In A Better Position To Win?

Posted Sep 28, 2008 at 2:28 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's state-by-state analysis of the electoral map suggests that Obama is now in a better position to reach 270 electoral votes. Why? Because most of the states that are now rated "Too Close To Call" have gone Republican in recent cycles (FL, VA, IN, OH, CO, NV, NC) versus two that have gone blue (MN, PA) and one more that has flipped in the last two presidential races (NH). Furthermore, at this point, Obama is in a slightly better position in the two blue swing states than McCain is in most of the red, where the Republican now leads in six, but by just a few points, and trails in the seventh (CO). This suggests--at this point in time--that Obama is having an easier time holding onto his turf than McCain. Can this electoral equation shift? Absolutely, and did in the weeks following the Republican convention, when McCain pulled into the stronger position. The danger for McCain, however, is that the race has returned, more or less, to pre-convention numbers that had remained stable since June. In other words, with the race back to where it was--with Obama holding a modest but discernible lead--it is possible that the wave of support that the Democrat has ridden for all but a few weeks could solidify, making it much more difficult for McCain to reclaim the momentum. For Obama, the danger lies in the electoral math if the race should remain close: even if he wins all of the states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004--including NH, where the race is now a virtual tie--he will still need to pick off Ohio or several other states that have gone Republican in recent years. The next few weeks will be very important for both candidates.

Obama's Daily Tracking Average Is Up

Posted Sep 27, 2008 at 5:11 AM by Maurice Berger

Reflecting a week of numbers trending upward in battleground states, Obama's national daily tracking poll average lead this afternoon is +5.3%. The tally today: Obama 49%/McCain 43.7%. PollTrack cautions not to read too much into these numbers vis-a-vis last night's debate, since the lion's share of survey samples were taken before the event (daily tracking results represent a rolling average of three to four days).

Daily Trackers Show Improvement for McCain

Posted Sep 25, 2008 at 5:25 AM by Maurice Berger

Four daily tracking polls released today all indicate improvement for McCain. Gallup now calls the race a tie at 46% (from a +6% lead for the Democrat only five days ago). Battleground continues to give McCain a razor-thin lead: 48% to 47%. And Hotline/FD and Rasmussen both indicate a small drop in Obama's numbers over the past three days. Obama now holds a 1.5% lead in the PollTrack national daily tracking poll average: 47.3% to 45.8%.

Why Are The National Polls In Flux?

Posted Sep 24, 2008 at 3:52 AM by Maurice Berger

National polls are all over the pace this morning. It all depends on the polling organization you read. Battleground has McCain up 2%. ABC News/Washington Post has Obama up 9%. Some surveys show a close race (Ipsos-McClathcy: 44% to 43% Obama), others a statistically significant lead (Obama is +6% in Hotline/FD daily tracking poll). What's going on? For one, there are significant variations in the way these surveys measure party affiliation, voter intensity, and the likelihood of voting. Push the number in favor of a huge Democratic turnout and Obama leads accordingly, Draw them back to traditional levels of voter turnout and intensity and McCain leads or ties. Just as important: the nation may well be stunned and confused by last week's devastating economic news. Voter anxiety can cause swings in voter sentiment. One more factor to consider: the issue of how polling organizations pose questions to voters and in what order. Imagine an interview that begins with or emphasizes questions relating to the Wall Street crisis. This sample might skew in favor of the Democrats, given voters' inclination in recent polls to say that Obama and not McCain could best handle the economy.

Daily Tracking Poll Average: Down To Slightly More Than +1% Obama

Posted Sep 23, 2008 at 5:02 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite the slight up tick in support for Obama this week, PollTrack's daily tracking poll national average shows the race once again drawing down to a virtual tie: 47.0% to 45.8%, giving the Democrat a scant 1.2% advantage. Nevertheless, Obama's numbers do seem to be improving in several battleground states, including Michigan and Colorado.

Lifetime Television: Palin Helps McCain With Female Voters

Posted Sep 23, 2008 at 12:26 AM by Maurice Berger

Despite recent suggestions that Sarah Palin's popularity is leveling off, a new Lifetime Television poll finds McCain's running mate "has greatly increased the GOP ticket's appeal to women." One important finding: McCain-Palin holds a 44% to 42% lead over Obama-Biden on who has a "better understanding of women and what is important" to them. Obama's lead was a whopping 34% in July, 52% to 18%.

Voters Blame Republicans For Financial Crisis: An Obama Advantage?

Posted Sep 22, 2008 at 11:18 AM by Maurice Berger

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released today reports that registered voters, by a two to one margin "blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis that has swept across the country the past few weeks — one factor that may have contributed to an apparent increase in Barack Obama’s edge over John McCain in the race for the White House." CNN continues: "47 percent of registered voters questioned say Republicans are more responsible for the problems currently facing financial institutions and the stock market, with 24 percent saying Democrats are more responsible. One in five of those polled blame both parties equally, and 8 percent say neither party is to blame."

Election Day Map Today: All States Now Called

Posted Sep 22, 2008 at 1:54 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has analyzed statewide polling across the country and has now made calls in every state. If the election were held today, PollTrack predicts that Obama would win by eight electoral votes, 273 to 265. The map will change as trends develop, so check in often.

It's Still Very, Very Tight

Posted Sep 22, 2008 at 1:32 AM by Maurice Berger

A bunch of new statewide polls suggest the race for electoral votes is as tight as the national contest. (For nearly a week, Rasmussen's daily tracker, like most others, has reported a dead heat, with Obama holding a razor-thin +1% lead. Battleground has McCain up by 1% this morning.) A Suffolk University survey in Nevada shows McCain just one point ahead of Obama (his overall PT average is + 1.7%). Alarming for the Democrats is Pennsylvania, where Obama's lead has whittled down to 2% in the latest NBC News/Mason-Dixon poll. (PollTrack saw this coming twelve days ago, when most analysts continued to call the state blue.) And Rasmussen has McCain ahead in North Carolina  by only 3%, but the Republican's PT average in the state continues to be a healthy +8%. Stay tuned. PollTrack suggests that the debates may be even more important in this election. A poor or stellar performance by one of the contenders or a major gaffe could be the tie breaker (or might confirm underlying perceptions about a candidate and thus swing wavering voters). Or the race could stay close to the end, reflecting the sharp divisions that have polarized the nation in the past four cycles.

