Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama seems to be kicking ass while McCain flounders; why don't the polls show it?


These polls, for example, show a tightening of the race in battleground states even while it seems Obama is knocking everything out of the park. Steve Benen isn't sure whether to be nervous or not, while Kevin Drum thinks it's time to start measuring for drapes in the Oval Office, and Josh Marshall says to look long term. I honestly don't know what's going on, but I waffle between acknowledgment that it's not even August yet and most people aren't paying attention... and, well, the guy is a black man who is loved by Europeans, so no matter how much the country wants to elect a Democrat, lingering racism and xenophobia could be exploited to still lose it for him.

There are, however, two competing historical analogies that are bouncing around to help explain what's going on. One is the 1996 comparison where McCain=Dole since they're both crusty old war heroes; this is the analogy favored by wet-blanket John Judis. If you buy this one, then Obama is pretty freakin' screwed... since Bill Clinton was up by 10-15 points this time of year against the bumbling Dole campaign. However, just like Ed Kilgore, everything but the McCain=Dole part of this analogy strikes me as wrong. Clinton was an incumbent and thus already a known commodity to the American people.

Kilgore goes on to list even more possible historical analogies, but I prefer his first... 1980:
While John McCain is not, like Jimmy Carter, an incumbent with a lot of problems, he's close enough to the actual incumbent and his deeply unpopular views and record to get very contaminated by him. And Barack Obama, like Ronald Reagan, is a candidate whose main challenge seems to be overcoming a relatively low threshold of acceptability by an electorate that wants a party change in the White House. It's sometimes forgotten that the 1980 race was actually quite close until the last couple of weeks, when Reagan appears to have crossed that threshold and voters broke decisively in his direction...

I think, much like Reagan/Carter, this race is probably going to stay close until the debates... where, while not nearly as good a debater(and McCain is pretty good) as set piece speaker, Obama should be able to pretty easily appear "presidential" enough for the undecideds to break to him. I think the bar will be set pretty low for him, so he should be able to easily clear it.

I would however, be much more confident with a 10-15 point lead right now.