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McCain’s Momentum: A State-by-State Overview of Recent Polls

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After trailing Barack Obama in virtually every national matchup poll from mid-May through late July, John McCain is now running even with Obama or has taken the lead outright, according to several recent national surveys – including a brand new Reuters / Zogby poll that gives McCain his largest advantage in more than four months
(5 points).

But how is McCain’s national momentum playing out in the most important polls – those 50 individual states that will cast electoral votes?

To gauge McCain’s momentum at the state level, Smart Politics examined 19 states in which polling had been completed within the last two weeks by a non-partisan survey organization, provided that organization had also conducted a similar poll in the state since late June. The 19 states are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington.

Smart Politics then compared the net difference between McCain and Obama from the most recent poll (all conducted from August 7 to August 18) to the previous survey from that same polling organization (most conducted in mid-July).

The news is not good for the Obama camp.

· Of these 19 states, 13 saw a net change between the candidates of more than two points in either direction.

· Of these 13 states, 9 saw a meaningful bump up for McCain: New York (+10), Washington (+9), Indiana (+7), Iowa (+5), Nevada (+5), Florida (+4), Michigan (+4), Colorado (+4), and North Carolina (+3).

· Only 4 states indicated momentum for Obama: Kansas (+9), Maine (+6), Ohio (+5), and Illinois (+4).

The most troubling part of this snapshot for the Obama campaign is not simply that McCain appears to have momentum in more than twice as many states as Obama, but the particular states where this momentum is taking place.

Obama’s positive movement appears in three states where the outcome was virtually certain before the campaign even began: two Obama states (Illinois and Maine) and one McCain state (Kansas). Obama’s only real uptick in a battleground state came in Ohio.

McCain’s momentum, however, is seen across several battleground states: Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington. Although Obama is still leading in the most recent Iowa, Michigan, and Washington surveys, he has lost his advantage over McCain from previous polling in Indiana, Nevada, Florida, and Colorado.

There will be little opportunity for Obama to sustain a bounce from either his forthcoming VP pick or his elevated profile at the Democratic National Convention, as McCain’s VP pick and the Republican National Convention will take place shortly thereafter. Obama will likely need to acquit himself well in the upcoming autumn debates to see a return to his pre-August standing.

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Remains of the Data

Strange Bedfellows: A Historical Review of Divided US Senate Delegations

Over the last century, states have been twice as likely to be represented by a single political party in the U.S. Senate than have a split delegation; only Delaware, Iowa, and Illinois have been divided more than half the time.

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Haugh to Reach New Heights

The North Carolina U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis may go down to the wire next Tuesday, but along the way Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh is poised to set a state record for a non-major party candidate. Haugh, who previously won 1.5 percent of the vote in the Tar Heel State's 2002 race, has polled at or above five percent in 10 of the last 12 polls that included his name. The current high water mark for a third party or independent candidate in a North Carolina U.S. Senate election is just 3.3 percent, recorded by Libertarian Robert Emory back in 1992. Only one other candidate has eclipsed the three percent mark - Libertarian Christopher Cole with 3.1 percent in 2008.


Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


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