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Today’s Polls: Alaska!

An interesting set of polls today, and the first time in a while that there’s enough volume that we need to embed a chart to keep up with everything:

Yes, Rasmussen surveyed Alaska. And a good thing they did, because the race is potentially competitive there. The modest 5-point deficit they show for Obama is consistent with what SurveyUSA showed back at the end of February, as well as the inklings of our regression model. Still, it is arguably more meaningful coming from Rasmussen, a pollster whose results tend to be a little more conservative and a little bit more oriented around traditional red-blue lines.

It seems to me that there are two things that could move Alaska into the category of a true toss-up state. One would be the entry of a third-party candidate like Bob Barr. Alaska has always had strong affinity for third-party candidates, and if such a candidate were to siphon more votes from McCain than Obama, the state becomes very competitive.

The second contingency would be a well-run Senate campaign by Mark Begich, who is challenging longtime GOP incumbent Ted Stevens, and who (also according to Rasmussen) trails by just one point in that endeavor. It almost seems as though the Senatorial coattails could carry the Presidential race, rather than the other way around. It is hard to imagine Obama winning Alaska if Mark Begich loses it. On the other hand, if Begich were to focus his campaign around Stevens’ ethical lapses, that dovetails fairly well with Obama’s message. Also of note: Alaska is the youngest state in the country, an odd match for the octogenarian Stevens and the septuagenarian McCain.

Moving onward, in ascending number of electoral votes: Rasmussen also shows a relatively competitive race (Obama -5) in Montana, which Bill Clinton carried in 1992. Demographically, Montana is fairly similar to Alaska. While it lacks a competitive Senate race, it does have more of a Democratic party infrastructure, and for that reason is more likely to be treated as a competitive state by the Obama campaign.

Obama has consistently outpolled Clinton in New Mexico, and this poll is no exception. That comes as a little bit of a surprise to the regression model, which thinks that heavily Hispanic and relatively impoverished New Mexico should be a better state for Hillary Clinton. But that’s not what the polls have said so far, and Hillary only won the primary there by the slimmest of margins.

This Wisconsin poll should not be taken all that seriously: it’s slightly out of date, and it consists of a small sample of just 400 adults (not even registered voters). Although St. Norbert College has been polling Wisconsin for a while, it gets an appropriately low weighting.

Finally, our reality check in all of this is Ohio, where the numbers haven’t moved much from Rasmussen’s previous poll that had both Democrats down 6. Hillary, who has fared better than this in other Ohio surveys, remains a slight favorite in the state according to our averages, and Obama a slight underdog.

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