Friday, September 26, 2008

Electoral Update - McCain On the Brink of Disaster

John McCain's surge is over. In fact, the opposite effect is taking place.  For the second straight week, John McCain has lost electoral ground. Last week, we moved Virginia from the McCain column to tossup, and this week we're doing the same for North Carolina. Obama's numbers have held very steady for 10 weeks straight, and he now leads John McCain 273-217.  Besides North Carolina (15), Ohio (20) and Virginia (13) are also too close to call. Ohio and Virginia, as promised, will remain as tossups until one candidate gains a clear advantage.

George Bush won North Carolina by more than 12 points in 2000 and 2004, despite John Edwards running as veep on the Democratic ticket. Regardless of this year's outcome, a double-digit win here by either candidate is unlikely. 

It's hard to tell who's coattailing who, but Barack Obama and Kay Hagan both lead their Republican opponents in the latest Rasmussen polling. Both candidates will put a lot of effort into the triangle region and the northeast area of the state where Democrats generally fair well. Read today's analysis of Wake County by PPP.

But Obama will need to do more than just fair well to win.  He will need to best Kerry's performance in 2004 in Mecklenburg/Charlotte (Kerry 52% Bush 48%) and Chatham County where John Kerry beat George Bush by only 5 votes (12,897 - 12,892). While polls show the race as a dead heat, a strong turnout on election day for Democrats could be the leading headline on November 5th.

Last week's electoral projection made mention of a possible John McCain surprise.
"The last time McCain needed a jolt to his campaign, he shocked everyone with Palin. If at some point, the campaign begins to slip away, he may just pull another fast one."
And here we have it. McCain's call to suspend his campaign has everyone wondering whether or not he will attend tonight's debate. In light of  gridlock on bailout, McCain's Hail-Mary, and next Thursday's vice presidential debate, we'll ask a some related questions today and then answer them in next Friday's projection.

1. Will John McCain's appearance (or no-show) in Oxford tonight be a moment of demise or reinvigoration for his campaign?

2. The expectations to perform well are high for Barack Obama. Can he live up to them in the debate.

3. Many people are hoping that a deal on the bailout will be made by Sunday. Will Republicans be able to catch McCain's Hail-Mary pass? Will poll numbers next week show confidence in McCain's role in whatever decisions are made, or will voters see his decisions this week as razzle dazzle, as Chris Matthews put it. Will McCain alienate himself from the conservative base?

4. For more than three weeks, the nation has been captivated by moose hunting mama, Sarah Palin. The expectations haven't been much lower than they are for Palin going into next week's vice presidential debate. Will the viewing audience be left with the impression that Biden was too tough on her? Will the debate even matter?

As always, a week is a lifetime in presidential politics. Just last week, we were talking about how the political landscape was shaping up to look like 2000 and 2004.  This week, when you consider NC and VA as both being tossups, that doesn't seem at all to be the case. 

With just 38 days left until election day, John McCain is on the brink of disaster. Any further setbacks are sure to cost him in places like Ohio, Nevada, and Florida. For him, next week could be the most important week of his political life. For Obama, the opportunity to round another base is at hand, and sliding into home plate on November 4th is shaping up to be more possible now than ever. 

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