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State of the Race

11:33 AM, Sep 23, 2008 • By GARY ANDRES
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Pollster Steve Lombardo makes some noteworthy points about the presidential race in a post yesterday at Pollster.com. First, he argues the contest is "on the verge of becoming a single-issue election." Lombardo cites the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll showing "economy and jobs" (48%) trumps terrorism and national security (14%), gas prices and energy policy (10%), healthcare (10%) and the war in Iraq (8%) as the most important issue to voters.

While this issue matrix would seem to benefit Obama, it's unclear that it does. Lombardo writes:

Obama has failed to convert the nation's deep economic anxiety into an electoral advantage (yet). The same CBS-NYT poll gave Obama a five-point lead (48% to 43%). While this is a modest lead it is surprisingly shallow given the Democratic lead in party identification and on the generic ballot. It certainly means (without benefit of the cross-tabs) that a large chunk of voters who think the economy is the most important issue are voting for McCain.

He also references some comparable Gallup data from this point in September 2000 and 2004 that underscores the closeness of the 2008 race and how it could still significantly shift.

Sept 16 - 18 2008: Obama 48%, McCain 44%

Sept 13 - 15 2004: Bush 52%, Kerry 44%

Sept 16 - 18 2000: Gore 49%, Bush 41%

Lombardo observes, "In 2000 the debates and intervening campaign events turned the tide; in 2004 they did not. McCain needs to do well in the debates or it will be very difficult to buck the current environment." Finally, he points to the pivotal nature of Colorado:

In 2004 Bush beat Kerry in Colorado by 52% to 47%. He beat Gore by ten points in 2000 (Nader had a sizable impact, garnering five percent of the vote in the state).

There has been a lot of talk about Colorado being the new Florida. Several smart political commentators have suggested that the race may come down to this one state. It is an interesting analysis. Certainly the state has moved from a "safe red" to a toss-up. Here are some demographics to consider:

o Only 41% native to the state, so the electorate is shifting with new arrivals
o 75% white, 4% black, 17% Hispanic
o 14% military vets is high, not to mention lots on active duty, especially in Colorado Springs
o Thought of as a rural state, but population is actually 85% urban, mostly in Denver and its suburbs
o Colorado Springs is the state's second-largest city
o 33% of state is college graduates, a bit below the national average
o 21% blue collar, 65% white collar, 15% gray collar, so, again, it defies traditional perception as blue-collar/rural

I disagree with Lombardo on one point. He believes McCain can't win without Colorado, and thinks the election might come down to Virginia.

Yes, Colorado is important and is truly a toss-up in this election. But it is no more important than Ohio, Virginia or Florida. Given the recent historical presidential voter pattern, if this state moves into Obama's column it will mean an electoral blowout for the Illinois senator. Virginia is more likely to be the state that settles this race.

I see a McCain path to victory even if he loses Colorado, but that makes Virginia a must-win.

Read Lombardo's full post here.