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Obama's Trip, Independents, and the North Dakota Factor

Trying to cover a lot of bases this morning....

Everyone's looking for an Obama bounce in the polls extending from his recent week-long trip to the mid-east and Europe. At the same time that there's new evidence that the political landscape is changing dramatically, with independents holding significant power in the polls, and states which were previously considered solid red-state safe havens entering the "toss-up" category.

Recent statewide polls matching Barack Obama to John McCain are showing narrowing of the race in key states such as Ohio and Minnesota, and these results have left many wondering what and when, if ever, we might see a poll bounce for Obama resulting from his Mid-east and Europe trip. I think we're seeing that effect now in the daily tracking polls.

The Rasmussen Reports daily tracker finds a significant boost for Obama when comparing the most recent results to those one week earlier.

A week ago this poll had Obama ahead 44-40 in a match-up that excluded "leaners", and ahead 47-45 including those who were only leaning towards one candidate over the other. Yesterday's Rasmussen results have Obama extending his lead to 46-41 (was 44-40) in the base poll, and Obama lengthening his lead to 49-44 (was 47-45) when leaners are included. The 2-4 point lead a week ago has extended to a solid 5 point lead now.

Pollster Gallup has been running their own Daily Tracking Poll which is showing the same effect. Where one week ago Obama was ahead 45-43, his lead has now been extended to a whopping 47-41. [Update: One day later the poll is reading 48-41 -- Lee]

A six percentage point lead for Obama, also measured at several other points in July and June, is the highest he has enjoyed since he had a 7-point advantage over McCain in early June (which, in turn, was Obama's largest lead of the campaign).

The key question at this particular point in the campaign concerns the impact, if any, of this unusual week during which Obama conducted his highly-publicized world tour while McCain attempted to grab back part of the media spotlight by conducting domestic events and taking the opportunity to make critical comments about his presumed Democratic opponent.

Independent voters continue to be a key constituency, with the "leaners" movement from one candidate to the other resulting in the swing in the poll results. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, once considered a potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate in this year's race, continues his efforts to be a "player" in the election, suggesting that independents should coalesce and organize.

At a fund-raising breakfast here for the Independence Party of Minnesota on Friday, with some 120 paying guests gathered under a tent on the edge of the Mississippi River to hear him speak, Mr. Bloomberg suggested a revolution of sorts: He challenged independents to vote as a bloc in November.

"Just because we're independents doesn't mean we can't, or shouldn't, organize," said Mr. Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who became a Republican when he first ran for mayor seven years ago and then relinquished all ties to political parties last summer. "That's how you shape the debate and win elections."

The suggestion seems counter-intuitive, as autonomy and individualism are sacrosanct among independents. And Mr. Bloomberg said as much in his remarks, recognizing that his idea might sound "antithetical" at first glance. But he also said that political independence has sometimes morphed into chaos, with like-minded voters resembling "an unorganized mass of individuals who can't agree on anything."

"We have to start demonstrating to the candidates that we have what they need more than anything else: votes," he said.

Swing states and swing votes continue to hold the focus and attention of the media, but the Obama campaigns' "fifty state" plan, which calls for an all-out effort by the Democratic candidate in each and every state, may result in some surprising re-mapping of the predicted red-state blue-state results:

Two election narratives have somewhat paradoxically collided these past two weeks. On the one hand, the shifts in partisan identification and Barack Obama's determination to change the electoral map have significantly eroded John McCain's base. On the other hand and despite Obama's shifted strategy, the fact is states that were battlegrounds in 2004 have remained tight, ensuring that McCain remains highly competitive.

Yesterday, 5 polls from crucial swing states showed narrow races in the familiar swing states, while other developments underlined the relevance of the new Obama approach, including the unprecedented national scope of his campaign. As the Democrat started running ads in states like North Dakota and Indiana last month, we got out first sense that talk of expanding the map was not just a feint. An analysis of Obama's campaign organization published by The Hill confirms that Democrats are serious about contesting these states.

Obama has already opened 4 campaign offices in Alaska and 6 in Montana. McCain has no offices in either of these red states. This is a repeat of the primary scenario: Obama's organized in the caucus states Clinton ignored (Colorado, Alaska, Idaho), gaining a decisive edge in the delegate race. The stakes in the presidential race are different, of course, since electoral votes are not allocated proportionally. But given that no Democratic presidential candidates have opened campaign offices in Alaska or Montana in decades, the mere act of organizing troops in those states could have a dramatic effect on November results. In fact, two polls from red states by Research 2000 confirm that McCain has a lot to worry about:

  • In Mississippi, McCain leads 51% to 42% - versus a 15% lead in May. Obama gets 19% of the white vote. He will need to improve that share a bit as well as boost black turnout. (The poll is made up of 37% of African-American respondents versus 35% in 2004.) One positive note for Obama: 15% of the poll's black respondents are undecided versus 3% of white respondents. He has room to grow. (As a reminder: I have been skeptical of Obama's chances in Mississippi.)
  • In North Dakota, this is the second poll in a row (after Rasmussen's) to find a toss-up, with McCain up 45% to 42% within the margin of error. This is a state Obama is actively competing in.

North Dakota went for Bush in the 2004 Presidential election 64%-36%, and to have that state as a "toss-up" today demonstrates the changing landscape resulting from the fantastic effort on the ground by the Obama organization.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (4)


Polls really don't mean a thing, as anything can/will happen between now and Nov. 4th. On Nov. 4th the big question is how are the voting machines rigged?

Right now there maybe a problem in Ohio over Rove threating a IT person involved in the rigged Ohio elections in 2006.

That is more important than what any polls say. ARE the votes being counted fairly?

Lee Ward[TypeKey Profile Page]:

I agree that in absolute terms the poll results this far out are not meaningful. When you realize that the polls do not factor in voter turnout either, and as a election predictor there isn't much to go on there.

What polls do show you is what's important to voters - by watching what news and events moves the polls. McCain made a lot of noise about Obama's lack of a recent visit to Iraq, and if the polls now show a positive result from Obama's mid-east trip that can be instructive going forward.


"Right now there maybe a problem in Ohio over Rove threating a IT person involved in the rigged Ohio elections in 2006."

Would you care to list what elections were rigged in Ohio in 2006 ??

Do you have any idea of what the election results were in Ohio in 2006 ??

Steve Crickmore:

Allen was referring to the recent story, covered on the Brad Blog, Rove Threatened GOP IT Guru If He Does Not 'Take the Fall' for Election Fraud in Ohio, Says Attorney...For background on Rove's part in this crucial 2004 election result, (If Kerry had taken Ohio he would have won the electoral vote) see Rove`s missing e-mails.

There are so many Rove scandals in court, it is hard to keep up with them.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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