Obama within Striking Distance in South Carolina

Last month Rasmussen Reports polling showed John McCain leading in South Carolina, though underwhelmingly, by a 48 percent to 39 percent margin. Today, Public Policy Polling released data showing McCain's lead over Barack Obama to be just 45 percent to 39 percent, with Bob Barr pulling in 5 percent of the vote.

Barack Obama is keeping it closer than other Democrats have in recent years in South Carolina, but still trails John McCain by six points.

The demographics fueling Obama's ability to stay within striking range are the same ones that allowed him to win a dominant victory in the state's Democratic primary. He leads 77-10 with black voters and 54-32 with voters under 30. John McCain leads within pretty much every other subgroup.

If there is a path to victory for Obama in South Carolina it includes maximizing turnout from those two groups favorable to him, and also hoping that more conservatives unhappy with John McCain will turn toward Bob Barr.

As you can see, it appears that PPP is likely underestimating Obama's support within the African-American community. If you estimate Obama's support at closer to 95 percent, which isn't by any means out of the question given Obama's strength in the community and the fact that Kerry won about 85 percent of the African-American vote in the state in 2004, and all of the sudden it's a 44 percent to 44 percent race (keeping everything else the same). Does that mean that South Carolina is already on the map for Obama, or that the state's electoral votes are key to Obama reaching 270 (or even 300 or 350)? No. But the more states like South Carolina that McCain has to think about, the easier it is for Obama to become President.

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McCain Can't Crack 50 Percent Even in South Carolina

This is rather interesting. Today Rasmussen Reports released polling out of South Carolina, a state that George W. Bush carried with 58 percent of the vote in 2004, a state that the Republicans have carried in the last seven presidential elections and nine of the last presidential elections. Evidently, despite the deep red hue of the Palmetto state, John McCain can't manage to hit the 50 percent mark in head-to-head polling against Barack Obama.

Victories by both Barack Obama and John McCain in South Carolina's Presidential Primaries set the stage and put them both on the path to their party's Presidential Nominations. Now, Obama and McCain will compete directly for the Palmetto State's Eight Electoral College votes.

The first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of that race finds McCain leading Obama 48% to 39%. Six percent (6%) say they'd vote for a third party candidate while 7% remain undecided. The survey was conducted two nights after Obama clinched the Democratic Presidential Nomination. National polling shows Obama enjoying a bounce in the afterglow of that historic night.

McCain is supported by 78% of South Carolina Republicans and leads 44% to 24% among unaffiliated voters. Obama earns the vote from 73% of Democrats.


McCain is viewed favorably by 60% of South Carolina's likely voters. Obama earns positive reviews from 49%.

At present, these numbers don't inspire a whole lot of optimism about the Democrats' ability to carry South Carolina's eight electoral votes this fall. Yet that doesn't mean this poll brings good tidings for the McCain campaign and the GOP. Even though the "other" category receiving 6 percent of the vote in this poll likely eats away at some of the support McCain would otherwise receive without third party choices on the ballot, McCain is still performing significantly worse than did President Bush here -- 10 points worse, in fact -- while Obama is running just two points behind the 41 percent received in the state by John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000. As a result, it appears that although South Carolina is a state that the Republicans will very likely carry in 2008, it is one in which the McCain campaign and the Republican Party apparatus are going to need to expend at least some time, money and attention going forward. And with the McCain campaign almost undoubtedly at a comparative disadvantage with the Obama campaign in terms of financing going forward, every cent spent in a state like South Carolina really is a cent that can't be spent in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado -- let alone states that Kerry and Gore won like Michigan, Wisconsin and Oregon.

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