Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Numbers That Count

Obama supporters are likely in for a few bad days, as the GOPer convention bounce shows up in the polls. Based on when Obama's bounce was strongest, it could go on until Wednesday in the tracking polls. (So far, McCain has come closer but Obama is still ahead.) There's no telling when the polls will change after that, absent a precipitating event.

Truthfully, it's bewildering, because McCain crapped out with his speech. Apparently a lot of people were watching the NFL football game and then watched McCain. So we'll see.

But as comforting as it would be if McCain peaks and starts falling again immediately--and possibly as energizing--the numbers that matter are coming in now: voter registration. And Democrats continue to register many more voters than GOPers. Overall: Since the last federal election in 2006, volunteers like Graham combined with the enthusiasm generated by the Obama-Clinton struggle to add more than 2 million Democrats to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 thousand voters in the same states.

There's a reason in these numbers why the GOPer convention derided the Northeast: it's almost solidly Democratic. (Just about the only state that's still in question for Obama is New Hampshire.) New registration in PA may have put the Commonwealth out of reach for McCain.

The Obama campaign itself has registered nearly 50,000 new voters in Virgina just in August, and aims to register another 35,000 or so by October. The overall gains--with emphasis on this year's swing states--show here.

GOPer David Frum sounds the alarm--the GOP vote is vanishing. The question is whether it will be overtaken this fall, or further in the future. But demographics are such that victory in November could assure a Democratic coalition for many years to come.

Then there's enthusiasm. Despite VP candidate Palin's energizing effect for McCain, polls still show Democrats much more enthusiastic about voting for Obama than GOPers are about McCain. And Palin has energized for Obama: a 10 to 1 immediate flood of donations, and reports are coming in of unusually big crowds at the openings of Obama hqs, in L.A. and Pensacola, FLA for example.

Now that the campaign is underway in earnest, various analysts are looking at the electoral map. The New York Times notes that the Palin Drone may be putting some states more in play for McCain, but these are mostly states GOPers are expected to win. While fortified turnout from this base is probably not enough to assure victory for Mr. McCain, strategists said, it would be very difficult for him to win without it. Obama still has more paths to victory, although there are blue states that are uncomfortably close at the moment, like Michigan. The Times notes that while McCain and Palin campaigned in their base states, Obama was in Ohio (a battleground) and Indiana (rarely not GOPer, but next door to Obama's Illinois.)

Al G. at the Field's analysis has the race being decided by 8 states, and his looks to be a conservative approach. At this point, I suspect if Tim Russert were alive and holding his little blackboard, the name written on it would be "Michigan." It's at the top of McCain's wish list, but it has so far been unwaveringly in the Obama column. But apart from noting that Obama still has many more ways to win than does McCain, it's really too early to narrowly focus. That process might begin in a few weeks, when the convention noise is out of the polls, and possibly after the first (and usually most important) presidential debate.

But even then, new voter registration continues in key states into October. So no poll numbers are definitive.

Sure, it's nerve-wracking, but for most people, the worst thing would be to get obsessed by numbers. Leave them to the pros. It's enthusiasm that's going to win or lose this election. So get fired up--and ready to go!

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