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The Republicans have given every signal of wanting to make a play for Minnesota. Their convention will be held in St. Paul, and Tim Pawlenty is perhaps the odds-on favorite to become John McCain’s Vice Presidential nominee. There just isn’t much indication, however, that the state is liable to be competitive.

Rasmussen‘s newest poll in Minnesota has Barack Obama leading John McCain by 13 points. This is technically not a bounce: Obama led by 12 and 13 points in Rasmussen’s April and May polls, respectively. But Minnesota also does not appear to be close enough where little things like the selection of Pawlenty as McCain’s running mate would matter (I’m sitting on some research about this, but the home state advantage of a VP selection is not all that it’s cracked up to be). Indeed, the entire Northwest quadrant of the country — draw a line from the southern tip of Illinois everywhere northward and westward — has polled extremely well for Barack Obama, both absolutely and relative to John Kerry.

Rasmussen also has polling out in North Carolina, where John McCain holds on to a slim 2-point advantage. This result is not entirely surprising, as several polling firms have shown North Carolina within the margin of error at some point in the cycle. Barack Obama has every reason to give North Carolina a try — the Research Triangle portion of the state might go for him 3:2 or even 2:1. But at some point, he’s going to want to show an actual lead in the polling there, lest it become a tease state like the Republicans have had with New Jersey.

In Oklahoma, a Research 2000 / DailyKos poll has John McCain leading by 14 points. This might actually be Obama’s best result of the day, as other Oklahoma polling had shown McCain ahead by as many as 40 points. Obama won’t win Oklahoma, but the internals of the survey — which show a bare plurality of Oklahomans identifying their party ID as Democrat — are a reminder of just how difficult the partisan landscape is for John McCain.

Finally, I wanted to announce that FiveThirtyEight will be partnering with Rasmussen Reports and providing them with our state-by-state averages for inclusion in their Balance of Power Calculations. Between that and my appearance on CNN a bit earlier (video if and when it becomes available), I’m starting out my day pretty wired.

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