The RealClearPolitics polling average shows a typical 6–8% convention bounce for Barack Obama. These polls may be right, but note that all of them are polls conducted over a weekend—and there is anecdotal evidence that weekend polls favor Democrats. Even though the evidence is far from conclusive, Obama’s “bounce” is just that—a bounce. The dynamics of this race have not significantly changed, and such as they have, it’s more likely in McCain’s favor.
To be bold, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Obama will underperform his polling numbers. The reasons aren’t as much due to race as the bandwagon effect. Some Clinton voters are “coming home” to Obama now, but they may tell the pollsters one thing, but do another. Remember Obama’s big lead in New Hampshire? As it turned out, the polls were wrong. I have a feeling that late breaking voters will break towards McCain. Voters who haven’t made up their minds tend to go to the “safe” choice, and here that choice is McCain—the more experienced candidate.
Much will be made of polling over the next 60 days, but polling is as much art as science. There’s plenty of reasons to think that conventional methodologies for political polling are breaking down. Polls give some indications of where things are headed, but they are in no ways dispositive.
Obama may have gotten a typical convention bounce, but he should be wiping the floor with McCain. An unpopular war, a deeply unpopular President, a Republican Party with an image problem—and yet Obama can only eke out a slender lead against McCain. McCain, to his credit, has proven to be a disciplined and effective candidate, and the results of the Presidential debates could be telling—there is a reason why Obama refused McCain’s invitation to do voter town halls.
One thing is clear: this race is not even close to over, and the predictions that Obama has this in the bag are unwarranted. McCain is much tougher than he appeared to be, and he could end up doing to Obama nationally what Clinton did to Obama in New Hampshire this winter.