Polls Show Race Tightening in Florida
more in Politics & Campaign »ORLANDO -- Amid an increasingly dark electoral map, John McCain has found a bright spot in Florida, where polls show him catching up to Barack Obama.
The Republican presidential candidate, lagging in most of the remaining battleground states, remains competitive here, home to 27 electoral votes. But Sen. McCain trails Sen. Obama by five points in Florida, according to a survey taken over the weekend by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute -- up from an eight-point lag earlier this month.
An average of recent polls by the nonpartisan Real Clear Politics has Sen. Obama up only one point, making it a statistical dead heat.
Quinnipiac polls released in two other battleground states -- Pennsylvania and Ohio -- showed the Republican still behind by double-digit margins. In Ohio, the poll showed Sen. Obama leading 52% to 38%, compared with a 50% to 42% race at the beginning of the month.
"We're doing well in Florida, I'm happy with the polling numbers," Sen. McCain said Thursday afternoon, standing outside of Mi Viejo San Juan restaurant here.
To shore up support in the remaining week and a half until Election Day, Sen. McCain took a 200-mile bus tour through the Sunshine State Thursday. He traveled nearly the entire length of I-4 corridor, a particularly contentious part of the state that is home to many independents and undecided voters.
Enthusiastic crowds flocked to see him at each stop, where he was flanked by two popular Republicans, Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez. The rally in Ormond Beach drew an estimated 4,000 people, according to the local police chief. Attendees at the lumber yard of All Star Building Materials held homemade signs with messages such as, "You're our hero."
McCain also made a stop at Parksdale Farms in Plant City, in the conservative eastern part of Hillsborough County, a key spot along the I-4 corridor. President Bush won the county in 2000 and 2004, as he carried the state each time. But Sen. Obama is competitive this cycle. The diverse crowd clamored to get a glimpse of the candidate Thursday. One man in a pink golf shirt yelled, "We Democrats support you!"
The I-4 corridor, which bisects the more Democratic southern half of the state and conservative north, is considered the swing portion of this swing state, home to a mix of voters and many independents.
"This is a very important piece of political real estate," said Susan MacManus, an expert on Florida politics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
She said that nearly 43% of all Florida voters live in the Tampa or Orlando media markets.
"It has a good representative of urban, rural and suburban voters and a higher than average percent of independent voters," she said, noting that the last place Al Gore went, at 2 a.m. on Election Day 2000, was Tampa.snip