By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Double digits

Everyone being polled could be lying. John McCain could pull Osama bin Laden’s head out of a bag and hold it up before the TV cameras the weekend before the election. Sarah Palin could be replaced on the Republican ticket by Warren Buffet, who — along with Colin Powell — will renounce his previous endorsement of Barack Obama. So no predictions from me.

But good Lord. John Zogby, whose methodology may understate support for Barack Obama, now has him leading McCain by 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent. And Pew has Obama up by 14 points among both registered voters (52 percent to 38 percent) and likely voters (53 percent to 39 percent).

Posts on polls are kind of useless, and I apologize. But the campaign has taken over most of my brain cells. I thought it was interesting that what seemed like a slight shift toward McCain a few days ago appears to have been stopped and is now being reversed.

I still think it’s going to be close.

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  1. zadig

    Dan, all of this may be true, but you’re overlooking McCain’s ace in the hole. Nothing like a little well-placed voting machine tampering to help boost a candidacy.

  2. O-FISH-L

    Dan, as a cheerleader are you not deeply concerned that Obama “hovers” at or under 50% despite the recession blamed on Republicans, his massive spending advantage, months of extra exposure in his more newsworthy primary, McCain’s “slimiest ever” campaign, McCain’s pick of an “unqualified” running mate and the lack of a significant (a la Perot, early Nader) third party candidate? I won’t even get into the ratio of favorable coverage from the press, late night comics and other media that have benefited Obama.You once covered and I’ve worked on a few of these things and of course the candidate with the least funding (or who abides by a public funding pledge) buys his ads from Election Eve (most advertising) backwards to the point where it begins to be affordable. While Obama has saturated the airwaves in swing states for weeks, McCain is barely on the air yet but still within striking distance. Amazing!Not that it matters if he gets the states that he needs, but clearly Obama’s 40%+ support is extremely thin and uncertain. Another “Joe the Plumber” or “Joe the Running Mate” incident and sheesh, it’s tied again.I’ve been accused of racism for even discussing the Bradley Effect, although I agree with Ann Coulter that it’s actually the fear of being accused of racism. Bottom line, if I’m Obama I’d be asking why is this thing even close?

  3. Steve

    The 538 projection is still at 5 or so (51.8-46.7). The RCP average is now at 6.9 (down from 8.2 a week ago but up from 5.0 a couple of days ago). So I’m not sure I buy these 10-point numbers.One of the more interesting results of this election will be the judgement on how well the polls do, given the unknowns like Bradley effect, cellphone effect, etc.And fish, I think this is going to be the biggest presidential election margin in 20 years, easily. And the first time a Democrat has gotten more than 50.1% since ’64.

  4. Ani

    And I keep thinking about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

  5. Amused

    Democrats talking to other Democrats about a landslide is scary.I’ve thought Zogby has understated Obama until now. Is it true that his polls do not correct for unpublished telephone numbers and therefore are apt to undercount the young and the urban?Does this mean a sort of reverse Literary Digest effect?

  6. O-FISH-L

    Steve – You might be right, but I think Obama’s last 10% of support is extremely fragile. Obama has run a masterful campaign based on, as far as I can tell, one thing, being the anti-Bush. If he wins, I’ll be terrified but will tip my cap as far as campaign strategy goes.Slightly off point, and as non-partisan as I can be, has anyone seen Dana Perino lately? I can’t recall seeing any less of a WHSP in modern times. Not sure if Bush is putting country above party (is there such a thing?) or what, but there is such a Republican case to be made that the economic crash, at least Fannie Mae and Fredie Mac are an entirely Democrat scandal. Plus, collapsing gas prices after Bush lifts the ban on drilling, success finally in Iraq etc. Even if you disagree with me on the above issues, I’d rather sell them than anything else right now. I can’t help wonder if Tony Snow was alive and in office as WHPS, of if another effective spokesperson were selling the story, if Bush’s approval ratings wouldn’t be nearer 40% than 20%. Such a difference would surely help McCain.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I could make the case for Iraq better than Bush or McCain has. And I was against the war.Tony Snow was the only completely competent press secretary Bush had. Ari Fleischer was partly competent, but too much of a thug for a job that consists mainly of cajoling.Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform? Please. The Republicans killed it in committee in 2005. Yes, the Democrats would have voted against reform, but they never had to.

  8. mike_b1

    o-fish: And George Bush’s whole campaign was based on him as the anti-Clinton. So what? (Little did we know he was, in fact, the anti-Christ.) I guess 8 years of peace and prosperity were all this country could take.

