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Obama Leads McCain in 6 of 8 Swing States: Poll

Democrat Barack Obama holds clear leads in four reliably Republican states and is tied in two others as his campaign labors to remake America's political map with a landslide victory over John McCain on Tuesday, according to a new Associated Press-GFK poll.

Barack Obama & John McCain
CNBC.com
Barack Obama & John McCain

The poll results, released Wednesday, reflect Obama's massive allocation of money and campaign staff in states once seen as certain to back McCain, who has been forced to spread his more limited resources in the presidential election across Republican home turf.

The survey shows Americans widely favor Obama as best suited to tackle the country's accelerating economic decline, the key issue in the 2008 presidential election and a huge drag on McCain as he tries to shed the legacy of unpopular President George W. Bush, a fellow Republican.

The AP-GfK polls show Obama winning among early voters, favored on almost every issue, benefiting from the country's sour mood and widely viewed as the winning candidate by voters in eight crucial states — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"If you believe in miracles," said Republican consultant Joe Gaylord of Arlington, Virginia, "you still believe in McCain."

Despite a mounting chorus of Republicans predicting McCain's failure, aides to the four-term Arizona senator insist their internal surveys show victory is still within reach.

And polls are mere snapshots of highly fluid campaigns, and this race has been volatile. McCain was written off prematurely last year, and Obama seemed poised for victory in New Hampshire's Democratic primary just before Hillary Rodham Clinton charged to victory there.

Even this close to election day, racial tensions and the volume of late-deciding voters identified by the AP-GfK polling leave room for doubt. But the surveys confirm what McCain aides acknowledge privately — their chances of winning are low.

The polling shows Obama holding solid leads in Ohio (7 percentage points), Nevada (12 points), Colorado (9) and Virginia (7), all Republican states won by Bush and collectively offering 47 electoral votes. Sweeping those four — or putting together the right combination of two or three — would almost certainly make Obama president.

Under the U.S. system, the national popular vote does not determine the presidential victor. Instead, the winning candidate must amass 270 electoral votes in what amounts to a state-by-state contest. Each state is allocated electors roughly according to population.

Obama can earn 252 electors by merely reclaiming states won by John Kerry in 2004. There are only two Kerry states still in contention — Pennsylvania with 21 votes and New Hampshire with four. AP-GfK polls show Obama leading both by double digits.

Ohio alone has 20 electoral votes. Nevada has 5, Colorado 9 and Virginia 13.

In addition, according to AP-GfK polling, Obama is tied with McCain in North Carolina and Florida, two vote-rich states Bush carried in 2004. Obama is throwing his time and money into Florida, which has 27 votes, part of a strategy to create varied routes to victory and push toward a landslide of 300 or more electoral votes. North Carolina has 15 votes.

(Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter talks about McCain's uphill battle in the state in the video at left)

Independent polling suggests that New Mexico and Iowa, two traditionally Republican-leaning states, are out of reach for McCain. Other Republican states may be creeping away from him and into contention, including Montana.

Thus, McCain must overtake Obama in the many traditionally Republican states where he is trailing or tied — a tall order. Or he needs to gain some breathing room by winning Pennsylvania, where he trails by 12 percentage points, according to the AP-GfK poll.

Obama was trying to cement his lead Wednesday with a national television blitz and his first joint campaign appearance with former President Bill Clinton at a rally in Florida.

McCain also was taking his campaign to Florida, the state that handed the White House to Bush eight years ago after a controversial recount.

But McCain's election prospects appear increasingly dim. He now faces a tight race even in his home state of Arizona, where the Cronkite-Eight poll showed him in a statistically tied with Obama. McCain led by only 46 to 44 percent, within the poll's margin of error of three percentage points.

Nationally, a poll by the Pew Research Center found Obama with a 16-point lead among registered voters. The survey said Obama had 52 percent and McCain 36 percent. Other nationwide polls showed Obama with a lead in single digits.

Obama was blanketing the airwaves on Wednesday to win over teetering voters.

During a stop in Raleigh, North Carolina, Obama will be interviewed by ABC network news anchor Charlie Gibson. Later, in Florida, Obama will tape a cable television appearance on Comedy Central's irreverent "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

The centerpiece of Obama's TV blitz is a 30-minute ad that will be broadcast during prime-time Wednesday evening.

Flush with cash from its record-shattering fundraising, the Obama campaign bought time on CBS, NBC and Fox for about $1 million per network. The infomercial is also scheduled to run on the Spanish-language Univision; BET, a cable TV channel targeting blacks, MSNBC and TV One.

The Obama ad is expected to be a video montage of typical people talking about the challenges they face, with Obama explaining how he can help. A campaign adviser said the taped ad will feature a live cut-in to Obama, who is scheduled to be at a rally in Florida at the time.

Then, Obama planned to appear with Bill Clinton for the first time at a Wednesday night rally in Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando, timed to hit the late-evening news.

Bill Clinton was cool toward Obama following the bruising nomination battle between the Illinois senator and Clinton's wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But both Clintons gave rousing endorsements of Obama at the Democratic National Convention in August. Since then, Bill Clinton has campaigned for Obama on his own, but the two have not appeared together at such an event.

McCain is purchasing loads of ad time, too. But the disparity between Obama and the Republicans is so wide that it has allowed Obama to spend in more states than McCain, appear more frequently in key markets and diversify his messages — some positive, some negative. McCain could only counter the Obama blitz with a Wednesday evening appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."

In Florida, McCain was meeting privately Wednesday with former top military officers who advise him on national security. He was expected to issue a statement afterward outlining his views on security threats to the nation.

Aides said his argument is that he is better prepared than Obama to lead the U.S. in a troubled world because of his military background. The Arizona senator is a former Navy pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner for more than five years.