Worried about "the tightening?"
Well, Obama's national lead has been stable at 7% for a month now. The national campaign is not tightening, and we are just seeing statistical noise.
Even if the campaign were tightening, Obama would still have a comfortable national lead. According to polling conducted over the weekend during the tracking poll "tightening," Obama reaches 264 electoral votes in states where he leads by 9.5% or more, passes 277 in Virginia where he leads by 8.0%, and hits 286 in states where he leads by 7.3% or more. So, he is actually doing even better in the Electoral College, where 270 votes are needed to win, than he is doing in national polls where he leads by 7%.
Sound too good to be true? It isn't. I provide complete details in the extended entry.
|Here is the Pollster.com national regression line, from October 1st through today:
While it is certainly true that the tracking polls are a bit closer than they were two or three days ago, when one takes a look at the trends beyond the single day fluctuation, stability is the overriding characteristic. Obama's margin over McCain has not changed by more than 1% during the month. These broader trends are more important than day-to-day trends, because they filter out the inevitable day-to-day fluctuations that occur when using a fluid measurement device (polls) to measure a fluid subject (public opinion). My past warnings on day to day tracking poll trends ring as true now as they did when I first wrote them three weeks ago:
- 8.5% is the maximum victory: First, as I warned on Monday, please keep in mind that an 8,5% national victory is the maximum. In the last sixteen national elections (U.S. House and Presidential), the largest victory was Bill Clinton's 8.51% victory in 1996. The simple fact is that no one wins by double digits anymore. This goes for the large Republican victories in 1988 (President--7.72%), 1994 (5.9%), and 2002 (4.6%). It also goes for the large Democratic victories of 1992 (President--5.56%), 1996 (President--8.51%) and 2006 (7.9%). "Landslides" are now 5-8% national victories, not anything larger. Given that a very real percentage of Democrats and Independents won't vote for him because he is black, it was always absurd to think that Obama was going to break this mark. When Obama reached an 8% national lead, the only place for him to go was down.
- Polls aren't static: Second, as I warned yesterday, even if you accept that it is impossible for Obama's lead to continue rising, don't expect it to remain static, either. Polls are using non-static means (statistical ranges with margins of error) to measure a non-static subject matter (public opinion). So, when there is nowhere to go but down, when the polls inevitably start moving again, it isn't a shock to see them move down
The Pollster.com October chart shows that the month-long trend of Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening followed by Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening isn't really a trend at all. It has just been a month of statistical noise of Obama's national lead hovering around 7%. Even though the tracking polls are a bit tighter today than the last few days, I see no reason to believe that this stability has been broken, and that this is anything more than the latest McCain tightening (Saturday and Sunday) following an Obama peak (Tuesday through Friday) following a McCain tightening (the seven days before that) following an Obama peak (the five days before that).
Now, as a final, less than reassuring note, it should said that this might be something different that the latest downward node in a longstanding pattern of stability and statistical noise. The last five presidential campaigns have tightened toward the end, and even the 2006 midterms tightened up a bit toward the end. It is possible that this is happening again, and even I have theorized that this will result in a final polling margin of 4-5% in favor of Obama. However, public opinion in presidential campaigns do not follow historical laws, meaning that just because it happened a certain way in the past is no reason for it to happen exactly the same way again.
Further, even if it did tighten up to 4-5% on the eve of the Election, that still means Obama wins comfortably. The Kerry states plus Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia show now signs of wavering, as Obama leads by more than 7.0% in all of them even according to polling conducted over the weekend. That puts Obama at 286 electoral votes where McCain has to make up at least 8.0%, as that is the amount he currently trails by in Virginia across the seven telephone polls conducted this week. Beyond Virginia, as I wrote in last night;s forecast, Obama leads by 7.3% in Colorado across three polls, and all the other states listed here are even bigger Obama leads.
So, in short, things still look very, very good for Obama right now. Don't let the tightening get to you. We are going to win this thing. All polling evidence points towards an enormous Democratic trifecta, surpassing even the one President Clinton enjoyed during his first two years in office.