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Polls: McCain Slipping in Swing States, Arizona

WIth both parties’ national conventions now several weeks in the past, it’s safe to say we are back in the real world when it comes to polling data — and a slew of new polls paint an increasingly bleak picture for Sen. John McCain.

Quinnipiac University released its first round of post-debate polling results today for the three largest swing states. The pollsters found that Sen. Barack Obama has surged above 50 percent in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida — taking what is approaching a comfortable lead in all three states.

According to the data, Obama now holds an eight-percentage point lead in Florida and Ohio, and a whopping 15-point lead in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Sarah Palin’s sagging favorability and more voter confidence in Sen. Barack Obama’s ability to handle the economy are propelling the Democrat to wider likely voter leads over Republican John McCain in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to simultaneous Quinnipiac University Swing State polls released today.

No one has been elected president since 1960 without taking two of these three largest swing states in the Electoral College. Results from the independent Quinnipiac University polls conducted before and after the debate show:

  • Florida: Obama up 49 – 43 percent pre-debate [+/- 2.9 percent] and 51 – 43 percent post-debate [+/- 3.4 percent];
  • Ohio: Obama up 49 – 42 percent pre-debate [+/- 2.8 percent] and 50 – 42 percent post-debate [+/- 3.4 percent];

*Pennsylvania: Obama ahead 49 – 43 percent pre-debate [+/- 2.9 percent] and 54 – 39 percent post-debate [+/- 3.4 percent].

Pre-debate surveys ended at 8 p.m. Friday with post-debate surveys Saturday-Monday.

More than 84 percent of voters in each state say the debate did not change their mind. But by margins of 13 to 17 percent, voters in each state say Obama did a better job in the debate. And by margins of 15 to 27 percent, independent voters in each state say Obama won.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal/MySpace poll of likely new voters and those who did not vote in 2004 also indicates coming hurdles for the McCain campaign.

According to the poll, Obama leads by a two-to-one margin among these voters, 61 percent to 30 percent. From First Read:

If you take the Bush (62 million) and Kerry (59 million) vote totals from 2004, assume turnout increases by 20 million additional voters (about what it did in 2004), and assume Obama wins these additional voters 2-to-1, then Obama would best McCain nationally by more than three million voters, 72.4 million to 68.7 million. But if turnout increases by just 10 million, then the numbers become Obama 65.7 million, McCain 65.3 million — a virtual tie. “An Obama victory could very well depend on getting these folks to the polls,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Neil Newhouse (R).

What’s more, we’ve done the math that a 20 percent turnout increase in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia can flip these red states from red to blue. What has to worry the Republicans is that this is a whole generation of new voters who are leaning Democratic. What does that mean for the GOP’s future? It was a whole new generation of young voters who grew up with Reagan who helped bring in a Republican Congress and two terms for George W. Bush. This generation of new voters grew up Clinton, could they be what puts the Democrats on a 20-year power trajectory?

Finally, as a footnote that may contribute to this snapshot of the current mood of the country, a new poll of Arizona voters found the race is tightening in McCain’s home state as well.

The survey, conducted by Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, showed McCain’s 10-point lead last month contracted to seven percentage points. It is also worth noting that the poll also found that 50 percent of Arizonans believe Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helps McCain’s chances.

According to poll director Dr. Bruce Merrill, “McCain still leads in Arizona but the race has tightened during the past month. At one time, it looked like Arizona was solidly Republican, but now has become a state in which the Democrats may choose to actively campaign. Most importantly, the undecided vote is now down to 15 percent. The electorate is highly polarized and there probably won’t be much movement by Republicans and Democrats. McCain maintains his lead in Arizona mainly because of the support of evangelicals and conservative Democrats. As always, who turns out to vote will determine who wins Arizona. The election in Arizona may be decided by whether young people and Hispanics turn out to vote and who the independent voters, who are a growing and important segment of the electorate, decide to support.”

However, while Obama opened a campaign office in Phoenix earlier this month, he has not appeared in the state since effectively securing the Democratic presidential nomination in early June. I live in Arizona, and I have yet to see a single ad from either campaign on the air here — aside from those airing nationally on cable news networks.

This could indicate that neither candidate appears to be taking seriously the possibility that Arizona might go blue in November.

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