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Today’s Polls, 7/18

Although it is more apparent in some polling than in others, there now unambiguously seems to have been some movement toward John McCain.

In Maine, Barack Obama now leads by 8 points according to the latest numbers from Rasmussen. While Maine is unlikely to be competitive, Obama had led by 22 points in Rasmussen’s June poll of the state. Polling movement like this in Maine, and what Rasmussen had shown earlier in the week in Kansas, is probably caused by statistical noise to a certain degree. Nevertheless, it is of a large enough magnitude that it almost certianly isn’t caused entirely by statistical noise, especially considering that Obama’s lead in both the major national tracking polls is down to a single point. McCain’s electoral position has brightened a bit since the July 4 holiday.

In Alaska, a Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos has McCain expanding his lead to 10 points; he had led by 7 in Research 2000’s only previous poll of the state in May. While it would certainly be worth Obama’s while to visit Alaska, the state now looks like a somewhat less attractive target than Montana or either of the Dakotas.

In Virginia, Rasmussen has John McCain with a one-point lead (the candidates are tied if leaners are not included). In June, Rasmussen had shown Obama with a one-point lead — however, McCain had led in all of its previous polling of the state. We have characterized Virginia for some time as the closest of the toss-up states. (With the entire Washington establishment within driving distance of Richmond, one can only imagine the chaos that might ensue if there were a recount there).

Lastly, in New Jersey, Strategic Vision has Obama ahead by 9. Based on some research that I have done, Strategic Vision is one of only two polling agencies so far this cycle to show a statistically significant bias in their numbers; their polls tend to be tilted about 3 or 4 points toward the Republican candidate. (The other polling firm in this category is Zogby Interactive, whose numbers tend to be tilted by 3 or 4 points toward the Democratic candidate). So, if Strategic Vision is showing Obama with a 9-point lead in New Jersey, the state is probably pretty darn safe for him.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.