Obama Still Strong In The Swing States Despite McCain Bounce

It remains far too early to predict what will happen November but the post-convention polls give clue as to how Sarah Palin might affect the race. Either candidate can certainly still win, but my suspicion is that the major effect of choosing Sarah Palin will be to change the outcome from an Obama landslide to a narrow victory. Choosing a polarizing candidate such as Palin has been called a gamble for McCain. The real effect might be to  help keep him from being blown out as opposed to helping him win.

McCain has certainly had an impressive bounce, and he managed to limit Obama’s by wisely springing his announcement the day after the Democratic convention concluded. The problem for McCain is that this might have converted an election which was primarily a fight for the center to a replay of the old Karl Rove campaigns aimed at the bases. The problem for McCain is that the Republican base is much smaller than it was in 2000 and 2004. Palin will help McCain avoid a landslide loss by preventing the religious right from staying home as they otherwise might have, but will hurt McCain among the independents, especially as the country gets a closer look at Palin.

McCain looks good in the national polls, at least for the moment,  but we know the election is really won in the electoral college. It doesn’t do McCain much good to expand his lead in conservative states which are excited about Palin if he cannot convert this into victory in the battleground states. The Fox/Rasmussen Swing State polls show reason for hope that Obama would still win in the electoral college, especially if McCain is now near the top of his post-conventon bounce. Nat Silver summarizes these polls, along with PPP‘s new poll of Michigan and SurveyUSA‘s new poll from Virginia:

At a macro level, these numbers seem like basically good news for Obama, since the overall numbers in swing states haven’t moved much at all – just shifted around some from region to region. McCain is polling about 3 points better right now than he was at the pre-convention equilibrium. It’s possible that those 3 points are manifesting themselves mostly in states that were already very red. Maybe Obama will lose Idaho and Nebraska and Alabama by 30 points rather than 20, but that doesn’t help McCain very much electorally (an exception might be in a state like Indiana).

In other words, I suspect that the probability of Obama winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote probably increased as a result of the post-convention dynamics. If you literally just looked at the polling out today, McCain would win the popular vote by 2-3 points, but Obama would probably be at least even money in the electoral college, by just barely holding onto Michigan and Pennsylvania and then either winning the Colorado/Iowa/New Mexico parlay, or perhaps Florida.

TPM Election Central reviews several swing state polls:

In Colorado, Obama leads by a 49%-46% margin, actually an improvement for him since McCain’s 49%-48% edge three weeks ago. Both results are within the margin of error.

In Florida, the race is tied 48%-48%, compared to a 48%-46% McCain edge from about three weeks ago.

In Ohio, McCain leads 51%-44%, compared to a 48%-43% lead for McCain from almost three weeks ago. Rasmussen has been the most favorable pollster for McCain in Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, Obama has a slim 47%-45% edge, not significantly different from his 48%-45% lead two and a half weeks ago.

In Virginia, McCain has a 49%-47% lead, not significantly changed from a 48%-47% McCain lead from over three weeks ago…

Separately, a new SurveyUSA poll of Virginia conducted this past Friday gives McCain an identical 49%-47% lead, with a ±3.7% margin of error. This is also not significantly changed from a 48%-47% McCain edge from over three weeks ago.

These state polls show that the increase in McCain’s national lead since the convention does not tell us very much about the real state of the presidential race.


  1. 1
    Christopher says:

    It’s the internals that matter.

    That yucky gray area below the surface and it is there, in the internals, where you see Obama’s genuine strengths.

    I think this election will come down to a tiny handful of swing states like Colorado and Virginia. Obama is doing fine in Michigan and Pennsylvania, Washington state and California. It may be a close race but at the end of the day, this is Obama’s to lose.

  2. 2
    Eric D. Rittberg says:

    The main effect of McCain picking Palin has been to swing libertarian voters over to the GOP.  This, the media has completely missed.  It’s not the middle who matter so much; It’s the libertarian swing voters. 

    In 2006, the DailyKos crowd was largely successful in wooing such voters over to the Dem side, enough to take that critical swing block out of the GOP column, and put the Dems over the top.  Dave Boaz of Cato Inst. chronicled this phenonmena in 2006. 

    This year, libertarians from every corner of the libertarian spectrum are supporting McCain/Palin.  Leftwing libertarians, Lew Rockwell-ites, Ron Paulists, Pro-Defense Libertarians, Libertarian-Conservatives, Reasonoids, all are now on board with McCain/Palin.

    That spells trouble for Obama.  He’ll lose the election almost entirely due to the loss of the libertarian swing vote. 

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    Could be close. My gut feeling previously had been that, after two very close elections, this one would not be. I thought that if things went well for Obama he would redraw the electoral map and win big, or if his strategy failed he would lose big. The Republicans might have hit on the right ticket with McCain/Palin to keep themselves close, but possibly not be able to win in enough areas to lose in a close one.

    We also must keep in mind that things will change a lot as the post-convention bounce dies down and as the debates replace the conventions as the top factor influencing undecided voters.

    The ground game will make a huge difference. In 2004 Kerry would have won if he could have brought in the young vote in the proportions they supported him but, as usual, they failed to turn out. In the primaries Obama gave us hope that he could actually turn out new voters. While I primarily favored Obama over Hillary for reasons based upon the candidates and not on electability, this is also a reason why I thought Obama would be a much stronger candidate in the general election.

    If Obama can really bring in lots of new voters, then the polls do not mean much as they could greatly underestimate the turn out for Obama. I would feel better if we went into election day with a lead in the major polls but this is one case where the election could turn out different from how the polls predict.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    Yes, it is amazing how many libertarians will vote for an anti-liberty ticket such as McCain/Palin, but they will amount to a tiny percentage of the overall electorate.

    Some segments of libertarians will definitely go with this ticket but, as we saw with Ron Paul, they don’t represent many voters.

    Many Americans really interested in liberty will not go for a hyper-nationalist supporter of the warfare state like John McCain. They will not support a ticket which backs the social policies of the religious right, and will question a vice president who was interested in banning books.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Many libertarians might also be fooled into voting for this ticket under the delusion that they are fiscal conservatives, but Palin’s record sure contradicts McCain’s support for cutting pork. There is hardly anything libertarian about Sarah Palin when her actual record is evaluated–but then many libertarians have supported the authoritarian right for years.

  6. 6
    President Decider says:

    The thought that any American would even think of casting a vote where a rural moose hunting mayor and tounges speakkng pentacostal idealogist could very well be the Commander in Chief and ruler of the free world …. should old man McCain kick the bucket ….. is beyond astonishing …..

    …. it’s downright frightening.

    Its time some Americans take their blinders off and start getting serious and thinking rationally …..  This freak who doesn’t even want to talk to the media and answer the tough question, a person we don’t even know, would potentially hold the nuclear codes.

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