Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Warning Signs...?

Obama continues to lead the race, but his campaign is starting to stumble. His lead in the RCP national average polls now hovers around 2%, and he seems unable to push his level of support over 48%. His lead on has been slipping too. For the first time since mid-May, two national polls have given the edge to McCain. (The Iowa Electronic Market shows a fairly consistent lead however.)

I fear the problem is Obama's energy policy. He seems all over the place, and it feeds the "flip-flopper" mantra from the right. Obama is now prepared to accept offshore drilling as part of a compromise package, something he formerly opposed. Obama now wants to sell oil from the national reserve, a move which he formerly opposed. His campaign needs to pause and regroup before they slip off-message entirely. (Whatever that message is, these days.)


The Law Talking Guy said...

Part of what we are seeing is a substantial variability in national polls over the past 2-3 weeks. It's summertime. People are on vacation, moving around, etc. So you get some weird polling results.

The striking thing though is that the poll averages have been relatively consistent. Obama leads most polls by 2-5%. It has been more or less like that for a couple months. Not much is moving. The site showed a slight trend toward Obama appear, break, reverse, then stabilize recently.

So I don't think the energy policy is what's keeping Obama from gaining a real national lead. McCain's numbers aren't really budging, maybe a point or two. I don't think issues are really what's going on yet. In fact, Obama's poll lead almost exactly matches his 2-5% advantage in favorability numbers. It's about who's known or not, and Obama's not well known yet.

What I think is happening is that
(1) the initial bump from Obama's victory in the primaries is over,
(2) lots of voters aren't tuned in yet, (3) voters don't know who Obama is yet. The post-Olympics conventions will sort these last two things out.

I expect that as we hit the Fall, the change vs. incumbent-party dynamic will begin to assert itself in Obama's favor (even though McCain is probably the one Republican best able to evade a strong association with the incumbent party).

Raised By Republicans said...

As Dr. S. knows the "national" polls where Obama has a 2 point lead are meaningless. What matters is the state by state polling and Obama is maintaining a strong electoral vote lead there.

That said, I'm getting a little worried about the energy thing. The mainstream press refuses to accurately report the off shore drilling issue. They report it as if there are two sides to the issue and they both have good points. But what they are not doing a good job of reporting is how completely meaningless off shore drilling would be to the anyone who doesn't own a lot of stock in a big oil company.

Obama needs to get that point across. He needs to hammer (hard!) McCain for being in the pocket of big oil. He's already running ads on this in response to the poll trends that Dr. S. mentions. Which reminds me, Obama needs my help. I should donate some money.

USwest said...

I also think once the debates start and once VPs have been picked, you will see things move. After the long slog of the Democratic race, people are tired. And really, there isn't much going on right now, just a series of the same old appearences by the candidates delivering stump speeches. That and all the news is bad right now.

What has me interested is how lame McCain is. The guy just looks so washed up in every appearence. He can't deliver a speech without reading it or flubbing it up- it's like he caught the Bush disease. A couple of weeks ago and his own campaign staff actually told the press that McCain didn't speak for the campaign. It it happened again on July 26th Whaaaa? The Republicans haven't been able to select a candidate who can actually communicate to the public since Reagan. And yet, he has decent poll numbers. I find it really odd. And I am not sure what people are using as a determining factor in this race.

Back when Dole ran for president, Obama is quoted as saying something to the effect that he didn't get why Dole was bothering when he was 71 years old and had reached the third most powerful position in Washington. the same can be said about McCain today.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

But don't poll numbers have a "natural" ebb and flow? Might he be in the trough right now? I certainly hope so. I really won't be able to contain my bile if another idiot gets elected into the office of the president.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think, my friends, that Obama will jump out to a big lead during and after the debates.

Like US West says, McCain looks lame every time he appears. He can't hide for ever. Eventually, McCain will have to come forward and speak on the same stage as Obama or people will just think he's a joke. And when he does that the contrast in dynamism and personal energy will be obvious.

