07/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The romantic notion that Barack Obama will compete seriously in the states of the old Confederacy has not been abandoned altogether. But a big batch of new poll numbers suggests that the Democrat should look not south but west.

Arkansas, where Democrats have remained strong on the local, state and congressional levels, kept voting for Democrats in presidential contests long after most Deep South states turned hard to the Republican right.

But, this year, Republican John McCain is running well ahead in Arkansas. The latest Rasmussen survey has McCain ahead of Obama by a 47-37 margin.

Even in North Carolina, a state where Obama ran especially well in the primary season, is now leaning toward McCain 45-42 in the latest Rasmussen result, while SurveyUSA has McCain at 50 percent to 45 percent for Obama.

Across the south, McCain is ahead (even when he loses substantial support to Libertarian Bob Barr in states such asGeorgia and South Carolina).

In contrast, the Republican is not getting the traction that candidates of his party usually do in western and northern plains states.

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