  9. Steve

    amused: Is it true that his polls do not correct for unpublished telephone numbers and therefore are apt to undercount the young and the urban?Could be. 538 has some articles on the “cellphone effect”. Their guess: 2.8%Fish – in two weeks, we’ll know, won’t we?

  10. O-FISH-L

    Steve – True.Dan – That’s my point, the Republican sales pitch on Iraq and the other issues I mentioned has been inept, if not non-existent. I still think the Fannie / Freddie issue should have been a Republican home run.Show the tapes of the Dem pols like Frank and Waters insisting “no crisis” then some obviously Democrat voters (actors) driving a junkbox with an Obama sticker on the back pulling up to a mansion with a SOLD sign saying “We’re home!” Maybe even have a Chris Dodd-like character mowing the lawn next door, saying “what kind of rate did you, get?” “I only paid 2%.”Selling this issue for the Republicans should have been like selling beer at Fenway. Again, an Obama-Media masterpiece.

  11. Steve

    OK, here’s a data point: on today’s, if you only count states where Obama leads BY MORE THAN 6 POINTS, Obama gets 277 EVs.

  12. O-FISH-L

    Correction: Sen. Dodd would never be mowing his own lawn. I’d have him lounging by the pool, topless with full beer belly.

  13. mike_b1

    o-fish: I think you meant Ted Stevens.

  14. Dot Lane

    Ding ding ding! Steve hits the nail right on the head.And it’s hard to make a case for Fannie and Freddie being owned by the Democrats when one has a senior campaign adviser receiving money from the same for doing absolutely nothing other than potentially being able to buy access to McCain. You think that’s a story the McCain campaign camp wants front and center, especially after the candidate claimed the adviser had divested himself from his own firm? John McCain is up to his neck in Washington lobbyists.

  15. O-FISH-L

    Mike_b1. Nope. I meant Chris Dodd as in "Countrywide CEO Gives Chris Dodd Sweetheart Deal."Dot – Please. If it helps move the discussion, I will stipulate that McCain is entirely to blame for Fannie & Freddie. In fact, I have inside info that he cooked up the scandal in the basement of his seventh house. My point and only point is that Republicans have enough material to have a field day with this and from my side of the aisle, it's disappointing that they haven't. Then again, I'm not in a state where McCain is advertising so what do I know?Are you so partisan that you can't admit there is ample good material for Republicans in this? Sheesh.

  16. Dot Lane

    “Are you so partisan that you can’t admit there is ample good material for Republicans in this? Sheesh.”You’re right, and this will be the loser’s chorus: “Oh, McCain had such good material and he just never used it properly!” Funny, but that’s what I hear conservatives say when talking about how the United States lost in Vietnam.Fannie and Freddie would have provided ample good material for the GOP to show their own hypocrisy on the issue. And when Republicans tried to make political hay over it, they instead managed to put a picture of a black man, Franklin Raines, who was barely related to Obama’s campaign on campaign in an ad blaming Obama for the Fannie/Freddie problem based on a single reference in the Washington Post, while ignoring white men who worked for Fannie/Freddie and were actual Obama campaign advisers. And here I thought Republicans didn’t believe in affirmative action! McCain’s supposed strengths going into this election were experience and foreign policy expertise. Changing him into some sort of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington means he is completely at odds with everything voters have been told about him. Voters aren’t buying what he’s selling. It’s hard to explain all those years in the Senate while claiming to be an outsider….

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I read somewhere — can’t remember where — that Obama has been telling supporters he’s very concerned about complacency. And I would add that any polling lead that’s built on the assumption of new voters’ turning out in large numbers is exaggerated or wrong.

