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Polls and Bounces

Prompted by a doomsday scenario post by my good friend Stephen Leigh (sleigh ) I'd like to offer a brief word about the dangers of panic.  I've noticed a lot of my Democratic friends falling into despair the past couple of weeks since Palin-Mania has swept the country. (Remember when the McCain Campaign made fun of Obama for being a "celebrity"?  Next thing you know they'll be claiming that McCain is the candidate of change....  Oh, wait.  They're already doing that....)  The new polls that have come out this week have been a bit scary for us on the Blue Team.  Obama's lead is gone.  McCain is up by a point or two in several national polls (that Gallup poll showing him up 10 among "likely voters" is clearly an outlier and not worth worrying about) and has tipped the electoral map in his favor by 10 or 15 electoral votes.  Yes, things do indeed look bleak.

Except for a few salient points:  First, every poll we're seeing right now reflects McCain's post-convention, post-Palin bounce.  Obama's bounce was fleeting because it was followed so quickly by the announcement of Palin as McCain's VP and then the Republican National Convention.  The McCain campaign deserves praise for their strategic planning.  They minimized the length of Obama's bounce and maximized their own.  Well done.  But that doesn't change the fact that we're still in bounce mode.  There was a new poll in my paper this morning that showed McCain up one point nationally.  Here we are a full week after the RNC ended.  Shouldn't the bounce be over by now?  Maybe.  But the poll was conducted Sept. 5-9:  RIGHT after the RNC ended.  It just took them a few days to compile the results and release, making it seem that McCain's bounce is lasting longer than it actually is.  Remember:  none of the polls we're seeing now tell us anything about the effect of the new Troopergate stories still coming out of Alaska.  None of them reflect the fact that Palin's lies about the Bridge to Nowhere funding were beginning to wear thin during this week's rallies.  None of them tell us anything about the effect of the Palin per diem story reported in the Washington Post and reprinted in many local papers.  None of them take into account her shaky performance last night with Charlie Gibson (Come on, Governor!  Even I know what the Bush Doctrine is!).
 
Second, McCain's bounce has brought him to a virtual tie with Obama.  Maybe he's up slightly.  Obama's bounce, though it lasted only a few days, put him up by six to eight points in most polls and gave him a HUGE electoral advantage.  I used to work for a political consulting firm way back when (mid 1980s) and part of what I did was polling analysis.  Consultants often speak to their clients of polling ceilings and floors -- levels that they're not going to exceed and levels below which they probably won't fall.  I believe that Barack Obama's polling ceiling was revealed in those days after the DNC, when he was reaching 51% and 340 electoral votes.  I believe John McCain's polling ceiling is right now, and it's about 48% and 280 electoral votes.  That's enough for him to win, particularly with Bob Barr and Ralph Nader appearing on most state ballots, but it gives him precious little margin to work with.  All things considered, I'd still rather be in Obama's position than McCain's.  The polls will balance out.

Third, polls do not take into account new voter registration, which has been favoring Democrats overwhelmingly, or the effect of the Obama ground organization, which could produce one of the great Get-Out-The-Vote campaigns in our nation's history, or the fact that most young voters, who favor Obama by huge numbers, tend to have cell phones but no land lines.

Fourth, another truism from my consulting days:  In elections, a week is a long time, two weeks is a lifetime, three weeks is an eternity.  We're still 7+ weeks out.  The dynamics of this race can and will change many times between now and November 4.  We are nowhere near the endgame.

Finally, no one ever said this was going to be easy.  We're trying to elect an African-American man with a strange name President of the United States.  A lot of Americans simply aren't ready for that.  This doesn't mean we can't win; it just means we're going to have to work extra hard TO win.  The Rovian attack machine is in full battle mode already, spreading disgusting lies and innuendo, playing on racial and religious prejudices that many people don't even know they harbor. 

