Today's tracking polls removed interviews from Tuesday -- when voters had had the chance to listen to Michelle Obama's speech from the DNC but little else -- and replaced them with interviews from Friday, when voters could react to the entirety of the DNC, including Barack Obama's speech, but could also react to the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. Our model adjusts for the convention bounce; it does not attempt to correct for the VP bounce, even though there often is one (Joe Biden was an exception).
Since Obama's speech was well received by voters, one can probably assume that his numbers would be slightly higher had John McCain not announced his VP yesterday. On the other hand, the notion that something was gained by limiting Obama's bounce is silly. The convention bounce almost always fades by itself (it would more aptly be described as a convention 'bubble'). Stopping a bounce is a strategy designed to improve one's standing in the FiveThirtyEight.com polling averages for a day or two, rather than one's chances of actually winning the election.
At this stage, it is not clear how impactful her selection will be: 35 percent of voters say they're more likely to vote for McCain with Palin on the ticket, and 33 percent say they're less likely. Indeed, among voters already committed to one or the other candidate, her choice would seem to do little bit entrench partisan feelings: just 6 percent of McCain voters say they're less likely to vote for McCain with Palin on the ticket, while just 9 percent of Obama voters say they're more so. (To see how Joe Biden's numbers compared -- see here. As might be expected, Biden scored better on readiness and worse on personal favorables, with the other numbers being about the same).
What's interesting, however, is that while there is a gender gap in these numbers, it's not the one many observers were anticipating. Rather, along a variety of metrics, men like the Palin choice better than women:
These numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but men have a favorable imperssion of Palin by a 35-point margin, whereas women have a favorable impression of her by an 18-point margin. Conversely, by a 23-point margin, women do not think Palin is ready to be President, whereas Palin lost this question among men by a considerably smaller 6-point magrin.
Why does this gap exist? Don't know, but it may simply be a matter of ideology. Men are generally a bit more conservative than women, and opinions of Palin are very strongly determined by ideology. Conservatives have a favorable impression of her by a 79-8 margin, but this falls to 43-35 among moderates and 26-46 among liberals. Likewise, by a 48-22 margin, conservatives think she's ready to be President, but she loses this question 23-54 among moderates and 9-67 among liberals.
Call it the "gorgeous broad" mentality. Biden's got a bit of that Sinatra-ism, where he refers to his wife as "drop dead gorgeous" and it sounds like that's the way Biden most naturally expresses himself. But that's his wife. Biden can get away with that. With Palin, he might find himself giving a comment that in his mind sounds like a compliment, but comes out all wrong.
And that gets back to the heart of the gamble this pick represents. If McCain and Obama each consolidate their bases at the same percentages, Obama wins. There are now numerically more Democrats, and independents favor Obama. Before the conventions, McCain had moved past Obama, mostly because many women in Hillary Clinton's coalition had failed to warm to the Democratic nominee. Obama was stuck at 83% of his base and McCain had moved from a tie into 87% consolidation. Had this week's Denver convention not been as successful from a unity standpoint, McCain might not have needed as much to go for broke. If Obama secures his base, wins indies (as he's easily doing) and dominates in the ground game, game over for McCain. Demographically, the mountain is too steep to climb.
So what does McCain do? He picks a woman specifically to aim a wedge at the Obama base. It's a demographic pick - all about gaming the vote and little about governing. This is not the resume of a male candidate that would be acceptable. There is a small but legitimate chance Joe Biden will say something that can be used to call the Obama ticket a sexist one. Biden, of course, will and should be coached to restrain any such "stray comment" impulse in which he is wont to indulge.
But even if Biden (or anyone else) doesn't take the bait by dismissing her in a condescendingly sexist way, putting a woman on the ticket may give other Democratic women who don't want to vote for Obama a real reason to cross over. People aren't as undecided when it comes to politics as they claim, a recent study argues. They just haven't found an articulable reason to capture their decision. If some Democratic women don't really want to vote for Obama, identity politics may provide them with an affirmative, articulable reason to do so. McCain is old, and Palin could very easily become the next president by default.
