The race appears to be tightening

by JS O’Brien

Today’s polls, so far, show McCain tangibly making up ground nationally.  While methodology has given us very wide spreads on polls to date, the average has been around five to eight points in Obama’s favor for the past two-to-three weeks.  Real Clear Politics, which gathers polls and smooths them over time, has dropped Obama’s lead from just over 7 points yesterday to 6.8 points, today.  There are some oddities in the new poll numbers, however (all of which reflect opinion prior to last night’s debate).  Zogby and GWU/Battleground, both of which have tended to lean towards McCain, are actually showing increases in Obama’s lead to six points.  Gallup, which has generally been leaning towards Obama, has closed from a high of 11 points a few days ago to six points today, or only two if you accept their “traditional” likely voter model.  Rasmussen, on the other hand, which has been very steady, has reduced Obama’s lead to four points, 50% to 46%.

Overall, given Rasmussen’s good past prediction record and softening from Gallup, it seems likely that McCain has made up some ground, and that’s probably the result of the fact that 100% of his ads have gone negative and media coverage of his and Palin’s campaign speeches has also emphasized the GOP campaign’s attacks on Obama.

So far today, few polling organizations have reported state races, though Muhlenberg is reporting a 53% to 37% Obama lead in Pennsylvania, a number that isn’t out of line with earlier polls that have shown Obama breaking away in that state.  State polls tend to lag national tracking polls by a day or two, but it would appear that Pennsylvania is almost certainly going to go for Obama.  Continued strength in swing states would probably indicate that Obama is doing well where he is advertising, but that McCain’s national publicity on Bill Ayers is, perhaps, reddening states that are already red and tightening races in blue states where Obama feels safe and is not advertising.

This remains to be tested.  If the next few days bring polling results showing that Obama’s support in battleground states is softening, then McCain may well mount a comeback.  If Obama’s resource advantage continues to make inroads, or even maintain ground already won, in battleground states, then McCain is likely to lose badly.

The debate

Polls are saying that John McCain “lost” last night’s debate.  A CBS poll of uncommitted voters gave Obama the win, 53% to 22%.  A CNN snap poll with demographics roughly mirroring the proportions of of registered Democrats to Republicans (but undercounting independents), gave the win to Obama 58% to 31%.  In addition, both polls indicated that slighly more voters seeing the debate would tend to vote for Obama than McCain.

What does this mean?  Hard to say.  There’s a fair amount of argument over whether debate performance actually makes a significant difference in voter behavior.  Some pundits are saying that McCain’s invocation of Joe the Plumber may give him a tax club to beat Obama over the head with, but it appears that Joe’s time in the sun may end fairly soon, since he may have overstated his potential income and his prospects.  Others are saying that McCain’s grimaces, eye-rolling, and even blinking on the split screen may have hurt his chances.

Regardless, there are 19 days to go until the election, and things are still quite … interesting.

4 replies »

  1. I’d guess that Obama’s hit his plateau of support and he’ll hang on a 6-7 point edge ’til November.

    But now that his ground game is really rolling in the swing states, he’ll continue to slowly add to his electoral edge.

  2. Djerrid:

    Yeah, that’s a pretty good guess, I think. But there is another possibility. In 1980, Jimmy Carter had a polling advantage over Ronald Reagan until their one-and-only debate. Following that debate, Reagan took over and won easily. Some of the dynamics, this year, are the same. The Carter administration was widely considered to be a failed one because of soaring gas prices, high inflation, and the Iran hostage crisis. People generally seemed to want to vote against Carter, but weren’t sure about Reagan. Reagan was able to convince them, by his demeanor, that he wasn’t all that dangerous, and people quickly swung his way.

    This year, we have many voters (I suspect) who want to punish the Republicans, but aren’t quite sure about Obama. If they become sure, we could see a tidal wave in his direction.

  3. Well, my favorite choice just won Project Runway, so I’m feeling good about having supported Obama from the git-go.

    I spoke with a friend of mine today, who lives in Iowa. He’s one of the Republican-voting blue collar workin’ joes, the kind that Obama was referring to with his “cling to guns” comment.

    My friend voted for Bush in 2000 without being able to articulate why. He called me today with a work question, then asked me if I’d seen the debate. He spoke enthusiastically about Obama, and told me he’d never voted for a Democrat before but was gonna pull the lever for Obama. As importantly, he said that his friends and neighbors also were leaning to Obama. Now, Iowa looks in the bag for Obama, but if my friend is enthused for Obama, I’m sure other workin’ joes are leaning to the Dems also. It may get tight, but I think Obama will win a comfortable victory.

  4. How seriously is the Obama Campaign considering voting machine tampering?
    That seems to be the only strategy the GOP has left.