The Election is not Over! Ramp it Up!!

Three weeks from today the election will FINALLY be upon us. Looking at today’s polls and their relationship in history to election outcomes should make Democrats feel very confident in Barack Obama’s position to win the election. Only in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was able to make his case in the last debate on October 28th, 1980 was there such a large swing from one candidate this late in the campaign.

I am not chicken little crying that ‘the sky is falling’. However, the election is far from over and there are a lot of factors that may benefit McCain over the next couple of weeks.

He is ‘rebooting’ his campaign:

  • He is unveiling a new economic policy today.  His proposal includes propositions to help home owners renegotiate their mortgage, cut capital gains tax, accelerate deducting stock losses, reduce some small business taxes, and loosening some retirement fund restrictions. Much of the plan is to be paid for with the $700B Rescue Package.  His proposals could potentially help middle class and upper income folks (though nothing in the package helps the lower-middle class or poor).  He’s willing to throw everything at the voters now, regardless of ideology in hopes of winning votes.  Additionally, he’s going to be able to stump on the fact that he’s taking back some of the Rescue Package money and using it for ‘Main Street rather than Wall Street”.  A nice segue will be noting that the market seems to have bottomed out and there is no need to utilize all the money to help Wall Street.
  • He is reducing the rhetoric of personal attacks.  McCain has seen his negatives go way up and with no resulting impact on the polls.  The negative attacks will continue, but they will be much more nuanced then as he and Palin have previously campaigned.   The Daily Kos notes today that his negatives seem to be going down since he stopped the attacks.  Their poll also shows a little tightening over the same three days the attacks of been toned down.
  • He is going ‘try’ and be consistent in message.  One of McCain’s biggest problems has been his daily changing message.  Obama has hammered him for changing his position continuously over the last several weeks.  By remaining consistent, McCain can again show leadership.  Obama is polling higher right now for demonstrating leadership, but that’s a new phenomena for him.  It won’t take much for McCain to take that pulpit again

Additionally, there are several other conditions that make a case for McCain closing the gap:

  • Stock market bounce.  No one knows day-to-day where the market is going right now.  However, good market news becomes front page news and in some ways reduces the anxiety of many Americans.  Yes, Americans are worried about jobs and food prices.  But, they were worried about these things in 2004 also and still voted for Bush.  What is different this time is the fear that something different was happening in the economy.  What changed a month ago and gave Obama the strong lead was this perception of a real crisis.  Prior to then, Obama was winning on the economy, but it wasn’t the only issue.  If the market continues to do well, much of the fear will fade away and voters will begin looking at abortion, foreign policy, and energy policy again.  Even if the core economic problems persist.
  • Polls generally tighten as Election Day gets closer.  The natural tendency for the tightening may make the next few weeks slightly uncomfortable, especially if McCain can make headway with his ‘rebooted’ campaign
  • The third debate is tomorrow.  One must believe that McCain has learned the lessons over the last three debates and will come out much improved.  The general theory is that this should be a good debate for Obama. It may very well be his best.  But, that doesn’t mean McCain can’t win the debate.  Of any debate, this is the one McCain needed to win the most, regardless of the the other three.  He is considered weak on economics. Just like Obama on Foreign Policy, if he can come out strong – he will take away his opponents big advantage.
  • Obama was a weak closer in the primaries. McCain knows that and has been trying to follow the same path that Hillary used to gain some ground towards the end of the primary campaign.
  • The GOP and McCain will make the very strong argument that a Democratic Congress and White House is a dangerous combination and we need a Republican in the White House to ensure a check on the Congress

This doesn’t mean McCain is in control or his chances of winning are greater than (or even at) 50%.  But it certainly isn’t a 4% chance either.  Obama has many advantages too. There is a structural component to the popular vote and Electoral College that favors Obama this year – he is nearly guaranteed 259 electoral votes (Kerry States+Iowa) and if push comes to shove can focus on winning the election by focusing on only one state: Florida, Ohio, Virginia or a combination: Colorado and either Nevada or New Mexico.  Obama has also released a new economic plan, and did it prior to McCain.  He has a stronger ground game in most states and is still playing offense in Red States, while McCain is only doing that in Pennsylvania.  Obama also has the advantage of running after eight years of an unpopular Republican president.  He is also very good at learning his lessons and adapting to the current state of the election.  Finally, three weeks is a very short period of time to erase about a 6% lead and an even more daunting Electoral College Deficit (one study I read stated that in the Battle Ground States, the average lead is 8%).  At this point, many folks are cemented in their positions.

The moral of the story is Obama is in a strong position, but this is no where close to being a done deal and everyone – from Obama and Biden to all of us needs to try and do our part.  How?

  • Volunteer your time.  Obama makes it as easy as going to his website and volunteer. He has even made it easy to do it right from your living room.  You can sign-up instantly to canvass voters on the phone.  At this point, volunteering may be more helpful than money.  It’s a real impact, particularly if you are in a Battleground State.  Making calls, canvassing neighborhoods, signing up voters are all critical to his success.
  • Donations. He probably has sufficient funds through the rest of the election.  But, the GOP keeps raising funds and the more spending flexibility Obama has, the better chance he can beat back attacks from the right. Doing things like 1/2 hour TV specials would not be possible without generous donations.
  • Register to vote!  Seriously.  Every vote counts. Many states have closed registration already. Check out Rock The Vote for registration deadlines.  If you know of folks who haven’t registered, help them.  This election still may come down to several thousand votes in Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, or North Carolina.
  • Vote early!  Get your vote in now, if possible.  Rock The Vote has a list of states with early voting.  Offer to help others vote early.
  • Be knowledgeable about Obama and McCain.  Be able to provide a concise and accurate rebuttal to attacks from those who speak in sound bites from what the hear on TV. You can’t convince most people to change their vote, but you may be able to change a few.
  • Get out Barack’s message!  Engage neighbors and friends in a conversation about the best way to lead this country forward.

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