It's probably not going to work, but we'll see some number soon. I think it's a gamble that McCain will lose. But I do respect the gamble. He looked into the numbers, saw the need to freeze Obama's base or be swamped on the numbers alone, and he took a big risk. Will a pro-life candidate sell those reluctant Democratic women? Again, unlikely. But kick in a few sexist dismissals - particularly any by Joe Sinatra Biden - and the outrage machine might get itself going.
I can tell you this - I suddenly became a lot more excited to be in St. Paul next week.
In fact, our model is designed to tell us exactly how much that penalty should be. These polls consist of interviews that were conducted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- so the median date of interviewing was Wednesday, corresponding with the third day of the Demcoratic convention. Our historial study of convention bounces tells us that, on the third day of the convention, the candidate will be experiencing an average bounce of about 3.5 points.
So what we quite literally do is to subtract those 3.5 points from each of these polls -- meaning that Obama's 8-point lead in Gallup is equivalent to a non-convention lead of 4-5 points, and his 4-point lead in Rasmussen amounts to a virtual dead heat. Furthermore, the model expects that Obama's convention bounce should grow over the next couple of days, peaking at about 6 points in polls released over the weekend. So, he'll need to gain a little bit more ground to keep pace. My guess is that Obama will gain that ground, and probably will have some room to spare, but until we actually get a look at those numbers, we should probably regard this as a fairly ordinary convention bounce.
Please keep the convention bounce in mind when looking at the Super Tracker over the next couple of weeks. You'll see that there are going to be some fairly big difference between the red trendline -- representing our estimate of what would happen if the election were held today -- and the orange projection line -- representing our best estimate of what will happen in November. There is little doubt that Obama would win an election held today, perhaps in a relative blow-out, but so far, the organge projection line remains about where it had been before.
We also have a handful of state polls to look at:
For the most part, I'm going to let the state numbers speak for themselves until we've cleared some distance from the convention bounce period. The one interesting result is probably in Florida, where Mason-Dixon has Obama ahead by one point, perhaps reflecting the presence of Joe Biden on the ticket. Florida is a state where we expected Biden to play well. It's also a state, frankly, where I'd expect Sarah Palin to play poorly, since I think seniors will probably be her worst demographic. Since Mason-Dixon has generally had a slight GOP-leaning house effect, this poll needs to be taken pretty seriously.
Also, note that I have relisted the series of CNN/Time polls that were released earlier this week. CNN ran separate versions with and without third-party candidates included; our policy when these situations come up is to use the third-party version, which we had not been doing before.
One thing we do have to give McCain credit for is taking a risk. Being behind in the election -- and I think McCain probably will wind up being a couple of points behind once the respective convention bumps play out -- necessitates taking a risk. Suppose, for instance, that McCain is 2 points down in the election. Suppose furthermore than there is a 50 percent chance that Palin boosts his standing by 3 points, and a 50 percent chance that she makes a major gaffe that costs McCain 10 points. That's actually a pretty good gamble for McCain to take, since he'd wind up winning the election 50 percent of the time (by one point) and getting blown out the other 50 percent of the time (by 12 points) -- better than losing the election by 2 points 100 percent of the time.
Obviously, that is an idealized rendering of an exceptionally complicated dynamic, but the whole reason to make a game-changing pick is because you're losing the game. And that McCain apparently made this pick on Thursday, after having seen that Bill and Hillary Clinton had exceeded all possible expectations in rallying their supporters behind Barack Obama, showed a certain awareness of the political landscape.
Then again, I think there was a better risk for McCain to take, which would have been picking a pro-choice candidate and calling out the religious right's bluff. You want a really terrific pick? How about Olympia Snowe, who has held down a senate seat in a blue state for 14 years, and who has a formidable resume.
But ultimately, we are in completely uncharted territory here. Palin is the most manifestly ordinary person ever to be nominated for a major party ticket. In this year of bittergate and Britney-gate and McCain-has-seven-houses-gate, that could conceivably be a virtue; it's certainly less tone-deaf than a selection like Mitt Romney would have been.
But Palin isn't merely playing at being ordinary, the way that Bill Clinton (Rhodes Scholar) or George W. Bush (son of a president) or Hillary Clinton (wife of a president) might. She really, really comes across that way -- like someone who had won a sweepstakes or an essay contest. Her authenticity factor is off-the-charts good; her biography sings. But do Americans really want their next-door-neighbor running for Vice President, or rather someone who seems like one?