Gallup: Economic Crisis of Slight Benefit to Obama

Posted Sep 20, 2008 at 5:14 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup reports a slight--but only slight--benefit for Obama in the voters' candidate preferences, vis-a-vis the current economic crisis: "Even though Americans divide evenly as to which candidate can better handle the Wall Street crisis, Barack Obama seems to benefit politically, as slightly more voters say it increases their likelihood of voting for him (29%) than say it makes them more likely to vote for John McCain (23%)"

Literally A Tie + Obama's and McCain's Ceiling

Posted Sep 19, 2008 at 1:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Two new daily trackers just released underscore the closeness of Election 2008. Rasmussen: 48% to 48%. Battleground (the fourth addition to our daily tracking average): 47% to 47%. It couldn't get any closer according to these surveys. One thing to consider: while Obama has made little overall gain in his numerical ceiling since before the conventions (his numbers hovered in the mid-to-high 40s), McCain seems to have made a healthy 3-4% gain that now appears stable. Once stuck in the low 40s, McCain now enjoys a ceiling similar to Obama's, in the mid-to-high 40s.

The State Of The Race: 45 Days To Go

Posted Sep 19, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday, a rush of statewide surveys resulted in a changed Today's Map. What are the implications of Indiana going from red to gray, Minnesota from blue to gray? One important observation: it looks like the national divisions of 2000 and 2004 are still around. With the exception of usually true-red Indiana (PollTrack still believes the state will eventually trend back to the Republicans), the same swing states are drawning down to a tie. (And, yes, despite the fact that no Democrat has won the state's electoral votes since LBJ in 1964, Virginia is now a swing state: it has actually grown bluer in recent years. Consider the 2006 senate race, where Democrat James Webb defeated Republican George Allen by a mere 8,000 votes.) PollTrack suspects that these divisions may be sharpened by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates. McCain has been able to solidify the Republican base, take the lion's share of the very dependable (re: voter turnout) 65+ demographic, and appeal to independents. Obama does well with urban voters, young people, African-Americans, and Hispanic voters. The problem for both: they each appeal to the same constituent demographics as Gore and Bush, Bush and Kerry, leaving a slim pool of swing voters (married suburban women, for example) to essentially break the tie. PollTrack suggests that other factors--preeminently Obama's race, women disaffected by the Obama campaign's handling of Hillary Clinton, McCain's age, and Palin's  religious conservatism--are making it difficult for either candidate to eat into the other's base or to pick off large segments of independent and unaffiliated voters.

One More Interesting Tidbit in the CBS News/New York Times Survey

Posted Sep 18, 2008 at 3:37 AM by Maurice Berger

One more important bit of information inside the numbers of the CBS News/New York Times survey released late last night: the volatility of the race: "Roughly twenty percent of both McCain and Obama supporters say they have not yet settled definitively on their chosen candidate." The next significant opportunity to bring some stability to the numbers (save a major league gaffe): the debates.

Update: McCain Continues to Best Obama in New Poll

Posted Sep 18, 2008 at 2:58 AM by Maurice Berger

It looks like the race could stay a tie. A new Battleground Tracking poll released this morning continues to show McCain in the lead, 47% to 45%. And the question of the economy may not help Obama break the tie, given the concern of many voters about the Democrat's perceived lack of experience or specific programs. Today, a Rasmussen national survey reports: "Neither presidential candidate has convinced a majority of voters that they know how to handle the country's growing economic crisis, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 24% say it's Very Likely that Barack Obama will bring the kind of change that is needed to Wall Street."

The Pendulum Swings Back To Obama

Posted Sep 18, 2008 at 1:42 AM by Maurice Berger

As of this morning, PollTrack's reading of national periodic and daily tracking surveys issued over the past few days suggests that momentum has swung back to Obama. A CBS News/New YorkTimes survey issued last night, for example, gives the Democrat +5% among likely voters: 49% to 44%. A Quinnipiac national poll released this morning reports a similar lead for Obama: 49% to 45%. And yesterday's daily trackers (save Rasmussen, which gave McCain an insignificant 1% lead, but today shows the race tied at 48%) reported Obama running slightly ahead of his Republican rival. How significant is this swing? PollTrack observes that Obama's numbers have improved in both national and some statewide samples taken just in the past few days. These samples may reflect public discontent or anxiety about McCain's much publicized remark om Monday that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," a comment followed by increasingly devastating economic news. The CBS/NYT survey points out, for example, that the 61% of voters who believe the economy is getting worse are now "heavily for Obama." Can the Obama campaign succeed in painting McCain as out of touch on the economy? If so, the candidate may be able to increase his lead beyond the statistical tie of recent weeks. Right now--and as it has been for weeks--the race remains a statistical tie (PollTrack's national average yesterday: 45.7% to 45.7%) with the lead in flux, depending on the direction of female and independent voters.

"Obamicans": The Myth of The Expanding The Electoral Map

Posted Sep 17, 2008 at 5:11 AM by Maurice Berger

Back during the primaries, Obama partisans and surrogates touted the idea that their candidate's popularity was so broad and deep that he would flip Republican voters (into so-called "Obamicans") and get the lion's share of independents in November. During the primaries, his campaign did capture its share of crossover voters, including a modest number of Republicans. What a difference five months makes. Now, the picture is quite different: with Republicans firmly in McCain's grasp and independents leaning his way, the electoral map is much as it was in 2004. During the primaries, pundits talked about Obama redrawing the electoral map by winning in traditional Republican strongholds in November (such as Kansas, the Dakotas, Georgia, and North Carolina). As PollTrack has noted before, this is not panning out. Further proof that both camps are relying on the same limited field of battleground and swing states comes this morning from the Wisconsin Advertising Project: "Despite much talk about an expanded playing field, by and large, states receiving advertising in 2008 look similar to the states targeted in the 2004 presidential campaign. The Obama campaign aired ads in seventeen states from September 6-13, while the McCain campaign aired ads in fifteen of those same states."