  18. O-FISH-L

    Dot – What type of grade did you get when the teacher assigned a paper on “Pick and Defend An Opposing Viewpoint?” For God’s Sake.Thanks Dan for responding to the below post, which I temporarily deleted to respond to Dot. Yeah, I realize facts are facts and you aren’t supposed to lie about poll numbers, I just wonder if saying he’s ahead 13% (Brent Bozell called it a glue-sniffing poll) helps or hurts. BTW, can we have a Media Nation Christmas, er Holiday Party? I want to sit across from Dot!—-Dan, Steve et al: What do you make of the risks, if any of these polls showing Obama ahead by double digits and outlets like Drudge headlining Landslide?Obviously I’d rather be up 13% than down, but with Obama reportedly depending a lot on new voters (including the young and minorities) does this tell them to stay home, that it’s all over? Can’t help but think of Kerry, Theresa and daughters accepting congratulations at the State House during daylight hours (Eastern time) then losing it.I know yesterday Rush was cautioning otherwise, that the wide margins (he assumes they’re inaccurate) might be meant to depress Republican turnout. I recall the 2001 Mayor’s race in Quincy, popular five term incumbent Jim Sheets faced a challenge from an upstart School Committeeman. While there were no official polls, it was assumed Sheets would again sail to victory. He lost by 17 votes. It was later discovered that even some of Sheets’ closest people hadn’t voted.

  19. Ani

    Which brings us back to the simple idea that the election should be focused on the actual voting — we wouldn’t have to twist ourselves up with second- and third-guessing of interpretations of polls if we reined in our curiosity and impatience and didn’t insist on trying to peek at those presents before the holiday party.

  20. Steve

    fish – Yes, I think complacency born of believing double-digit poll margins is a risk for Obama. It will be up to Obama’s GOTV ground game to get those voters to the polls. Obama’s supposed to have an all-time largest ground presence, though.We’ll see how that works on game day.

  21. mike_b1

    fish, it’s the GOP members who in recent years have struggled the most with staying out of the legal system: Duke Cunningham, Ted Stevens, Mark Foley, Vito Fossella, Larry Craig, Mark Siljander, John Sweeney, Bob Allen … it goes on and on. Now, do I think what Dodd did was wrong? Yes. Was it worth the scrunity? No (he saves all of $200/month). But from an underwriting standpoint, he was about as good a bet as you’re going to get that he’d pay back to loan, so I’m not so sure he shouldn’t have qualified for the VIP program.But to the subject regarding Obama’s lead, did the voters stay home when Reagan beat Carter, despite Reagan holding a 20+ point lead during the summer? Nope. And that’s about the only recent historical correlation I can think of. Feel free to keep dreaming, though.

  22. Dot Lane

    My guess is that the warnings about complacency have more to do with down ticket results than concern over the national election. Complacency helps Michelle Bachman keep her seat. It doesn’t lose Minnesota for Obama. As to my grades, o-f-l, let’s just say McCain’s class rank at Annapolis and mine at my college were almost diametrically opposed.

  23. Sean Roche

    I can understand a little skepticism about polls, but “useless”?I’ve been saying for months, and will say for another two weeks, we’re not going to be waiting up for late returns from Ohio. This one’s going to be over in prime time.

  24. Steve

    Sean – I certainly hope so. If NC and Virginia go for Obama, the night is probably over.If, on the other hand, contrary to the polls right now, NC and VA break for McCain, and OH and FL are looking close, and PA isn’t in the bag, then we have a long night on our hands.Not that I think it’s going to happen, mind you.I am a Red Sox fan, but I am ever mindful of the wisdom of Yogi.

  25. O-FISH-L

    Steve – Thanks, I agree GOTV will be crucial. Sean, not so fast. BREAKING on DRUDGE as we speak:AP SHOCK POLL: OBAMA, MCCAIN EVEN…IBD/TIPP: CLOSE…

  26. mike_b1

    First of all, you need not go to Drudge. You’re cherrypicking your polls, but OK, let’s look at what it says:”The AP-GfK survey included interviews with a large sample of adults including 800 deemed likely to vote. Among all 1,101 adults interviewed, the survey showed Obama ahead 47 percent to 37 percent. He was up by five points among registered voters.””Deemed likely to vote” is the money line, and there’s nothing in the AP written story that explains that. Dismissed.

  27. mike_b1

    Hehe: Found the survey. It says of the 1,101 subjects, 36% live in rural areas — which tend Republican — and 2% refused to answer/don’t know. However, more than 75% of Americans live in urban areas, according to the US Census, and more than 80% according to some other data I found. Either way, the sample is not representative of the electorate, and not by a longshot.The devil is always in the details.

  28. Suldog

    “The devil is always in the details.”True. But might there be differing definitions of urban and rural being used by the pollsters and the US Census?

  29. mike_b1

    Perhaps. But as distinctions go, it’s kind of hard to confuse those two groups, I would think.

  30. Peter Porcupine

    Mike – What do you think Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth counties are categorized as? Urban or rural?

  31. mike_b1

    Suburban, not rural.

  32. mike_b1

    Here’s the Census definition:

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