Because it isn't really an argument about experience per se. It's an argument about whether she meets the basic threshold test of voters feeling comfortable with having her as President. Experience is a part of that, but so are essentially the aesthetics of it: picturing a young, attractive, kooky, female governor from Alaska who has an accent straight out of Fargo in the White House is going to be a much bigger leap for many voters than picturing Barack Obama there.
And whereas Obama has had eighteen months to make himself familiar to voters, the McCain campaign has barely any time to roll Palin out. It's not that she's inexperienced so much as that she's new.
11:35 AM. Another big question: how will SNL and Jay Leno react? That Palin has a fairly discernible accent will become part of her caricature.
11:32 AM. She definitely comes across as very grounded and normal. The question is: would Americans want their next-door-neighbor to be the Vice President?
11:29 AM. Great visual: Palin walking out with her daughter. Not-so-great visual: Palin embracing McCain and looking like his daughter.
11:21 AM. Wow, listen to how much McCain's messaging has changed overnight. He's now running as the Washington reformer/outsider again.
11:20 AM. Have to say, this is the most fired up I've seen a McCain crowd in a while.
11:17 AM. I'm having a couple of problems with my publishing platform this morning, but let's try this anyway.
Obviously, there are also a lot of risks. In an interview with Kay Bailey Hutchinson on CNN right now, Hutchinson didn't seem quite sure how to pronounce Palin's name (PAY-LIN or PAH-LIN?), let alone recite any relevant facts about her.
I DON'T think Palin will have a lot of appeal to Hillary Clinton voters, as Palin runs squarely into some gender politics taboos, i.e. the younger, more attractive, but less qualified woman replacing the older one.
But the media will love her, and both conservatives and independents will like her. More thoughts later once I collect them.
UPDATED: Essentially, this is a branding play: it both puts a fresher, younger face on a tired, old party, and reinforces McCain's image for boldness and Mavericktude.
But as one of my commenters notes, "it may be the biggest gamble in political history". A significant gaffe on an issue like foreign policy -- whether in the VP debate or in some other context -- could render the election essentially unwinnable for McCain. And don't expect the Democrats to refrain from going after her inexperience. The phrase "heartbeat away from the Presidency" appears to be in the standard Democratic talking points this morning.
McCain needs to be equally adaptive in the way that he frames his address in St. Paul. If the best he can do is try to out-patriotic Barack Obama, I think he will lose, maybe by a lot. Instead, he needs to highlight his bipartisanship and his reform message, distance himself from Bush, and figure out a way to appeal to someone other than the Larry Kudlow crowd on the economy. McCain is no longer going to be able to count on an abnormally high number of Democratic defectors; he needs to play for the middle, and aim to win independents by a minimum of 6 points. If I were McCain, I would also strongly consider a one-term pledge.
That's all I can report to you because that's all that I know. My source believes he knows the identity of the actual VP nominee but will not tell me who it is. None of this is 100%. It's possible that I'm being played, and it's possible that my source is. But I don't think so, and I believe it's more likely that the McCain campaign was playing the media.
Consider particularly that a lot of the fuel for this rumor seems to be coming from Drudge, who is one of the first two places that a conservative campaign will go if it wants to circulate a false rumor to deke the media (Bob Novak still probably being the other). And also consider that there's very little downside in doing this. It eats up column inches from Obama's excellent performance at Invesco tonight, while still generating plenty of buzz when the name of the actual VP is revealed.
Here's the bad news: I don't know that we're going to be able to get you a polling update today.
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Rasmussen does not yet show a discernible bounce -- their poll still has the race tied. But they also hint that, based on a review of their day-by-day results, an Obama bounce may be coming:
Reviewing recent single-night polling data—rather than the three-day average--shows that Obama lost ground immediately following the selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. That had little or nothing to do with Biden and everything to do with the fact that the running mate was not named Hillary Clinton. The impact of that choice was reflected in the polling results released Tuesday and Wednesday showing modest gains for McCain.A quick note: the conventional wisdom is that firms that weight by party ID, such as Rasmussen, will tend to show less of a convention bounce than those that don't, since some of the purpose of a convention is to sell the brand of the party rather than the candidate, which may result in short-term (and presumably short-lived) shifts in party identification.