The New Jersey Question

Posted Sep 17, 2008 at 1:17 AM by Maurice Berger

What's going in New Jersey? Two new polls--Quinnipiac and Marist--show the race drawing close, with Obama holding a modest 3% lead: 48% to 45%. Two additional polls report Obama with a lead virtually unchanged from a month ago, at +8-9% (Monmouth and Research 2000). Three important points: [1] there is little disagreement in Obama's numbers across the four polls--he touches or just grazes the 50% mark in each. [2]  McCain's numbers have improved across the surveys from a month ago (due to white undecided voters breaking his away according to several polls)  [3] The narrowing of the race actually fits an historical pattern in New Jersey: Republican presidential candidates often see their numbers inch up in September/October only to see this improvement evaporate by Election Day. With no real shift in Obama's base numbers in the state, PollTrack continues to call New Jersey "Leaning Democrat" on Today's and Tomorrow's maps.

National Daily Tracking Average: Obama Back to (A Tiny) Lead

Posted Sep 16, 2008 at 6:54 AM by Maurice Berger

Our averaging of the three daily tracking polls--Hotline/FD, Rasmussen, and Gallup--today puts Obama back into the lead, by an insignificant 0.7%. The latter two polls actually continue to report a lead for McCain (+1%), but Hotline calls it +4 Obama. It's worth noting that Hotline has proven the most erratic of the three pollsters, trading leads on an almost day to day basis. Is the momentum turning every so slightly back to the Democrat? PollTrack's averaging of periodic and daily national polls continues to give McCain a small lead: +1.3%. Stay tuned for tomorrow's numbers, especially for Rasmussen and Gallup.

The Experience Question

Posted Sep 16, 2008 at 2:44 AM by Maurice Berger

On the experience question, Rasmussen reports (9/15) the following numbers: "Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters say John McCain is prepared right now to be president, and 50% say the same thing about Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden. Forty-four percent (44%) say the man at the top of Biden's ticket, Barack Obama, is ready, but 45% say he isn’t." On Mccain's running mate: "Over half of voters (52%) say McCain’s running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, is not prepared to be president, but 33% disagree"

Who Benefits From The Wall Street Crisis?

Posted Sep 16, 2008 at 1:13 AM by Maurice Berger

Will the Wall Street crisis, high gas prices, and the struggling economy automatically help the Democrats? Not necessarily. Public opinion on the campaigns' approach to economic issues is split, with Obama ahead when the question is more general (who would best handle the economy, who best understands your economic concerns), but sometimes breaks for McCain when questions are more specific (who would better handle the deficit, who do you trust to negotiate trade agreements, who do you trust to balance the federal budget). This pattern, of course, may change if events on the ground become dire or begin to have an immediate impact on voters. But consider this: a candidate's experience also matters when voters are feeling anxious. And in this regard, McCain has a considerable edge in public opinion surveys on the question of who has the adequate experience to be president. In times of war or economic crisis, voters often turn to the candidate who in their eyes best represents stability or measured change, rather than dynamic change.

Dueling Poll Results: Are The Voters or The Polls in Flux?

Posted Sep 15, 2008 at 7:43 AM by Maurice Berger

With Survey USA showing Obama up by 4% in Virginia and Siena reporting today that the Democrat's once commanding lead in New York has shrunk to 5%, it's time to take a deep breath. Both polls contradict most other surveys in the two states. PollTrack suspects that statistical irregularities, conflicting models, and margins of error are only part of the problem. Also in play: voter attitudes are in flux. After Labor Day the electorate traditionally begins to pay attention. Yet, never before have voters been bombarded with more and more varied news sources--from broadcast TV and cable news and newspapers to myriad political and news websites and news magazines. Like the polls, voter sentiment itself may be volatile because news cycles now turn over in a matters of hours rather than days or even weeks.

Can Either Candidate Break The Tie?

Posted Sep 15, 2008 at 1:35 AM by Maurice Berger

Although the Republican base is fired up and McCain claims a  significant lead among independents, Democratic party identification and voter enthusiasm is also way up (Rasmussen gives the Democrats a 5% advantage). Thus, neither candidate is walking away with the election at this point. Even a cursory glance at the electoral map suggests conditions far similar to the razor close count of 2000 and not 1988 or 1992, where one party gained lasting momentum and was able to pick off enough swing states to capture a solid electoral majority. If Obama were poised to do this, he would need to win a bunch of states that have gone Republican in the last two cycles but were also won by Bill Clinton in 1992 and/or 1996: Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Montana, Georgia, Florida. All these states are now moving solidly into the Republican column. Similarly, McCain is behind in New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Michigan (though by smaller margins than Obama in TN, KY, MN, GA, WV), states he would need for a big win.

Unless dramatic on-the-ground events (perhaps spurred by this weekend's Wall Street meltdown) or a striking under-performance or major league blooper in the debates throws off one of the candidates, it's conceivable that the election will remain close to the very end. Then it will be up to voter enthusiasm and turnout to propel one or the other over the victory line.

Rasmussen: McCain Hits the 50% Mark

Posted Sep 14, 2008 at 1:28 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Rasmussen Daily Tracker released this morning suggests that McCain has hit an important milestone: for the first time since Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination last spring, McCain has touched the heretofore elusive 50% mark in voter support. Will it last? It certainly has proved elusive for Obama who has not been able to sustain support at this level for more than a day or two.  What may be more troubling for the Obama campaign are  the implications of the sophisticated and complex model employed by Rasmussen for determining voter enthusiasm and predicting voter turnout. Their model now gives the Democrats a significant 5% advantage. Despite this, McCain has held a 3% lead over the past three days, this morning inching up to the 50% mark.

