After a rough two weeks behind John McCain, all the major polling trackers seem to have shifted back in Barack Obama’s direction. He’s up 4 in Gallup, and up 2 in Real Clear Politics and Pollster. But despite all the good news, this is no time for Democrats to start breathing easy. Here’s three good reasons to get excited about Barack Obama’s recent bounce in the polls, and four good reasons not to.
Reasons to get excited:
1. Sarah Palin’s favorability ratings have gone from through the roof to in the tank. They are now the worst of the four candidates. Women are moving back into the Obama camp, independents are falling out of love. If I had to guess why Palin is now sinking, I’d say it’s a combination of: the honeymoon phase naturally ending; a really shaky first interview with Charlie Gibson; a week of late-night talk show jokes, including a scathing SNL skit that went viral; John McCain’s testy interview on The View; people learning just how far to the right she really is; and the reality of Sarah Palin the earmark queen catching up with the fantasy of Sarah Palin the Bridge-To-Nowhere-killing reformer.
2. The election is focused back on the issues. If for no other reason, the Wall Street crisis has benefitted Barack Obama because it immediately grabbed the national conversation by the throat and dragged it away from lipstick, farm animals, and kindergarten sex ed. The fact that Americans are now focused on the serious business of government and are now forced to confront the absolute failure of the Bush administration puts Democrats up and down the ballot in a favorable position. The worst financial crisis since the 1930s– according to the Wall Street Journal– is a story that will have legs through November.
3. The Republican farce of running against the Bush administration specifically and their own conservative platform generally is falling apart. It would have been hard to keep that up anyway, but with real issues now at the forefront, Americans are rejecting the Republican strategy of blaming Bush for everything and promising to do better, albeit with the exact same basic policies. Now that we can see with our own eyes that the unwavering free market faith of fiscal conservatives was and is foolish– foolish to the point of nearly collapsing the economy on itself like a black hole– it’s hard to justify another four years of the same leadership. Chris “Ha!” Matthews just did a brilliant interview exposing the hypocrisy of Republicans running away from their party’s own record that is worth viewing in its entirety:
Reasons not to get excited yet:
1. Obama will need a bigger margin than 2-4 points to win the election. As I’ve said before, he’s a black man named Barack Obama running for President of the United States. There will be a Bradley effect. The only question is whether it will be offset by the gains the Obama campaign is making in newly registered voters. If I had to guess, I’d say Obama will need to be up at least 7 points the week before the election. Late deciders will almost certainly break for McCain, as they did for Bush in 2004. The 2-4 point margin Obama has now and the direction of the polls are certainly encouraging. But until the margin reaches at least 7 points, I’d keep the champagne in the fridge.
2. All this focus on the economy is great, but eventually in the next two months the focus will turn to national security. Four years ago, Osama bin Laden dropped another mixtape a few days before the election, which helped move voters to Bush. After eight years of failure, no one doubts Barack Obama would be a better commander-in-chief than Bush. I’m just worried that Obama hasn’t made the case that he’d be a better commander-in-chief than McCain. Any major development abroad, a sudden negative turn in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or Iran could send voters running back to the Republicans.
3. The media wants this to be close, and they love putting their finger on the scale. In the two weeks following the Republicans’ convention bounce and Sarah Palin honeymoon phase, the media seems to have trained most of its heavy fire on the McCain campaign. Of course, a lot of it was justified– Palin needed (and still needs) to be vetted and the outright lies of McCain and his allies were beyond the pale. But the degree to which the media went after McCain was almost certainly influenced by his lead in the polls. As Barack Obama begins to build a lead, the media will turn its attention to the frontrunner.
4. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is sitting in sealed case in the Republican war room, with a sign that says “In case of emergency, break glass.” Now that we know John McCain has no intention of running the “honorable” and “respectful” campaign he promised earlier this year, the question isn’t if he will go to the nuclear option, but when. I assume the Obama campaign has spent the summer either formulating an effective response to the impending Wright offensive or preparing their own sealed glass case on McCain. But if not– if they are caught off guard in any way, a 2-4 point lead in the polls won’t save them.