Wednesday, October 01, 2008

McCainiac Palinology

Monday's polls continued to show Obama gains, including three of the four tracking polls, with a lovely 51%-41% in the DKos poll. State polls also good again, with Obama in the lead in Florida for the first time in awhile. Though the Washington Post poll has settled down from the 9 point lead last week to 4 this week, Obama still is at 50%. (The Post poll apparently has sampled more GOPers and more whites this time.) This poll and the latest CNN suggest Obama's surge had less to do with the debate than the economy.

As wonderful as it would be to see this all continue, it's not a sure thing. McCain and Palin were hammered again today in the media, to the point that it's not worth repeating any of it. It's so consistent now that it's begging to hit bottom, and a new narrative to begin. That's how the media works. That's how the media thinks.

So despite all the Failin Palin news, we are absolutely primed for a turnaround Thursday. If Palin is perceived to do well--even with the expectations absurdly low--that may be enough to swing the narrative to an energized McCain-Palin resurgence, especially if they get an uptick in the polls. I'm not saying it will happen. But there's more than an even chance that, if Palin just has a few good zingers for the replays, it could. I don't think she will appear remotely qualified, and I do expect voters will reject her because of that, but the combination of what for her would be seen as a good debate performance with the media's need to change the story, could do it.

On the other hand, they are running out of opportunities. McCain had what is likely to be his best opportunity in the debate last Friday: the foreign policy/national security topic was his strength, and it was possibly his best debate performance. But he didn't walk away with it, and at least initially, Obama was seen as the winner. (If Obama wins it all, it will still be seen as a JFK-type turning point.)

The VP debate is probably the GOPer ticket's best opportunity if it can change the conversation for a week or so. If it doesn't result in some momentum for them, there are still two presidential debates left, but it will become increasingly difficult for McCain to pull away. He has to defeat Obama on Obama's turf--definitely in the third debate, but also in the second, because most of the questions at the "town hall" are likely to be about the economy. But McCain has his friendliest format, and friendliest debate moderator in Tom Brokaw. And Friday's debate didn't get as big an audience as predicted, apparently because it was on a Friday. The other debates won't be.

McCain also has to hope that once the "rescue" or "bailout" plan passes, he and Palin can change the emphasis from the economy to issues raising doubts about Obama. That's going to be difficult, not only because the economy is still going to be a hot topic, but because there are two debates in which Obama can impress, and parry attacks.

Still this isn't over, at least in terms of polls and campaign theatre--and who knows how many votes that's actually going to change. Right now you have to like Obama's chances, especially since he's surging just as early voting is beginning. It started in Ohio Monday. With the current momentum, the Obama ground game has the advantage: enthusiasm breeds synergy. There's a month left in the campaign, but really McCain/Palin have only about two weeks to change the dynamic. And their best shot to begin this is Thursday's VP debate. But if M-P can't stop Obama's momentum, they're looking at an electoral landslide loss.

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