If Memorial Day marks the start of political spring training, and Labor Day the start of the playoffs, the July 4th holiday might be the beginning of the regular season. John McCain comes out of the break with one of his stronger polling days in some time.
There are two polls out in Missouri, both of which give McCain the lead. Rasmussen places his lead at 5 points, and Public Policy Polling puts it 3. This marks a reversal from a period where Obama had been polling fairly strongly in Missouri, having held the lead in Rasmussen's last poll conducted about a month ago.
There might, however, be a relatively simple explanation for this one: McCain has been saturating the state with advertising. Should Obama fight back? Well, he already is, having tripled his staff in the state. So, we might have the makings of an old-school air-versus-ground battle. But I also think that Missouri could be a little bit of a trap state for Obama. Our model, which now accounts for the relationships between the states in more sophisticated ways (more on this shortly), found only 43 simulation runs out of 10,000 when Obama won Missouri while losing Ohio. Missouri is essentially Ohio with 15 percent more evangelicals -- I don't think that's outweighed by its sharing a border with Illinois, but I can understand if the Obama people feel differently.
Another interesting state is New Jersey, where Rasmussen shows John McCain closing to within 3 points (5 if leaners are not included). Rasmussen has generally had New Jersey much closer than other pollsters, and as we noted this weekend, it is an exceptionally expensive state to compete in. Nevertheless, it has different demographics from virtually any other swing state -- McCain's one window into the Mid-Atlantic region. If he runs somewhat to the left, emphasizing his fiscal conservatism to wealthy New Jersey suburbanites while deemphasizing the guns and gays stuff (Scott Rasmussen also likes the offshore drilling issue for him here), the state could be competitive.
Lightning Round: In a now somewhat outdated Pan Atlantic SMS poll of Maine, Barack Obama has a 14-point lead (counting leaners). The poll also has great numbers for Susan Collins. And in Alabama, a Capital Survey poll has Obama within 13 points after having trailed by 24 last month.
Lastly, the Zogby Interactive results are now incorporated into the averages. Although we discount the value of these polls heavily, there are nevertheless 34 of them, and they provide enough help to Obama numbers in states like Arizona and North Carolina to mitigate McCain's gains in Missouri and New Jersey. Obama, however, has been polling below his trendline for the past couple of days, including mediocre results in the Gallup and Rasmussen trackers. If that continues through the end of the week, we may be able to credit McCain with a little momentum.