The Color Purple
Almost two weeks ago, I put up a post suggesting that despite New Hampshire’s recent reputation as a purplish toss-up state in electoral map calculations, conditions on the ground appear primed for the Granite State to trend more predictably blue. I based this speculation partially on the fact that while other battleground states in the most recent set of Time/CNN polls were trending noticeably toward the McCain-Palin ticket, Obama’s lead in New Hampshire remained largely unchanged from its margin over the summer.
But now the latest University of New Hampshire survey complicates this scenario. The new WMUR/Granite State Poll has McCain +2 over Obama. If you look at state polling averages, the picture gets even murkier; the RCP average has Obama +1.7 over McCain, while shows McCain +2.7 over Obama.
So, what is going on here? In my original post, I suggested a few possibilities for why the gap between Obama and McCain might close in the coming weeks. First, campaigning matters, and additional retail politicking in the state can certainly help a candidate make up ground. McCain’s recent visit to New Hampshire may have helped him regain his footing with independents, and there is indeed some evidence of movement toward him among these voters in the WMUR/Granite State Poll.
Second, there may have been a lag in our seeing the same effect that the McCain-Palin ticket has experienced in other battleground states. If trends in New Hampshire are lagging behind other battleground states, however, then we should soon see a swing back to Obama, as he gains traction on the economy. This reversal is already visible in the most recent round of other battleground state polls out today.
Finally, with virtually all of this trending toward one candidate or the other occurring within the margin of error, it may be what we are seeing are varying levels of statistical noise across all of the different polls out there. Averaging the results helps a bit, but the race may be too close to read much substantive opinion change into any individual poll. At a minimum, I will be interested to see whether the next round of Time/CNN battleground polling in New Hampshire tracks this new trend toward McCain. But by that time we may have already come back around to talking about an Obama lead.

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