McCain's Bounce

Posted Sep 12, 2008 at 7:18 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack has just perused a bunch of national periodic and daily tracking polls released today. The conclusion: the race is very close, with McCain holding onto a 2% to 3% aggregate lead. Another conclusion: McCain 's bounce may have solidified to a certain extent. Obama's bounce, on the other hand, appears to have been blunted, then erased, followed as it was by the VP announcement and the Republican convention a few hours later.

Prediction Market: McCain Moves Ahead

Posted Sep 11, 2008 at 5:42 AM by Maurice Berger

Intrade, the preeminent online "prediction market"--where online bidders place bets on the outcome of forthcoming political, social, and cultural events--has some troubling news for the Obama campaign: McCain has for the first time moved ahead of his Democratic rival on the question of who will win in November. While this number is not in and of itself meaningful, it suggests one implicit problem for the Democrats: the perception, in the minds of many voters, that an Obama victory is no longer inevitable. (See below, "Most Americans Now Think McCain, Not Obama, Will Win," 8 September.)

Independents Moving in McCain's Direction

Posted Sep 10, 2008 at 6:42 AM by Maurice Berger

Echoing a host of polls taken since the Republican National Convention concluded last week, a Fox News survey released this afternoon reports a "substantial shift in the vote preference. . . .  Independents now break for McCain by 15 percentage points, 46% to 31%." A month ago, Obama had a 1% lead among independents. The poll gives McCain an overall advantage of 3%: 45% to 42%. Significantly for both camps, it registers a large block of undecided voters, suggesting that this election is very much up for grabs.

The Palin Effect IV: Wait And See

Posted Sep 10, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey out yesterday indicates that both candidate's favorable ratings are up, higher than those for Bush and Kerry in 2004. This suggests that both candidates have fired up their respective bases (plus a good number of independents as well). Conclusion: the election remains a statistical tie, with neither candidate pulling significantly ahead of the other.

The Palin Effect continues to improve McCain's standing. The same poll reports an alarming decline in white female support for the Democrat as well as a significant drop in female support overall. The survey observes: "In last month's NBC/WSJ poll, Obama was leading McCain by 14 points among female voters; now that lead is just four points. Moreover, Obama was up by 20 points in August among women ages 18-49; now McCain is ahead by three points. And last month, Obama held a one-point lead among white women; now McCain is up among them by 10 points."

But will this continue? It's hard to say. Palin is the least vetted of the four candidates on the respective Democratic and Republican tickets. On the other hand, she has tapped into and ignited a demographic crucial to winning in November and heretofore skittish about Obama: married white women (especially in small towns, rural areas, and some suburban districts). These voters tend to skew more conservative than single women and they tend to vote much more reliably. By activating voter enthusiasm among Evangelicals, Christian conservatives AND a significant swath of the female demographic, Palin, for now, helps give McCain a slight edge. But for how long?

Independents Trending Towards McCain

Posted Sep 09, 2008 at 5:49 AM by Maurice Berger

In an observation with possibly serious implications for the Obama campaign, Gallup now reports that independent voters have shifted dramatically towards McCain. He now holds a 15% advantage with these voters according to Gallup.

Palin has helped McCain consolidate the Republican base. The question, if Gallup is correct: Why are independents moving in the Republican's direction?

I another poll released today, Public Policy Polling (PPP) reports that McCain has a statistically significant lead in Florida: 50% to 45%. (PollTrack continue to call the state "Leaning Republican."). In a telling detail--which tends to confirm Gallup's results-- undecided or unaffiliated white voters are now almost all breaking for McCain. Over the past few months, McCain's share of these voters in Florida has gone from 53% to 55% to 61%

PollTrack: Close But Trending McCain's Way

Posted Sep 09, 2008 at 1:49 AM by Maurice Berger

Looking at the bulk of national polling completed entirely after the Republican National Convention, PollTrack now sees the race as statistically tied but trending in McCain's direction. It appears that the RNC was successful in erasing Obama's "bounce," increasing voter party identification for the Republicans, and improving McCain's numbers in a range of categories, from his potential as leader and commander in chief to his handling of Iraq and the economy.

The thing to watch: state polls. Are national numbers translated into an improved performance for McCain in battleground states? The earliest signs suggest an up tick in support for McCain in some of these states.

Another thing to watch: the media's vetting of Palin. Will the luster wear-off her candidacy? If so, will races that now favor McCain--Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, all states with significant Evangelical populations--become closer?

Today's Map: Michigan "Leaning Democrat" to "Too Close To Call"

Posted Sep 08, 2008 at 5:40 AM by Maurice Berger

A new Public Policy Polling survey released today indicates a close race in Michigan, with Obama leading by 1%--47% to 46%. This poll alone would not have caused PollTrack to reevaluate the Michigan race. The problem for Democrats: their relatively poor performance with women in this survey (he now has only a 3% lead) and others. Over the past five presidential cycles, the Democrats' lead among women in Michigan and other states in the region has been considerable higher. The PPP survey also indicates that Palin seems to be a hit with Michigan voters, with "45% of respondents say they are more likely to vote for McCain because of his running mate selection."

Thus PollTrack moves Michigan from "Leaning Democratic" to "Too Close To Call" on Today's Map Today.

Or Is It A Tie: Have the "Bounces" Canceled Each Other Out?

Posted Sep 08, 2008 at 4:42 AM by Maurice Berger

Two new polls suggest that the presidential numbers, rather than a plus for either candidate, have to returned to the dead heat recorded before conventions. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll reports a 48% to 48% split, with no "bounce" for either candidate and a surprisingly small pool of undecided voters. Similarly, a Hotline/FD daily tracking poll (which commenced on Friday and will be added to our daily tracking average), shows the race tied at 44%, but with a larger number of undecideds.

The next few days may help sort things out.

New Poll Shows McCain +10%: A Dramatic Turnaround for the Republican?

Posted Sep 08, 2008 at 1:52 AM by Maurice Berger

A new USA Today/Gallup Poll released this morning (this is a periodic survey, not a daily tracker), suggests a dramatic turnaround for the McCain campaign: when the poll's filter was narrowed to include only those most likely to vote in November, McCain's lead is now at an astonishing +10% and well over the 50% mark, at 54% to 44%. With all registered voter, McCain's lead shrinks to 4%, 50% to 46%.