However, events are moving rapidly this season and the impact of the convention is starting to replace the impact of the Vice Presidential announcement. New polling data shows that 74% of Democrats say their convention has unified the party and 84% believe Hillary Clinton’s speech will help Obama in the fall.
Obama’s poll numbers have improved over the past couple of nights and today’s update shows a tie race because it includes a mix of both recent trends. But it seems likely that Obama will end the convention with a modest lead over McCain. Then, of course, it will be time for the Republican Vice Presidential pick and, next week, the GOP convention.
Still, Obama has to be feeling pretty good about those Gallup numbers, as one-third of the interviews in their current sample are effectively pre-convention (conducted on Monday before Michelle Obama's speech), and essentially none of them will reflect either Bill Clinton and Joe Biden's speeces yesterday nor Obama's performance at Invesco Field tonight.
A lot of people raving about Kerry's speech as well, which struck me as beside the point. Yes, Kerry's was a very good speech, but in some ways an academic exercise. He's not on the ticket. He is correct on the arguments and right to be mad. It had a personal edge to it, given the story of the 2004 election.
But Biden's speech was far, far more important, because he had to emotionally connect voters who relate to his very personally told story with Barack Obama's American story. Taking people down that emotional path takes a kind of skill that is underappreciated, I think. Joe Biden did that. He drew people into his story, he told American stories in an authentic way, and then tied it to the Obama story. Neither of the Clintons did that for Obama. Hillary Clinton made the great appeal to her reluctant supporters to ask themselves why they supported her in the first place, but it wasn't a vouching for Obama from a story perspective, it was a policy perspective. Bill did even less in that regard. Yet Biden did the personal vouching for Obama, that his story was one that Americans can and should relate to. As I watched it I suspected other watchers were "getting it" in a way that doesn't sink in when Obama tells his own story. I felt the "click."
Thanks for sharing the night with us, and we'll see you tomorrow for the final day.
8:59 MDT: By the way, where was Bill Richardson? Obama's last-minute entry came at Richardson's expense.
8:54 MDT: That was the single best speech of the convention. Nate and I disagree on this one. That had feeling.
8:51 MDT: Nate says Biden is almost whispering, but it came across well on TV. The near-whispering was during an emotionally gripping point of the speech, the delivery supported the content.
8:49 MDT: Motorcade just went by the Big Tent... Obama to appear on stage tonight at the end. He better give Joe Biden a big hug, because right now that is the sound of Joe Biden getting folks to sign on the line which is dotted.
8:43 MDT: Forgot who said it the other day after the Springfield speech (apologies), but Obama's story sounds different coming out of Biden's mouth, and it's pitched to a different ear, one that hasn't been hearing it these past months.
8:40 MDT: This is why Biden is on the ticket. Wow. Emotional, moving, telling the American story. And hitting McCain fluidly. This place is silent, riveted.
8:37 MDT: OK, that reference to his mom's advice after the accident was really powerful. It's a little dusty in here all of a sudden.
8:32 MDT: Nobody believes anyone leaves Joe Biden speechless. Don't kid a kidder, Joe.
8:28 MDT: Despite the strange energetic flow of the night, I'm looking very much forward to Joe Biden. Yglesias is right, he needs to cut out the "Literallys" and the stylistic ad-libbed emphasis crutches he sometimes uses. When he stays in control, he can give a smiling punch like few politicians in either party. Whereas Brian Schweitzer is a joyful ham that infectiously makes you have fun listening to him, Biden's actually better at the facial expressions when conveying disdain at the shallowness of an opposing talking point. Go watch this for a Biden classic. Hope to see more of that Biden tonight.
8:14 MDT: Judging by the increasingly loud ambient noise and conversational chatter in the Big Tent, the mood seems to be fairly disengaged from what is happening in the hall. Nate may perceive it differently from his vantage point, but people here are mostly socializing. Last night, people were much more glued in, it seemed.
8:08 MDT: Twenty-plus more minutes to Biden? Tonight is not well-paced. Yesterday kind of built and built to a crescendo. Tonight feels kind of flat on the whole. I haven't seen commentary from the cable news networks in many days at this point, but as we build toward Joe Biden, I can hear Joe Scarborough yapping about the Ultimate American Voters in Scranton and Youngstown anyway. He is, right?
