Poll: Obama Leads In Alaska; Campaign Red State Efforts Making Gains

Presidential polls have brought few surprises over the past few weeks, with surveys in most battleground states finding surprisingly steady results -- for instance yesterday when Obama was, as usual, narrowly ahead in Colorado, a bit more in Iowa and tied in Virginia. But today’s polling delivery does contain a surprise: The first Alaska poll to find Obama ahead (for that matter, this is probably the first Alaska presidential poll in quite a while to find any Democrat ahead)!

  • In Alaska (polling history), a poll by the Hays Research group has Obama leading 45% to McCain’s 40%. The survey included Ralph Nader (who got 2%) but not Bob Barr, who is also on the Alaska ballot. The poll’s margin of error is rather high, however, at 4.9%.
  • In Kentucky, however, McCain shows little sign of weakening, as he leads Obama 55% to 37% in SUSA’s latest poll. Obama gets 59% of the Democratic vote.

Alaska, of course, is one of the 7 red states (along MT, ND, NC, GA, IN and I believe FL) in which Obama is on the air and organizing but McCain is not. For now, we had already seen Obama rise in ND and MT and erased the Florida lead McCain held through the spring. In North Carolina and Alaska, the margin had been tight for months but McCain has had a consistently narrow lead in both. In Alaska, 5 of the last 6 polls have McCain’s lead within 5% (the 6th had him leading by 10%).

Of course, one Alaska poll with Obama ahead does not change the conventional wisdom about the state - especially as the margin of error is rather high. And we will want to see more polls before concluding that Obama’s investment is having an effect. At the very least, however, it is clear that Alaska’s 3 electoral votes have become a prime pick-up opportunity for the Illinois Senator and that John McCain will soon be forced to divert some resources here. After all, it’s not like either candidate can afford to ignore 3 electoral votes: If Obama adds CO and IA to the Kerry states, he will be 2 electoral votes away from 270.

And on to down-the-ballot races:

  • In the Georgia Senate race, the DSCC released an internal poll finding Sen. Chambliss leading 42% to 36% against Jim Martin.
  • In the Kentucky Senate race, Senator McConnell leads Bruce Lunsford 52% to 40% in SUSA’s poll. In June, the margin was only 4%. Lunsford needs to improve his share of the Democratic vote.
  • In the New Jersey Senate race, Quinnipiac finds Sen. Lautenberg leading only 48% to 41% among likely voters (45% to 37% among registered voters). Republican challenger Zimmer has a narrow lead among independents.
  • In AK-AL, LG Steve Parnell released an internal poll that showed him narrowly leading Rep. Young, 42% to 38%. A third candidate, Gabrielle LeDoux, looks to be rising after a wave of advertisement and now gets 8%.

The Kentucky Senate race has been one of the most active in terms of advertisements, as Mitch McConnell has a huge war chest that he has been using to air a mixture of positive and negative spots. He has been hitting Lunsford repeatedly - particularly on energy issues. Lunsford has been airing ads of his own, but McConell has been working hard to overcome his (quite obvious) vulnerabilities since the fall. The race remains a plausible pick-up but McConnell retains a very clear edge.

It is interesting that the margins in the New Jersey and Georgia race are much tighter than that of Kentucky, since neither of those two contests have been considered particularly competitive. In New Jersey, polls have showing Lautenberg ahead by varying margins (the last two showed him leading by 18% and 10%, for instance). Launtenberg is too unpopular and too old to build a stronger margin. But New Jersey notoriously flirts with GOPers to give itself to an unpopular Democrat at the end; we have yet to see evidence of why Zimmer might be more successful than Kean was in 2006.

As for Georgia, it is rated 17th on my latest Senate ratings but Jim Martin’s Senate victory last week certainly upped Democratic chances. The DSCC released a triumphant press release announcing that Georgia was now a competitive race and they will now take this poll they commissioned as a sign that Chambliss is vulnerable. The DSCC’s determination to put Georgia on the radar screen is reason enough to consider a Democratic pick-up plausible (though for now improbable), especially if the DSCC invests a significant sum in the state.