Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Obama Cracks 50% in the Daily Trackers. What Does It Mean?

You'll notice that I've not really spent all that much talking about national polls much less national tracking polls in our electoral college analyses. They are important, but only to a point. I obviously prefer the state level polls -- though the two are linked in some ways -- due to the way the US presidential election is structured. Having said that, Obama crossed over 50% in both the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls today. I find that that to be significant for one main reason: typically September polls are better predictors of the ultimate outcome than those released immediately prior to the election.*

Now Democrats, I don't want to get your hopes up. [It has happened before (see 2000 and 2004).] However, if Obama is able to maintain this level of support through the next couple of weeks (And that is far from a sure thing, folks.), regardless of the fluctuations on McCain's side and thus the margins of the race, he theoretically should be looking pretty good for the general election. Again, this is just one facet of the robust polling regime we have at our disposal. If both the national polls (not the tracking polls) and the polls in certain states are also favorable to Obama over this period, then things will be looking up for the Illinois senator.

Starting tonight, though, the Republicans will start having a bigger say in the matter. Still breaking that 50% mark is worth noting.

*James Campbell has used Labor Day polls in his forecasting models in the past. Speaking of forecasting, following the American Political Science Association meeting in Boston this past weekend, most of those models are out. Here is a link to a synopsis of several of them.

Thanks to Paul Gurian via Del Dunn for the forecasting link.

Recent Posts:
And What About the Green Party?

It's Never as Easy as Taking Away Half the Delegates

The Electoral College Map (8/31/08)


Allen said...

Since that's a national poll, it means nothing :-) We'll have to wait and see how things have changed in the battleground states, although that is likely to also be good news for Obama.

Robert said...

I agree that the battleground state polls are more critical, but these polls suggest that Obama is getting a bounce from his convention. Polling data from the primaries earlier this year suggest that it takes about 3 days for the polls to catch up with what is happening on the ground. Those McCain columnists who proclaimed no bounce did not wait long enough. That means that the next two to three days should provide some feedback on the Palin pick. Note that the RCP averages suggest that not only is Obama going up, but McCain is going down. The downturn started today, which might be our first indication of the Palin effect. We should get a better picture of the convention effects by next Monday to see if McCain has rebounded and Obama has come back down. It will also be nice to see state polls to see where the changes are coming from.


Josh Putnam said...

Shhhh, don't let the word get out about that, Allen.

I'll be interested to see how quickly and with what frequency state level polls start coming out at the conclusion of the convention.

Here's that link from Rob.

Robert said...

Someone on the NPR convention coverage last night, maybe Ron Elving, indicated that the Sarah Palin selection has chnged the dynamic of the race from a referendum on Obama to one on McCain's judgement. If that is true, then the parties may become more important in the Presidential election than the candidates. That situation could only serve to benefit Obama.

Josh Putnam said...

In the short term, I think that's right, Rob. If the Democrats have their way, then the election will be one concerning McCain's judgment. His party doesn't seem to be helping him on that point either. McCain couldn't go with his gut and choose Lieberman, so he chose Palin at the last minute to appeal to the very folks the possible Lieberman selection offended.

As Nate asked last night in the liveblog at FiveThirtyEight (see the 8:38 entry), "How do you get from point A to point B" on that? It is a good question and one that cuts right to the heart of the decision-making process for McCain. That's only helping this narrative linger.

Whether it does depends, I think, in Palin's speech tonight. I would imagine she will be under an immense amount of pressure tonight, just five days after being selected.

If she's able to diffuse everything tonight (and that's a tall order), things may get back to where they were pre-Palin. If she falls short, then it is likely to stick around (...in Democratic talking points and elsewhere).

Josh Putnam said...

While people are still coming in on this post (pre-electoral college "update"), I have a question I'd like to pose to the group.

What were people's thoughts on the Fred Thompson speech last night? I found it a fascinating departure from the tone of the addresses that it both succeeded and preceded (...and that includes an address from the president and a "Democrat"). I'm just curious about what people thought.

Paul Gurian said...

September polls are generally much more accurate than earlier polls. However, the conventions are so late this time that it's better to wait till about a week after the Republican convention. I expect that polls released starting around September 9 will be more reliable.

Josh Putnam said...

That's a great point, Paul. I didn't play that fact up enough in the initial post. Campbell typically uses those Labor Day polls, but due to the events of this cycle (or at least their timing in this case), the polls to focus on will be mid-September polls not the early September ones.


SarahLawrenceScott said...

The majority of Fred Thompson's speech was very effective, in my opinion. The bio was told in a particularly compelling manner that didn't overreach (being a POW does not qualify you to be President, but does reveal character), and the fact that it was Thompson, who was soporific during the primaries, enhanced the effect. It was as if his own candidacy didn't excite him as much as John McCain's! The red meat stuff was also done with vigor and style, although it felt a bit too much like it was still the 1980's.

BUT...Lieberman's speech was pretty awful. He seemed to still be trying to convince Democrats to like him. He got the Republican delegates to applaud the Clinton Presidency. The effect was that it isolated Thompson's speech in tone, almost deflating it. What's the message here? Have the Republicans decided to proudly embrace their base, or are they going the bipartisan route? I couldn't make sense of it, and I suspect it jarred a lot of other viewers too.

Josh Putnam said...

Yeah, Lieberman's speech was a bit puzzling. On the one hand, it was better than what the Democrats had to offer in the way of Republicans crossing over. But that may have been more a function of name recognition than anything else. One thing we can definitively say is that anyone who crossed over to speak at either of the conventions was boring.

Now there's an analysis we need to do over time. Though Zell Miller was far from boring four years ago. Angry maybe. But boring, not so much. I hate that the "Zell is a Traitor" stencil on the sidewalk up the street from the political science building here at UGA is fading. It was always a nice reminder of that speech.

Thompson was effective. He is more effective at talking about other people than talking about himself. He would have made a good VP. Oh well. I realize that the message on the somber side, but I still can't get over how quiet it was in that room during that eight minutes last night.