IN-Pres Tight as a Tick. IN-Gov Not So Much

Cross-posted from Hoosier Progressive

A new survey from Public Policy Polling suggests the presidential race in Indiana is tight, with Senator Barack Obama holding a statistically insignificant lead over Senator John McCain, 48%-46%.  6% of voters are still undecided or prefer another candidate.  92% of voters are "firm" in their commitment, meaning there is a very small group of 'persuadable' voters.  Not a bad place to be in a pre-Powell poll.

Obama is buoyed by strong support from Democrats and a 10-point margin among Independent voters.  Obama is registering only 89% of black voters, which seems relatively low given the historic nature of his candidacy, considering John Kerry and Al Gore received similar support among black voters in 2004 and 2000, respectively.

Unfortunately, the numbers for Indiana Governor are grim.  Mitch Daniels is leading Jill Long-Thompson by a staggering 21 points, 57%-36%.  Daniels is winning 86% of Republicans, a large majority of Independents, and even 28% of Democrats.  I think this could be very true.  I realize this is anecdotal evidence, but I've talked to a few people around my age who are all Obama voters.  Several of them are voting for Mitch Daniels.  When I ask them why they would do such a thing, they say they have no reason not to and not ONCE could anyone even name the person running against Daniels.  Some of these are educated people.

This poll even looks at the two other statewide races, for Attorney General and for Superintendent of Public Education.  In the AG race, Democrat Linda Pence has a statistically insignificant lead over Republican Greg Zoeller, 42%-39%.  Republican Tony Bennett is leading Democrat Richard Wood by 38%-36% (read that as a tie, too).  The key in these races are the undecideds.  This far down the ballot, there are always a lot of undecided voters and most likely the party that can get the most straight party voters will prevail.

So, some great news, some okay news, and some really bad news.

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Back to the Wall, McCain to Go On-Air in Indiana

Ben Smith reports:

Two sources say McCain's ad campaign is set to extend to Indiana, a reliably Republican state where local polling has long showed Obama unexpectedly strong, and where Obama has been running a full-scale campaign.

The GOP move is a sign of concern on a map that seems to shift almost daily.

To give a bit of historical perspective as to why this is huge, huge news, the Democrats have only carried the state of Indiana four times since 1892 -- during the routs that were 1912 (Wilson v. Taft v. T. Roosevelt), 1932 (F. Roosevelt v. Hoover), 1936 (F. Roosevelt v. Landon) and 1964 (Johnson v. Goldwater -- meaning that they have lost the state even while winning the presidency eight times in the past 115 years. Even more to the point, no Democrat in the last 30 years has received more than 41.55 percent of the vote in the state, with the average Democratic showing during that time period of 39.09 percent. In short, Indiana is generally infertile ground for Democrats on the presidential level, so news of even the Republicans considering the state to be in play is rather noteworthy.

To get a little more current, recent polling has shown Indiana to be significantly closer than it has been historically, with John McCain's lead sitting at 2.5 points according to Pollster.com and 2.3 points according to Real Clear Politics. A survey conducted by the widely respected Ann Selzer actually gave Barack Obama a 47 percent to 44 percent lead.

There are at least a couple important reasons why this race is close. For one, Obama's 50-state strategy is paying dividends, as the campaign's organizing and advertising has moved numbers in Indiana. Additionally, although some complained that the primaries lasted too long, that they hurt the Democrats, Indiana -- as well as North Carolina, and even Oregon -- are great examples of the intense primary aiding the Democratic efforts down the road. Had it not been the case that both the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign were actively campaigning in these states, registering and contacting voters, it's difficult to imagine Indiana being on the map today.

Finally, it's worth reiterating a point that Smith relayed: This is a sign of weakness for the McCain campaign. Republicans believed that they had Indiana in the bag. But just as was the case in Florida, the McCain campaign has had to readjust its expectations and shift its limited resources to a state the Republicans have more often than not won in presidential elections. The national race may be tight, but when it comes to the race for 270, the map doesn't look half bad for Obama with several paths -- including the state of Indiana -- for reaching an electoral college majority.

Update [2008-9-23 17:41:7 by Jonathan Singer]: Smith now says the McCain campaign is denying this report, though not necessarily that the RNC will run ads in the state. I'll update when Smith does, but the point does stand regardless of whether the GOP is advertising in the state -- Obama is running historically strongly in Indiana and has a real shot at carrying its electoral votes.

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Indiana Is Looking Very Swingy

Barack Obama has been campaigning and organizing in Indiana, as well as investing in advertising in the state even as John McCain has decided against going on air, so perhaps it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the state is looking more and more like a swing state as we get closer to election day. Take a look at the latest numbers from the land of the Hoosiers:

ObamaMcCain
Rasmusseen Reports4749
Big Ten4347
CNN4551
Selzer4744
ARG4447
Average45.247.6

The Obama campaign still has work to do to get closer to the 48-49 percent range in which victory is more clearly visible on the horizon -- where they don't have to rely on the support of the vast majority of the undecided voters, which they are highly unlikely to get -- but for now they cannot be too unhappy with the state of the race in Indiana, which John Kerry lost by more than 20 points just four years ago. As we saw during the Indiana primary back in May, Obama has a strong organization in the state, which is certainly helped by the fact that Illinois, and Chicago in particular, are very close by, so if they can get close to the cusp of majority support in Indiana they just might be able to pull of a real shocker.