The "likely voter" number may be an anomaly. By using earlier voter models, thus underestimating turnout for the 18-29 year-old vote demographic, for example, the poll may skew the numbers in McCain's direction (earlier models would favor turnout among the +65 set, a demographic with a consistently high turnout, the age group most likely to vote for McCain according to previous surveys).

Nevertheless, pollsters are fairly adept at determining voter enthusiasm, a key factor in turnout. Since Obama's primary and caucus winning streak in February, enthusiasm among younger voters appears to have dropped considerably according to a number of surveys. In 1972, support for the anti-war candidate, Senator George McGovern (DEM-SD) was extremely high among young voters during the primary season. By election day, their support failed to translate into votes and Nixon won by a landslide. Younger voters are notoriously unreliable on Election Day, as are single women, another demographic now trending towards Obama.

Overall, PollTrack has noticed a marked improvement in McCain's numbers in surveys released in the wake of the Republican National Convention. The answers to a broad range of questions about the relative merits of the two candidates in the Survey USA poll released yesterday (see below)--a survey that suggests that more voters now believe McCain, and not Obama will win in November--indicates a clear increase in voter confidence for the Republican over the Democrat in virtually every category, including handling the Iraq war and foreign policy, commander in chief credentials, and even on the economy (Obama still wins on this one, but by a smaller number than earlier surveys).

More Americans Now Think McCain , Not Obama, Will Win

Posted Sep 07, 2008 at 4:30 PM by Maurice Berger

A new Survey USA poll taken after the Republican National Convention reports that more Americans now think McCain, and not Obama, will win in November. McCain leads Obama, 49% to 44%, among respondents who were asked "if you were placing a bet today" who do you think will be elected president? In recent months, most public opinion surveys have indicated that voters believed Obama would win.

If this trend holds, it could prove problematic for Obama, especially at a time when the Republican brand is on the wane and a Democratic win had seemed likely to many voters.

McCain Moves Ahead . . . For Now

Posted Sep 07, 2008 at 5:12 AM by Maurice Berger

An average of Daily Tracking Polls, now indicates that McCain has moved into the lead. Indeed, the Gallup tracker just released shows McCain with a 3% advantage--48% to 45%. PollTrack's daily average gives McCain a 1.5% lead overall. McCain has heretofore not been able to hold any statistical lead for more than a few days during the past two months.

If his lead holds, McCain's post-convention "bounce" may be steeper than Obama's (right now indicating an 8% up tick for the Republicans since the height of the Democratic "bounce" at roughly 4% to 5%). Does the fact that the Republicans went last also give them a long term advantage, allowing their gains to solidify? Time will tell.

Gallup: Obama's Vanishing "Bounce"

Posted Sep 06, 2008 at 5:18 AM by Maurice Berger

Today's Gallup Daily Tracking Poll, like Rasmussen, concludes that Obama's "bounce" has vanished in the wake of the Republican National Convention. Gallup now now calls the race "Too-Close-To Call," with Obama's 8% advantage dwindling to 2%, 47% to 45%.

Watch the 50% Mark and the Palin Effect III

Posted Sep 06, 2008 at 1:57 AM by Maurice Berger

It looks like the timing of the conventions--virtually back-to-back--as well as the relative success of the Republican National Convention in communicating its message to voters may have significantly blunted the 5% "bounce" that Obama received coming out of his convention. The two daily trackers--Rasmussen and Gallup--both show a renewed tightening of the race, with numbers falling back to a point or so of where they were before the start of either convention. This morning, Rasmussen shows Obama with a 3% lead: 49% to 46%.

There is a good news for both candidates in Rasmussen's numbers. For Obama, it's the candidate's proximity to 50%. Obama appears to maintain a base number in the upper forties, McCain in the mid to lower-forties. The big question: will McCain's convention produce more than a tradition "bounce" of 4-5%. If so, his numbers could inch up towards the magic number of 50%. Right now, it appears that the race has returned to its pre-convention status, with fluid numbers, Obama above 45%, McCain slightly below, and both candidates very close.

As for the McCain campaign, Rasmussen suggests that Obama's lead among women has dropped by 50% over the past five days, down to 7% from a lead of 14% after the Democratic National Convention.  The jury is still out on whether Palin has improved McCain's standing among women. But one thing is certain: all too often the pundits have reduced the "female vote" to a rigid stereotype, one that implies that most women are pro-choice, anti-gun, and feminist. Yet in many swing states--including PA, OH, MI, WI--large blocs of female voters, especially working class and/or married women, trend conservative in their cultural and social beliefs. Could this demographic account for McCain's improving numbers among female voters?

McCain Wins Speech Viewership War

Posted Sep 05, 2008 at 8:18 AM by Maurice Berger

More viewers tuned into John McCain's acceptance speech last night than Obama's a week ago. And more than 13 million more people watched Palin's speech than Biden's. Here are the final Nielsen numbers for all four events:

McCain: 38.9 million

Obama: 38.4 million

Palin: 37.2 million

Biden: 24.0 million

As for gender: more women tuned into Obama's speech; more men for McCain's.

More on "Bounce" and the Palin Factor

Posted Sep 05, 2008 at 5:20 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack's average of today's daily trackers has dropped back to +3% Obama, a point or so shy of where it was at the start of the Democratic convention (and from a high of +7 DEM earlier in the week). Obama now leads McCain, 48% to 45%. The bulk of these surveys, which represent a rolling average of the preceding three or four days, was taken before McCain's speech last night.

If this trend continues, it will underscore the extent to which the back-to-back conventions may have canceled each other's "bounce."

In other polling news, Rasmussen has just released a poll reporting that Sarah Palin is now viewed favorably by 58% of voters. Perhaps more surprising is the rapid rise of her popularity: according to Rasmussen, her favorable rating is now higher than either McCain's or Obama's.

