Polls swinging back to McCain?

We’ve definitely reached the point in the campaign season where head-to-head national polling is far less important than what’s going on in the battleground states, where McCain is struggling. But since the state numbers tend to be lagging indicators, it is beginning to look like reports of McCain’s demise may be a bit premature.

I’ve said before that should we enter November with the preponderance of poll numbers showing McCain 2-4 behind (close to or within most polls’ margins of error) then we could be in for an interesting election night as we wait to see which of many variables trumps the others at the last minute. Obama’s extensive ground game and influx of new voters? The GOP’s battle-tested 72 hour GOTV apparatus? The Bradley Effect? A final breaking of undecideds one way or the other based on whether they want to go with the new and unknown or the familiar face?

Quite remarkably, it appears that with three weeks to go, McCain may have crept within striking distance of making this a reality.

  • Today’s Gallup poll, for instance, which has shown McCain as many as 11 points behind in recent days, now has him 7 points behind among registered voters, but only 4 among likely voters using their traditional model for determining who those voters are.

  • According to Drudge, tomorrow’s Rasmussen poll will show McCain down by 5, after showing him down 8 a week ago.

  • Also according to Drudge, Zogby will show McCain down tomorrow by 4.

Since this is happening in multiple polls–a slight trend toward McCain after what must be considered the absolute worst week possible for his campaign–I’d venture to say that there is at least a fair to good chance that things are about to get interesting. Shave just a couple more points off those numbers and we’re looking at a whole new ball game.

The next debate is important, obviously. At the very least it should no longer now be considered just a formality on the way to Obama’s coronation.

There’s also the question of what the economy is going to do, especially as its reflected in the daily numbers coming out of Wall Street. If the DOW continues to lose hundreds of points a day for the next three weeks, then forget it–McCain is finished, which is just as well because Obama will be inheriting a toxic economy. If things stabilize, however, and economic news begins to slide off the front page just a little, we shouldn’t be surprised at all at a renewed focus on other issues which may benefit John McCain. At least by a couple now all-important points in the polls.

Additionally, as I understand it, the McCain campaign has been literally sitting on horde of cash that it intends to use aggressively in the final days of the campaign. Obama has been outspending McCain 3-1 or 4-1 in the battleground states, but is reported to have slightly less than a 2-1 advantage in cash on hand. This raises the possibility of McCain actually outspending Obama in key places, which has not done before, in the last days of the campaign.

Is it still a daunting up-hill battle? Sure, but things don’t look as bad as they did even a week ago, and there are still three weeks to go.