McCain Ahead?

Reuters reports its new poll that shows John McCain leading Barack Obama by 5 points. Just as I wrote yesterday that the race in key swing states, such as Pennsylvania, is far closer than the media perception, I’m not buying into the idea of a 5 point McCain lead.

My take on the race nationally is that it is very much in flux and subject to key events, such as the Democratic and Republican conventions as well as the announcement of running mates. Obama’s week off the campaign trail surely contributed too.

The theory of the pollster, John Zogby, is that Obama’s move to the center is depressing his core supporters of liberals and young people. “That was one of several recent policy shifts for Obama, as he positions himself for the general election battle. But Zogby said the changes could be taking a toll on Obama’s support, particularly among Democrats and self-described liberals.


” ‘That hairline difference between nuance and what appears to be flip-flopping is hurting him with liberal voters,’ Zogby said.


Obama’s support among Democrats fell 9 percentage points this month to 74 percent, while McCain has the backing of 81 percent of Republicans. Support for Obama, an Illinois senator, fell 12 percentage points among liberals, with 10 percent of liberals still undecided compared to 9 percent of conservatives.”

Zogby also narrowed the sample. Instead of a poll of registered voters, which would include more young people, Zogby focused on “included 1,089 likely voters nationwide.” McCain does better among likely voters.

Don’t get me wrong. By no means do I think that Obama is running away with the race, not at all. Slowly, McCain has chipped away at Obama. And, remember, when we look back at the primary contest, Obama never sealed the deal with most Democratic voters. Aside from a convincing victory in Virginia, Obama’s delegate advantage came from winning the caucuses in sparsely populated Midwestern and Mountain states. When he became the presumptive nominee, members of the press became treating him in triumphant fashion — but that did not reflect the reality of his razor thin and largely procedural victory. At every almost every key juncture in the primaries, New Hampshire, Super Tuesday, Ohio, Pennsylvania, media and pundit enthusiasm in Obama exceeded voter totals. I’m just not convinced that McCain is actually ahead yet.

A final note. A prominent progressive friend of mine assured me privately he was convinced that Obama was going to lose the general election. This was in the immediate wake of Obama’s trip abroad. “Obama’s just not that strong a candidate,” he said. “McCain will win. I know it.” This surprised me. But when you put aside interest and energy surrounding Obama’s campaign and just look at the numbers, there are some disturbing trends. During the last election cycle, John Kerry held a lead over George Bush right now. And look what happened to him.

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