McCain's "Bounce"?

Posted Sep 05, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

Rasmussen's latest daily tracker would seem to confirm the conclusion of the CBS News poll released late last night: the race is tightening back to at least a statistical tie. Rasmussen Reports indicates a 3% point drop for Obama over the past two days (with most of this sample taken before McCain's speech). Obama now leads in this survey, 48% to 46%.

Early results from the week also suggest that Sarah Palin and her speech were well received by voters. PollTrack will have more detailed results later today and tomorrow.

The jury is still out on the question of McCain's "bounce" as well as the potential of back to back conventions to cancel out gains made by either party (or by the first convention). PollTrack will have a better sense of this next week (but clues will roll out over the next few days, as they have in the Rasmussen and CBS surveys, as voters begin to digest the messages of both conventions)

Palin and the McCain "Bounce"

Posted Sep 03, 2008 at 4:59 PM by Maurice Berger

Sarah Palin's speech--both a blistering attack on Obama and an emotional appeal to small town, middle-American values--no doubt fired up the Republican base. It, also, no doubt fired up the Democratic base.

The dueling bases each hover around 40%, leaving a large bloc of independent, undecided (including many Reagan Democrats and a smaller number of moderate Republicans), or unaffiliated voters. Thus, the key demographic to watch--one that will determine the height and depth of McCain's post convention "bounce"--are these voters. Obama has seen a modest up tick in support from these voters in his post convention numbers.

Is this the result of a successful convention, one that delivered the candidate's message effectively and helped build trust among unaffiliated voters?

Or are these voters reacting to Palin, whose hard right politics and religious fundamentalism edge her towards the political extreme rather than the center? Has the hint of scandals turned off voters who now suspect that McCain—a candidate whose major selling point is his bold and clear-headed judgment—exercised poor judgment or even political expediency during the vetting process?

Can one commanding speech alter this dynamic? And, perhaps most important, will the choice of running mates in this election, as in most presidential cycles, have little effect on the outcome?

The Palin Effect II: Evangelicals and The Republican Base

Posted Sep 03, 2008 at 1:04 AM by Maurice Berger

The other problem for the Democrats is the rapid fire timing of McCain's announcement of his running mate in the hours after Obama's speech, a move justified by a party whose convention was just days away. While the jury is still out about whether Palin improves McCain's support among women--though conservative women do seem to be warming to the nominee--one thing is certain: Palin has dramatically improved McCain's standing with religious conservatives and Evangelical Christians, the base of his party. The enthusiasm among these voters--a bloc that heretofore has been slow to support or trust McCain--is extremely high at the moment. The announcement resulted in an almost instantaneous rush of cash into Republican coffers, igniting "a wave of elation and emotion that has led some grassroots activists to weep with joy."

The intensity level among these voters matters a lot for the Republicans. Evangelical Christians, for example, are among the most reliable voters (along with the 65+ set, now also leaning McCain's way). In 2004, a close election as this one may well be, these voters came out in exceedingly high numbers, thus assuring President Bush's victory.

How Palin does tonight--in a much anticipated speech, her introduction to the nation--may well determine if voter enthusiasm for Palin extends beyond these religious conservative voters.

Bounce: The Long View

Posted Sep 02, 2008 at 1:30 AM by Maurice Berger

A new poll issued today by CBS News suggests that Obama received a modest "bounce" out of his convention. According to the poll, he now leads 48% to 40%, up five points from their last survey a few weeks ago. These numbers, of course, conflict with CNN/Opinion Research and other polls that show no "bounce" at all. Rasmussen's numbers this morning are starting to tick upward for Obama, suggesting a modest but discernible "bounce."

Two factors are at play: for one, the true impact of events on the ground may not be known for weeks. Public opinion is often slow to form. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale's announcement of Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate--the first women to appear on the national ticket of either party--produced a flurry of media excitement and a modest jump in the polls. Within weeks, any gain had evaporated.

Just as important: presidential races are not decided by popular vote, but rather by 51 state-wide races (D.C. has three electoral votes). Thus, PollTrack will keep a close eye on public opinion surveys as they emerge out of battleground states in the coming weeks.

One demographic to watch closely: so-called Reagan Democrats--white, conservative, mostly working-class who broke with their party to support Ronald Reagan in the 1980s--in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Many of these voters so far have been disinclined to vote for Obama but disgruntled with Republicans. Did the DNC succeed in increasing their trust in Obama? Will McCain's VP pick appeal to these voters? Will McCain and Palin's speeches, and the Republican National Convention in general, convince these voters that they are true "mavericks" who proffer real change and a departure from the policies of the Bush administration?

Indeed, the race appears very fluid right now, with CBS News reporting that "a significant number of voters who have yet to finally make up their minds."

Palin: The Experience Question

Posted Sep 01, 2008 at 1:54 AM by Maurice Berger

Possible problem for McCain: today's CNN/Opinion Research poll also reports that by a margin of 50% to 45% voters believe that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president. While she has solidified McCain's support among religious conservatives and Evangelical Christians, could her perceived lack of gravitas suppress McCain's numbers among independents, moderate Republicans, and conservative Democrats. Or, as in the case of Dan Qualye, also roundly criticized for being inexperienced and untested at the time of his nomination by George H. W. Bush in 1988, will the public pay more attention to the top of the ticket, where McCain's experience relative to Obama could be a net plus for the Republican.


CNN + Rasmussen: The "Bounce" May Be Gone

Posted Sep 01, 2008 at 1:32 AM by Maurice Berger

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll taken entire after the Democratic National Convention suggests that the race between Obama and McCain is exactly as was before the convention: tied. According to the new poll, Obama leads by one point, 49% to 48%. Yesterday and today, Rasmussen's daily tracker observes a similar contraction to pre-convention numbers. So any "bounce" in public opinion generated by Denver appears to have evaporated.

