Sunday, October 12, 2008

Obama Tries to Run the Clock, Mccain Walks a Tightrope

No State Changes, Obama leads Mccain 338-200
Most Battleground Shifts in Obama's Favor
Days Until the Election: 23

Really not much going on in the electoral map and most of what is happening is marginally in Obama's favor.

Key Battlegrounds
Missouri -- no change -- remains narrowly in Mccain's column
North Carolina -- no change -- this site has never called this one for Obama and continues not to do so, although this one remains extremely close

Serious Battlegrounds
Virginia -- demoted from key to serious -- Obama opens up a little breathing room here

West Virginia -- promoted from fringe to serious -- this is still all on the basis of one poll, and I would like to see more before I believe the outcome is seriously in doubt, but Mccain is obviously concerned enough to dispatch Sarah Palin here

Substantial Battlegrounds

Florida -- demoted from serious to substantial -- Obama is clearly ahead, but it is close

Ohio -- promoted from somewhat to substantial -- Mccain makes some small inroads here

Somewhat Battleground

Colorado -- no change

Fringe Battleground

Nevada -- demoted from somewhat to fringe

Note: Indiana and New Hampshire are both dropped at battlegrounds, I have retained both as potential battlegrounds for now, although Mccain needs some quick progress in New Hampshire to keep it in play.

Potential Battlegrounds
New Hampshire

The Run Out the Clock Strategy vs. The High-Wire Act
For the first time in the general election campaign, Barack Obama appears to be running clock. He is not on the Sunday talk circuit, he is not coming out with bold new ideas. He IS campaigning aggressively in key battleground states and spending boatloads of cash on ads (one particularly interesting ad buy discussed later.)

Meanwhile, John Mccain is trying to walk a tightrope at high altitudes. He clearly wants to run or at the very least appear to run a noble campaign and control the increasingly ugly and racist statements coming out of supporters. To be fair to Mccain, he can't control what supporters he has never met say and he has performed well trying to diffuse the raw emotion, but part of it is a by-product of the attacks his campaign has been putting forward. The Bill Ayers story has received a lot of press, but has yet to cut into Obama's lead in any real way, which I have to admit surprises me a little. Part of the issue for Mccain, is that Ayers crimes are so old and either forgotten or never experienced by most voters. And the Ayers of today doesn't look like the stereotype of a terrorist today.

Mccain is focusing resources on a long-shot bid at Pennsylvania. Clearly he doesn't believe he can run the board in the current list of battleground states and would rather take a big gamble trying to win a big electoral prize. He has a big gap to close and will still need some of the other battlegrounds (especially Florida and Ohio) to have a shot.

Mccain needs a game-changer and he hasn't found it yet. The clock is ticking.

The October 29th Ad Buy

Barack Obama is buying a half hour of network primetime on every major network, just before the eleciton. This is a huge, bold move and one that I could see paying substantial dividends. Obama will have a half hour unfiltered that most people will watch, either because it is pre-empting their favorite show or because they are naturally curious about what he is going to say. He will have a mini convention in essence and it can do nothing but help.

He will be able to respond to any Mccain-attempted October surprises and try to close the deal on his message.

Of course, such a strategy is insanely expensive, but Obama has a ton of money that Mccain can't possibly counter.

Last Debate Must-Dos
By most measures, the Dems are 3-0 in debates so far this year. The first debate, I believe was extremely close, although Obama evidentally won narrowly. The VP debate was clearly won by Biden, although Palin did herself proud by exceeding expectations, whereas people expected a strong performance by Biden. The second presidential debate was probably the most decisive of the three so far, with Obama clearly out-classing Mccain.

Mccain MUST win debate #3 decisively. He must look cool, calm and bi-partisan, while at the same time making Obama appear dangerous, risky and unqualified. Not an easy dual task.

Obama simply needs a draw or better to maintain the status quo.

This is the last big stage Mccain has to make his point. Not that there aren't still October surprises that could change things, but this is Mccain's best shot at closing the gap.
On the Bradley Effect
Mccain's other best shot, like it or not, is that white voters who say they will vote for Obama get in the booth and vote for Mccain.

An historical study of races where African-Americans candidates ran against white candidates show a pattern in the 1980s of the African-American candidate receiving 5 to 10% less in the national vote than the pre-election polls showed.

Our most recent history, however, indicates this effect may have evaporated. Harold Ford Jr's failed senate run in Tennessee was almost exactly in line with both pre-election polls and exit polls. Obama's running in the primaries was very close to his running in the polls in most states (New Hampshire was an exception, but that was a different circumstance as NH followed so closely with Iowa and the race was very fluid.)

I can't conceive that someone would genuinely fear being branded a racist for supporting Mccain. Certainly no one I've spoken to believes that. And I think even if people were to lie to their friends, why would they lie to a pollster that doesn't even know them?

I believe that all the reasons that people think the polls are wrong: The Bradley Effect, undersampling of 18-25s because of lack of landlines, new voter registration, etc. will probably all wash and the polls will be very close to right.

But we'll keep a close eye on the 6% or less states, because I could well be wrong.

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