McCain's Organization Gap Persists

There has been a good deal of talk about the enthusiasm gap facing John McCain, which potentially makes it significantly more difficult for him to be able to keep the White House in Republican hands this fall. But as important, or even perhaps more important, is the substantial organizing gap his campaign faces.

I have noted that the Obama campaign is on track to have something like ten times as many organizers in Missouri as the McCain campaign -- a number that underscores why this year the state looks more purple than red. The numbers around the country don't look too different. Here's the The Indianapolis Star:

The election is four months away, but for now the score in Indiana is Barack Obama, 6; John McCain, 0.

Zero campaign offices, that is.

Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has opened five campaign offices -- in Evansville, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Muncie and South Bend -- and will open a sixth in Bloomington on Monday.

Jonathan Swain, a spokesman for Obama's campaign in Indiana, said plans are to have 25 to 30 campaign offices in the state.

It's part of a push by Obama to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Indiana's electoral votes since Lyndon Johnson did so in 1964.

Here's Marc Ambinder:

A Michigan source sends along a memo from the Obama campaign's Michigan state director, Amy Chapman -- an "update," she calls it, on what the campaign is doing. And what they are doing is bringing jobs to Michigan:

To date, the campaign has hired more than 90 paid staffers and plans to hire another 80 by the national convention. There will be five full-time "constituency voter coordinators" who work with coalitions and affinity groups, like women, gays and veterans. All in all, the campaign plans to pay more than 200 people in Michigan. That's about twice as many staffers as the Kerry-Edwards effort did in 2004.

And here's what's happening in Florida from The Orlando Sentinel:

John McCain's Florida problems may be growing: Democratic voters have out-registered Republicans by a nearly 7-to-1 margin since January.

State totals show Democrats gained a net of 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the GOP -- a shift that could muddle any McCain campaign math that banks on a Florida win to gain the White House.

New Democratic registration outnumbered Republicans in six Central Florida counties -- even heavily Republican Seminole County.

There's a reason why polling out of a state like South Dakota, which the Republicans tend to win by about 20 points in presidential elections, shows Obama within 4 points. There's a reason why the polling in Indiana, a state that the Democrats haven't carried in more than 40 years, shows Obama tied or leading. Organization matters. Having boots on the ground moves numbers. And for as effective as television ads are, as well as a national media strategy, having actual people actually meet voters makes a difference.

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IN-Pres: Campaigning Matters

When news emerged that the Obama campaign was running ads in and sending a key staffer to Indiana, the first reaction from some was that this might be a "head-fake" designed to trick the McCain campaign into wasting resources in a state that will likely follow its tradition in 2008 by voting GOP on the presidential level. Maybe not. Here's SurveyUSA:

In an election today in Indiana, Barack Obama takes 48% of the vote, John McCain 47% of the vote -- a statistical tie -- according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for WHAS-TV Louisville and WCPO-TV Cincinnati. Obama's 1-point lead is within the survey's 4 percentage point margin of sampling error, and these results should be reported as a tie. Among men, McCain leads by 5; among women, Obama leads by 7 -- a 12-point gender gap. Among voters age 18 to 49, Obama leads by 5; among voters 50+, McCain leads by 3. Obama leads by 22 points among voters under age 35. 16% of Republicans cross over to vote for Democrat Obama; 19% of Democrats cross over to vote for Republican McCain; Independents favor Obama by 7 points. Among those voters who say they have already made up their minds, the two candidates are tied; among the 25% who say they could still change their mind, Obama leads by 2.

Think this poll is a mere aberration, an outlier that shows Obama unusually and incorrectly strong in his neighboring state of Indiana? The Pollster.com trend estimate, which tracks all of the recent polling from the state, doesn't, showing Obama leading by an average of 48 percent to 47 percent. Neither does Real Clear Politics, which shows Obama up 47.0 percent to 46.5 percent, or Five Thirty Eight, which shows Obama up 46.5 percent to 45.4 percent and gives the Illinois Democrat at 55 percent shot of carrying Indiana (a state it now calls a "tossup").

These numbers underscore a couple of important points. First, the maps from previous years cannot be taken for granted as the starting point for this fall's election. They just can't. The country has changed and moved a significant amount during the last four years, and the internal politics in a number of states have shifted dramatically during this time (think states like Ohio and New Hampshire tending to move towards the Democrats, or a state like Louisiana moving towards the GOP). Second, campaigning matters. Nate Silver suggests this point as one explanation for the latest Indiana numbers: "Apart from Obama being a Midwesterner, the explanation for his results in Indiana may be as simple as this: the Democrats had never really bothered to compete in the state before, until the presence of an important primary there forced them to." That's spot on. You campaign somewhere, you move numbers (but not necessarily always upwards -- see: Rudy Giuliani). If you cower away and refuse to play in states you think you'll lose, you're going to lose those states.

Does this mean that Obama has Indiana in the bag because he waged a competitive primary there, because he has sent a top political staffer there, and he is willing to invest advertising dollars there? No. But at the same time, the Obama campaign has now put Indiana, a state the Democrats last carried during the 1964 presidential election and only won four times during the 20th century, into play, a big achievement that almost undoubtedly increases his shot at winning the White House come November.

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