8:01 MDT: Shameless stealing of Al Giordano's line from a couple days ago on potential dark horse veep pick Chet Edwards: How pissed was that guy when the Enquirer story broke?
7:58 MDT: One global impression of conventions. I'm used to absorbing lots of political information from all sources. During convention time, this seems nearly impossible. It's a maelstrom of doing, going, meeting, and watching. Writing feels a bit like it comes in a bubble. So the influence of other well-written and not-so-well-written analysis and opinion has a hard time getting into the mix. At least for me. Not sure if that's good or bad, just an observation.
7:47 MDT: Kerry was good. This is the time on Sprockets when we get more beer.
7:40 MDT: "Talk about voted for it before he voted against it..." Now, that had to be satisfying for John Kerry.
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7:25 MDT: The money shot. (Sorry, had to.) Bill does what Hillary didn't last night, which is to explicitly address the experience question and say Obama is ready to be president. It was a good moment, but not much more than a declarative statement without what Bill typically does best in speeches, make an argument. Is the sound bite enough? "Sound familiar?" Yeah, Bill, it sounds like January through early June, 2008.
7:21 MDT: I caught a replay of Michelle Obama's speech later the same night on CNN. On the replay, allowed to appreciate the gestalt of the speech, I found it much more compelling than when I watched it in a room full of people. I wonder whether I'll appreciate it more with a little distance. It's definitely getting better, though.
7:17 MDT: Changed the time of the post so Nate's is up top. Nate is in the pocket of Big Twitter.
7:11 MDT: In the spirit of Clinton psychoanalysis. One other thought on Bill I've been thinking for awhile, now's an organic a time as any to mention it. I think Bill sees in Obama an authentic version of the best self Bill knows he had inside of him the potential to be. I think it bugs him to no end, the "I coulda been a contender" spirit. Alternatively, you could say Bill truly thinks Obama is a fraud and "a fairy tale" and feels like he and Obama - gifted, young, charismatic prodigies whose promise was to rebrand the Democratic Party. Bill did not do what Reagan did, give his ideological fellow travelers the language to go forth and win elections for a generation, the way Reagan did with "Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem." Bill Clinton did not grow the party or leave it a lasting legacy. Obama seems like the first politician in the Democratic Party in recent memory to give the party a blueprint for how to win with an easily understandable and transferable language. Obama's seems to be "I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper." Whether Obama can accomplish this is an open question, obviously. But a real part of the enthusiasm among his supporters is a sense of that potential realignment. Bill didn't realign the political playing field during his tenure, and indeed the country lurched rightward under his tenure, and he knows it. He won twice, but still... he coulda been a contender.
A few minutes into the speech and I'm not feeling it, to be truthful. The words are there, but I don't feel it. Maybe it's my personal filter. Feels tepid. Still more to come...
6:53 MDT: With Bill Clinton coming up in a few minutes, the key is to beat the spread. In politics, it's about beating the expectations, and the spread right now is fairly low for Bill. For Hillary, most people expected a consummately professional speech, no less impressive that she delivered. For Bill, the question is, will he talk about his own legacy, or will he become Barack Obama's #1 Fan? Or somewhere in between? The more Bill speaks about Obama and the more he beats the spread, the more of a home run he can be. If Bill spends 30 minutes or however long speaking and recites his legacy, it's ironically not going to wear well with a large number of Democrats (who remember the 90s and don't need a history lesson), particularly those who feel strongly that Bill has been behaving badly this political season. If he wants to take his cleanest shot at repairing his legacy in the eyes of African-American voters (and even corn-fed white Midwestern guys like me), he'd be wise to swing for the fences in an Obama endorsement tonight. I believe he cares deeply about his image in an African-American community that genuinely loved him. What will he do? That's the big question.
6:43 MDT: Hump Night at the DNC, and we're trying something a little different tonight, with me in the Big Tent and Nate twittering from the Pepsi Center. Bear with us if there are any technical issues.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Guy I Worked For) came into the Big Tent not long ago, so that was a personal highlight. Also Maya Soetoro-Ng came in earlier and randomly planted a kiss on my cheek, which I suppose means I may be marrying into the Obama family soon. I'll run it by my girlfriend after the convention to see if that'll fly. Quinn/Schweitzer 2016, eh? Don't worry, in the interest of objectivity I will try and be kissed by a member of John McCain's family in St. Paul next week.
