Staying Positive During Obama’s Difficult Polling Time

While we Democrats might be dismayed by the Palin bump, and let’s face it, that’s what it is, it shouldn’t have come as a shock that Obama lost his lead. The pessimists expected it for a variety of reasons (I among them) – attributing it to a convention bounce, a poorly run campaign, the dirty tactics of the Republicans, or a host of other reasons. We can tuck our tails and hide our head in the sand or we can remain positive.

For the less political or polling educated, there are still a lot of reasons to remain positive:

1) A convention bounce typically dissipates after about a week. For Obama supporters, this can be a half empty or half full view. The half full view is that McCain has taken a 4 point lead and a roughly 8 point swing since the convention. If he gives half of it back as the bounce goes away, we are back to even. If he gives away most of what he has earned, Obama has the lead again. The half empty view is he got a bigger bump than Obama. Additionally, since the Palin pick concided with the convention, he may hold more of the bounce.

My prediction is that he will hold more of the bounce than Obama, since Palin has really energized the conservative base. What was 2-3 point lead for Obama prior to either convention, is probably just about a dead heat right now.

2) It’s the state races that matter – not the popular vote. Just ask Al Gore. Granted, I would prefer to have a majority, but really the only thing that matters is the 270 electoral votes. This is where, an Obama supporter, I would hang my hat – and hope. Most of the trends here support Obama. Assuming he wins every state that Kerry/Gore won (the only exception was a flip of NH to Dems in 04 and a very thin margin flip of NM to GOP in 04), he will have 252 Electoral votes and need to pick up 18 more.

Well, as is common sense, the election will come to the toss-up, in-play, battle ground or whatever you want to call them. You can call Michigan and Pennsylvania battle ground states, but I truly believe the chances of losing them are very remote for the Democrats. If you look at the polls, they seem to have decent leads in those states. His lead ranges from 4-7 points. So take them off the map.

What you are left with are a bunch of states Bush won that are tight – tight enough that Obama has the lead in some polls:

Ohio (20 electoral votes)
Floirda (27 electoral votes)

If he wins either of those two states, he wins. I don’t give him much hope in Florida. But Ohio with a large urban area and middle-class area, I think he’s got a good shot.

Virginia (13 electoral votes)
New Mexico (5 electoral votes)/Nevada (5 electoral votes)

If he picks up a combination of Virginia and either New Mexico (which Kerry lost by a whisker in 2004) or Nevada, he wins.

There are other states that are on the table too – Indiana and North Carolina (doubtful wins) and New Hampshire and Colorado (potential wins).

The point is that Obama’s territory is safe and all the fights appear to be on the ground of what McCain needs to win. That should be helpful. You hope the GOP’s message during the convention resonated with the areas already in McCain’s column. It also probably shores up borderline states like North Carolina, Indiana, and maybe Colorado. But places where the demographics are shifting (Virginia, Colorado) or where Kerry made a close run (New Mexico, Nevada), it probably didn’t make much difference.

But all this is reassuring for trends and keeping sanity right now. The election is close enough that a verbal slip, a politically charged event (hurricane, war, crisis), and three debates can and will change the complextion completely. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in all the ‘what if’s’ – I know I am caught up. But until October roles around or trends get significantly more entrenched, no one really can say what will happen next.


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