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Wright Brothers Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, NC
Wright Brothers Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, NC
North Carolina

Marist for NBC News. 6/24-25. Registered NC voters. MoE ±3.1%. (no trendlines):

Barack Obama (D-inc): 46
Mitt Romney (R): 44
Undecided: 9
Walter Dalton (D): 41
Pat McCrory (R): 43
Undecided: 17
Marist, on behalf of NBC News, is out with polls of three swing states. The most pleasant surprise of the trio is their set of numbers from North Carolina, one of Barack Obama's narrowest wins in 2008 and a state that's an absolute must-win for Mitt Romney to have a viable path to 270. (In fact, though everyone considers it a battleground, nobody considers it to be a "tipping point" state; instead, it's icing on either candidate's cake. If we're talking about North Carolina being up from grabs in November, that would most likely mean that Obama already nailed down Ohio and even Florida—which both ran a few points to the left of North Carolina in 2008.)

Marist finds Obama up 2 in North Carolina in their first look at the race. That's better than the pollsters' averages, who've seen the state average move to a narrow Romney advantage in the last few months (a 1.9 percent margin, for instance, according to TPM's Polltracker). Bear in mind, of course, those averages are weighed down by the Rasmussens of the world (who just released a poll with a 47-44 Romney lead here), but PPP as well -- who've tended to find the most Dem-friendly results in North Carolina—also saw a 2-point Romney lead here in their last poll.

The biggest surprise in their North Carolina sample, though, is further down the ballot, in the gubernatorial race. This is the first poll to see Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton—a rather late fill-in after incumbent Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue decided not to run for a second term—polling within the margin of error against Republican former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory in the open seat race. (Case in point, PPP gave McCrory a 7-point lead in their most recent poll.) Dalton has seemed to have a distinctly uphill fight ahead of him, weighed down not just by a late start but also by Perdue's unpopularity. Daily Kos Elections has viewed this race as "Lean Republican," but if we see more polls of the race where Dalton comes similarly close—whether it's because of better Obama coattails or merely getting better known among low-info Democratic voters—this race may be due for an upgrade to Tossup.

Michigan

Marist for NBC News. 6/24-25. Registered MI voters. MoE ±3.0%. (2/19-20 results in parentheses):

Barack Obama (D-inc): 47 (51)
Mitt Romney (R): 43 (33)
Undecided: 10 (16)
Debbie Stabenow (D-inc): 49 (53)
Peter Hoekstra (R): 37 (32)
Undecided: 14 (15)
Michigan offers a less appealing set of numbers, even though Obama has a decent lead here. That's because Michigan hadn't really even been considered on the table until the last few weeks, when a spate of polls—mostly from small local pollsters of questionable utility—found the race within low single digits. Although Marist's margin is a bit better than that, it does seem to confirm that Michigan is, at the very least, not a slam dunk for the Democrats, leaving it somewhere on the cusp between swing state and Lean Dem.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone whose memories extend beyond Obama's showy 57-41 tally in Michigan in 2008. It was one of the hardest-fought swing states in both 2000 and 2004 (to the extent that the big 3 swing states in those years, to pundits, were Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida—the very fact that we're now talking about Ohio and Virginia as the key ones indicates how much the map has moved in our favor since then), and it didn't really even break wide-open for Obama until very late in the game, after the McCain campaign noisily abandoned ship there in October 2008. While both sides have studiously avoided advertising in Michigan so far, I wouldn't be surprised to see some forays into that state soon. (Though the Democratic ads tailored for Michigan seem like they could easily write themselves, given Romney's on-the-record comments about bailing out the auto industry.)

The Michigan Senate race still looks like Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow is poised to survive without too much trouble; she sports a 12-point lead over ex-Rep. Peter Hoekstra. Republican spinners might point to the fact that she's only up 12 instead of 21 from Marist's previous poll of Michigan in February, but note that came only a few weeks after the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, of course, is when Hoekstra's remarkably ham-handed and xenophobic "Debbie Spend-it-now" ad aired, so he would have been at his absolute nadir of unpopularity at that point. (That previous Marist poll might also simply have been too good to be true; even at the height of the madness of the Republican primary season, I'm not sure an 18-point lead for Obama would have been plausible either.)

New Hampshire

Marist for NBC News. 6/24-25. Registered NH voters. MoE ±3.1%. (11/28-30/2011 results in parentheses):

Barack Obama (D-inc): 45 (43)
Mitt Romney (R): 45 (46)
Undecided: 8 (11)
Finally, the most uncomfortable results for Democrats may be in Marist's new look at New Hampshire, a state that's often appeared as light blue in pundits' and aggregators' maps but where they find a tie. Really, though, it's a state's that bounced all around this cycle, putting up some strongly pro-Romney results last year (including from the previous Marist poll of the general election, back in December 2011) but where most polls this year have had a single-digit Obama advantage. New Hampshire, at only four electoral votes and a couple points leftward of the real pivot point states like Ohio and Virginia, isn't really a linchpin for either campaign but could be important as part of an alternate path (one where either camp could try to compensate for the loss of Ohio by cobbling together a bunch of small states, like Iowa and Nevada as well).

New Hampshire also has a key downballot race, an open seat gubernatorial race that's been knotted in the few polls we've seen and may wind up the nation's closest governor's race. Marist didn't poll it, though—probably because the primaries haven't been held and they didn't want to run the many different permutations involving all the possible (and, currently, little-known) candidates.

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