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When the national polls started moving toward Obama last week, it just became a matter of time before the state polls (which are conducted less frequently) began catching up. Well, that time has at least started to come.

RealClearPolitics.com is now showing Obama with a 4.8% lead in the national polls, but more importantly, he has a +65 lead in the Blue/Red electoral vote count, and a +64 electoral vote lead (301 to 237) when all toss up states are distributed between the two candidates. Even more promising are the trends in the internal state analyses.

Check below the fold for all the good news:

First, blue states that have been drifting closer in recent weeks are solidifying with Obama. McCain got within 2 and 5 points of Obama in Washington state over the past two weeks, but the most recent (9/22) Survery USA poll shows the race opening up to 11 points. Similarly in Oregon, where Rasmussen (9/15) showed the race as close as 4 points, Survey USA (9/23) and Research 2000 show Obama opening up leads of 11 and 14 point, respectively.

The critical mountain/southwest states are also cause for optimism. Five polls in Colorado, conducted between 9/21 and 9/23, all show Obama with a lead, with a RCP Average of 5.4%.  With none of these polls conducted after the debate, one has to expect the margins will increase somewhat as we head into the Palin/Biden debate later this week.  The pattern in New Mexico mirrors Washington and Oregon, with the last three polls showing progressively larger leads of 7, 8, and 11 points. The most recent poll in NM was finished on 9/19, so we can probably also expect the next round of polls to reflect the growing margins in the national data.  Finally, the all important Silver State shows frustratingly persistent leads for McCain, although by razor thin margins of 1, 3, and 1 point. However, the latest Nevada poll was taken 9/21, so if Nevada mirrors the national trends, and if McCain’s endorsement of storing nuclear waste down the road from Las Vegas was noticed by the locals (and it was), we might finally see an Obama breakthrough in the next round of state polls here. Interestingly, the Intrade odds for Nevada favor Obama over McCain by 52.9% to 46.9%

The Midwest is starting to look pretty good too, though I’ll feel much better when Obama opens up a more significant lead in Minnesota. In Iowa, if it weren’t for an outlier Big10/Battleground poll from 9/17 showing the race in a tie, Obama would have a solid double digit lead. Excluding that poll, the last five surveys (9/10 to 9/25) show leads of 12, 11, 14, 10, and 8 points.  Obama has also opened up a average 6.6% RCP lead in Michigan, including a 13% lead in a Detroit Free Press poll that was concluded 9/25.  Like Ohio, some of the atmospherics in Michigan make life a little difficult for Obama (I’m talking to you, Kilpatrick), but the economic is cutting in the Democrats favor, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Obama’s lead increase in the next (post-debate) round of polls.  The margins in Wisconsin have also improved for Obama, increasing from 3, 2, and 1% leads (9/14-17) to leads of 7 and 6% in polls conducted 9/21-23.  The remaining nail-biter is Minnesota, where, with the exception of an 8% lead in a 9/18 Rasmussen poll, the last 3 polls have consistently shown Obama with a lead of only 2%. Personally, I think that its Palin’s "Great White North" accent that’s keeping it close in MN. I’m hoping that when Governor Palin shows up and does her amazing Tina Fey impression at the debate on Thursday that Obama/Biden will be able to widen their lead in the North Star state.

While this election may not need to come down to Ohio, the fact is that the race in the Buckeye State couldn’t be closer. In the last seven polls, three have Obama in the lead, three have McCain ahead, and one is a tie.  Intrade’s live Ohio odds show Obama ahead 51.8% to 48.2%. One thing that does appear to be coming clear: If McCain doesn’t win Ohio, he has no realistic path to 270 electoral votes.  Finally, since the latest of this collection of seven Ohio polls was concluded on 9/24, these trends don’t include McCain’s "suspension" or the debate.  If one includes these factors with the possibility of more Palin punchlines on Thursday, we might finally see Ohio start to break for Obama in the next week.

As we move east, Pennsylvania has stabilized at a RCP Average lead of 4.4% for Obama. The last six polls  have all shown Obama with leads, the last three with very consistent leads of 6, 4, and 4%. The last of these polls was concluded the day before the debate. The Intrade odds in PA are still breaking 3:1 in Obama’s favor, and it’s hard to imagine that this lead will not increase with the next round of state polls to reflect the widening lead in the national data. Regardless, PA is almost as important for Obama as OH is for McCain. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, problems for Obama in PA will probably be illustrative of emerging problems elsewhere. I know that I’ll sleep better as PA move out closer to double digits.

The best news of the week is to be found on the Atlantic seaboard, where Obama has moved to narrow RCP average leads in both North Carolina and Virginia. The last four NC polls, conducted over the period 9/14 to 9/23 show McCain leading by 1% (the oldest poll), two ties (the middle polls), and Obama leading by 2% (the most recent poll). These polls are all clearly within the MOE, but if PA is Obama’s "canary in the coal mine," then McCain’s canary is on life support in the Tarheel State.  

Saving the best for last, there is excellent news coming out of Virginia, where Obama has moved into a 1.8% RCP average lead. Better yet, the trend is definitely with the Democrats here. In the last 4 polls taken in Virginia, Obama has a 6% lead in a 9/21 Survey USA poll, a 3% lead in a 9/21 Wash Post/ABC poll, and a 5% lead in a 9/25 Rasmussen poll. McCain’s only lead in the latest round was a 3% lead in a 9/22 NBC/Mason-Dixon Poll.  The Intrade Real Tome quotes in Virgina show Obama with a 52%-47% lead.

In my view, these data are cause for real optimism, given that none of these state polls include voters’ perceptions of the 9/26 debate. What we know of the focus groups and snap polls taken during and after the debate is that by significant margins, voters generally, and independent voters especially, came away with (1) a more positive view of Barack Obama, (2) the perception that he was more presidential, and (3) the opinion that he won the debate.

In light of all this good news, it is imperative that Obama supporters now double down both in terms of financial contributions and volunteer time commitments.  But I also think the time has come for us to begin talking in favorable terms that Barack Obama is effectively doing what he needs to do to seal the deal. The time has come to promote a growing sense of inevitability in an Obama presidency. That sense of inevitability will itself actually generate an additional 1-2 points of support, as bandwagon jumpers leap off the fence to get with the winner. The same way that a certain percentage of Laker and the Yankee fans go with those teams simply because they want to be with winners, a small percentage of voters go with who they see as the likely winner, for no better reason than they don’t want to be affiliated with the loser.

This is not a time for overconfidence or complacency, but it is a time to start recognizing that the trends may have begun to move inexorably in our favor.  We are seeing definite movement in the national polls, and shadowy time-lagged movement in the state polls -- and we have yet to see the effects of the 9/26 debate and McCain’s economic flailing work its way through the state polls. In addition, the next major scheduled event is the Biden/Palin debate. My imagination reels at the prospect of what that encounter may portend. Finally, we are starting to see the first signs of Republican disgruntlement in Palin, McCain’s campaign "strategies," and what a McCain/Palin presidency would actually mean for the long-term future of the Republican Party. The long knives are starting to come out among the true conservatives, and if these trends continue the next few weeks could be quite a show.

Would someone please pass me the popcorn?

Originally posted to The Knute on Sun Sep 28, 2008 at 05:57 PM PDT.

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