Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today's Polls and Campaign Strategy

Not much has really happened campaign-wise today. I should note, however, that we are starting to see a lot more robust polling that is showing a nice convention bounce for McCain. Tuesday's numbers should be interesting, but as they currently stand in the national polls, Obama is holding on to a narrow lead of about an 1-3 points if we take an average of all major polls. 

What is more interesting and probably more important is the swing state polls, which have not really showed a convention bounce. So far, I have seen reliable polls for about half of the swing states. When we look at the swing state polls, we see that we are almost exactly where we were at the start of August. If this trend was to hold up, Obama would have approximately 305 electoral votes. As I have said before, Tuesday's numbers will be the most telling, but so far what I am seeing seems to indicate that the conventions essentially canceled each other out. 

The next big event will be the first presidential debate on September 26, 2008, which will be held at the University of Mississippi. This debate will be moderated by Jim Lehrer and will focus on foreign policy and national security. Between now and then I don't expect to many planned fireworks from either campaign. However, both campaigns will clearly be hard at work in swing states trying to win voters. 

What is interesting is that this election marks the first time that Democrats are stealing a page out of the Karl Rove playbook. We hear constantly on the news that independents will decide the election. In 2000 however, Karl Rove argued that republicans could win the election by getting conservatives, who don't normally follow politics, out to the polls (this was also a claim first made by Barry Goldwater in his unsuccessful 1964 presidential bid versus LBJ). Rove's argument was forget the middle and win without them by getting people who normally don't vote, but are on the right side of the political scale, to vote for republicans. While it can be argued whether or not this strategy works (remember Bush actually lost the popular vote in 2000), it was used again in 2004, which saw perhaps the most sophisticated voter mobilization program by republicans in the history of elections. 

While democrats are clearly not conceding the middle, Obama has already used Rove's strategy during the primary. Obama built his constituency based on two subgroups on the left that traditionally have low turnout: Young People (18-29) and African Americans. Had these two groups not come out in droves, exit polling shows that Hillary would have had the nomination by Super Tuesday. Obama's level of success in November will, in large part, be contingent upon his ability to expand, as he did in the primary, the size of the voting left. 

What is interesting to note is that both candidates are using the Rove strategy, but in slightly different ways. On the democratic side, Obama is the part of the ticket that is trying to enlarge the base, while Biden should appeal to the more moderate part of the party and independents. On the republican side it is just the opposite; McCain is working the moderate side of the party with Palin working the base. 

In my opinion,  this election is not going to be decided by independents. This is because I think they are by and large going to be split between McCain and Obama. In the end, whoever can get the most nontraditional voters to the polls will win this election. Given Obama's unbelievable ground campaign, and McCain's total lack of field offices in most key states, I think the edge has to go to Obama for now. 

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