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|Has Obama turned the corner? Almost…|
With under a month before the November elections, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama has opened up a significant national lead over Republican rival John McCain. While this alone is worthy of a column, the significance inside the numbers, especially in key battleground states (i.e., Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia), is the real story.
In the latest Rasmussen poll, Obama has put some distance between himself and McCain in large part (that is if you believe conventional wisdom) due to the continued downward spiral of economy. Simply put, McCain is seen by too many voters as either an extension of Bush or as a candidate offering no substantial change over Bush. Regardless of the validity of these viewpoints, McCain has a substantial problem: responding to these issues in a forceful way could erode the conservative base that the choice of Governor Palin as Vice President was supposed to ensure.On the other hand, not responding forcefully may appear as if he has accepted the verisimilitudinous of these charges.
One of the areas, according to the Rasmussen poll, that has to concern McCain (and excite Obama) is that the number who would be "very or extremely comfortable" with Obama ranges from 44 percent to 47 percent. The comparable numbers range from 40 percent to 42 percent for McCain.
Still, when you go inside the polling numbers, it's actually worse. Obama has the advantage on this measure in all five battleground states.
In the 2004 race, Bush beat Kerry by a respectable margin, but more importantly he won all of the previously mentioned battleground states. The Electoral College victory was 286 to 252. These battleground states represent 80 Electoral College votes. Even if they split these states, which is possible if McCain wins Virginia (13 Electoral College votes) and Florida (27 Electoral College votes), Obama still wins.
But this gets worse (Cover your eyes if you were hoping for a happy ending). In all battleground states, more voters trust Obama than McCain on economic issues, which will remain the issue of the campaign.
Fewer and fewer independents are feeling comfortable with the Palin choice and this is unlikely to change. The good news for McCain is that this is rarely a deciding factor for voters.What is bad for McCain is the loss of support among independents.
Consider the following: both Obama and McCain are garnering almost all of their respective party's voters. This makes sense. Democrats vote for Democrats and Republicans vote for Republicans. That may be the least insightful thing ever printed. However, independents in three of the five battleground states (e.g., Colorado, Florida and Missouri) overwhelmingly support Obama. Those states combine for 47 Electoral College votes. If those numbers held (and I do think it's possible for McCain to win in New Hampshire and pick up 4 votes), Obama would become the next President with a dominating 76 vote majority in the Electoral College. Add to this the Virginia and Ohio votes and you have a mandate for a President (in the Electoral College) that we have not seen since Bill Clinton defeated President Bush in 1992.
So, has Obama turned the corner? Maybe.
There is still a veritable eternity to go in this campaign. The trouble for McCain is that he has not demonstrated any ability of late to respond in ways that bring independent voters closer to his side of the ledger. Even the attacks by Palin, regardless of their veracity, on Obama and his past associations seem off-the-mark and desperate. Her performance during the Veep debates should have boosted the campaign, but it did not.
It's not that McCain is simply running out of time. He seems to have run out of ideas. In a campaign that has been extremely light on particulars (note: has either candidate really offered a meaningful energy policy?) where style is rewarded over substance, McCain is looking less and less appealing.
I think McCain has about another 10 days to do something remarkable.
If he doesn't, then Barack can start ordering the 'O' engraved Inauguration invitations.
John W. Sutherlin, PhD, is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He also is co-director at the ULM Social Science Research Lab. He can be reached by e-mailing Sutherlin@ulm.edu.