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John McCain picks up steam in Colorado and Minnesota

July 24, 2008 | 11:27 am

If John McCain and his loyalists were hoping for something to brighten their day amid the blizzard of coverage of Barack Obama's foreign tour, they've gotten it with new poll results from four key states -- Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The survey by the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, conducted between July 14 and Tuesday, contains especially good news for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in Colorado and Minnesota.

In Colorado, the one state among the four that President Bush carried in 2004, the poll showed McCain ahead by 2 percentage points. That lead is within the poll's margin of error, but it represents a positive trend for the Arizona senator; in a Quinnipiac survey a month ago, Obama led in the state by 5 percentage points.

The poll found McCain making even greater strides in Minnesota, host of the convention where McCain will formally become his party's nominee in early September. Obama's advantage over McCain there now is negligible -- 2 percentage points -- compared with a 17-point lead the same survey gave the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in June.

Here are the new results:

Colorado (nine electoral votes): McCain 46%, Obama 44% (in June, Obama 49%, McCain 44%).

Michigan (17 electoral votes): Obama 46%, McCain 42% (in June, Obama 48%, McCain 42%).

Minnesota (10 electoral votes): Obama 46%, McCain 44% (in June, Obama 54%, McCain 37%).

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes): Obama, 50%, McCain 39% (in June, Obama 52%, McCain 39%).

The Quinnipiac release on its poll notes that McCain "has picked up support in almost every group in every state, especially among independent voters and men voters."

Summarizing the change over the last month, Peter Brown, the poll's assistant director, says that Obama's "post-primary bubble hasn't burst, but it is leaking a bit."

Brown's comment contrasts starkly with his summary ...

... of the results a month ago. At that point, as The Ticket reported, he said: "November can't get here soon enough" for Obama. "He has a lead everywhere, and if nothing changes between now and November he will make history."

A change that could explain McCain's gains, Brown says, is the energy issue. He notes that the new survey found "increased support for additional drilling, which McCain supports and Obama opposes. Roughly one in 10 voters say they have changed their minds and now favor drilling because of the jump in energy prices."

Several other states will prove crucial to the election's outcome, including Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico. But the four states Quinnipiac has focused seem, as of now, especially criticial to Obama's game plan for winning the White House.

Amassing the 270 electoral votes required for victory will become much more of a strain for him if he cannot hold onto the upper Midwest trio of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, which every Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 has carried.

And snatching Colorado from the GOP column, which the Obama camp long has viewed as very doable, would make for a much straighter path for him to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The new poll also will hearten Republicans hoping to keep their party's expected Senate losses in November's vote to a minimum. GOP-held seats in Colorado and Minnesota have been viewed as prime pick-up opportunities for Democrats, but the survey finds a deadlock in Colorado and a growing lead for incumbent Norm Coleman in Minnesota.

In Colorado, last month's poll put Democratic Rep. Mark Udall 10 points ahead of Republican Bob Schaffer in their fight for the seat GOP Sen. Wayne Allard is giving up; the new numbers show the candidates tied at 44% each.

In Minnesota, Coleman's margin over Democrat comedian Al Franken is now 15 points, up from 10 points in June.

-- Don Frederick 

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