Monday, October 06, 2008


The polls for Obama are not only great, they're getting better. Now the average of the four tracking polls has him above 50%, and 8 points ahead. Two state polls in Virginia show him ahead there, one by a substantial margin. And another poll has him ahead in North Carolina by 6 points.

Update: The NBC poll announced late today has Obama ahead by 6 points nationally, 49% to 43%. NBC has pretty consistently shown the race tighter than other polls have. This poll also found that Obama and Biden won their debates by a margin of 50-29.

But the wheels were turning at both campaigns over the weekend. For some weird reason, the McCainers actually announced that they were changing the subject from the economy and going after Obama. Maybe they didn't count on this, but Team Obama read these stories. So even as VP candidate Palin was starting the push by latching on to the NY Times story about Obama and Bill Ayers that conveniently ran that day (along with several anti-Palin screeds, which somehow she didn't mention), the Obama campaign was pushing back. Hard.

Obama zeroed in on the tactic on the stump. He described it as a smear campaign. There was a quick ad (the one just below this post.) Surrogates began fighting fire with fire--when Ayers came up, Paul Begala had the name of a shadowy McCain associate. Then the news trickled out that surrogates would be invoking the Keating Five. And then the big deal: the Obama campaign openly promoting a web site and 13 minute video (unveiled today) about McCain and the Keating Five. And here's the site. Today McCain himself went on the attack, in what's likely to be a preview of his part of the debate tomorrow.

Each of these strategies is a gamble that could help or hurt their campaigns. In responding quickly--and even pre-emptively--the Obama campaign tried to outflank McCain's new strategy. Palin's first attack got some bad reviews, including the AP analysis that it was "unsubstantiated and carried a racially tinged subtext that John McCain himself may come to regret." But cable news was repeating Palin's weekend attacks all morning.

For Obama, there's the risk of blunting his positive appeal with a negative counterattack against McCain, and turning off Independents, even as Democrats are cheered. There's of course also the risk of letting the attacks go unchallenged.

Since the attacks on Obama aren't new, do they have any actual force? Since the attacks on McCain are new--and in the case of the Keating Five, substantively related to the economic crisis reflected in a global market plunge today--do they have more force? Will McCain's objections even be listened to, or will they be discounted as desperate, and work against him?

Or have voters already made up their minds and it's all sound and fury signifying nothing? Since the VP debate did not cut into Obama's lead in the tracking polls at all, it is unlikely to stem the growing numbers in the state polls. McCain's debate performance tomorrow may be his last chance, or it may be too late.

There are also reports I pick up here and there of enormous enthusiasm for Obama across the country, especially among the campaign's well-organized volunteers. Today is the last day for new registration, so all their efforts will turn to early voting and election day.

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