Evan Bayh is speaking, the sound died in the Big Tent, and nobody seems to have noticed. With the sound off, I am more persuaded by the speech.
For reasons I'm not entirely sure of -- but perhaps having to do with the large numbers of independents and swing voters -- the pollsters seem to be having a great degree of difficulty surveying the West. In Nevada, there is a 12-point spread between the recent CNN and Mason-Dixon polls, and in New Mexico, there is a 17-point spread (the Colorado polls, at least, have been comparatively in sync, all pointing toward a toss-up). When we throw everything into the sausage grinder -- and really, I don't think it's worth overthinking this one when the polling landscape will change so soon anyway -- the most important conclusion may be that New Mexico is not really a top-tier swing state, as we now project Barack Obama to win the state by 6 points.
The Strategic Vision poll in Florida is also noteworthy, as it shows a somewhat larger margin for John McCain than other recent surveys. But Strategic Vision has a Republican-leaning house effect of a couple of points, so the 7-point margin it shows for McCain can be thought of as comparable to the 3-4 point advantage our weighted average gives to him.
Lastly, the Rasmussen and Gallup tracking polls show a +1 for McCain and a +1 for Obama, respectively. Yesterday, those same polls had shown a tie and a 2-point lead for McCain. It is possible to read a small, initial bounce into these numbers for Obama if you like, as he gained one point on average as Saturday's interviews were cycled out of the three-day averages and replaced by Tuesday's (indicating that Obama's standing was 3 points stronger on Tuesday than it had been on Saturday). But I think it would be more responsible to call it noise, and wait for tomorrow morning, when the Democrats probably ought to be looking for some bounce in response to Hillary Clinton's speech.
Congratulations to Senator Obama on this historic occasion.
To a campaign and its field organizers, early voting is a boon to aggressive efforts. Every voter a campaign has identified as a certain or likely supporter who goes and votes early is one fewer voter it has to target on election day.
Campaigns can see the names of voters who have already voted, and strike them from the phone calling and door knocking lists. As the number of outstanding eligible voters winnows, a campaign can more precisely target supporters who have yet to vote.
But more than that, campaigns can see what early voting numbers look like in particular sensitive counties to see if they’re falling behind or staying ahead of expectations. It allows resources to be shifted around days in advance of the final day of voting, something that is nearly impossible in practice for election day-only voting. On election day, a campaign can determine if voter turnout is light in certain precincts they’ve chosen as models for other key precincts in a given state, and then start pouring phone calls and sending rush-hour doorknockers into those areas, but early voting allows for an elongated, non-frenzied version of shuffling resources to meet prescribed vote goals by area.
In particular, we looked at those we’ve forecasted as battleground and penumbra states to see what the specific voting window dates were. After calling all the state board of elections offices, this is what the state election bureaus have confirmed:
Early Voting, Battleground/Penumbra States
AK: Oct 20-Nov 3
CO: Oct 20-Nov 3
FL: Oct 20-Nov 2
GA: Oct 27-Oct 31
IN: Oct 6-Nov 3
IA: Sept 26-Nov 3
MN: Oct 3-Nov 3
MT: Oct 6-Nov 3
NV: Oct 18, Oct 20-25, Oct 27-31
NM: Oct 18-Nov 1
NC: Oct 16-Nov 1
ND: Oct 20-Nov 3
OH: Sept 30-Oct 6 [UPDATE: Sept 30-Nov 3, with voter registration deadline Oct 6]
OR: Vote-by-mail begins Oct 20
WI: Oct 5-Nov 3
A couple things that need to be said here. Counties generally have a fair degree of autonomy about hours of operation and number of locations. Going in person to the county clerk’s office generally will accomplish the task. However, depending on the resources and individual decisions counties make, they may offer more locations. This matters, particularly in physically large counties where the drive (especially with $4 gasoline) might be 20, 30, 40 miles or more. When you hear of an early voting office open, for example, near a university or library, that is a county decision to offer more accessibility. Not only does early voting help campaigns, it also helps counties spread out the volume so that election day may not be as flooded as it might otherwise be.
