Ten days after the emergence of Sarah Palin on the national stage, Barack Obama is holding his own in two key states but trailing John McCain in two others, according to a new TIME/CNN poll out today, conducted by Opinion Research Corp., of four swing states.
In New Hampshire and Michigan, both states won by John Kerry in 2004, Obama is leading McCain 51% to 45% and 49% to 45% respectively. When Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and Independent Ralph Nader are added in, Obama's lead narrows in Michigan to 45% to 42% and just slightly in New Hampshire to 48% to 43%.
The news for McCain is better in Virginia and Missouri, both states won by President George W. Bush in 2004, where the Republican nominee leads Obama 50% to 46% and 50% to 45% respectively. With third-party candidates added in, McCain's lead in Virginia expands to 49% to 43%, though it narrows slightly in Missouri to 48% to Obama's 44%.
The polls found that Obama has problems attracting white voters. In Missouri, Virginia and Michigan he loses that segment, by 14 percentage points in Michigan and 20 points in Missouri. The only polled state where he wins the white vote is New Hampshire, where he leads McCain 51% to 44%. Among white women, a group that Palin has helped McCain appeal to, Obama trails McCain by double digits in all the polled states except New Hampshire.
Key to McCain's lead in Virginia and Missouri is his appeal to Independent voters. While Obama holds an edge over McCain with self-identified moderate voters in all four states, he's losing among Independent voters in Virginia by 9 percentage points and in Missouri by 18 percentage points. The surveys ask participants to identify themselves by both party Republican, Democrat and Independent and ideology (conservative, moderate and liberal). On the income front, Obama is winning by double digits among those making less than $50,000 a year in all four states.
The polls yield some surprises in terms of geography. Although he's losing Michigan overall, McCain holds a surprisingly large lead, by a margin of 55% to 37%, in the suburbs of Detroit a city where the African-American Democratic mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, has pled guilty to two felony charges of obstruction of justice and plans to step down Sept. 18. Obama is leading in southeast Virginia, where he spent Wednesday campaigning, 54% to 41%, despite the Arizona Senator's strong military background; the area is home to the Naval mecca of Norfolk as well as several Army and Coast Guard bases. And the two split Missouri's urban areas, while McCain holds a large lead in the rural parts of the Show Me state.
All four polls of registered voters were conducted by telephone Sept. 7-9. The Michigan poll of 966 voters, Missouri survey of 940 voters and Virginia poll of 920 voters all have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The New Hampshire poll of 899 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.