Jay Reding.com

Rassmussen: McCain Leads Both Clinton And Obama

Rassmussen has started their daily tracking poll of the 2008 Presidential Election, and so far there’s been an interesting, but consistent result. The tracking poll shows that McCain leads both Clinton and Obama in head-to-head matchups. What’s more interesting is that McCain’s lead is actually wider against Obama, 5% to 3% against Clinton. Also of note is that McCain’s favorable rating is slightly higher than that of Obama and his negatives less. For all the praise that Obama gets from the media, it’s curious that he isn’t blowing McCain out of the water at this point. Then again, on deeper reflection, perhaps it isn’t that surprising a result.

The ever-astute Stuart Rothenberg
thinks that McCain may be able to escape the damage to the GOP brand. I think that’s right. The fact that many prominent conservative figures have deep issues with McCain, as a purely political matter, probably helps him. In such a divisive political season, McCain has a level of centrist credibility that no one else in the Republican field really had. That will be key to fighting against Obama (or perhaps Clinton).

I suspect there’s another factor at play here as well. That has to do with the fact that Obama really has nowhere to go but down. The essential problem that Obama faces is that he plays very well with the Democratic base. He’s reliably anti-war, populist and liberal. But while McCain has been reaching out to the center, Obama suddenly has to tack to the right to remain viable in the general election. What happens when a candidate has to change their spots? The contradictions start catching up to them. Obama claims that he never said that his NAFTA position was a political calculation. Yet internal Canadian documents show that his advisors said exactly that. Now Obama has to explain himself, and it’s not looking pretty. There are plenty of skeletons in Obama’s closet that the Clinton’s haven’t pulled out (probably because of the large number of skeletons in their closet). You had better believe that Obama’s tenure in the corrupt world of Chicago machine politics will be coming back at him soon.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama will pull in a huge number of independents and even Republicans. Then again, we heard that about every Democratic candidate. Remember all the Republicans coming out of the woodwork to endorse John Kerry. As it turned out, more Democrats supported Bush than Republicans supported Kerry. Obama’s hype machine makes it sound like Sen. Obama is practically the Second Coming—but when it comes right down to it, he’s just another politician.

Now, I would be greatly remiss is I didn’t say what I always say about polling this far out: it usually means nothing. However, the Rassmussen poll shows a definite and surprising trend, and if it plays out it could mean that the Republicans lucked out in selecting the “maverick” McCain as their nominee. In a season with a diminished Republican brand, the GOP needs to be able to reach out to moderates without sacrificing key conservative positions. Sen. McCain is the candidate best equipped to do that, and he may even be more credible in reaching out than his radically liberal competitors across the partisan divide.

One response to “Rassmussen: McCain Leads Both Clinton And Obama”

  1. Mark says:

    It should be mentioned that this poll is an outlier. No other national poll besides Rasmussen shows McCain leading Obama. With that said, Rasmussen is a credible pollster and the analysis of you, Rothenberg, and even the skeptical Paul Krugman is generally sound. An Obama nomination is a huge roll of the dice given what an easy, untested target he is. And when the Obama-loving media constantly cries foul or shrieks “racism!” every time one of his opponent gets a dig in, it’ll likely trigger a pro-McCain backlash.

    “That has to do with the fact that Obama really has nowhere to go but down.”

    You’re not necessarily right about that. Obama’s political skills have noticeably improved over the course of the Democratic primary battle. He’s much quicker on his feet and more adept at getting himself out of sticky situations. Compare that to the increasingly wooden McCain who’s but a skeleton of the spunky candidate he was eight years ago, it’s just as likely McCain has nowhere to go but down.

    “You had better believe that Obama’s tenure in the corrupt world of Chicago machine politics will be coming back at him soon.”

    You laughed off such a scenario with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when I made a similar parallel….until he came apart exactly as I told you he would. I haven’t heard of any similar dirt in Obama’s past aside for the seemingly DOA Rezko connection. The GOP had better be able to do better than that if they’re gonna bother raising the issue at all.

    “The conventional wisdom is that Obama will pull in a huge number of independents and even Republicans. Then again, we heard that about every Democratic candidate. Remember all the Republicans coming out of the woodwork to endorse John Kerry. As it turned out, more Democrats supported Bush than Republicans supported Kerry.”

    More Republicans will support Obama than supported Kerry in 2004….but likewise more Democrats will support McCain in 2008. To some extent, that makes it a wash, but keep in mind self-identified Democrats make up a significantly larger share of the electorate than they did in 2004. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the “Bush Democrats” are little old ladies in the Old Confederacy who probably haven’t voted for a Democrat for President since JFK in 1960, yet still identify themselves as Dems.

    “Sen. McCain is the candidate best equipped to do that, and he may even be more credible in reaching out than his radically liberal competitors across the partisan divide.”

    His biggest problem….money. Candidates whose support is a mile wide and an inch thick like McCain simply can’t raise it at the pace necessary to compete in a national campaign. Even setting aside the public financing issues likely to fade away in the weeks ahead, can McCain really expect to win targeted swing states if Obama is able to outspend him 2-1 or more?