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Opinion: John McCain, Barack Obama and the ever-shifting polls

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Let’s see: It’s June 11, election day is Nov. 4, that’s just under five months away.... Yep -- time to start watching the polls!

Not really. There will be more lead changes than in a Lakers-Celtics game before this thing is done, but some numbers have cropped up in recent days that are interesting to ponder. First, there are the dueling tracking polls. Gallup today gives Obama a ‘statistically significant’ six-point lead in the national head-to-head matchup, a lead the pollsters describe as ‘stabilizing’ after holding in that neighborhood for a couple of days.

Over at Rasmussen , the lead for Obama is five points, 46% to 41% -- ‘a slight decline for Obama who had attracted 48% support for each of the preceding three days. For McCain, the results are little changed. For the past week, his support has stayed between 40% and 42%.’

So it looks as if Obama still is getting a bit of a bump -- on the back side of it -- from the attention surrounding his sealing of the nomination, a cycle in which McCain didn’t get a whole lot of free media time. Now that they’re one on one, expect the coverage to balance out more and those numbers to yo-yo.

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More interesting is to look at the polls in some of the battleground states, where things are much tighter. In Michigan, Obama has been holding a slight lead within the margin of error, as he has in Wisconsin and Ohio (note, though, that some of these polls are a week or more old). The Obama campaign has made some noise about maybe being able to put Georgia into play. So far, that’s not happening.

In the Western states of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico? There hasn’t been any polling there in at least three weeks, so it’s anybody’s guess what’s going on. But you can usually get a sense of where the campaigns believe the close contests are by where they’re spending time and energy. So far, not a lot of either has been happening in the Western states.

-- Scott Martelle


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