Friday, September 19, 2008

Could Obama Be Headed for a Massive Blowout?

The trends for Obama are better than I predicted on Monday - Gallup has him now with a five point lead (even though Rasmussen still shows the race tied.) And they say last night was his best night of polling yet - so his lead could still get better over the weekend. Nate Silver has state-by-state polling showing the electoral college shifting dramatically to Obama's favor overnight.

Clearly, Obama's ability to sound responsible during the crisis (saying he will wait for Paulson and congress to explain the details of the bailout before offering his own plan) - while McCain sounds reckless (calling for the firing of the SEC chairman and lying about Obama's tax plans) is winning over voters.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin's appeal is crashing for McCain (and according to people attending McCain speeches, she's the only draw he has). People have finally been finding out about the Sarah Palin scandals.

So with these two trends converging, could this election turn out to be a blowout for Obama after all?

I wouldn't place my bets yet. Why?

1. On election day, the Bradley effect could still be a factor. Obama needs to be more than just a couple points ahead to feel secure about his lead in any one state. That means that there are more swing states than seem obvious.

2. If McCain's has shown one thing in this campaign, it's that he can adapt and pull out a big surprise. His campaign has made some tactical mistakes attacking the press and turning the story against himself, but don't count him out yet: there could be another big McCain surprise being cooked up as we speak. (Why do you think Bush has suddenly tried to go after Bin Laden?)

3. Palin's numbers could revive after the debates, especially if she's not given any tough questions and Biden comes across as belligerent, weak, or self-involved. The Republicans are keeping her hidden now with just this idea in mind. If she does well, don't expect to see her talk to the press ever again.

4. There are critical states - such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin - where the race is still close and where national popularity for Obama may not necessarily translate. Pennyslvania's 21 electoral votes are especially worrisome, for if Obama loses those, it would hard to make that up without winning both Ohio and Virginia, or the even bigger long-shot of Florida - which would be extremely hard to do while losing reliably democratic Pennsylvania. Even a huge Obama national margin of five points may not translate to a win in Pennyslvania, where voters believe the scare-mail and would be reluctant to vote for an African American even if he were a sixty-year-old, twice-decorated, Evangelical War Hero promising to repeal all income taxes, dismantle Wall Street and provide every citizen of the state a check for ten thousand dollars, put the head of Bin Laden on a stick in Shankstown, PA, and swearing to invade Iran, North Korea, Russia, and France.

So this election is still neck and neck. But the momentum has DECIDEDLY swung in Obama's favor this week - arguably at least a five-point shift. That's HUGE and if Obama can continue riding this wave, and have a stellar series of debates against McCain where he comes of sounding reasonable and Presidential, there is, once again, a chance that he could open up a decisive margin for victory.

One thing for certain: Obama is not in Kerry territory, where the Republican convention bounce overtakes him. He's won back the momentum, and that's huge. Reality has intruded, and this time, the Democrats have seen quite a reversal of fortunes from the hang wringing they were doing only five days ago. Seems the Presidential race is resembling the stock market, this week.

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