The reason: it's likely the the rapid fire succession of the two VP announcements and conventions--the latter a few days apart rather than three to four weeks apart, timing that has occurred only a few other times in the history of the two parties--has made it difficult for the Democrats to sustain their "bounce." Further complicating things for Obama is the popularity of Sarah Palin among Christian conservatives, a nomination that has now pushed McCain's Republican party support to well over 90%.

The "bounce" generated by the DNC may have been canceled out by the buzz generated by McCain's announcement of his running mate. Writes CNN pollster Keating Holland: "The convention -- and particularly Obama's speech -- seems to be well-received. And the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP running mate, also seems to be well-received. So why is the race still a virtual tie? Probably because the two events created equal and opposite bounces --assuming that either one created a bounce at all."

Tomorrow's Map Today UPDATED

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 9:30 AM by Maurice Berger

In addition to new calls this morning on Today's Map, PollTrack has updated Tomorrow's Map Today to reflect recent polling trends in a number of battleground states.

McCain Selects Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) New State Calls: AK, ND, MI

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 3:19 AM by Maurice Berger

Sources within the Republican Party report that McCain has chosen Gov, Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. Palin, a fiscal and social conservative, is a favorite of conservative activists. Pro-Life, she may help McCain solidify his standing with religious conservatives who have been slow to warm to his campaign. The second female candidate of either party to run on a national ticket (Dem. Geraldine Ferraro was the first in 1984), Palin could also help win over female voters, including some of Hillary Clinton's older and more conservative die-hard female supporters. Conversely, the freshly minted governor (she's been in office less than two years), may undercut the McCain campaign's argument that Obama is too inexperienced to lead.

As a result of McCain's selection, PollTrack will now make a series of new calls on Today's Map Today:

Alaska: Moves from "Leaning Republican" to "Safe Republican"

North Dakota: Moves from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Republican"

Michigan: Now that McCain has passed over Mitt Romney as his running mate, Michigan may be less in play for the Republicans. With Obama's numbers improving in the state recently, PollTrack moves Michigan from "Too Close To Call" to "Leaning Democratic."

Rasmussen: Modest "Bounce" So Far

Posted Aug 29, 2008 at 1:48 AM by Maurice Berger

Like Gallup yesterday, Rasmussen reports a modest "bounce" for Obama coming out of his convention, with the Democrat now leading, 49% to 45%. But with nearly all of their daily tracking interviews completed over the post three days, but before the candidate's speech last night, we'll need to wait a few days to see the full effects of the convention on voter opinion.

Watch for McCain's selection of his running mate at noon (EST). PollTrack may be prepared to make new calls in several states based on this decision.

Rasmussen: A "Modest Bounce"

Posted Aug 28, 2008 at 1:45 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obama's pick of Biden did not appear to lift his numbers--perhaps because it further alienated Hillary Clinton's most ardent supports--the Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll discerns a "modest" bounce for Obama as his convention unfolds: "Obama’s poll numbers have improved over the past couple of nights and today’s update shows a tie race because it includes a mix of both recent trends. But it seems likely that Obama will end the convention with a modest lead over McCain."

Is this bounce durable, however: will the Democrats maintain the lead given the imminent announcement of McCain's running mate (as early as this evening) and the start of the Republican National Convention, now four days away?


Where is the "Bounce"?

Posted Aug 27, 2008 at 1:56 AM by Maurice Berger

A Rasmussen Daily Tracking Poll out this morning reports that  McCain has moved into the lead, "the first time since August 9 that [he] has held any advantage over Obama" by an albeit insignificant margin of one point: 47% to 46%. Perhaps more troubling for the Democrats: Gallup's Tuesday tracker (see, "Negative Bounce: Gallup Agrees" below) also showed McCain pulling into the lead at a time when a national candidate is usually enjoying a "bounce" due to the announcement of the VP nominee and the days of free air time afforded by the national convention.

Gallup's analysis of polling trends since the beginning of August suggests a drop off in support for Obama among conservative Democrats. The thing to watch: will Hillary Clinton's speech help improve Obama's standing with these voters? Also important: how will this convention play out with independent voters, whose allegiances have been fluid over the past nine months?

Once again, a note of caution: public opinion is often slow to form. The full effect of both conventions may not be clear for a while.

Negative Bounce: Gallup Agrees

Posted Aug 26, 2008 at 5:24 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack cautions not to read to much into a single Daily Tracking Poll, but Gallup's daily survey also suggests that neither Obama's selection of Biden--nor possibly the first night of the DNC--are helping lift the Democrat's overall numbers. In its daily report, "No Bounce for Obama in Post-Biden Tracking"--Gallup shows McCain pulling into the lead, 46% to 44%. Coupled with Rasmussen's results this morning, the Republican for the first time leads in Polltrack's daily tracking average: 46% to 45%.

We'll need a few more days to see whether this is a statistical anomoly or a real trend.

Post-Convention Bounce

Posted Aug 26, 2008 at 1:46 AM by Maurice Berger

By now, you may have heard a lot about "bounce"--the ticking up in poll numbers after a presidential candidate's national convention. The average "bounce" is 5%. This week, Polltrack will be paying close attention to voter response to the Democratic National Convention (and next week to the Republican National Convention). Will Obama's numbers start nudging up in the Daily Tracking Polls? Will he get the post-convention bounce he needs to pull ahead of McCain?

And what of the unprecedented timing of the two conventions, now within days of each other? Will this rapid turn around--now a matter of a few days rather than the traditional lag of three to four weeks--combined with McCain's naming of his VP later this week blunt or distort this bounce?

Keep in mind: the two daily trackers analyzed on this site--Rasmussen and Gallup--represent a rolling average of nightly surveys over the previous three or four days. Thus, any meaningful improvement in Obama's numbers may not be felt until Wednesday or Thursday at the earliest.

One problem for the Democrats, however, is the timing of the conventions relative to each other: the Republicans go last, usually the favored position, affording the party the "last word" as voters finally start focusing on the fall campaign.

Joe Biden: The VP Effect + New Call Delaware: Leaning to Safe

Posted Aug 23, 2008 at 12:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Well, it's Sen. Joe Biden (D-DEL). The immediate question: how will his selection as Obama's running mate impact on their standing in the polls and electorally? For one, PollTrack will now move Delaware from ""likely Democrat" to "safe Democrat."

