Obama gains in red states

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For months, Sen. Barack Obama has been leading in a handful of traditionally Republican “red” states, including New Mexico and Colorado, and now appears to have gained the edge in two more GOP-leaning battlegrounds - Florida and Ohio - since the first presidential debate.

With little more than four weeks remaining in the presidential campaign in a tough economic environment, the grim reality facing Sen. John McCain’s presidential candidacy is that there are a lot more competitive red states than competitive blue states. Indeed, Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat, can boast that he is now ahead in at least half a dozen red states, while the Arizona Republican isn’t leading in any blue states.

“It is difficult to find a modern competitive presidential race that has swung so dramatically, so quickly and so sharply this late in the campaign,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Senator John McCain has his work cut out for him if he is to win the presidency, and there does not appear to be a role model for such a comeback in the last half century.”

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The latest Quinnipiac poll shows significant gains for Mr. Obama in three pivotal battleground states - Florida and Ohio, which the GOP has carried in the last two presidential elections, and Pennsylvania, which has remained in the Democratic column. Not since 1960 - and Florida was not a big electoral prize then - has a candidate won the White House without carrying at least two of these three states.

Quinnipiac’s findings raised eyebrows among pollsters and GOP strategists because of the dramatic size of Mr. Obama’s gains in its latest post-debate poll. It showed him leading by eight percentage points in Florida (51 percent to 43 percent), eight points in Ohio (50 percent to 42 percent), and 15 points in Pennsylvania (54 percent to 39 percent).

Republican Party strategist Frank Donatelli, Mr. McCain’s point man at the Republican National Committee, thinks the numbers are wildly exaggerated and sharply at variance with the other latest public polls.

“They are substantially different from any other survey I’ve seen. Normally, you look at the averages, and the averages in all of those states are particularly smaller than the Quinnipiac polls show,” Mr. Donatelli said.

“Most of the public polls have these states much closer, and we certainly think all of these states are much more competitive,” he said.

“These numbers do not make sense,” said Florida Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich. “Even if you think Obama will win Florida, do you think he will win it by eight points?”

A recent Florida InsiderAdvantage poll showed Mr. Obama with a three-point edge (49 percent to 46 percent). The Real Clear Politics Web site, which tracks all polls, showed the freshman senator with an average lead of three points in Florida.

Mr. Stipanovich, a former top aide to Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, acknowledges that the economy in his state is in rough shape, and that has made the GOP’s campaign more difficult.

“Things are tough here, but I think it’s winnable. I think McCain will win the state,” he said.

In Ohio, other polls showed the race there still a tie. The Real Clear Politics average showed Mr. Obama with a two-point edge, with one poll - by SurveyUSA - giving Mr. McCain the edge, though by a statistically insignificant 49 percent to 48 percent.

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About the Author
Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is the chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, the author of five books and a nationally syndicated columnist. His twice-weekly United Feature Syndicate column appears in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Times. He received the Warren Brookes Award For Excellence In Journalism in 1995 and in that same year was the host and co-writer of ...

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