Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poll Watch update

All right, it's been a while, and I see Ed Morrissey fisking the latest ABC/WaPo poll, so let's do the math on this here election, why don't we?

OK, as I said Monday at the American Spectator, the recent poll-driven panic among Republicans makes no more sense than the earlier poll-driven panic among Democrats. Currently, we're looking at either a tie or a slight edge for Obama -- and a definite trend toward Obama since Sept. 9 -- but it's generally close enough to say that it's still up for grabs.

Nobody at this point can predict the result on Nov. 4, and events between now and then will ultimately determine the outcome. Friday's debate will likely have a huge impact one way or the other. So let's look at the numbers with that in mind.

NATIONAL POLLS: The two-week trend toward Obama in national polling is clear. If you look at the RCP listing, Obama led every poll from May until late July, when a few polls started to show McCain pulling the occasional narrow lead. Then, after Sarah Palin was announced and the GOP held its convention, there was a definite shift: McCain led nearly every poll taken Sept. 5-11.

Then the momentum shifted back to Obama. The trend is clearest in looking at the Gallup daily tracking poll: In the results reported Sept. 4, it was Obama +7, but by Sept. 9, it was McCain +5, a lead he held for three consecutive days -- thus causing the Democratic panic. Then the trend shifted the other direction and, as of yesterday's report, Gallup had Obama +3.

Gallup and some other polls survey registered voters, where Democrats usually overperform, rather than likely voters, where Republicans have the advantage. Yet Rasmussen, which samples likely voters, also shows Obama ahead.

It would be folly for Republicans to scoff at polls, or to try to cherrypick the results, simply because they don't like the current trend. It is a reasonable conclusion that Obama is definitely ahead in terms of the nationwide popular vote at this point. (Let's ignore the so-called "Bradley effect," since that's never been tested at this level.)

BATTLEGROUND STATES: Of course, presidential elections aren't a national plebescite, but are decided by the Electoral College, so let's look at the state-by-state poll results in the battlegrounds.

The good news for Republicans is that Team Obama's "map-changer" plans (the so-called "50-state strategy") appears to have been a flop. The Democrat has already pulled out of North Dakota and may be pulling out of Georgia as well. Montana remains safely GOP, and polls show Maverick with a steady, if not large, lead in Missouri.

OK, marking those off the map, let's run down the recent results in the real swing states:

  • INDIANA -- Looked pretty safe for McCain throughout the summer, but one recent poll showed Obama +3, and it might be close.
  • PENNSYLVANIA -- A bitter blue state won by Hillary where McCain has managed to keep it close. If the GOP can flip Pennsylvania's 21 EVs, that might be the end for Obama.
  • MICHIGAN -- Another bitter blue state, where an unpopular Democratic governor and the scandal of Detroit's ex-mayor have hurt Obama. Probably still safe for the Democrats, but Obama can't take it for granted.
  • NORTH CAROLINA -- Polls show this state surprisingly close, but I just don't see any Democrat winning in Helms Country. If McCain loses North Carolina, the situation is simply hopeless for Republicans. My money says a double-digit win for McCain Nov. 4.
  • IOWA -- The one sure red-to-blue conversion for Obama, who's capitalized on his 18-month caucus organizing effort.
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Very close here. The state went for Kerry by a 7,000-vote margin in 2004, but Obama's not from Massachusetts. Hillary won this primary and, barring a Maverick meltdown (which can't really be ruled out), New Hampshire should return to Republican red in November.
  • FLORIDA -- Obama's made a bit of a push lately, but I don't think it will be enough. McCain wins the geezer vote, and the geezer vote's the decisive factor in God's Waiting Room.
  • OHIO -- McCain's continued strong performance in the Buckeye State is one of the real bright spots for Republicans so far. It looks close, and some polls show Obama leading, but Ohio is a state full of small towns, and the urban vote in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus doesn't offset the small-town Ohio love for Sarah Palin, which I've seen first-hand. If I were to pick one state to bet where the GOP would outperform its 2004 result, Ohio would be it. (Oh, yeah: Hillary won the primary here.)
  • MINNESOTA -- A blue state that Republicans really, really want to turn red. Remember, Minnesota once sent Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale to national leadership in the Democratic Party. Those old loyalties die hard, and the embarrassment of the Bush administration hasn't helped the GOP here. But Al Franken's Senate campaign may be enough of a drag on the Democrats to flip this one red.
  • WISCONSIN -- OK, if Obama's "competitive" in North Carolina, then McCain's "competitive" in Wisconsin. I don't believe it. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but unless Obama completely melts down, Wisconsin stays blue on Nov. 4.
  • NEW MEXICO -- At this point, looks hopeless for McCain or any Republican in the near future. Bill Richardson has turned this state into a Democratic bastion. Fortunately, the bastion has only 5 EVs.
  • NEVADA -- This one looked bad before the Palin pick, but at this point, it appears that the GOP will keep this one.
  • COLORADO -- Big trouble for Team Maverick here. When I was in Denver for the convention, I talked to a liberal lady who'd moved to Colorado from Marin County, Calif. Colorado is being overrun by liberals fleeing the naturally disastrous results of liberal policies in California, but they haven't learned anything by the experience.
  • VIRGINIA -- This is the really toughie for '08. As I've said, Virginia is the new Ohio. The polls are very mixed, and no one can say for sure what the trend is. But Obama can count on the Fairfax/Loudon/Arlington yuppie vote, and that's going to make it a real fight here.
At this point, there is no sign of an Electoral College landslide either way, but Friday's debate may be enough to tip the momentum conclusively in one direction or the other. If Obama "looks presidential," comes across as likeable and commits no major gaffes, expect to see his current poll lead solidify. On the other hand, Obama's way over his head here, he's fared poorly in recent unscripted moments and -- if I had to bet -- I'd bet that you'll see the polls shift toward the Republicans after Friday.

