Thursday, July 17, 2008

Warning: Obama's Lead Shrinking

Fivethirtyeight is showing a definite trend now, with Obama's lead over McCain in poll summaries shrinking from 4+ to about 2.

What's going on? Well, I don' think the polls reflect the most recent events like Obama's new earnings or his recent op-ed on Iraq, both of which should help him.

Instead, I think the sagging numbers reflect some ongoing core troubles in camp Obama and McCain's reshaping on his campaign in the past couple of weeks.

For Obama troubles, we have:
Clinton dead-enders seem to be actually growing, perhaps encouraged by recent suggestions that a Clinton role-call vote at the convention may actually result in her being nominated (and their frustration that this last, desperate hope seems to be being kaboshed by Howard Dean).

Changing mind on taking public campaign money and all the talk of "drifting to the center" seems to have generated a temporary tick-back (question remains whether that temporary hit will result in bigger dividends later on).

For McCain's successes, we have:
Improved situation in Iraq means situation on the ground starts to come closer to justifying his support of the surge. It also diffuses Iraq as a distinction between the two.

Quick repudiation of Gramm's faux paux helps to nullify potential hit on economy.

His speechifying generally seems like he's a little less bored of the whole ordeal; possible to actually listen to him talk, now.

Generally, less incoherence in the McCain message: more of a standard, conservative message and attack on his opponent as liberal.

None of this is determinant and the conventions (and VP selections) will of course provide critical bumps to both candidates. But momentum is important; Obama can't rely any more on McCain doing his campaigning for him. He needs to start shoring up supporters and getting his message out to swing voters and swing states, particularly to those "Reagan Democrats" or "white-blue-collor Appalachian" voters or whomever these people are who are backsliding, so that he has the forward momentum after the Olympics in August. And he needs to stop McCain's new campaign discipline. Team Obama is making all the right moves and his campaign is remarkably disciplined. But to turn around the momentum again he needs to finally put the Clinton issue to rest (whatever he has to give Hillary, it's worth it) and come at McCain as hard as McCain has been coming at him. With Iraq receeding as an issue, McCain and the Republicans are vulnerable on the economy: Gramm provides the perfect opening for Obama to go for the jugular, here.

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