John McCain continues to show surprising strength in head-to-head matchups against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but now there’s evidence that he may be able to do something no Republican Presidential candidate has done in 20 years, win in traditionally Democratic states:
John McCain holds statistically insignificant leads over both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in New Jersey. It’s McCain 45%, Clinton 42% and McCain 46%, Obama 45%. This reflects a significant change from a month ago when Clinton held a double-digit lead over McCain.
McCain now leads Clinton by twenty-nine points among men in the Garden State. Clinton leads McCain by twenty-one points among women. With Obama as the nominee, the gender gap is smaller—McCain leads by nine among men but trails by seven among women.
New Jersey has not voted for a Republican Presidential candidate in twenty years. John Kerry won the state by seven percentage points in Election 2004. Democrats enjoyed double digit victories in Election 2000 and Election 1996. If McCain is able to make the state competitive this fall, it could be a very positive sign for his campaign. However, in recent years, several GOP candidates have done well in spring polls only to see their hopes fade in the fall.
There are several caveats to the poll, not the least of them being the fact that it is still very early in the race and the Democrats don’t have a nominee yet.
In the end, McCain may lose New Jersey in November, but if he can make the state competitive he would force whoever the Democratic nominee is to expend resources in states that, for the past two decades, have been considered safe, which will go a long way toward putting together the kind of coalition he needs to win.
Once again, though, it looks like this election cycle is going to be one that breaks all the rules.