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Poll: McCain’s Lead in Arizona Shrinking

Via Marc Ambinder, according to a new poll of residents of Arizona’s Maricopa County — the state’s most populous and home to eight of its 10 largest cities — Sen. John McCain’s once sizable lead in his home state has rapidly faded. The survey, conducted by the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, found McCain now leads Sen. Barack Obama 43 percent to 38 percent, with a margin of error of five percent. The survey notes that McCain led by 15 points in May. The poll also found independent voters were evenly split — with 35 percent for McCain and 34 percent for Obama and 27 percent uncommitted. From the Behavior Research Center’s report:

McCain’s narrowing lead traces not to any sudden up-swelling in support for Obama, whose support has hovered around 38 percent for the past year and remains at that level today. Rather, it traces to a decline in support of McCain, especially among men, registered Independents and Latinos. Simultaneously, the proportion of voters who are uncommitted rose to 16 percent from only nine this May and Ralph Nader drew a small but important three percent, mostly from McCain.

The most obvious explanation for the tightening up of the race is that for the first time in any McCain race we can recollect, the usual 20 to 30 percent of Democrats who defect to McCain are now staying home. Today, only nine percent of Democrats are crossing over to McCain while 11 percent of Republicans are crossing over to Obama.

A couple of notes: Though the survey has a high margin of error, due to it’s relatively small sample size of 401 participants — and it is not representative of all of Arizona — the results are telling. Maricopa County is a GOP stronghold — and McCain’s long-time home. Just the fact that he is not bludgeoning Obama here should be enough to alarm the McCain campaign. But his lead has evaporated by 10 points since Obama effectively clenched the Democratic nomination — this should give his Southwest staff night terrors. In his post, Ambinder includes a clip from a Phoenix newscast that raises the possibility that the state may be in play in November. It seems that every week brings new evidence this may be the case.

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