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Today’s Polls, 5/18

For the first time since we began tracking our results in early March, both Democrats are now slight favorites in their prospective races against John McCain.

The cheery news for the Democrats is in Minnesota, where a new Star Tribune poll has Barack Obama leading John McCain by 13 points, and Hillary Clinton leading him by 9. This continues a pattern in which traditionally blue states have begun to turn bluer. The Democrats, and particularly Barack Obama, might be able to get away without a serious investment of resources in states like Minnesota, Washington and New Jersey.

The other poll out today is from Nebraska, where Rasmussen has John McCain 11 points ahead of Barack Obama and 23 points ahead of Hillary Clinton. Although Nebraska hadn’t been polled since February, that’s about where our regression model had figured it was at.

Nebraska is one of two states (Maine is the other) to split some of its electoral votes by Congressional District. In 2004, John Kerry ran 11 points better in NE-2 (Omaha) than he did in the state as a whole, and 6 points better in NE-1 (Eastern Nebraska) than in the state as a whole. Meanwhile, he ran 18 points worse in NE-3 (Western Nebraska).

What this implies is that if Obama is about 10 points down in Nebraska overall, NE-2 in Omaha should be considered a toss-up, whereas NE-1 may be competitive. There are definitely scenarios where this is relevant. For example, if Obama wins Kerry states + Iowa + Colorado — one of his more plausible electoral combinations — he would be sitting on 268 electoral votes. Winning NE-2 in Omaha would get him to 269 electoral votes, at which point the tie would probably be broken in his favor by the incoming House of Representatives. We account for any and all such scenarios in our simulations.

Nate Silver founded and was the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.