Friday, October 3, 2008

Electoral Update - McCain's Slow Motion Implosion

Last week, John McCain was on the brink of disaster. Today, his campaign is a disaster.

With just 31 days left until Election Day, John McCain's campaign is collapsing. For two weeks, several national polls have shown a growing momentum for Barack Obama. Swing state polling however had been slow to show the same effect..until now.

McCain's bread and butter (Florida and Ohio) are now toast. The collapse is especially visible in Florida where seven polling organizations in the last week have conducted surveys.  Six of the seven show Obama leading by three to seven points. For the first time since our first projection, Florida now leans Obama. As for Ohio, Obama is gaining there too; however, the contest in the Buckeye state remains very close. As promised, we intend to keep Ohio in the tossup column until a clear leader emerges.

We also made the same promise about Virginia. Virginia (13) has remained in the tossup column for the whole year except for the week directly after the RNC when we projected McCain to be leading. Since our last projection, three of five polls show Obama passing McCain with numbers at or above the 50% mark. ARG, who shows a three point edge for McCain, has often been erratic in 2008 (see RCP's response to Nate Silver), and Mason-Dixon also found McCain to be leading in their last poll on 9/22. But given what we know about Obama's surge in national averages and polling in neighboring North Carolina (15), we project Virginia to be leaning slightly for Obama.

Florida (27) + Ohio (20) = 47

Florida and Ohio are absolutely necessary for John McCain to win. Even with those states, getting to 270 will be difficult given what we know about Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and McCain's busted hope on Michigan. As my good friend and fellow blogger Stephen Moody said earlier:
"The abandonment of a serious effort in Michigan further complicates an increasingly difficult challenge for the McCain campaign to garner the necessary 270 electoral votes for a victory on Nov. 4th. Now more than ever, both Florida and Ohio have become must-wins for the GOP ticket."
Obama's momentum is broad and deep and is evident in three of the categories we use for our projection.
  1. States that previously were leaning Obama have now moved to solid Obama (PA, MI, NJ, NM, OR).
  2. Two states previously listed as tossup have now moved to lean Obama (VA, FL).
  3. Two states that were previously leaning McCain are now tossup (MO, NV).
It's safe to say that this is Barack Obama's high water mark for the year so far. For eleven weeks Obama's electoral advantage has remained flat, primarily because of Florida and Ohio. Those two nuts haven't been easy for Obama to crack. The recent crash on Wall Street, Palin's wobbly interview, Obama's debate win, and McCain's gimmickery all have dragged the Republican ticket down. John McCain, just from last week alone, has lost 43 electoral votes. 

Questions to consider between now and next week:
1. Is Barack Obama's lead sustainable? 

Much has been made of the buyer's remorse theory this year. While voter's may have been weary of Barack Obama months ago, they don't appear to be now. Charges that he may be inexperienced or an amateur have been undermined by McCain's real amateur running mate. Obama's first debate performance also reassured independent voters of his ability to handle foreign affairs.  It appears that for the first time many voters are becoming comfortable with the idea of a President Obama.

2. Will the slow motion collapse of John McCain's campaign accelerate, slow down, or stop? 

The electoral ceiling for Barack Obama is somewhere between 50 and 60 votes higher than our current projection estimate. The last three weeks have been a complete disaster for John McCain. Obama's numbers will continue to climb as long as the economy keeps losing jobs and McCain keeps shooting from the hip. Palin's satisfactory debate performance is likely to make news for one or two days, but it will be irrelevant in less than a week (veep debate analysis). For John McCain to have any chance at a significant comeback, Barack Obama will have to stumble.
3. Would Tina Fey really make a good Vice President? I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to distinguish the difference between the SNL version of Sarah Palin and the real Sarah Palin. Here's a video with a side-by-side comparison. See what I mean?
As so many have said already, a week is a lifetime in politics. But aside from some unforseen disaster, Barack Obama is likely to be elected as the 44th President of the United States. Thousands of people in Ohio and Virginia have already made their choice by voting early, and with each passing day, thousands more will do the same. One third of the electorate will vote by November 4th. 

The probability of McCain using another gimmick is about 90%. The chances of it working are close to zero. And if his strategy once again becomes attacking Obama, he runs the risk of digging the hole even deeper than it is now. If John McCain wins this election, it won't have anything to do with a new McCain campaign strategy/gimmick. Barack Obama holds the keys to victory for both himself and John McCain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I do believe you have EXACTLY summed up this election. The only thing you seem to have left out is "HANG ON BARACK HANG ON!!!"

The only other thing we will need at this point is for one of the conservative wing justices to retire. Then we can rename the seat of our government to "The BLUE House"

John Visser in NC