UPDATE: Ace offers his own poll update, and mentions the pro-Obama media's influence. What I think no one is taking into consideration is the backlash potential of Obamamania in the press, which I described seven weeks ago:
The elite MSM geniuses . . . know the outcome already, they've already composed in their minds the "Triumph of Hope" ledes they'll file as soon as the polls close on Nov. 4, and they're getting angry and peevish because John McCain and the GOP won't roll over and play dead. . . .
The MSM geniuses are about to start getting angry at Obama for not living up to their imagined scenarios of how he'd crush those evil Republicans like so many grapes beneath the feet of a Sicilian vintner's daughter.
If Obama starts sliding in the polls, he's going to be like a guy at the steering wheel of a vanload of backseat drivers, with the MSM geniuses endlessly second-guessing his every move, and the likes of Keith Olbermann and David Gregory wondering aloud what the hell is wrong with his campaign. There is nothing more beautiful to behold than the sight of Conventional Wisdom crumbling at its first collision with reality.
Watch for that backlash phenomenon if Obama underperforms in the debates.


  1. Obama is not up that much in Iowa because Obama's campaign has been "working" that hard here. What has happened is, as Chicago and Peoria (Illinois) have been closing their projects, Iowa has been inviting the former 'Democrat plantation' residents with incentives from Illinois, Iowa, and the particular cities in which they have flooded.

    On top of that, and different from other states doing the same thing, our governor has made it a law that, as soon as people get off parole (sometimes or maybe probation too, depending on the terms), they can immediately vote again. They need not reapply for their "civil rights", except where gun ownership is concerned. All other rights are immediately returned.

    Iowa has been turned into a Democrat "Republic". Just so you know.

  2. A reminder that Wisconsin was VERYVERYVERY tight in 2000--IIRC the Dem margin was <10,000 votes (and likely far less than that if only legitimate votes were counted.)

    But your call this year is probably correct.

  3. Two Points: I keep hearing that Obama always over polls. The late Hillary primary victories seem to bear this out... What are your thoughts on that as it relates to the close swing states?

    Re: New Mexico. Bill Richardson didn't make Democrats popular, they always have been. If anything, the King dynasty is more responsible for Democrat fortunes in NM. Richardson has merely parleyed the King legacy and his Clinton roots into success. He was a King protege in the House before he was attached to the Clintons. Richardson has built on what King established, to his credit. New Mexicans have a very favorable view of him, and he has erased a lot of the bad memories from Tony Anaya ("Tony Taxes, Tony Spends" "Doesn't Tony Annoy ya" "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for John Irick").

    Also at play in NM is that the GOP candidates (Wilson and Pearce) over played their local popularity, they reached one level above their grasp. Udall will take the Senate seat. Pearce's House seat (Southern NM) will likely stay GOP but Dems have made inroads, especially in the southern area around Las Cruses and westward. Wilson's seat, however, is a loss. A sad legacy for Domenici and Joe Skeen.

    (Roswell High '81 - ENMU '86)

  4. I am an Central Ohioan who was a "Republican" poll worker that voted for Badnarik in 2004. (I actually watched as Mary Jo Killjoy (Dem. OH-15) 'cut' straight to the front of a 2.5 hour line in my precinct- along with her 4 person posse.)

    I left at 9:30 that night thinking Kerry would likely take Ohio (Kerry was +4% over Gore 2000 in this precinct).

    This year doesn't feel as close...

    Ohio goes McCain 53-45.