Quinnipiac poll: Obama has razor-thin lead in N.J.; McCain trails by just 3 points

The contest between Barack Obama and John McCain in New Jersey is too close to call, with a new Quinnipiac University poll showing the battle for the state's fifteen electoral votes at 48%-45% among likely voters. Obama led McCain by ten percentage points, 51%-41% in an August Quinnipiac poll.

This is the fourth independent poll within the last week to show New Jersey as an emerging battleground state in the presidential campaign. A Monmouth University/New Jersey poll released this morning shows Obama leading by 8 points, and a Marist College poll released Friday night had identical numbers to Quinnipiac, 48%-45%. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll from last week had Obama up by six points.

“The McCain-Palin ticket has narrowed the gap dramatically, but it will take more than this post convention bounce for the Republicans to win in true blue New Jersey. The upcoming debates probably will provide a clue to whether Sen. McCain can build on his current momentum, or whether the tide will turn back to the Democrats,” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

McCain's surge has come primarily from white voters, the poll says. White voters back McCain 56%-36% — up from 50%-42% in August, while Black voters, by a 93%-7% margin, are voting for Obama — up from 94%-1%. McCain leads among men (53%-40%), while Obama is ahead 54%-38% among women. But white women back McCain 50%-42% (46%-44% in August). Among independents, the lead has shifted from Obama (45%-42%0 to McCain (47%-43%).

In New Jersey, Obama has a 56%-34% favorable rating, while McCain is at 56%-35%. GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is at 42%-32%, while Joe Biden, the Democratic VP candidate, is at 48%-25%. Nearly six out of ten New Jersey voters (58%) say McCain's choice of Palin was a good one, while 59% say Obama made a good pick in Biden.

“In addition to the Palin bounce, Republicans seem to be scoring points with their attacks on the Obama tax plan,” Richards said.

The economy is the most important issue for New Jersey voters, followed by Iraq (13%), terrorism(10%), health care (9%), and energy policy (8%). New Jerseyans say Obama has a better understanding of the economy (48%-43%), but that McCain better understands foreign policy (64%-27%).

By a 32%-28% margin, N.J. voters say they will be better off if Obama is elected. But more than half (54%) say their taxes will go up if Obama is elected, compared to 34 percent who expect a tax hike in a McCain administration. More than four out of ten voters (44%) believe McCain’s claim that Obama will raise taxes on most American families, while 40% say Obama’s claim that he will cut taxes for 95 percent of working families.

"This is a very strong poll for Senator McCain and Governor Palin. But polls go up and down and we are staying focused on our grass roots door to door campaign," said State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton), McCain's New Jersey campaign chairman. "This poll shows two things. First, New Jerseyans are clearly seeing that Senator McCain and Governor Palin are the nations leading reformers at a time that Washington deperately needs reform. And second, that our grass roots door to door campaign, is clearly connecting with New Jersey voters."

Baroni predicts "a close election night in New Jersey."

"The recent series of polls, all showing Barack Obama leading, nonetheless reminds New Jersey Democrats we have much work to do to be sucessful in November," said Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the Democratic State Chairman. "With so much at stake — the economy, the war, healthcare for the uninsured — Democrats will deliver the state for Barack Obama with room to spare."

Andrew Poag, the Communications Director of Obama's New Jersey campaign, agrees.

“As our unprecedented grassroots voter outreach program indicates, the enthusiasm for Barack Obama here in New Jersey is overwhelming. One reason so many New Jerseyans are volunteering in such great numbers is that they know another four years of the failed George W. Bush policies that John McCain is proposing won’t fix this economy and won’t bring us the change we need," said Poag.

From September 10 – 14, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,187 New Jersey likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percent.

"New Jersey hasn’t heard the last of Brian Goldberg. Or maybe New Jersey will be hearing about him for the first time."
—NJ Media Advance for NJ.com's "The Auditor," on the Essex Republican's new PAC