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If John McCain is surging in Pennsylvania, it remains under the radar

October 29, 2008 |  5:30 pm

“I think Pennsylvania seems really close," John McCain's political director, Mike DuHaime, told The Times' Maeve Reston and other reporters Tuesday as he gave a "state of the race" briefing that made the case -- as he gets paid to do -- for how his candidate can pull off an election day upset. Democrat Barack Obama campaigns in Pennsylvania earlier this week

In this scenario, Pennsylvania emerged as the linchpin earlier this month -- the key "blue" state that McCain could carry to offset potential losses in "red" states and still accumulate enough electoral votes to win the White House.

Even before the most recent assessment from DuHaime, he and other McCain aides have been insisting that their internal polling and other information showed Pennsylvania was competitive -- which is why McCain and Sarah Palin keep stumping in the state.

As of now, those claims continue to fly in the face of a massive amount of public polling data.

Pennsylvania has become one of the campaign's most minutely surveyed state, and if there's the type of movement toward McCain that his campaign keeps talking about, any number of pollsters will have to revisit how they do their jobs.

One of those will be the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which today released a survey noteworthy for its large sample -- 1,364 likely voters in the Keystone State. That's double the number used in many other polls and gives the survey a low error margin -- plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

The survey gave Barack Obama a 12-point lead over McCain, 53% to 41%. That's virtually unchanged from institute's Pennsylvania poll earlier this month, which found Obama ...

 

 

... with 53%, McCain 40%.

Pollster.com lists the results from Quinnipiac and seven other polls conducted in Pennsylvania within the Oct. 20-28 time period, and Obama's leads range from 7 points to 14 points. In five of the surveys, Obama's advantage is in double digits, and in two others it's 9 points.

The survey showing the 7-point lead, by Rasmussen Reports, does offer some reason for hope for McCain. The pollsters note that the margin "is half the 13-point advantage Obama enjoyed early in October."

But they add: "However, while McCain has closed the gap, virtually all the movement comes from an increase in his support rather than a loss of support for Obama. This is the third straight poll showing Obama’s support at or above the 50% level.

And that, ultimately, is the number that truly matters.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

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