by JS O’Brien
Men who commanded other men in the age of close-order battle often wrote of the tell-tale signs of a rout. It seems that, in watching the battle from afar, one could often see a line of men waver as if wind were blowing through wheat, and when that happened, absent a rally or reinforcement, it was usually just a short while before those men would break and run. A battlefield commander would have to make a determination when he saw the waver: Should he send reserves to that part of the battlefield, reinforcing the weakness and hoping for a victory on another part of the field, or should he withdraw, using the reserves to cover the retreat in good order, keeping as much of his army intact as possible to fight another day?
Today’s polls may very well demonstrate that the GOP will have to make a decision soon, perhaps as soon as today or tomorrow, to either reinforce the McCain campaign with more dollars, or use those dollars to save as many down-ticket Republicans as possible. It’s a high-stakes game. Abandon McCain and you abandon the White House for at least four years. Fail to abandon him until it’s too late, and you lose not only the White House, but extra seats in the Senate and House, as well.
So far today, the polling numbers are grim reading for McCain’s campaign:
- Zogby has Obama at +12 points; 52-40
- Research 2000 has Obama up 51-41
- The stable Rasmussen poll has expanded to a seven-point Obama lead; 52-45
- Gallup has contracted a bit to a six-point Obama lead; 51-45
- Hotline/Diageo is at a five-point Obama lead; 48-43
- GWU/Battleground has moved from a one-point Obama lead two days ago to a four-point lead, 49-45, today, representing Obama’s strength at the end of its three-day polling cycle
Perhaps worse for McCain are some stunning results from Ohio, where McCain simply must win. Quinnipac gives Obama an astounding, 14-point, 52-38 Ohio lead and the University of Wisconsin puts the Obama lead there at 12 points, 53-41. The University of Wisconsin also shows Obama with a 10-point lead in Indiana, another state McCain must have, 51-41.
At first glance, the results on Ohio and Indiana look ridiculously high, as do the Zogby and Research 2000 results nationally. But the Ohio numbers came from separate polls, so if one is an outlier, so is the other. The national numbers from Zogby are especially convincing, not because Zogby’s numbers have been all that accurate in the past, but because his sampling includes more registered Republicans than most. That makes his numbers especially bad news for the GOP. The fact that the Rasmussen poll has moved as much as it has is also telling. Rasmussen has been the most stable of polls with its large sampling and three-day average.
There are other signs that the McCain campaign is beginning to crack:
On Tuesday, the campaign reduced its advertising in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. Of those, Colorado is the most telling, because one of McCain’s two reasonable paths to victory went through Colorado. If he has conceded Colorado (as it appears he mostly has), then his one remaining path to victory goes through Pennsylvania with its 21 electoral votes, and he is roughly ten points behind there.
Early voting trends in most states appear to favor the Democrats, and young voters, who heavily favor Obama, are turning out in record numbers so far, and anecdotal evidence about the strength of campaign ground games suggests that Obama is well ahead of McCain in turning out the vote on Election Day.
Polls usually ask the question, “If you had to vote today?” to measure voter lean. Naturally, that lean can be very soft many months out from Election Day, but as November 4 looms nearer, decisions become firmer and voters less subject to persuasion. It’s not just that McCain is running out of time, but that he’s trying to convince those who are less easily swayed than they were even a month ago to change their votes.
The signs of McCain’s imminent defeat are there for anyone to see. Surely, even those who control the Republican National Committee’s funds must see them. The GOP is running out of time and news cycles to cut its losses. I predict the Republicans will abandon McCain and devote their funds to Senate and House races soon to save what can be saved in what is looking more and more like an impending Obama landslide.