So no, I don't think we ought to be panicking.  But anyone who thought this was going to be a cakewalk was pretty much deluding him- or herself.  

Comments

( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
shsilver
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
All good points. My one concern at this point is that the gloom and doom could become self-fulfilling prophecies.
davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Hence this post....
shsilver
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
And there is also the question of how reliably current polling is with regard to younger voters who only use cell phones.
davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
That was what I was trying to get at with my last point under the paragraph beginning "Third...."

Thanks for the comments, Steven.
shsilver
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
Missed that.
(Deleted comment)
davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Alis. I think the biggest danger for our side right now is that we'll convince ourselves that this election is going to be a reply of 2000 or 2004, and I just don't think it is.
(Deleted comment)
markwise
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
I think part of the Dem problem is that the Palin pick really took them offguard. They did all their homework, all their research, and planning for either Romney or Pawl... (Minn Governor). Gov. Palin was not even on most pundits radars. Then BAM! McCain threw the uppercut and picked a staunch conservative, big time reformer of government, and exudes charisma like Obama did 2 years ago.

This uppercut has staggered the Democrats and they are just now figuring out a "battle plan" against her. In the meantime, the "little democrats" (not to be deriding but I mean those averge-joe-shmoe-democrat as opposed to the politicos in Washington) were left with trying to fight back against Palin. This resulted in wildfire stories about her and outlandish attacks against her that even Barack Obama couldn't control.

These attacks have left a sour taste in the mouths of middle america; the soccer moms, the church goers, and the blue collar worker. Why? Becasue they identify with Palin. They see her as someone who's just like them. So in effect, Palin is beating Obama at his own game.

That my friends, is why the Palin pick was awsome and will lead to a McCain Presidency.
davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
I agree with much of the analysis if not the conclusion. I do think that the pick caught the Obama campaign off guard, just as it did the media (including pundits on the right like Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan), the Democratic party leadership, and much of the Republican Party. The Obama folks seem to be recovering their footing now, but it's taken them too long. Thanks for the comment, Mark.
sleigh
Sep. 12th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
There's an ABC poll from 9/8 that claimed that white women have moved from 8% points higher for Obama (50% to 42%) to 12% for McCain (53% - 41%) since the Palin pick. That's a 20% swing, and if true (though I suspect other polls aren't going to get the same results), a troubling one for Obama.
sleigh
Sep. 12th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)
A followup on my own comment: here's the original ABC/Washington Post poll -- I meant to give the link but forgot: http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/Politics/story?id=5751238&page=1

CNN/Opinion Research did a similar poll, but found only a 3% swing to McCain (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=102x3481391)

Somebody's wrong. Or both.
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
I don't believe the numbers. Another thing to keep in mind with post-convention polling is that party ID numbers spike after a big event like the RNC, and pollsters seeking to keep up with party ID for sampling purposes will often overcompensate. In other words, the problem with some of these recent polls is that Republicans are overrepresented in the numbers, skewing the results. I wouldn't pay too much attention to any polls for another couple of weeks.
madkestrel
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
(Come on, Governor! Even I know what the Bush Doctrine is!)

What's worse...I knew. Not so long ago, I'd been a bit of a walking blonde joke when it came to government. This election has changed many things for me.

I'm so looking forward to the debates.
davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
I bet she was ticked at her handlers for not anticipating that question. She so obviously had no idea what he was talking about -- it didn't reflect well on her at all.
lindajdunn
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)
Walk the Talk
Ahem... It seems to me that if people don't want the Republicans to win, maybe people should do something about it.

I went to the www.mybarackobama.com web site and signed up. Once there, I found that I could print out a list of targeted people in my area and from there, I could go door to door (or I could use the phone contact list). I have a hearing impairment and I'm doing phone calls.

Don't just sit there and worry. DO SOMETHING!!!!

