Friday, October 10, 2008

Electoral Update - McCain 100% Negative 100% Desperate

Election Day can't come soon enough for Democrats, and Republicans are wishing they had more time. 

Despite the catastrophic downturn in the American economy, John McCain isn't talking about it. Instead, his campaign has turned nearly 100% negative. Barack Obama and Joe Biden on the other hand have kept their focus on the economy. Speaking at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio just moments ago, Obama declared:

“This is not a time for ideology–- it’s a time for common sense and a politics of pragmatism…. I believe that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis because I believe in this country.” While Obama continues addressing the concerns of the nation, McCain keeps playing a guilt by association game of politics. 

One week ago we asked whether or not the slow motion collapse of John McCain's campaign would accelerate, slow down or stop. As you can tell from the electoral map, nothing has improved for John McCain. In fact, in this week's electoral projection Ohio shifts from tossup to leans Obama. Five of the last six polls show Obama leading in Ohio including the last three consecutive. With Ohio's 20 electoral votes now in the Obama column, he now leads John McCain 353 - 174. The  lone tossup state in this week's projection is Missouri.

The decision to leave North Carolina in the Obama column this week was a tough one. Some projections have put the Tar Heel state back into the tossup column because of a Survey USA poll released this week. CNN also shows the race as tied; however, three polls in the last week show Obama leading. Two of them have Obama leading by five or six points. We will move North Carolina to tossup status if other polls show McCain leading. If McCain is indeed bouncing back in North Carolina, the question to be answered is why.

Obama's Ceiling

Obama is approaching his electoral ceiling, which we put at 365  electoral votes (add Missouri plus one EC vote from Nebraska).  To get beyond the 365 mark, Obama will have to steal Indiana and Georgia, no easy task. If the rapid decline in McCain's national numbers extends into next week, Indiana very well could fall back into the tossup column too. McCain's double digit margins are gone in Georgia and they continue to fall. Some are already talking about an Obama upset in Georgia because of an expected surge in African-American voters. 

Nate Silver examines both candidate's favorable and unfavorable ratings since the Ayers attacks began. His analysis:
Pollster             Favorable      Unfavorable
Rasmussen 10/3 57 42
Rasmussen 10/8 56 (-1) 42 (n/c)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Research 2K 10/3 59 32
Research 2K 10/8 57 (-2) 33 (+1)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Hotline 10/3 58 36
Hotline 10/8 56 (-2) 39 (+3)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Average 10/3 58.0 36.7
Average 10/8 56.3 (-1.7) 38.0 (+1.3)

Pollster             Favorable   Unfavorable
Rasmussen 10/3 52 45
Rasmussen 10/8 52 (n/c) 46 (+1)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Research 2K 10/3 41 45
Research 2K 10/8 44 (+3) 49 (+4)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Hotline 10/3 53 40
Hotline 10/8 53 (n/c) 41 (+1)

Pollster Favorable Unfavorable
Average 10/3 48.7 43.3
Average 10/8 49.7 (+1.0) 45.3 (+2.0)

Obama's unfavorable number has ticked up a point or so, but so has McCain's. The strategy to preempt the Ayers attack by airing the Keating ads may have paid off. It's unlikely that John McCain will get anywhere without some kind of proof that Ayers or Rezko somehow influenced Obama's political career. While the attacks have rallied a few radicals (see video one and two) who hate Obama, McCain could alienate himself from moderates and independents with unsubstantiated claims.

The verdict is still out on McCain's strategy to go 100% negative. Without a smoking gun as it relates to Ayers, the best John McCain can hope for is to remain competitive in places like NC, OH, MO, and NV. A worse scenario is the one laid out above where he begins losing ground in Indiana and Georgia. It is worth mentioning that McCain gained five points in Indiana in the latest Rasmussen poll.

Virginia and Florida are McCain's nightmares right now. Obama has led in the last four consecutive polls in Virginia by an average of eight points. It's been 44 years since a Democrat carried Virginia. Florida is also becoming an increasing problem for McCain as Obama has now led in every poll this month including a Strategic Vision poll released yesterday which puts him ahead by eight.

Our next update will be on Tuesday when we will examine these questions.

1. Will McCain's negative campaign work or will it backfire? Virginia and Florida haven't budged. 

2. Will polling in North Carolina show a trend back toward John McCain?

3. How long will the negative campaign go on? Will members of his own party begin calling him out for crossing the line?

Dangerous Campaign

There's a difference between a negative campaign and a dangerous one. McCain and Palin are inciting hatred at their rallies by suggesting that Obama has associated himself with terrorists. Bob Cesca writes:
"I think we can conclude that the McCain-Palin ticket is inciting a violent attack on Senator Obama and his family. Here's the reasoning: they say Senator Obama hangs around with terrorists. Therefore he supports terrorists. We're fighting a war against terrorism. So let's fight a war on that one.

I don't think we've ever seen this level of potentially violent form of campaigning in our lifetime, and someone needs to seriously call out McCain on this one."

"Someone needs to step up to McCain -- and especially Palin -- and put a stop to this before someone gets hurt. I can't be more serious about this. McCain and Palin are treading on dangerous ground here."

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