Friday, October 24, 2008

11 Days to Change: Is This The Oncoming Perfect Storm?

The state polls released Thursday are nothing short of astonishing. Here's how Chuck Todd described the first sets in the morning: Most of the national polls -- including our NBC/WSJ survey -- are now showing Obama with a double-digit national lead. And here come a slew of brand-new state polls that also suggest Obama is in command of this presidential contest. The University of Wisconsin’s Big Ten Battleground polls have Obama up 10 points in Indiana (51%-41%), 13 points in Iowa (52%-39%), 22 in Michigan (58%-36%), 19 in Minnesota (57%-38%), 12 in Ohio (53%-41%), 11 in Pennsylvania (52%-41%), 13 in Wisconsin (53%-40%), and nearly 30 in Obama’s home state of Illinois (61%-32%). Meanwhile, there are new Quinnipiac surveys that show Obama up five points in Florida (49%-44%), 14 in Ohio (52%-38%), and 13 in Pennsylvania (53%-40%). And finally, new CNN/Time surveys find Obama ahead by five points among likely voters in Nevada (51%-46%), four points in North Carolina (51%-47%), four in Ohio (50%-46%), and 10 points in Virginia (54%-44%). The lone state survey that shows McCain ahead: CNN/Time’s West Virginia poll, where McCain’s nine (53%-44%)."

Did you get the gist? Obama is ahead--often substantially--in every state surveyed, except West Virginia. By the end of the day, Nate Silver wrote: This is not the time when John McCain can afford a bad polling day. And yet he's had perhaps his worst one of the year...And boy, there is a lot of action: 29 new state polls enterring our database. And many of them contain great news for Obama."

Meanwhile the endorsements keep coming in: The New York Times, Scott McClellan, the Goldwater family, Andy, Opie and the Fonz... A damn good article by Joe Klein in TIME called "Why Obama is Winning..." Another amazing national poll, from NYTimes/CBS showing Obama is even getting Bush voters for a 52-39 margin among probable voters, and 51-38 among registered voters.

It's almost too much. There are alot of metaphors that might apply, but let's explore this one: the perfect storm. Obama is increasing his hold on a majority in the national polls, but the state polls also reflect both wider margins and the above 50% trend, so it's a popular vote and an electoral vote surge.

Plus, as Obama increases his lead in states where he's had a small lead or been slightly behind, he is also getting closer to making other states competitive. So the rock-ribbed Republican state of Indiana is trending blue, and the state of Georgia--which the campaign more or less gave up on--is getting closer, and some polls have Obama ahead in Montana. What's next? Louisiana? Maybe so. Texas? Arizona? Alaska? Who knows?

Also elements of the perfect storm: dissension and conflict among Republicans and within the McCain campaign. More Republicans declaring for Obama. Money problems for McCain and the Republicans, not so much for Obama and the Democrats. Enthusiasm growing for Obama, as supporters sense they are part of history.

And every day that passes is one day McCain doesn't have to catch up. It's one more day in which voters are going to the polls while the Obama storm is building.

The last day that this trajectory could change is Oct. 29, next Wednesday, six days before election day. That's the day that Obama has half hour blocks on the TV networks. If somehow he screws that up, gives McCain something to seize on, then it could get tense. David Axlerod on TV Thursday indicated he will use the half hour to talk about what he will do as President. That might suggest a fairly conventional closing argument, feel-good 30 minutes, or something new, something that takes us past election day and goes into more detail about what Americans can expect in an Obama presidency. That's riskier in terms of the election, with more possibility of a downside, but also the potential to seal the deal. It also might help make the transition to governing. It could be, as Obama might say, a teachable moment.

But this is getting beyond the territory of numbers politics. Something is happening. These Republicans, like former Mass. Governor William Weld, don't have to endorse anybody. Yet they are, they are endorsing Obama. To be with the winner? Sure. But maybe there's something else. The country is in real trouble. We need to get behind a leader for the future. He's got lousy initials--I can't see anyone calling him BHO--but this is FDR time, maybe even more than JFK. This could be a perfect storm called destiny.

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