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Today’s Polls, 6/24

Why haven’t the Democrats thought about nominating a Midwestern candidate before? States like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri have all traditionally been swing states, giving the region the most fertile electoral soil on the map, winnable by either party in any given cycle. Two new polls today suggest that having a Midwestern candidate in Barack Obama may be paying dividends to the Democrats.

In Indiana, SurveyUSA has Obama with a 1-point lead on John McCain. A couple of other polls, including one conducted by SurveyUSA in April, had also shown a lead for Obama. But that polling had been done in the run-up to the state’s primary, and the results frankly seemed aberrant. For Obama to continue to be battling Indiana to a draw is fairly impressive, and puts a state in play that the Republicans probably never expected they’d have to defend.

Apart from Obama being a Midwesterner, the explanation for his results in Indiana may be as simple as this: the Democrats had never really bothered to compete in the state before, until the presence of an important primary there forced them to. Certainly, Indiana has been reliably Republican for a long time — in 1992, Bill Clinton won every state bordering Indiana, but did not win Indiana itself. But that should also have provided a hint that there is nothing about Indiana that makes it demographically impossible for the Democrats; Democrats have found success in each of its neighbors. If Obama can hold his deficit in Southern Indiana to 10-12 points, tie in the small, industrial towns of Northern Indiana, and rack up 20+ point margins in Indianapolis and the Gary/Hammond region bordering Chicago, he can win the state.

Just to Indiana’s north, Public Policy Polling shows Obama with a 9-point edge in Michigan. Although Obama’s numbers in our Michigan polling averages still lag just a little bit behind those in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the state seems to be making up for lost time, breaking out of its state of self-imposed exile from the primary process. Michigan was by far John McCain’s best opportunity to play offense in a Kerry state, and while it may tighten again if the national polls do, it might also eventually revert to its traditional position of polling about 3-5 points better for the Democrats than their numbers nationwide.

Finally, in New Mexico, SurveyUSA has Obama ahead by 3. While Rasmussen has usually shown New Mexico as an Obama state, SurveyUSA’s last poll had shown the state tied. Obama is leading 63-34 among Hispanic voters in this poll, who make up about 30 percent of New Mexico’s electorate.

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