Update: Fox news is reporting that Obama’s pollster is confirming the results discussed here. In a memo sent to the Florida ground operation, he confirms that the polls are tightening up and that GOTV operations are critical and in need of resources in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. He says that resources are less of a problem in Pennsylvania. When contacted by Fox, he confirmed the McCain release, “McCain is right”.
I’m going to try and pull together a lot of different threads in this Diary entry, to give a sense of where this election is heading. As most of you know, I’ve been trying to be cautiously optimistic, without being blinded by false hopes. That is always a difficult challenge, and I think I’ve maintained that balance so far.
Let’s begin with the a memo released by the McCain campaign from their internal pollster. This has been picked up by at least The Hill and Fox. Remember, this is a release from the McCain campaign itself, so they have a reason for doing it. As for the memo itself, I can make arguments in my head for it being overly optimistic or overly pessimistic. But I have a hard time believing it can be too far from the truth, given that a polling firm “for hire” is putting its name on it. They want to have work after the election too.
There is a lot of information in this memo, so let me try to break it down into the important points:
1) The turnout for this election is going to be massive. We could be looking at 130 million voters:
Public Opinion Strategies has been using a 1 to 10 scale to help look at self-described interest in the election since 1993. In 1996, in our last track, 48% of voters described their interest in the election as a 10. In 2000, the last track was 54% saying 10. Remarkably, in 2004, our last track had self-described 10s at 75% of the electorate. You need to understand we are witnessing a day-to-day trend of serious magnitude as self-described 10s increase in every roll. Last night, 81% of voters described their interest in this election as a 10! Wow.
How is this going to effect the election? Well there are several factors in the election that have been driven by the turnout models. First, the public polls have been assuming a giant surge in Democrat voters with the Black, Youth, Newly registered (ACORN cheaters), and enthusiastic Democrat voters. But in a turnout model of this size, those factors are muted by the fact that the GOP base is also turning out in their 2004 levels, and maybe even higher than 2004. The practical effect is that Party ID advantage should be less than the +3 Dem in 2006, and might approach the +0 of 2004. The memo confirms this analysis:
My own view and our own weights in our surveys reflect a belief that African American turn-out will be at historic levels, there will be a significant boost with voters 18 to 29 years old, yet the overall high level of turn-out will begin to mute the increase in the percentage these sub-groups represent in the overall electorate.
2) Undecided’s are going to break to McCain.
There are several indicators here that point in this direction. Unlike previous elections, the Black vote being reflected in the polls includes no undecideds:
Typically a Republican candidate trails among African Americans on a survey by a margin of something like 78% to 14%. As a firm, we consistently warn our clients that on Election Day, they will underperform their polling margins with African American voters. If their tracking says 78% – 18%, they should expect to only carry 8% of the African American vote, as the Democrat candidate will typically carry more than 90% of the African American vote. Senator Obama’s numbers are different than anything we have ever seen before among African Americans. In most polls, McCain is losing these African American voters by margins like 97% to 1%.
This is a very significant point. A large block of undecideds from previous elections are not there in this election. This block typically will break toward the Democrat in most elections, but they are already built into Obama’s commitment. Ed Rendell made a point yesterday that I also thought of last night. In this election Obama is the incumbent.
Take the one poll that says 52-41 — that’s 11 points. There are seven points [of] undecideds. If there’s an incumbent, generally the undecideds won’t vote for the incumbent. Sen. Obama has been the ‘incumbent’ for a while.
The old saying is “undecideds break toward the challenger”. Well we have been told for almost a year now that the Democrat candidate will be the President. For almost 5 months, Obama has been acting as the President Elect. Voters looking at someone with this much exposure, while Bush has been completely absent from the media, are seeing Obama in the same light they typically view incumbents.
The memo looks further at these undecideds, and characterizes them:
Functionally, this means the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino. So, in a state like Indiana where he has recently led Senator McCain, in most tracks, Senator Obama is at 46% to 47% of the vote. I am becoming increasingly persuaded it will be very difficult for Senator Obama to perform much above his percentage of the vote in a state.
So if you look at polls, you need to start thinking that Obama’s top line number is going to be pretty close to his actual vote.
