Is the Tide Finally Turning Back?

Supporters of Barack Obama probably feel a little bit more of a bounce in their step in the last week. In a lot of ways, they are probably feeling like the Republicans did with the announcement of Sarah Palin.

A week ago it felt, even to us smart enough at the time to ride through the convention bounce, that the campaign may have lost direction and the election was slipping away. So what has changed in the last week and is this another temporary swing or putting the campaign where it was expected to be.

There are a lot of obvious reasons to feel better about things, if you are an Obama supporter, than you did a week ago:

1) The Economy – More than anything else, this has taken attention away from all the irrelevant issues of the campaign. This benefits Obama two ways. First, he is never going to win the mudslinging war. Republicans have mastered that art. Fighting back, as Obama has, may mitigate the effect, but not help advance his candidacy. Additionally, everyone talks about how eloquent Obama can speak when he’s talking about change and trying to inspire folks. But, over the last few days on the campaign, he has done a tremendous job articulating his plans. They may be as shallow as the next politician’s, but he does articulate the 30K view of the plan better than McCain.

2) Palin’s failings – Let’s face the obvious, she was the reason why so much energy has been brought into the campaign. As I’ve stated several times in my blogs, and many other smarter people have stated, her star could not continue to rise. It’s a fact of politics. She had no where to go but down. The best thing the McCain team can/could do is slow down the deflation of the ‘Palin Bubble’. As popular as she is, as people learn the issues, she will lose some support. From the announcement, she got the Republican base energized and pulled a lot of independents in. If voters didn’t flock to her in the beginning, there is very little liklihood they will be drawn to her now. With the convention and Palin bounce, McCain was up a tenous 5 points. Some of that was bound to be eroded away by the convention and as some early supporters turn back to undecided, McCain’s lead was further reduced.

3) Gaffs and poor choice of words – So far, Obama and Biden’s gaffs have been relatively superficial ones – lipstick on a pig and Biden stating Hillary may have been a better candidate come to mind. Since Thursday, we’ve had Palin not familar with the Bush Doctrine, McCain stating the fundementals of the economy being strong, changing his opinion of the AIG bail-out, and Carly Fiorina stating that Palin could not run a corporation. The Fiorina and Biden gaffs basically cancel themselves out and are erroneous anyway. But the Bush Doctrine and economy gaffs are real issues and have real impact.

4) Obama on the Offensive – The Republicans have gotten too complacent believing they can use their negative attack machine to win. It’s been a successful part of the playbook in the last two elections. But what they are not familiar with is a candidate fighting back and trying to put them on the defensive. I think this has the GOP scrambling, exacerbating their lies, and not being consistent on message – trying to find something that works. In all, this does not put McCain in a positive light.

5) Reduced rhetoric and increased substance – Some are arguing Obama has left his speech of hope to get back into a more nuts-and-bolts approach to campaining. Much of the ideology speech is gone replaced by issues and facts. I think this is a good approach. the ideology speech worked well as a hook and defined Obama. But with his minimal experience, it’s the ability to demonstrate he understands the problems facing this Country that will win him more voters.

So where do we go from here? Is he going to win or at least in the driver’s seat? I look at this as prize fight. The first round went to Obama. The second and third went to McCain. The fourth was a draw. We are now in the fifth round and Obama has conntected with a great punch – McCain is wobbly and can be knocked out. How can he deliver the knock out punch? By winning the first debate next week. If he does, and this week’s trends continue, he can put himself in a dominate position. Unless he fails miserably or Biden does in the following debates or their is a extremely large October suprise, he should be able to win comfortably.

For all the talk about the Obama campaign scrambling and not scared, from what I see – it’s McCain that is looking for a message or something that can stick and help his campaign. If you step back, Obama is still extremely organized. His attackes are coordinated and his surrogates have been very disciplined on message. He’s stayed out of the mud as much as possible. McCain launched one Hail Mary that took him to the 40 yard line, but he needs another one – in the form of the debates – to bring it home.

Obama is in the driver’s seat, as he was last week and when things weren’t as clear – but he’s got to minimize verbal gaffs and do well in the debate.

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