Two new polls from Minnesota suggest a tight race in the Land o’ Lakes. The Star Tribune’s poll, which had shown a double-digit lead for Barack Obama in May, now shows a dead heat at 45-45. Although the results of these two polls are not directly comparable, since the Star Tribune has switched over from a registered voter to a likely voter model, it is hard to interpret this as anything other than unambiguously good news for John McCain. Meanwhile, SurveyUSA, which has always posited a tight race in Minnesota, gives Barack Obama a narrow 2-point lead, unchanged from last month.
In both Minnesota and Colorado, recent polling has run slightly ahead of where our model thinks it should be for the party that held their respective convention in the state. Although I’m not necessarily persuaded that there should be some sort of localized bounce from the conventions – these events are staged for the national TV audience, and not for the locals – it’s something to keep in mind when evaluating polls from these states. Minnesota now rates as a fringe swing state, and arguably is more fertile territory for John McCain than Wisconsin.
Over in Iowa, Ann Sezler’s poll for the Des Moines Register has Barack Obama with a comfortable lead of 12 points. Selzer polls have had a pronounced Democratic lean this year, and so the results need to be interpreted in that context (Obama led by 17 points in their poll in February) — if Selzer polled all 50 states, we’d likely wind up with a very blue map. Of course, Selzer polls are also the highest-rated in our database, and nailed the Iowa caucuses this year. In any event, Iowa is a state where both campaigns might consider removing resources from.
Finally, in New Jersey, a Research 2000 poll for the Bergen County Record has Obama ahead by 9 points. The McCain campaign is not really invested in New Jersey, and although other polling has had it tightening some, it is unlikely to be a decisive state.
Overall, the landscape has not changed very much since the Republican convention – we’re just collecting different evidence about where the bounce might or might not be in different states. Arguably, however, there are a few signs that McCain is beginning to come off his peaks. Between the four national tracking polls, McCain now leads by an average of just 0.25 points, his smallest margin since the convention.