Tuesday, September 23, 2008


That clap of thunder you just heard is the new Washington Post/ABC poll that shows Barack Obama leading John McCain 52% to 43% among likely voters. That's nine points. And Obama is above 50%, which this late in the race is magic. Among registered voters in the poll, Obama leads by 10 points, 52-42%.

The last Post/ABC poll was Sept. 9, when Obama was ahead 47-46%.

There is nothing but good news in this poll. Though it measures who "leans" one way or another, the percentage of people who are sure who they are voting for has increased to 83% from 79% last time. On the internals, Ambinder isolates these: Voters, by 14 points more than McCain, trust Obama to handle the economy; his messaging that McCain is "out of touch" is bearing results, as 57% of Americans think that Obama better understands the complexities of the system. And when asked an open ended question about who'd best handle a crisis of any sort, half pick Obama, up significantly.

More good news for Obama: he's gaining back white women who defected to the McCain ticket; the Democrats have a 25 point enthusiasm advantage over Republicans, and concerns about McCain's age are rising. And here's an interesting nugget: Sarah Palin's biggest favorability rating drop has taken place among white Catholics."

This poll was taken Sept. 19-22, which means it began before the Monday Meltdown but includes that day. It has a margin of error of 3 points.

This caps a day in which state polls show Obama with slim to pretty good leads in battleground states, with one poll showing him slightly ahead in Florida and another tied in Ohio.

Also a new Pew poll confirms one element of the Post poll: more voters trust Obama to handle the financial crisis (47-35), and interestingly, independents alone favor Obama 44-30%. This is even more significant because this poll found a high percentage following these events. (This poll was also conducted Sept. 19-22.) Yet another poll agrees, from LA Times/Bloomberg, in which voters picked Obama to handle the financial crisis, 48% to 35%.

Apart from suggesting a trend, this poll has actual importance right now, because this is when people can start to vote. Early voting began Monday in the critical states of PA, Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina, as well as 7 other states. By October 5, that rises to 23 states allowing some form of early voting.
Obama is already likely to be getting a head start, because of the GOTV effort and the enthusiasm level, but these poll numbers could mean additional votes, even before November.

McCain is off balance, and efforts to regain it may be hampered by continuing bad news, both for him and for his VP candidate Palin. The New York Times earlier this week reported on his campaign manager's lobbying ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--hefty monthly payments simply for access to McCain--which ended in 2005. But now both the Times and Newsweek are reporting that this guy, Rick Davis, went back to Freddie Mac and asked to continue the relationship, and his firm has been collecting $15,000 a month (though nobody there did any work for it), right up until last month. Here's how the Times story starts:

One of the giant mortgage companies at the heart of the credit crisis paid $15,000 a month from the end of 2005 through last month to a firm owned by Senator John McCain’s campaign manager, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement. The disclosure undercuts a statement by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years."

This is not going to help McCain shake off the impression that he's the candidate most tied to the status quo in Washington, especially since this story involves an issue that is bound to be in the news for at least the rest of this week and probably much longer.

There's even a further downside to this crisis for McCain. Bush administration figures keep getting trotted out, including the 19% president and the vice-president who is so reviled that he was rejected by his own party's congressional delegation today. McCain, whose convention hid from the Republican party brand, is now going to be associated with the party and administration that voters would like to believe is already gone. This visibility reminds them it isn't, quite yet.

But for all this good news, there's opportunity for more twists and turns before this is over... And there's the fighting in the trenches. Some of it is pretty disturbing, as in Robert Kennedy's contention that hundreds of thousands of voters--mostly Democrats--are being disenfranchised. There are also the scurrilous ads, push polls and direct marketing pieces that are locally targeted.

But the Obama team is also in the trenches, looking for those seemingly small advantages, like the ad in Michigan that targets McCain for owning 3 foreign made vehicles (among his 13.) TIME's Amy Sullivan explains why this is potentially potent.

Then there are the rarely mentioned constituencies, like American Indians (the tribal endorsements in New Mexico could make the difference for Obama), or animal lovers. We hear a lot about hunters, but the Humane Society is backed by some 10 million members. And that organization has endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in its history: Barack Obama.

As the TPM story suggests, this is not nothing: for many people, animals are a very emotional issue, and apart from Obama's good record, the reputation of moose-hunting, wolf-shooting and polar bear endangering VP candidate Palin may be very motivating.

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