John McCain’s campaign has had the benefit of running as the underdog during the past few months, with most pundits characterizing the 2008 presidential race as “Barack Obama’s to lose.�? Even strategist Dick Morris, hardly a friend to Democrats these days, has stated as late as yesterday that the race is “Obama vs. Obama.�?

But McCain has hardly been a passive observer to the proceedings thus far. His recent campaign advertising (lampooning Obama’s cult of celebrity) has generated not simply controversy (and the free advertising that accompanies it in cable news) but also a decided bump in the polls.

Nationally, in Gallup’s tracking poll, McCain has closed Obama’s 9-point advantage from a week ago into just a 3-point margin as of Monday.

State polls of likely voters that have been released during the past few days reveal the Republican Senator has gained significantly on Obama in battleground states, traditionally Republican states, as well as traditionally Democratic states. (Bear in mind comparisons are largely being drawn here between different pollsters; the takeaway point is the universal trend, not the margin per se in any particular state).

Battleground

Florida: McCain +6 (McCain up 8 points in 1 week)
Missouri: McCain +5 (McCain up 10 points in 3 weeks)

Red
Alabama: McCain + 20 (McCain up 7 points in 1 month)
Arizona: McCain + 19 (McCain up 10 points in 1 month)
Oklahoma: McCain + 32 (McCain up 18 points in 1 month)

Blue
Massachusetts: Obama +9 (McCain up 11 points in 1 month)
Connecticut: Obama + 13 (McCain up 9 points in 1 month)
New York: Obama +18 (McCain up 13 points in 1 month)

With the political environment ripe for an Obama victory, and with Democrats poised to make big gains in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate this November, the Democratic Party faithful are no doubt scratching their heads wondering what Obama needs to do to halt McCain’s latest surge.