New polls show Obama and McCain tied everywhere (almost)

Jake Turcotte

As we ramp up to the first presidential debate of the season, it feels a bit like 1999. The Americans win the Ryder cup. Brian Griese is a starting quarterback. And John McCain is running for President.

New polls are out everywhere. You could make a career out of interpreting them.


One person who has done just that is the ever-present University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato. Sabato seems to going for a personal record -- make an appearance in every news outlet worldwide -- by the end of the year.

Today he can scratch the BBC from his list, penning a very interesting column on that site on the possibility of an electoral college tie.

Ugh, a tie

A possibility? Not likely. But Sabato says to keep an eye on seven key states: Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

"If you mix and match states on the map, in fact, you will quickly see that it relatively easy to produce a tie in the electoral college," Sabato writes. "So what happens if one occurs? In two words: a mess."

No kidding. Under the constitution, through something called the "unit rule," the selection of the President would go to the House of Representatives -- with one caveat. Instead of each Representative having a vote, each state gets a vote. The candidate with the majority gets the win.

Another tie

What if it's a 25-25 tie? The new Vice President would select the President. The selection of Vice President is easier. The 100 members of the U.S. Senate each get a vote.

The result of such a mess?

"If the public reaction to the Supreme Court's Bush v Gore decision in 2000 was bitter, one can scarcely imagine the outrage that would greet a modern application of the unit rule," Sabato writes.

Is it really that close? A look at many of the recent polls show the battleground states are indeed real battlegrounds.

The perpetual battleground states -- Florida and Ohio once again -- show McCain and Obama nearly deadlocked.


A new Miami Herald poll shows McCain with a scant two-point margin in Florida (47 to 45 percent). The poll was conducted from September 14 - 17, so the full impact of the week's financial problems haven't been factored in.

On the economy, Obama has the clear edge -- a 49 to 40 percent lead. In terms of foreign policy questions, McCain has the lead.

If terrorism is your main concern in Florida, it's literally all McCain - getting 92 percent of those voters. Who could better deal with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq? McCain gets that nod by a 54 - 40 percent margin.

If the economy is your top issue, Florida voters believe Obama can better deal with it by a 49 - 40 percent margin.

Who gets to wear the "change" banner? Obama. Those polled believe Obama has a better chance of "changing how Washington works."

The poll had an essay portion in it as well. Judging from the reactions, all polls should include these.

The poll asked voters an open-ended question: Describe the first thing that springs to mind when the vice presidential candidates' names are mentioned. Palin elicited responses from ''refreshing change'' to ''Oh, my God, help us.'' Biden elicited responses from ''man of experience'' to ``blowhard.''


The Ohio Newspaper poll -- conducted by the eight largest newspapers in the Buckeye state -- shows John McCain with a 48 to 42 percent edge, The poll was conducted from September 12 - 16, so as with the Miami Herald poll the financial crisis was not fully baked in.

A full 19 percent of those polled said it's still early and they may change their minds about who they will be supporting.


All the talk about Iowa being up-in-the-air? Fuhgedaboudit. That's the conclusion of a new poll of 600 voters in Iowa. According to Quad City Times, the Democratic nominee has a commanding 14 point lead, 53 percent to 39 percent.

Is the Obama campaign celebrating the lead? Far from it. They're still in attack mode.

“Regardless of what the polls say, we know the McCain campaign is capable of harsh, false attacks which can distract from the important issues, which is why we are taking absolutely nothing for granted,” said Obama's Iowa director.


A new Big Ten Battleground Poll shows Obama with a slight edge, 47 percent to 45 percent. This poll, too, was taken before the full impact of last week on Wall Street was realized (September 14 - 17). It gives Obama a slight lead, 47-45 percent.

The normally reliable blue state right now is on the bubble. One notable takeaway from the poll is the difference in the unfavorability rating. Obama's unfavorable rank is a full nine points higher than McCain's, 48 percent to 39 percent.

When discussing the survey, a pollster affiliated with the project could have easily been talking about the college football season.

“We all expected this to be tight — it’s extraordinarily tight,” the pollster said. “What it’s really going to come down to is the next president is going to be the one to win the Big Ten.”

New Hampshire

Both candidates are spending time in this-now "purple" state. Once a solid red state, it has moderated to the center. President Bush won the state in 2000. Senator Kerry brought it to the Democratic fold in 2004.

RealClearPolitics has it going Obama by a 48 percent to 44.7 percent margin. But like any other state too close to call, the numbers can keep fluctuating. The battleground within New Hampshire, according to Reuters, is Manchester.

"[The] director of the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center expects the race to boil down to blue-collar voters in Manchester, a former New England textile city of 107,200 people. "Whoever wins Manchester probably wins the election in the state," said the director.


It can't get any tighter in Nevada. A Suffolk University poll released this morning shows McCain leading Obama with the slightest of edges: 45.8 percent to 45.3 percent.

This poll was able to capture the full impact of last week as it was conducted from September 17 - 21. Who's to blame for the financial meltdown? The GOP, say Nevada voters.

The recent Wall Street turmoil has not helped matters for the Republican Party. When likely voters were asked which political party -- if any -- deserved blame for the roiling economy, 41 percent blamed the Republicans; 16 percent blamed Democrats; 27 percent said neither; and 16 percent were undecided.

What about other issues like gender and race?


Politico is reporting this morning that a new Lifetime poll asking women "which candidate has a better understanding of women and what's important to them," John McCain has made up the huge deficit he once had. Down 34 points before the selection of running mate Sarah Palin, McCain has all put made this a tie, now up 44-42 percent.

Of likely women voters, however, they note Gallup's last weekly poll which shows Obama leading among likely women voters 48 - 44 percent.


Anyone who thought American voters had moved past selecting a candidate based on race will be disappointed in hearing news from an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll conducted last week.

The poll, which surveyed more than 2,200 people, shows how differently whites and blacks view racial discrimination.

When asked "how much discrimination against blacks" exists, 10 percent of whites said "a lot" and 45 percent said "some." Among blacks, 57 percent said "a lot" and all but a fraction of the rest said "some."

Bottom line? Discrimination could be a big factor in determining the November outcome.

"Racial prejudice could cost Obama up to 6 percentage points this fall," the AP reports. "That's a big hurdle in a nation whose last two presidential elections were decided by much smaller margins."

Vote early and vote often

If all this talk of the election makes you want to go out and vote now - you can. At least in some places. Some counties in Virginia and Kentucky began accepting absentee ballots last Friday.

While in Georgia, it's "anything goes." Starting today, you don't even need a reason to vote early. You can just show up at your county election office and cast your vote.

A full 34 states will be offering some kind of early voting method before the election.

We project...

So is it really that far out of the question to imagine Wolf Blitzer today stating, "Based on the seven absentee votes mailed in today from Kentucky, CNN is projecting..."

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