Washington, Sept.16 : Polling in the five key battleground states shows John McCain and Barack Obama neck-and-neck with seven weeks left until Election Day.
According to a Rasmussen Poll, McCain holds a slight advantage over Obama in Colorado, Florida, and Ohio, while the candidates are tied in Pennsylvania and Virginia. In Florida, the gap between McCain and Obama exceeds three percentage points in polls with a four-and-a-half percentage point margin of sampling error.
The overriding message from these results is that the race remains very close.
The biggest change is in Colorado, where McCain now leads by 48 percent to Obama's 46 percent. Just a week ago, Obama had a three-point edge in this western state. The current results are similar to the Rasmussen Reports Colorado polling conducted in Aug., just before the Democratic convention.
McCain now holds a 49 percent to 44 percent advantage in Florida. Last week, the candidates were tied at 48 percent in the Sunshine State.
In Ohio, McCain continues to have the advantage, 48 to 45 percent. That's closer than the results from last week, which showed McCain with a 51 to 44 percent advantage over his Democratic rival.
The candidates are in a dead heat in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Last week, McCain was up by two percentage points in Virginia, while Obama was up two percentage points in Pennsylvania.
According to FOX News, these state results remain consistent with national polling trends as McCain currently holds a slight advantage in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
In fact, current national polling shows a race nearly identical to the final results for Election 2004.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the Electoral College map is shaping up to look much like the map four years ago.
Of the five states listed in the FOX News/Rasmussen Reports polling, three are very similar to their results four years ago. Virginia is currently favoring the Democrats, while Pennsylvania looks better for the Republicans.
A number of other themes emerge from the data that are worth noting:
Roughly 1 in 5 voters say they could still change their mind before voting. This large number of potentially persuadable voters places enormous importance on the debates that begin one week from Friday.
Ohio voters are less certain of their vote than those in other states. Thirty percent (30 percent) in the Buckeye State say they could change their mind.
In all five states, McCain continues to be viewed more favorably - and trusted more - than Obama.
The number who would not be comfortable with Obama as president is at 40 percent or 41 percent in every state.
The number not comfortable with McCain as president ranges from 33 percent to 36 percent. This is consistent with national polling data released today showing that more voters believe McCain is prepared to be President.
Voters are generally more comfortable with the idea of a President Biden than a President Obama. The number uncomfortable with the prospect of Biden in the Oval Office ranges from 26 percent to 33 percent.
Voters are less comfortable with the prospect of Palin as President than they are with Biden as President.
In fact, Palin's numbers are closer to Obama's than Biden's. The number uncomfortable with a President Palin ranges from 38 percent to 45 percent in the five states polled this week.
The Republican support for McCain is quite stable. The modest changes from week to week can generally be found in changes among Democrats and unaffiliated voters.
Obama has the edge among unaffiliated voters in two states, McCain in two, and they are even in one. Nationally, McCain has a slight advantage among unaffiliated voters.
In Pennsylvania, there was a 3-point decline in the number of undecideds along with a 2-point increase in support for McCain.
In Ohio, there was a 3-point increase in the number of undecideds along with a 3-point decline in support for McCain.
In Colorado, Nader's support when up 3 percentage points while Obama's went down 3 points.
Economic issues are the top issue in all five states with national security matters a distant second.
More than anything else, however, the data highlights the importance of the debates. The most important thing to look for will be public reaction to those possibly decisive events.
Rasmussen Reports conducted five state telephone surveys in partnership with FOX News Channel on Sept. 14, 2008.
The surveys were conducted in Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. A total of 500 Likely Voters were interviewed in each state using the Rasmussen Reports automated telephone survey methodology.
The margin of sampling error for the full sample in each state poll is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.