Friday, October 17, 2008

Has Obama Peaked Too Soon? Or Is That Poll Static?


Only minor changes to the map. No states shift. Here is the battleground rundown:
North Carolina -- no change -- massive early African-American turnout a promising sign for Obama
West Virginia -- no change -- we've seen a couple of polls now, I guess it really is close, but this one sure is hard to believe

Ohio -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Nevada -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Indiana -- no change -- it still seems unlikely Obama can win this one
Missouri -- no change -- Obama holds on to a small lead
Florida -- promoted from substantial to serious -- Mccain appears to be closing a little bit here


None this time

Virginia -- drops from substantial to Fringe -- is this one too far gone for Mccain? Is there any path for him to win without it?
Georgia -- no change -- another state with massive early voting turnout and almost 40% of it African-American -- still a longshot for Obama, but it makes you wonder
Colorado -- no change -- Democratic convention in Denver looking like one of the best moves of the year
North Dakota -- added as battleground -- two close polls in a row, could this one be back in play?

Tracking Poll Redo

I have received a flood of feedback that the IBD/TIPP poll was the most accurate tracking poll in 2004 and should be included in any poll average. Well, the poll just kicked off 5 days ago, so including it makes the history a little dicey, but I decided to include it anyway, in the interest of completeness. Since I'd messed up the history with different polls being included anyway, I went back and plugged the Zogby poll in as well, restating the previous data to include these polls. The net result is very little change to the historical data, but wanted to be transparent about the methodology. Gallup is now weighted 25%, Rasmussen 33%, Hotline & Battleground 9% each, Zogby 13% and IBD/TIPP 11%.

Has Obama Peaked?

In one way, the post-debate didn't go as I anticipated. I expected John Mccain to be declared the winner -- and that didn't happen. I was told by others that while I listened to the entire debate, because I typing notes throughout, I missed a lot of the body language that apparently made Mccain appear smarmy and combative. The post-debate polls all had Obama as the wide winner. 4 for 4 for Obama-Biden.

But did Mccain land some meaningful blows that he can build on? Maybe....the tracking poll results from yesterday (which had almost no post-debate reaction) to today (which had 1 out of 3 days of post-debate reaction in most cases) shows almost no change in lead from Obama +5.2% to Obama +5.5%.

On the other hand, looking at the last week, the race does appear to be tightening just a hair. We are out of the 6-7% range and into the 5-6% range. Not enough for Mccain yet, but with a sample this large and this many days of data, I believe it is a real change.

I expect the end result of this race to be no more than 3%, so don't be surprised if the polls close to that range eventually. Whether Mccain can do more than that I think depends on a game-changer.

What Would a Game-Change Look Like?
I brainstormed possible game-changing events. Here are my thoughts of things that could happen:
#1 A terrorist attack or credible threat
This would refocus the country off the economy and on to national security, which could significantly alter things in Mccain's favor. Anyone think that there is a least an outside chance of a "wag the dog" moment?
#2 A massive stock market recovery
I doubt this will happen and I'm not sure it will matter enough if it does. Most people aren't going to stop thinking about the economy even if their 401K recovers a little.
#3 A major scandal
Obama has an expunged drug dealing charge that gets discovered. Mccain had a child in an affair. Something like that. I doubt this one will happen because these two candidates have been so heavily vetted for so long, but you never know.
#4 ?????
Mccain can't really control 1-3, so he has to try to come up with a 4th. I just can't think of what it is.

Obama is running clock and Mccain is still behind. People are already voting in droves. Mccain needs movement quickly.

Obama is in Virginia today. He hits Missouri tomorrow.
Biden is in New Mexico and Nevada.
Mccain is in Florida.
Palin is in Ohio and Indiana.

Maybe Mccain has finally given up on Pennsylvania -- he should -- I can't see a scenario where he would win there.

If I were Obama, I would camp out in Virginia and Colorado. Yes, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, etc. would all be nice to have. But if he wins Virginia and Colorado, he wins the election. Period.

If I were Mccain, I'm not sure what the right strategy is. He needs ALL the states I just mentioned. Certainly, I'd give up on Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New Hampshire, etc. But how to split his time between the 8 states that he needs that he is either behind in or leads by less than a point, I don't know.

All this, and Obama has more money.