I have a bad knee and rotten hearing. I've been calling and or/knocking on doors a few at a time. It gives you a list of about 40 voters but even if you just hit a few of them, you're helping insure that the next 4 years aren't like the last 8.

davidbcoe
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Walk the Talk
Good for you, Linda! I need to look into making calls in other states on their bahalf. My state (Tennessee) is pretty much out of play -- red as red can be. Thanks for the comment!
shsilver
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Walk the Talk
What I find interesting is how many people I know (from swing states) who identify as Republicans and voted for Bush, were so put off by McCain's selection that they've said they are considering voting for either Obama or a third party candidate because of his choice.
lindajdunn
Sep. 12th, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Walk the Talk
Pick a state. Ohio would be good. Google for a location that looks good. Pick an address from the area.

Now go to www.mybarackobama.com and open your account with that address. Get yourself a calling list and use your weekend free calling on the cell phone to make a difference.
shsilver
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
And the McCainiacs have announced that next week, Sarah Palin will be interviewed by Sean Hannity. Apparently they've realized after the Charles Gibson interview that she might be a little to Bushian.
markwise
Sep. 12th, 2008 07:52 pm (UTC)
They may have realized that you can't trust the liberal media in presenting fair questions. Charlie Gibson was obviously trying to trap her and twist her words in order to get sound bites for the Obama campaign. Go back and look at the interview Gibson did with Obama and you will see a whole other style of interview.

Of course, Obama has noting to fear since he has his media friends correcting him during his interviews (a la Geroge Stephenopolis correcting Obama when he said "my Muslim faith" instead of "my Christian faith").

The disparity is astounding.
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)
Sorry, Mark, but there's no way I'm going to let this one slide. Charlie Gibson is the same idiot who ambushed Obama and Clinton during the March debate, ticking off every progressive in America. He's not biased either way. He's just a journalist. The questions he asked Palin were totally legitimate. He asked about the Bush Doctrine. I knew what it is. So did many people. She clearly didn't. Because she's not prepared. He asked her about NATO and Georgia and Russia, and within minutes she had walked us to the brink of war. Because she's not prepared. He brought up the fact that no VP candidate in modern history has been nominated for the position without having met a single foreign head of state. She had little to say to that. Because she's not prepared. If you want to blame someone, blame McCain for failing to vet her properly. But please spare me the BS about the "liberal media." There is no such beast.
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm sure Hannity will ask some tough questions....
(Deleted comment)
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link, Alis. Very reassuring.
sleigh
Sep. 12th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
I hope you're right, David! :-) I'd love to be wrong on this one.

Strangely, I think McCains choice of Palin is going to be the exception that proves the rule regarding VP choices -- that the pick of the VP matters very little in the long run. If the McCain/Palin ticket wins, the choice of Palin is going to be touted as one of the most brilliant political moves in history.

If, of course, she doesn't pull a Ferraro and self-implode somewhere in the next six weeks.
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
Check out the link that Alis left for me. You'll feel better. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/09/patience-and-st.html#more

I agree that Palin's nomination is going to make a difference, but not the way you think. What goes up will come down. And her fall will be hard. Every morning when I read the words "Palin" and "subpoena" in the same headline, I smile. I've been smiling a lot in recent days.
tiarella
Sep. 13th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
I AM in a panic. McCain is preaching trickle down economics which will force the middle class to bear the tax burden, and he's even wanting to tax health benefits as income.

The economy works much better when the lower and middle classes have discretionary income to spend.

I've always said elections are beauty contests, so I'm losing hope for this one. A lot of people don't follow the campaigns; they just pick a candidate for a personal reason (rather than the what's best for the country or even best for themselves economically) and vote.
davidbcoe
Sep. 13th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
See, losing hope is exactly the wrong thing to do. If we lose hope, we lose the election. We're in September, just barely mid-September. There is a long way to go, including ALL the debates. There are going to be lots of ups and downs. Be patient, keep the faith. If we're still down in the polls on October 20, I'll panic.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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