Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Shape of the Race, 10-26-08

Dan Riehl's not throwing in the towel on a McCain victory, and he discounts elite media opinion on an Obama blowout:

This race is still close....

Don't tell me what some inside the beltway, alleged all-stars want to do. And the last thing anyone wants to do is get caught up in polling in an election with so many variables and unique challenges. It's hard to find a reasonable number of polling firms who agree precisely from one day to the next on a single result.

There is only one opinion that matters - the opinions realized as the votes of the American people scattered across the breadth and width of America's great Heartland. When those are cast and counted, I'll contemplate the future of this great nation. But until November 4th, frankly, none of us can really say.
Like me, Dan's ready to go down with the ship, and there have been a couple of recent polls showing a tightening in the election, for example, the recent IBD/TIPP survey:

Contrary to other polls, some of which show Obama ahead by double digits, the IBD/TIPP Poll shows a sudden tightening of Obama's lead to 3.7 from 6.0. McCain has picked up 3 points in the West and with independents, married women and those with some college. He's also gaining momentum in the suburbs, where he's gone from dead even a week ago to a 20-point lead. Obama padded gains in urban areas and with lower-class households, but he slipped 4 points with parents.
IBD/TIPP has a history of accuracy, although this poll finds youth voters going 53-43 for McCain over Obama, and that just doesn't sound right (and could be a signal of larger problems with the sample).

an Associated Press-GfK poll this week also found McCain and Obama essentially deadlocked heading into the final two weeks of the election.

The poll, which found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent, supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race narrowed after the third debate as GOP-leaning voters drifted home to their party and McCain's "Joe the plumber" analogy struck a chord.
Both of these polls may very well be outliers from the main trend in dozens of surveys this last couple of weeks which have found Barack Obama ahead by high single-digits, and in some cases by double-digit margins.

That said, recall that it's a 50-state election, and we have to look at the shape of the race across the battlegrounds.
Here's Andrew Romano with a nice run-down:

The important number to watch ... is how many electoral votes (EVs) Obama is collecting in states where he averages more than 50 percent support - i.e., states he'd win even if every single undecided voter breaks for McCain. As of today, the Illinois senator is topping 50 in all of the Kerry states (252 EV) plus Iowa (7), New Mexico (5), Colorado (9) and Virginia (13) - for a grand total of 286 EVs, or 16 more than he needs to win. What's more, there are signs that Ohio might be breaking his way as well. The three polls that were in the field this week--Big10 Battleground, CNN/Time and Quinnipiac--show Obama leading McCain 53-41, 50-46 and 52-38, respectively. Note that all of Obama's numbers start with a "5."

As with national polls, states averages lag behind events. So there's a chance that McCain could still catch up - or be catching up right now. That said, there's simply no evidence so far that "the presidential race has tightened." In fact, much the opposite. Like the rest of you political junkies, I'll be staying tuned to see whether something changes. But I won't let any single poll - however "close" - "shock" me into believing a storyline that's not supported by the stats.
Romano relies heavily on the left-leaning Nate Silver for his analyis, although it's hard to quibble with the numbers in the toss-up states, where McCain's clearly been struggling in states that went to the GOP in 2004 and 2000.

That said, a good number of insightful conservatives are simply looking ahead to the future of the Republican Party -
how it will rebuild, who will be frontrunners in 2012, and how long will the party be in the wilderness?

See also my earlier essays, "The Shape of the Race, 10-16-08," and "The Shape of the Race, 10-1-08."