Close Contests in Four Key States

By Chris Cillizza Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008; 7:17 AM

The presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama in four key battleground states remains remarkably stable despite a month of politically significant developments, with the Illinois senator running ahead of or even with his Republican rival according to polling conducted by Quinnipiac University for and the Wall Street Journal.

In Colorado, Obama takes 49 percent to 45 percent for McCain while in Michigan Obama stands at 48 percent as compared to 44 percent for McCain. The contest in Minnesota, once considered a lock for Obama, is also quite close with Obama at 47 percent and McCain 45 percent. Only in Wisconsin does Obama have an edge -- 49 percent to 42 percent -- outside the statistical margin of error for the poll.

Those results are remarkably similar to data from July Quinnipiac polls in each of the four states and suggest that despite the massive media coverage surrounding the two parties' national nominating conventions as well as the vice presidential selections -- especially that of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which many presumed would alter the campaign's dynamic -- little has changed in the race for the White House.

The upheaval in financial markets has crystallized the importance of the economy in each of the four states where it is, by far, the most important issue for voters. The results are most pronounced in Michigan, whose economy has been badly crippled with the collapse of its manufacturing and auto industries. Nearly six in ten voters in the Wolverine State cited the economy as the most important issue in their vote; the war in Iraq trailed far behind (12 percent) as did energy policy (10 percent). In each of the other three states more than half of voters named the economy as the most critical issue in the election.

The surveys are part of a four-month long effort to measure voter sentiment in key battleground states that could determine the outcome of the race. The path to the presidency runs through a handful of closely contested states, and the four states surveyed in this project provide a snapshot of where things stand with a little more than a month until Election Day.

The stasis in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin is reflective of a broader national trend that -- after several weeks of considerable fluctuation especially following the choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate -- has returned to a ballast point with Obama holding a narrow national edge over McCain in most polling.

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