Alachua. Baker. Brevard. Broward. It's eight years after the fact, and
the name of Florida's 67 counties are still seared into my memory. It
had appeared, at least, that we might avoid having a major electoral
showdown in Florida this year. While recent polling had shown the state
being winnable for Barack Obama, it had also been running a few points
less favorably for him than Ohio. So long as that was the case, it was
hard to imagine him winning Florida whilst losing Ohio -- and winning
Ohio is probably a sufficient condition for his winning the election.
But now, just has his numbers in Ohio have fallen, his numbers in Florida may be on the rise. According to new data from Rasmussen, Obama now holds a 2-point lead in Florida. Obama had trailed significantly in all prior Rasmussen polling of the state, including a survey conducted in late June that had McCain ahead by 7. Our model now rates both Florida and Ohio as toss-ups.
Are we looking at noise in the data, or are there any reasons why Obama should be gaining ground in Florida while losing it in Ohio? Exit polling from 2004 might provide a clue. In Florida, 41 percent of voters identified a foreign policy issue (Iraq or terrorism) as their #1 concern, as opposed to 29 percent who identified an economic issue (jobs, health care or taxes). But in Ohio, just 30 percent picked foreign policy, while 35 percent picked the economy. This is, I suppose, just common sense: Ohioans tend to vote on pocketbook issues, whereas Floridians -- with their particular concerns on Israel and Cuba -- are more engaged in foreign policy. So, it seems plausible that Obama's international trip is helping to reassure voters in Florida, while at the same time it distracts him from focusing on the economic concerns that might be of most interest to Ohio.
There is some other polling out today too, but none of it is quite as interesting. In Virginia, Obama holds a 2-point lead in a new survey from Public Policy Polling; he led by the same margin in their June release. Rasmussen has Obama 13 points ahead in Minnesota -- a slight downtick from the 17-point margin he held two weeks ago, but still nowhere near the numbers McCain needs to make the state competitive. And in New Jersey, a poll from Monmouth/Gannett has Obama with a safe-looking 14-point lead (this is actually a downgrade from April, when Gannett had shown Obama 24 points ahead, but that poll had looked like an outlier at the time).