3) Democrats are crossing over to vote McCain in much higher percentage that Republicans are crossing over for Obama.
The memo addresses this factor when looking at general trends:
We are beginning to once again get over a 20% chunk of the vote among soft Democrats. Importantly as well, our long identified target of Walmart women – those women without a college degree in households under $60,000 a year in income are also swinging back solidly in our direction. Finally, in terms of critical improvement, even as this track shows more Republicans voting for us than Democrats supporting Obama, we are witnessing an impressive pop with Independent voters.
This tracks well with what I noted last night regarding the early voting in Nevada. While the numbers are difficult to ascertain, there is clearly a significant advantage for McCain in crossover support. Ed Rendell points out something that I find very interesting, and something I noted the other day when I realized that Obama never campaigned in the swing areas of Florida. He has only campaigned in Miami.
Obama famously dissed smalltown Pennsylvanians in remarks last April to wealthy donors in San Francisco, calling them anti-immigrant and “bitter” and saying “they cling to guns and religion.” Still, the Obama campaign heeded Rendell. Sen. Obama returned to Pennsylvania Monday to campaign — but he won’t be visiting small towns in the Bitterlands. Instead, he’ll stick to more urban locales. Monday night, he was in Pittsburgh. Today, he’ll be in Delaware County.
Remember, Obama is on record as saying small towns bore him. The practical effect of his campaign decision is that he is not trying to hold onto the rural Democrat base. He has written that off, and is trying to instead beef up support in the Blue districts that voted for Kerry in 2004. Contrast this to McCain and Palin that have been going to Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Bucks County. They are campaigning in both Blue and Red districts. This matches up well with the post I made yesterday about the PUMA ground game in Pennsylvania.
4) The Liberal/Socialist label is sticking to Obama.
I stated back in September that the country will ultimately decide whether it wants to move toward Socialism or prefers to retain its roots in individual Liberty and Capitalism. The concern at the time was that with the blatant media bias, the voters weren’t going to get the true picture of Obama.
Well they have gotten that picture, and as I said back when the Joe the Plumber thing hit, Joe has become this election’s version of the Swift Boat guys. This is borne out by the McCain internal polling:
We are tracking how much people have seen, read, or heard about a number of thematic elements from both campaigns, including the false charges about Senator McCains health care plan, being out of touch on the economy, and the Obamas campaign charges about Medicare. At the same time, we are testing awareness of Joe the Plumber, Senators Bidens quote about his own running mate being so inexperienced it invites being tested by our enemies around the world, and Obamas proposals that will raise federal spending by a trillion dollars. This has been the week where Joe the Plumber has literally become a household name. An astounding 59% of voters in these battleground states have heard a lot about this story, 83% have heard a lot or some about this episode. The 59% a lot dwarfs the other stories/thematic elements we are tracking this week.
This is critical, the final week of the election, when everyone finally finished gathering the information that they need to make their decision, was dominated by the themes that McCain wanted, not Obama. This is huge. Look at the polling results:
In our tracking, now 59% of battleground voters describe Senator Obama as being a liberal, a percentage that is higher than previous Democrat losers Gore/Kerry, and significantly higher than for President Clinton and President Carter. A majority (54%) of voters profile as saying Senator Obama is more liberal than they see themselves politically.
So the voters now have the information they need. They recognize Obama is a liberal, and they consider him to be more liberal than they are. If this country votes for Obama next week, it actually will be confirmation that Socialism is a desired (or at least acceptable) outcome.
I think that even our resident Democrats can recognize that such a result would be without historical precedent.
So we still have Obama’s infomercial tonight, which is reminding me a lot of Perot in 1992. He is going to try and get the campaign back onto the topics that work in his favor. The question is whether or not anyone cares at this point. It is hard to believe that anyone in the country has not been exposed to information about Obama, given the half trillion dollars he has spent on advertizing.
I think that the nature of the election is now pretty much set, unless something of similar magnitude to the Bush DUI can be dropped on McCain. But all the outstanding bombshells appear to be targeted at Obama, and he is working overtime trying to keep them buried.
My personal feeling is that McCain’s pollster is trying to not get anyone’s hopes up, and keep them working hard. On Tuesday, the American People will once again prove their exceptionalism. They will elect John McCain and Sarah Palin.