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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Another day, another good set of polling for Barack Obama — with one important exception:

Nevada looks good for Obama. New Hampshire looks really good for him — and that was one of those states where we hadn’t shown much bounce for him before. Yet another North Carolina poll shows Obama ahead; for the first time, we now have him as a (very, very slight) favorite in the state. Obama seems to be gaining a point in that Morning Call tracking poll in Pennsylvania almost every single day. (EDIT: The Elon poll seems to be a poll of who would handle the economy the best — not the horse race numbers. We will delete it with tomorrow’s update).

But what’s going on with Minnesota — where SurveyUSA actually gives McCain a one-point lead?

The poll may be a mild outlier. SurveyUSA has generally shown more favorable numbers for John McCain in Minnesota than other agencies that have surveyed the state. But they aren’t the only pollster to come up with numbers like this; Quinnipiac and the Star Tribune also show Minnesota close, although CNN and Rasmussen don’t.

Markos Moulitsas has data on advertising expenditures that may explain the difference. Overall, in the week ended 9/30, Obama spent about 2.5x as much as John McCain on advertising. This is likely an underappreciated reason behind his recent polling surge. But in Minnesota, McCain outadvertised Obama better than 3:1. In fact, Minnesota was the only state in the entire country where McCain out-advertised Obama.

So McCain may literally have bought his way into a competitive race in Minnesota. It now rates as the 7th most important state in the election according to our tipping point metric, behind the traditional Big Three (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida), the New Two (Colorado, Virginia), and Michigan, which should probably now be scratched off the list.

It hasn’t come cheaply, however, as McCain has now spent tens of millions of dollars on the state — money that didn’t go into Florida, or North Carolina, or Indiana, or Virginia, where Obama has had the advertising edge, and where the McCain campaign is now on its heels. Those are also resources that didn’t go into Michigan, where McCain has withdrawn from.

So, yes, you can beat a state into submission if you really want to — I mean, if Obama decided he really wanted to win South Dakota, he could probably do so. But whether it’s been a good use of resources, we will have to see. In certain ways, this is starting to remind one a lot of the Herschel Walker trade. And Obama campaign is not exactly unready, leading McCain in field offices in Minnesota 28 to 9.

(n.b. The cool new chart we unveiled yesterday that includes national polls is on a hiatus for technical reasons, but will return tomorrow.)

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