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New polls in battleground states

The polls in battleground states — including Minnesota — continue to improve for the Obama-Biden ticket, and indicate that an Electoral College rout is possible. But remember what the pollsters keep telling us: only a snapshot, not a prediction.

First the Minnesota piece: Time/CNN did a poll of five states that are considered “in play,” including our own. In Minnesota, (Sunday-Tuesday, live phone interviews, 849 likely voters, +/-3.5%), they found the race to be: Obama 54-McCain 43. Obama had led, but by smaller margins, in the last six polls (according to the list maintained by Pollster.com). But Pollster and Real Clear Politics continue to list Minnesota as a toss-up.

The other states included in the CNN/Time effort, also polled Sunday-Tuesday, with roughly similar sample sizes and margins for error, came out this way:

Florida two-way: Obama 51, McCain 47. Five-way: Obama 51, McCain 43, independent Ralph Nader 3, Libertarian Bob Barr 1, Green Party Cynthia McKinney 1.

Missouri two-way: Obama 49, McCain 48. Four-way: Obama 47, McCain 46, Nader 2, Barr 2.

Nevada two-way: Obama 51, McCain 47. Five-way: Obama 49, McCain 44, Nader 4, Barr 1, McKinney 0.

Virginia two-way: Obama 53, McCain 44. Five-way: Obama 52, McCain 42, Nader 2, Barr 2, McKinney 0.

The big story here is Florida, because of its big 27 electoral votes. Obama’s lead in the two-way is within the margin of error. But in the four-way, it’s beyond the error margin. Florida has long been listed as a toss-up, but there seemed to be an overall lean toward McCain (and that may reappear at any time). A Suffolk University poll completed the same day found Obama 46, McCain 42 in Florida. If Obama carries Florida (or Ohio), McCain is toast.

Of the other Time/CNN states, Nevada (5 EV) and Missouri (11 EV) are smaller prizes and Obama’s lead in a couple of recent polls hasn’t changed the trend line that Pollster.com computes. It still says the trend favors McCain in both those states.

Speaking of Ohio, Quinnipiac University polled just before and just after the debate in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. They found Obama leading in Ohio just before the debate by 49-42, and just after by 50-42. Likewise, in Florida, Quinnipiac found Obama leading 49-43 before and 51-43 after. But in Pennsylvania — which is the only large Electoral College state that John Kerry carried in 2004 that McCain has had a reasonable hope to steal for the Repubs, Quinnipiac found that Obama’s lead grew from a pre-debate 49-43 to a post-debate 54-39.

SurveyUSA still had McCain clinging to a 49-48 Ohio lead in a poll completed Monday.

But the sum of the recent state polls caused Real Clear Politics to shift Florida, Ohio and Nevada from red to blue on the “no swing states” map it maintains. The impact of that is seismic on the running electoral vote estimate. When I wrote an overview of the Electoral College that was posted Tuesday morning, Real Clear’s no-swing-state tally had the race 301-237 in favor of the Dem ticket. After moving those three states, the tally stands in blowout territory at 353-185.

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