I noted yesterday the Democratic polling showing that Barack Obama is nipping at John McCain's heels in his home state of Arizona, and some may have seen that NBC News has moved Arizona from the "likely Republican" category to the more competitive "leans Republican" category. This morning we received further indication of the closeness of the race in Arizona in the form of nonpartisan polling from Rasmussen Reports.
John McCain's lead over Barack Obama is down to just five points in his home state of Arizona. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds the Senator leading 51% to 46%.
Prior to the latest poll, the smallest lead McCain held in the state was nine percentage points back in June. Last month, McCain led 59% to 38%.
I'll reiterate what I wrote last night: I don't think that it's necessarily prudent for the Obama campaign to shift serious resources into Arizona this late in the game. But when it comes to making the argument about mandates post-election, winning not only in red states but in a red state that is home to the Republican nominee -- or even keeping it much closer than the 11-point spread in the state between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004 -- would send a strong signal that the nation, the whole nation, is itching for change.
Today's Battleground tracker (.pdf) finds a tighter race than the four daily trackers above, with Barack Obama leading John McCain by a 49 percent to 46 percent margin, and yesterday's ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll found a 52 percent to 45 percent lead.
Yet despite some of the internal movement within some of the polls, and the slightly different results the individual polls deliver, the most remarkable aspect of the campaign is the lack of movement in the national polling over the last month. Take a look at the trend estimate from Pollster.com, weeding out the internet polls and a couple of the less reliable telephone polls, while also using less sensitive smoothing so as not to overstate the importance of temporary blips:
As you can see, the lines for both Obama and McCain are relatively flat. (Bowers has more.)
We are 8 days out from election day. What are you doing to help enact progressive change in this country?
Josh Marshall points to the news (also flagged in Breaking Blue by lowkell) that former South Dakota Republican Senator Larry Pressler has thrown his support behind Barack Obama. This news could marginally help Obama in South Dakota, where both the most recent poll and the trend of polling shows a single-digit spread between John McCain and Obama (if Obama can get more than the 6 percent support he currently earns among the state's Republican voters, the race could further tighten).
But the aspect of the news that stood out to me the most was the way in which it represented a slap in the fact to McCain. Pressler, a conservative Republican, was McCain's predecessor as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee -- the position, many will remember, that McCain has unexpectedly and somewhat nonsensically tried to use as proof of his understanding of economics and finance. This argument from McCain lacks merit, both because his deregulatory ways as Commerce chairman were based on the type of ideology that has gotten us into the financial crisis in which we now find ourselves and because the committee, despite its name, deals more with issues like telecommunications than pure commerce or finance.
Regardless, even assuming some people were buying the McCain campaign's claims about the Commerce committee, Pressler's support for Obama provides a fairly strong counterweight to this line of reasoning. Why? Despite holding the very same position as McCain immediately before McCain, and sitting on the committee with McCain for several years, Pressler is nevertheless backing Obama because he "just got the feeling that Obama will be able to handle this financial crisis better." Ouch.
I have been writing for over a year about John McCain's astonishingly weak level of home state support in Arizona, and how that weakness could make it more difficult for him to carry the state this fall. In the period following the Republican National Convention, there were at least some indications that McCain's problems in Arizona had subsided. But in the time since, two new polls have provided a real basis to wonder whether Barack Obama has a chance of turning the Grand Canyon state blue in a week and a half.
John McCain: 43.5 percent Barack Obama: 41.5 percent
The Obama campaign isn't advertising in Arizona, and although there are efforts underway in the state, it certainly isn't a priority right now in the way that, the neighboring states of Nevada and New Mexico, and the kitty-corner state of Colorado are. What's more, although Obama would certainly be happy, if not elated, to earn Arizona's 10 electoral votes this fall, they are far from necessary for him to hit the magic 270 mark.
Nevertheless, perceptions can matter as much as anything else in politics, and if Obama were able to carry Arizona despite the fact that McCain has represented the state for a quarter-century, it would certainly bolster an argument that Obama had a strong mandate in a way that almost no other state could. This isn't to say that the Obama campaign should shift resources to Arizona at this point. Yet at the same time, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing to keep an eye on the race in the state over the remaining week and a half of the campaign.