Sen. Barack Obama's summer saturation ad campaign in key battleground states has not increased the Illinois Democrat's poll numbers, according to senior strategists for Sen. John McCain's campaign and recent independent polling.
Instead, the race has further tightened in some of the pivotal states that are among the Obama campaign's biggest ad buys - states that both candidates need to reach the winning number of 270 electoral votes.
The Obama campaign, flush with cash, is spending record amounts of money on big media buys in states like Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Colorado and Michigan, but the latest polls show that, if anything, the polling in these states has either changed little or the Arizona Republican has narrowed the gap in them.
McCain strategists told The Washington Times that they have been closely monitoring the large amounts of cash that Mr. Obama is spending on TV ads in these and a dozen other competitive states to see whether they were moving the Illinois senator's numbers in the race.
"So far we're not seeing any evidence that they have had any measurable impact," said a top McCain campaign official on the condition of anonymity.
McCain campaign officials say their own polls show that for all his spending, "Obama's numbers haven't budged a bit."
Instead, a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters in four of these states, taken July 14 to 22, showed Mr. McCain has picked up support "in almost every group in every state, especially among independent voters and men," the polling group reported last week.
In Colorado, a usually Republican Western state that has turned into a tossup, Mr. McCain now leads his opponent by 45 percent to 44 percent, compared with a 49 percent to 44 percent Obama lead last month.
Democrats are targeting a half-dozen traditionally Republican states in the West, including New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, with the latter one of their chief targets because it has been trending Democratic in recent elections. The Obama campaign has been saturating the state with ads in the past month, but apparently with little to show for it, they told the Times.
In Michigan, a Democrat-leaning industrial state whose 17 electoral votes are pivotal to Mr. Obama's electoral strategy, his six-percentage-point lead (48 percent to 42 percent) in Quinnipiac's June poll has shrunk, though by a statistically insignificant amount, to a four-point lead (46 percent to 42 percent).
Mr. McCain's polling numbers there have surprised Republican strategists because the state is in a deep recession with an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, and general Republican fortunes there are in the basement. It had been considered a solid state for Democrats - the last Republican nominee to carry it was George H.W. Bush in 1988 - but most election analysts now place it securely in the tossup column.
In Minnesota, another Midwest battleground that Democrats usually carry, the race has turned into a dead heat in the Quinnipiac poll, with Mr. Obama clinging to a two-percentage-point lead (46 percent to 44 percent), compared to a seemingly prohibitive 17-point lead in the same survey in June (54 percent to 37 percent).
Other polls in the state are all over the map, though, with Rasmussen's July poll giving Mr. Obama a 13-point lead and Survey USA's June poll having the race statistically tied - Mr. Obama holding an insignificant one-point lead.
In Wisconsin, while Mr. Obama maintains a comfortable 11-point lead in the Quinnipiac survey, that's still down a little from the 13-point lead he had in the same survey in June.
"Barack Obama's post-primary bubble hasn't burst, but it is leaking a bit," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"It's been a good month for John McCain. His movement in these key states, not large except for Minnesota, jibes with the tightening we are seeing in the national polls," Mr. Brown said.
A national Fox News poll last week showed the race in a statistical tie, with Mr. Obama holding the slimmest of leads: 41 percent to 40 percent.
Perhaps no battleground state has received more attention from the Obama campaign than Virginia, a state where Democrats hold the governorship and are poised to pick up a second U.S. Senate seat in November. For weeks, the state's TV markets have been saturated with Obama campaign ads on a daily basis, but the race remains in a statistical dead heat.
The Real Clear Politics Web site, which monitors all the major election polls, showed the presidential race statistically tied in every poll taken in Virginia since the beginning of June, with neither man having a lead of more than two percentage points in any survey.
As the race stood last week, the electoral count analysis by the Cook Political Report had Mr. McCain leading Mr. Obama by 240 electoral votes to 219, with 79 electoral votes in the tossup column.