Barack Obama and John McCain are evenly matched in the swing states of North Carolina and Missouri, though Obama is strongly outpacing McCain in two of those states’ crucial battleground counties, according to new Politico/InsiderAdvantage polls.
In North Carolina, Obama and McCain were tied with 48 percent of the vote. Only 3 percent of voters in the state remain undecided. In Missouri, McCain led Obama 50 percent to 47 percent, an edge that was within the margin of error.
Voters in North Carolina’s Wake County, however, part of the politically competitive Research Triangle area, chose Obama by a solid 53 percent to 39 percent margin. That represented a considerable improvement over Obama’s showing in Politico’s first survey of Wake, taken October 9, when he led McCain by a margin of 50 percent to 44 percent.
In Missouri’s St. Louis County, which includes the St. Louis suburbs but not the city itself, Obama racked up an imposing 17-point lead – similar to his wide lead in politically competitive Wake County. The Illinois senator took 55 percent of the vote in St. Louis County, compared with 38 percent for McCain.
McCain’s ability to break even against Obama in these two states, despite the Democrat’s strong performance in suburban and urban areas suggests that the Arizona senator is drawing strong support from the less densely populated areas in these states, said InsiderAdvantage pollster Matt Towery.
“I think what’s happened is, the less populated areas of these states are coming in heavily for McCain,” Towery said, adding that Obama’s performance in St. Louis County was “good, but it’s not great.”
“It’s good, but it’s not overwhelming,” Towery explained. “And that’s in one of the more sophisticated, urban locations in Missouri.”
In 2004, Sen. John F. Kerry defeated George W. Bush in St. Louis County by 54 percent to 45 percent. But in Politico’s polling, Obama led by an even wider margin, thanks to support from a diverse electoral coalition.
The Democratic nominee posted strong leads among voters of all age groups in St. Louis County, and bested McCain among both men and women. Though male voters typically tend to break for Republican candidates, Obama was statistically tied with McCain among this group, taking 48 percent compared with the Republican’s 46 percent.
Among women, Obama had a dramatic advantage of 60 percent to 32 percent, accounting in large part for his wide lead in the county.
The only sizable demographic group where McCain bested Obama was white voters, among whom McCain led by a statistically meaningless margin of 47 percent to 46 percent.
Statewide, though, McCain narrowly led Obama by taking a significant lead among men, almost eliminating Obama’s advantage with women and opening up a more substantial edge among white voters.
McCain led Obama among men by 10 points, 54 percent to 44 percent, and trailed among women by just three points. White voters statewide preferred McCain by a 7-point gap, 52 percent to 45 percent.
Towery acknowledged that the poll showed a closer-than-expected race among black Missourians – Obama took a lower-than-usual 65 percent of the group – and said that if African-Americans ultimately vote for Obama by the huge margin analysts expect, “it will make the race closer.”
The dynamics in Wake County were different than those in the St. Louis area, but they were no less encouraging for Democrats. Obama’s 14-point lead came from expanding margins among women and independents, and a brand-new edge for the Democrat among voters aged 65 and over.
Between Politico’s first Wake County poll and this one, Obama doubled his lead among female voters, going from a 5-point edge to a 10-point advantage, leading 52 percent to 42 percent.
With independents, Obama went from a 55 ercent to 34 percent lead to an even more overwhelming 63 percent to 24 percent advantage.
And senior citizens, who initially preferred McCain by a margin of 51 percent to 38 percent, now narrowly supported Obama. The Democrat led by 4 points, 49 percent to 45 percent.
Though Wake County backed George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, analysts have viewed the Research Triangle area as potentially fruitful ground for Democrats, given the strong presence of African-American voters, college students and more affluent, highly-educated voters who tend to support Democrats.
As in Missouri, the statewide race in North Carolina was much closer, and the Democrat’s strong advantage in populous Wake County was not enough to overcome McCain’s apparent strengths in more rural areas of the state.
Among North Carolinians in general, McCain drew strength from male voters, who picked McCain, 53 percent to 39 percent; whites, who preferred the Republican by a wide 62 percent to 34 percent margin and voters aged 45 and above.
Obama matched McCain thanks to a 54 percent to 44 percent lead among women; a huge 87 percent to 12 percent lead among African Americans and a strong performance with voters under the age of 30.
Current polling averages show both North Carolina and Missouri as pure toss-up states. On Thursday night, the RealClearPolitics polling average showed Obama with a 3-point lead in the Tarheel State and a lead in Missouri of less than one percentage point.
The Politico/InsiderAdvantage poll of Wake County had a sample size of 508 likely voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. In the statewide poll of North Carolina, there were 641 respondents, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.
The Politico/InsiderAdvantage survey of St. Louis County had 858 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent. In the Missouri statewide poll, 814 likely voters responded to the survey for a 3.4 percent margin of error.
All four surveys were taken on the evening of October 29.