Beyond this, the implications of Biden's role on the ticket are unclear electorally. There is no one swing state that Biden can help lock in for Obama (as LBJ did for JFK in Texas in 1960, and Kaine or Bayh might have accomplished in this cycle, with Virginia or Indiana respectively). His experience, of course, could help with voters concerned about Obama's inexperience, a serious problem for him at the moment (see below, "Tightening Race: Crisis Management").

The big hurdle that Obama now faces, however--one that accounts to a great extent for the closeness of the race--is that McCain has unified his party and Obama has not. Will selecting Biden help bring disgruntled Clinton supporters into the fold, for example?  This seems unlikely right now.  And, of course, the VP selection rarely significantly alters the dynamics of an election.

Does McCain Have New Momentum?

Posted Aug 20, 2008 at 2:40 AM by Maurice Berger

Two new polls out to day suggest that the McCain campaign may have gained momentum over the past few weeks. According to the Zogby/Reuters survey, McCain leads Obama among likely voters by 46% to 41% percent, erasing Obama's 7% advantage in July and taking his first lead in the monthly Reuters/Zogby poll. The George Washington University Battleground Poll, also published today, gives McCain a more modest 1% lead.

One problem for Obama: recent polls indicate that while McCain has solidified the Republican base, Obama has not. On average, as many as a quarter of Democrats now say they will vote for the Republican or an Independent candidate or not vote at all. The problem becomes more serious among the Democrats who supported Clinton in the primaries: as many as one third in some polls report that they will not support Obama. It will be interesting to track Democratic voter support for Obama in light of the upcoming Democratic National Convention,perhaps an opportunity to help bring the party together?

How Close is Close?

Posted Aug 14, 2008 at 4:26 AM by Maurice Berger

While Pew and most other recent surveys call the race a statistical tie--based on the closeness of the numbers and the polls' margin of error--the consistency of these results suggest that Barack Obama does maintain a modest national lead, despite losing ground since June.  All but a few national polls (the exception: Zogby and several Rasmussen Daily Tracking results) give Obama, on average, a 2-4% advantage nationally. 

The problem for both candidates: neither crosses the 50% mark, suggesting a large undecided block as well as support for neither or for third party candidates. Of course, the importance of this threshold declines in relation to third party support (now at around 5% on average for Nader and Barr combined). If these numbers increase considerably--as they did in 1992 for Ross Perot, who wound up with 19% of the vote--then, of course, it is likely that neither Obama nor McCain will win a majority of the electorate in a relatively close race. (In 1992, Clinton's margin of victory was 5.5%, but he won with only 43% of the vote).

But, of course, American presidential elections are not won on the basis of the national popular vote. Thus the literal tie seen in the poll averages of a number of key swing states--Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada, for example--may indeed suggest a race that will go down to the wire.

Tightening Race: "Crisis" Management?

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 6:43 AM by Maurice Berger

As if to underscore the closeness of the national race, a new Pew Research poll, suggests that Obama's national lead over McCain has disappeared. The race is now a statistical tie, with Obama barely edging McCain, 46% to 43%, down from the eight point lead held by Obama in June and a result consistent with most other national polls. According to Pew, the Republican base is getting behind McCain. Another key finding: McCain rates considerably higher than Obama on the question of leadership: In contrast to June polling, "An even greater percentage of voters . . . now see McCain as the candidate who would use the best judgment in a crisis, and an increasing percentage see him as the candidate who can get things done."

The aspect of voter response concerning "crisis management"--in a survey taken over the past few days--begs the following question: Is the military conflagration between Russia and Georgia making voters nervous, and thus less likely to take a chance on a younger candidate with relatively little military and foreign policy experience? Is the McCain campaign's effort to paint Obama as a self-involved "celebrity" contributing to voter perceptions of McCain as the more serious candidate, better able to handle a crisis? To what extend does Obama's race and the perception advanced by some of his critics that he is "different" or even un-American play into voter anxieties about him? Will McCain's recent gaffes and misstatements ultimately undermine his message of stability, good judgment, and leadership?

New Swing State Analysis: FL, IW, MN, MO, OH, PA

Posted Aug 13, 2008 at 3:15 AM by Maurice Berger

Why is it so close? Indeed, since Obama's widely reported overseas trip--and the rush of anti-Obama ads and videos that paint the candidate as elitist and out of touch with most voters--McCain has shown signs of closing the gap further. In a few key swing states, such as Missouri and Florida, McCain is actually pulling ahead by a modest margin. While my polling average for Florida (for the past month) shows the election extremely close (+1.8% REP), the most recent round of polling indicates a modest surge for McCain, thus the state is now "Leaning Republican." In the mother of all swing states, Ohio, McCain has pulled even to an absolute tie (45.3% to 45.3% poll average). And the race has narrowed slightly in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Minnesota, although the Democrat retains his lead in all three states. The candidates' inability to break the 50% mark in any swing state, suggests that neither is walking away with this race.

Terry Madonna, poll director of the Franklin & Marshall organization, says of the narrowing of the race in Pennsylvania: "[Obama's] on third base, but so far he can't seem to find a way to get home. Look at the underlying trends. The economy is a huge issue. Bush's ratings are terrible. But too many voters are concerned about Obama's experience, and don't yet have enough confidence in his ability to lead."

A Real Contest

Posted Aug 10, 2008 at 8:58 AM by Maurice Berger

The one question I have heard most often over the past month from voters is this: why isn't Obama walking way with this election? Why are the candidates virtually tied at this point? Indeed, as our own statistical indicators suggest (79% of voters believing that the nation is on the wrong track, President Bush's record low approval ratings, major storm clouds over the economy), this election should be an easy win for the Democrats. Yet, the candidates remain within a few points of each other nationally. And neither has broken the 50% mark. Over the next few weeks, I will examine the reasons for this competitiveness, tracking voter sentiment at close range, but also with an eye towards future trends.