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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

I was disappointed when the Democratic Primary Magical Mystery Tour rolled through West Virginia, and there was no general election polling of the state. Whether or not West Virginia turns out to be competitive, it is an idiosyncratic state, and one that helps us to understand public opinion in other states a little better. But Rasmussen has remedied the situation today, showing John McCain with a 45-37 lead in the Mountaineer State.

This 8-point gap is not a complete disaster for Barack Obama. In fact, it’s better than you might gather he’d do based on his awful performance in the West Virginia primary. It’s also about as well as John Kerry did. And this poll was conducted on Monday, before any “unity bounce” might have come into effect. Could Obama put West Virginia into play after all?

I don’t think so, because look at Obama’s favorable/unfavorables; he loses that question by a 40/57 margin. So essentially everybody who has a favorable opinion of Obama is already voting for him. In other words, this looks like as much of a ceiling for Obama’s support as a floor.

Now, I’m generally not a huge fan of favorable/unfavorable scores, because the response can vary so significantly based on question wording. Still, those are going to be eight relatively tough points for Obama to make up. The best chance might be if there were a significant Bob Barr vote — West Virginians didn’t seem to like John McCain especially well in this poll either (his favorables were 48/48). But West Virginia is not a state with a track record of voting for third party candidates, and there are better “reach” states for Obama elsewhere on the map.

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