A new Rasmussen poll in the state of Nevada has John McCain leading Barack Obama by 3 points. This is a slight improvement for Obama from Rasmussen’s previous poll, which had shown McCain ahead by 6. Nevertheless, Nevada remains one of those states where our regression model thinks that Obama’s numbers have significant room to improve. Obama has outfundraised McCain by better than 4:1 in the Silver State, and Nevada has a highly secular population, a group that has performed well for Obama in other states.
So what gives? Nevada has historically been an apathetic state politically. It’s turnout rate in the 2004 election was among the lowest in the country by any and all measures. And not that the following metric is the end-all, be-all, but when I rank the states from 1 to 50 in terms of the amount of per-capita traffic they contribute to FiveThirtyEight.com, Nevada ranks just 36th (the top three states, FWIW, are Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon; the bottom three are Mississippi, West Virginia, and Oklahoma). If Obama wants to win Nevada, he is probably going to have to rattle the cage a little harder than he might in another state.
In New Hampshire, which is anything but apathetic politically, Rasmussen has Barack Obama increasing his lead to 11 points; last month he led John McCain there by 5. Remember my rule of thumb about New Hampshire: its numbers tends to move about twice as much as the national average. So if Obama is leading by 11 points in New Hampshire, that would imply a 5.5 point lead nationally, which is just about where we have him.
Also two new polls out from SurveyUSA. In California, Barack Obama leads John McCain by 12 points, up from 7 points in their tracking last month. In Iowa, however, he leads by 4 — down from 9 last month. I would be a little bit cautious about reading too much into either of the Iowa polls released within the past week as Iowans presently have bigger things to worry about.
Finally, while we don’t usually focus on national polls, that’s where a lot of the action has been today, with no fewer than seven of them released within the past 24 hours.
Newsweek‘s poll is the attention-getter, showing Barack Obama leading John McCain by 15 points. Is Barack Obama actually ahead by 15 points? Of course not. Newsweek’s data tends to be fairly volatile, and we have a whole bunch of polling on both the state and national level that implies that Obama’s real margin is closer to 5 points. Nevertheless, he has broken through a barrier of sorts. The last instance I can identify when a Democrat held a 15-point lead over a Republican nominee in any individual November trial heat poll is from November, 1996, when CBS News gave Bill Clinton an 18-point lead over Bob Dole on the eve of the election.