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The Election Is Not Held Today


My NationalJournal.com column for the week is now online. This week, I delve a bit deeper into the ongoing debate about what outcome we can expect in November based on the polls of July.

 

Comments
Tom Mann:

Mark's National Journal column implies that the essay I wrote with Alan Abramowitz and Larry Sabato predicted a blowout victory for Obama based on current (July) polls. Neither is correct. We argue that a comfortable Obama victory is likely based on the overwhelming structural advantages enjoyed by Democrats (the economy, the war, President Bush's unpopularity, and the strong market for Democratic-style change) and the modest but steady Obama lead during June and July in national and battleground state polls. We acknowledged that the campaign could make a difference if Obama is discredited as a comfortable choice for the White House but argued that unlikely given his performance over the last eighteen months. The election is not over and Obama has no lock on the oval office. But neither is it a toss-up.

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richard pollara:

While it is usually a good thing to be in the lead (unless you are drafting on the biker in front of you) the Obama people should not be quite so sanguine. A couple of things that would concern me if I were running his campaign:

1) The end of the affair. As Dana Milbank pointed out this week the media is not quite so enamored of Mr. Obama as they were in February. In love affairs it is not that far from infatuation to disillusionment.

2) The Veep. One of the things I have noticed about all of the Vice Presidential trial balloons being floated is how badly HRC supporters react. "Tim Kaine! He's more qualified than Hillary????" Expect a visceral negative reaction to whomever is chosen.

3) The debates. Obama did poorly against Mrs. Clinton in the debates. Over the next six weeks McCain will attempt to portray him as too aloof and elitist. The debates may reinforce that message.

4) Voting Bloc weakness. Obama has done little to shore up the demographic he had trouble with in the primaries, Catholics, women, white working class men, people above 50. I still think this election is going to be decided in Ohio. If so Obama must make a compelling case to those voters. The issues that are important to people in Ohio are about money. Hillary reinvented herself as a populist in the 60 days from Iowa to Ohio. Obama should do the same.

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kjblair:

Richard,

With respect to your item 1, I would argue McCain currently has a larger problem with losing the press than does Obama. (At least based on the responses to some of his recent ads. When Business Week says you're lying, you have problems.)

Can't really do anything about item 2 since people who feel that way are going to continue to feel that way no matter who he picks.

Although Obama wasn't the best debater when paired against Clinton, in the fall he's going to be paired against McCain. And if you remember, McCain didn't do very well in the Republican debates either.

Finally, Nate had an interesting post over on 538.com using the Gallup crosstab data referenced in Mark's post. In comparision with Kerry's performance, Obama is better in almost every demographic. (He underperforms Kerry with self-identified Democrats.)

Don't make the mistake of looking at performance in the primaries, where the choice was between two candidates with similiar policies and the general election where the differences are much greater. There's no better indication of this than Obama's performance with Hispanics. Clinton beat him handily in the primaries but Obama is way up on McCain.

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richard pollara:

KJ:

Most of the people in the media like McCain personally. They have known him for years and he has built up a reservoir of good will. They don't have that same sort of relationship with Obama. The tone of the Milbank article and the quotes he had from other news people surprised me. I think the media are a bit embarrassed, by what many perceived, to be fawning coverage of Obama through February of 08. My guess is that he is in for a rough media ride and he doesn't seem to have a particularly thick skin.

I know this is a polling site and that I should back up my claims with poll numbers, but my intuitive sense is that people in the Monongahela Valley and along the Ohio River are not comfortable Obama. Whether it is race, class or something intangible he just doesn't seem to click with those folks. Can he change that? Of course. But the Rock Star entourage and the Berlin Convocation don't do much to impress the truckstop waitress in Donegal, Pa.
Mr. Obama was the first person to understand that this election was about change, but that was almost a year ago. Mrs. Clinton understood (too late) that it was also about what the government can do for you. I think Mr. Obama would be wise to grab onto that message.

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Independent:

Thanks for the caveat. Polls, however, do have a purpose - to provide an educated guess. The guess clearly gets better the closer we are to election day. Based on past experience, would you care to characterize how the confidence level of the poll results increases as election day is approached?

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