BOOSTED by the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, Republican John McCain has experienced a surge of support among women in heavily Democratic New York state - where he has closed the gap with Barack Obama, new private polls show.
The internal Republican and Democratic polls, details of which were provided to The Post, have stunned members of both parties - and produced deep worries among Democrats.
POLL: McCain Picks Up 5 Points in NY
One great concern for Democrats is that the data show a continuous movement toward the McCain-Palin ticket by women, a majority of whom traditionally favor Democrats.
The movement by women toward McCain is being credited to Democratic attacks on Alaska Gov. Palin, last week's "lipstick on a pig" crack by Obama and to the continuing unhappiness by female Democrats over Obama's failure to pick Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate.
"If it winds up being tight in New York, that means McCain wins the election nationally," said a prominent Democrat familiar with some of the polling data.
A prominent Republican familiar with the results said, "It really is something, because we just assumed Obama would carry such a heavily Democratic state like New York with no difficulty."
The private polls have consistently shown the Obama-Biden ticket still leading but with less than 50 percent of the vote in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 2.3 million voters.
The polls found McCain closing the gap with Obama during the past 10 days - in the wake of Palin's sensational GOP convention speech, Obama's crack that "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," and amid a swirling controversy over Palin's credentials to be vice president.
The polling data track the findings of a little-noticed Marist College poll of likely New Jersey voters late last week that found Obama barely ahead of McCain, 48 percent to 45 percent. New Jersey generally votes Democratic, though its enrollment is not as heavily Democratic as New York state's.
The findings of the private polls will be tested by a series of public polls to be released over the next two weeks - starting with a Siena College survey of likely voters due out today.
A Siena poll in August had Obama leading McCain 47 percent to 39 percent. McCain is expected to make a significant move over the 40 percent mark when the new numbers are released today.
The private polling also points to a closer battle for control of the state Senate. Because of the way many Senate district lines have been drawn, Republicans, fighting to hold their narrow majority, are expected to benefit most from a close New York presidential race, insiders agree.
McCain's surge in New York polling comes at a time when his national operatives have rebuffed requests from New York campaign chairman Ed Cox, a Manhattan lawyer and son-in-law to former President Richard Nixon, to spend some serious campaign money in the state.
"Ed was told, 'You have no money for a campaign here, so why should we spend any?' " a nationally known Republican operative told The Post.
"The McCain people think of Ed as a nice guy, but there's no money for an organization in New York, so they ask, 'Why go in?' " the GOP operative continued.
The Republican operative, meanwhile, sounded downright gleeful about the political fallout from US Rep. Charles Rangel's failure to pay income taxes from the rental of his luxurious villa in the Dominican Republic.
"Rangel has turned into a big liability for the Democrats, and his troubles are playing into the 'anti- politician' mood around the country," he said.
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