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First thoughts: Double digits

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Swing states swinging to Obama
: Most of the national polls -- including our NBC/WSJ survey -- are now showing Obama with a double-digit national lead. And here come a slew of brand-new state polls that also suggest Obama is in command of this presidential contest. The University of Wisconsin's Big Ten Battleground polls have Obama up 10 points in Indiana (51%-41%), 13 points in Iowa (52%-39%), 22 in Michigan (58%-36%), 19 in Minnesota (57%-38%), 12 in Ohio (53%-41%), 11 in Pennsylvania (52%-41%), 13 in Wisconsin (53%-40%), and nearly 30 in Obama's home state of Illinois (61%-32%). Meanwhile, there are new Quinnipiac surveys that show Obama up five points in Florida (49%-44%), 14 in Ohio (52%-38%), and 13 in Pennsylvania (53%-40%). And finally, new CNN/Time surveys find Obama ahead by five points among likely voters in Nevada (51%-46%), four points in North Carolina (51%-47%), four in Ohio (50%-46%), and 10 points in Virginia (54%-44%). The lone state survey that shows McCain ahead: CNN/Time's West Virginia poll, where McCain's nine (53%-44%).

Video: NBC Deputy Political Director Mark Murray offers his first read on the Midwest battleground polls showing huge leads for Democrat Barack Obama.

*** McCain vs. Bush: Be sure not to miss McCain's exclusive interview with the Washington Times, in which the Arizona senator lashes out at President Bush. "Sen. John McCain on Wednesday blasted President Bush for building a mountain of debt for future generations, failing to pay for expanding Medicare and abusing executive powers, leveling his strongest criticism to date of an administration whose unpopularity may be dragging the Republican Party to the brink of a massive electoral defeat. 'We just let things get completely out of hand,' he said of his own party's rule in the past eight years." A very senior GOP strategist emails Politico's Mike Allen in response: "Lashing out at past Republican congresses instead of Pelosi and Reid, and echoing your opponent's attacks on you instead of attacking your opponent, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, and when your senior campaign staff are blaming each other for the loss in The New York Times [Magazine] 10 days before the election, you're not doing much to energize your supporters." Oh snap.

*** So when will we see those medical records? In Brian Williams' interview with the GOP ticket yesterday, Palin announced that she would agree to release her medical records. "If that will allow some curiosity seekers, perhaps, to have one more thing that they either check the box off that they can find something to criticize or to rest them assured over. I'm healthy, happy, I've had five kids. That's going to be in the medical records -- never seriously ill or hurt. You'll see that in the medical records."

*** The dangers of parachuting in: Spending part of the day with the McCain-Palin campaign for yesterday's interview was both an enviable and unenviable task. It's always tricky to over-read exhaustion. The campaign pushed back hard on an initial impression one of us said on MSNBC -- that there was a lack of chemistry between McCain and Palin during the interview -- and cautioned us not to read too much into the campaign soup that's exhaustion, mixed with a couple of tough news days for the ticket, some bad poll numbers, a healthy skepticism of the press, a pretty tough New York Times Magazine piece, and the fact that the two candidates don't spend every day together. It was the same dynamic as you might see with Obama and Biden, except they have the luxury of having the motivation of positive news on their side, which can loosen folks up. Bottom line: The McCain campaign appears a bit tight (which is understandable given where we are in the campaign). But there is a bunker mentality that folks like us, when we parachute in, can miss. It's a good lesson for all of us: Always be cautious from over-analyzing a situation; it can be dangerous punditry.

*** One other point: This is not an easy time for the trailing campaign, as more and more outsiders begin pointing fingers and assigning blame. It's human nature to look over your shoulder and wonder what's coming next. The McCain campaign team seems to be a more cohesive bunch than Kerry's, Gore's or Dole's, so the backbiting might be held to a minimum. But it doesn't make it any easier to read these pre-bituaries.

*** When politics and baseball collide: GOP strategist Craig Shirley emails First Read this thought: "If you are looking to complete the circle between 1980 and 2008, consider this: The last time the Phillies were in the World Series was … 1980, when they beat the Royals in five. Reagan himself defied history because the guideline for the 20th century was when an American League team won the series, the GOP won the presidency, and when the National League team won the Series, a Democrat won the White House." *** UPDATE *** Shirley meant to say the last time the Phillies were in the World Series AND won.

*** Fun fact of the day: The end of Yale's reign, courtesy of NBC's Robert Windrem and Garrett Haake: This will be the first time in 40 years that Yale will not have one of its former students on the ballot as president or vice president. Not since Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew battled Hubert H. Humphrey and Edmund Muskie in 1968 has Yale been shut out. Though Yale has had the last three presidents (and five overall), Harvard (where Obama went to law school) boasts the most presidents -- seven. And the only president to boast of degrees from both... George W. Bush. As for John McCain, per NBC's Abby Livingston, he would be only the second Naval Academy graduate to rise to commander in chief. The other was Jimmy Carter.

*** On the trail: McCain embarks on a "Joe the Plumber" bus tour across Florida. Obama holds a rally in Indianapolis before heading to Hawaii to visit his seriously ill grandmother. Biden is in North Carolina, hitting rallies in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Raleigh. And Palin holds rallies in Troy, OH and Beaver, OH.
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 12 days
Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 77 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 89 days
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