I think McCain has already had his "Dukakis on the tank" moment...when he was riding around in the golf cart with George Bush the Elder. It looked like two VERY old men riding around in a golf cart.

McCain's latest round of attack ads may be having an effect. But if all they can do is get McCain to within 2 points in the national polls and not make a dent in the state by states, then McCain's people have got to be even more worried than Dr. S.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Actually, the polling averages at RCP clearly show an upsurge for McCain over the past few weeks, with no movement for Obama. You can see the graph here. Also, the electoral vote count for McCain has shown an improvement at

Don't get me wrong. Obama is still leading and the gains by McCain have been small. Obama still is the strong favorite to win. But I am worried that the narratives of "moving-to-center" and "flip-flopping" may be starting to take root, and this oil drilling thing is starting to worry me. Oil prices and energy independence are supposed to be Obama's issues, not McCain's.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I believe RbR is right that McCain's advisors are worried. But I want them more than worried. I want them funereal about their candidate's chances.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is true that at RCP, polls show a modest increase for McCain. As BertQS mentions, polls vary. Not every variance has a reason. These are really very minor changes. Poll swings of 10-20 points have happened in other elections. Dukakis led by 17 points before the convention, but got killed in the election. We aren't seeing anything like that sort of momentum changes. Take a look at the RCP chart and draw long-term trend lines. Obama has gradually risen come close to 50% and stays in the 45-50% range; McCain has descended to 40-45% and can't break out.

As for EV counts, yes, McCain is doing better in a few states now, namely OH and FL. But we're not talking big shifts. Poll results of 47-45 are totally different than 51-49, because of the size of the undecided count.

I also think the minor shift in polls has been misread. Poll numbers lag by several days. I think the polls really reflect Obama's decision to go abroad. That was bound to look bad in some circles. It took attention away from economic issues. It seemed to some as grandstanding or hubris. Having Europeans cheering for you is not necessarily a way to impress Americans. That hurts a bit. I really don't think the drilling thing is changing minds.

I think the energy thing is problematic only in that McCain is setting the agenda. HE looks proactive, Obama looks reactive. In a "change" election, this is to McCain's advantage. Insted, Obama needs to change the subject. He needs to be talking about health care, the stimulus package, education tax credits, and so forth. And he needs to portray McCain's drilling idea as nothing new, just "more of the old policies that got us in trouble." Emphasis on the word "old".

But things won't really change until the big events: VP selection, conventions, Labor Day (Washington summer recess over), and the debates.

Remember, despite minor fluctuations, the basically unknown black Democrat from Chicago is beating - by almost any measure, including $$ - the nationally-known old white male war hero put up by the incumbent party with an [undeserved] maverick/centrist reputation.

USwest said...

No one here has said that part of what his holding Obama's national numbers down might be, umm, his race and his age. July 22 a Washington Post-ABC Poll . Found that half 3 in 10 voters polled had issues with his race. And today NPR reported that half of white voters see Obama as "risky" but many of them will vote for him anyway.

The Democrats are perfectly ready to take on a young, black candidate. But are the disaffected Republicans ready for it? And there is the irritating, indecisive mushy-middle out there that remains undecided or that lies to pollsters until the night of the election. And is the "HRC-factor" still present?

Raised By Republicans said...

Hatred of your opponent is generally a poor motivator for voters. McCain's negative strategy may get a lot of people to balk at voting for Obama but will it get them to vote for McCain? Probably not.

The conventional poli sci view of negative campaigning is that it depresses turnout. Doing that could actually benefit Obama because his base is more jazzed up than McCain's is.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I agree that race is a total X factor in this election. Of course, I am bothered by the fact that Obama is called potentially the first black president. He is exactly as white as he is black. But the old 'one drop' rule still haunts us. He has, of course, identified with the African-American community, and they have embraced him, but I don't think that's what drives the commentary in the race between him and J.Sidney McCain.