Also, the difference between “early voting” and “absentee voting” – at least to the ears of some state election board administrators – appears to turn on whether votes are counted before or on election day. Absentee votes are opened and counted on election day, whereas an “early vote” may be tallied in advance. Not released for an early scoreboard, but the work can be done early. At least, that is terminology around which many state election board folks showed sensitivity. Wisconsin, which allows early in-person absentee voting, reported, “We do not have early voting in Wisconsin.” Even after some poking and prodding and surprise that other information indicated they did, the elections board initially refused to verify. But they do have it – it’s just called “absentee voting.” Functionally for the voter there’s no difference, and that’s really all the campaign cares about, except in the case where a voter calls up and uses the wrong terminology and is misinformed.
Another thing is the weekends/holidays issue. In the list, we’ve exempted October 19 and 26 (Sundays) for Nevada because its statewide statute specifically excludes Sunday voting. In practice, many of the other states may not have Saturday or Sunday voting, but that is a county-by-county decision. Or, if a particular county recognizes Columbus Day (Oct. 13), it may opt not to conduct early voting or early in-person absentee voting.
There are several more quirks that need a brief mention. Minnesota is in our list whereas Virginia is not, despite the fact that both offer early absentee voting for a valid excuse. Minnesota’s excuse statute says if the voter “reasonably expects” to be unable to vote in person on election day then that voter may cast an early/absentee vote. The bottom line is it’s loose, as confirmed by the state board of elections. In actual practice, nobody is getting turned away in Minnesota who shows up to vote early/absentee.
On the other hand, Virginia gave off the feel of a bureaucratic mess. You can request an absentee ballot 45 days early, but the specificity of the steps and procedures involved sounded arduous. Excuses must meet certain conditions, none of which sounded much like “reasonably expects.” Of all the states we called in our canvass of early voting dates, Virginia was the toughest to pry out information. That isn’t just a trivial result. The whole point is how big a hassle this is for voters. Having to write off and request a form to fill out and return in order to be eligible to apply for an excuse to vote early… well, that is realistically so many hurdles and issues that it’s a totally different than the on-paper same-category Minnesota. So unless and until new information about Virginia comes in that reveals it will be easy to drive large numbers of people to vote early there with low resistance, it stays off while Minnesota stays on.
There are other technical issues that do not truly impact the large-scale early voter push effort, such as a few states (Montana being an example) where early absentee/early voting stops by noon the day before the election. Or Florida, which does not have early voting on Monday, according to the state elections bureau. North Carolina and New Mexico stop a few days before the election, as do Nevada and Georgia. And of course Oregon’s unique vote-by-mail system is, in terms of campaign organizing, basically the same as early voting.
One last wrinkle worth noting, Colorado and Montana (as do non-battlegrounds California and Washington state) offer a permanent absentee ballot feature. Once you check a box stating that you’d like to be an absentee voter, from that point on your ballot is automatically mailed to you for every election going forward.
Ohio is going to be the canary in the coal mine this year. Its window for early voting is an odd duck. It starts September 30 and ends October 6, almost a full month before election day. What makes that significant is that we’ll be able to see what percentage of the projected overall Ohio electorate actually takes advantage of the window, and therefore get a pretty good foreshadowing of what’s to come in other states if the patterns hold.
From the perspective of John McCain’s campaign, if they plan to make a push anywhere in terms of organizing and early banked voting, it should be Ohio. We'll get an early indication of whether the McCain camp is making any strong progress in ramping up its organizing operation in the aftermath of the Ohio window.
Overall, early voting helps election boards smooth out their work. It helps highly organized campaigns do enough prep work that their election day efforts are that much more streamlined. It's no joke to say that Jon Tester is a United States Senator today because of a massive effort over the summer and fall of 2006 to get supporters to request absentee ballots mailed to them. In a state where roughly 400,000 people voted, the Tester campaign gained a roughly 10,000 vote head start (and also provided supporter IDs who could then be recruited to volunteer). Tester won by fewer than 4,000 votes.
In the battleground states this presidential year, it's these small but distinct percentages that add up to victory. You won't find it in the polling.
If the principal Republican talking point tomorrow is: "the speech was too good! It just proves that she should have been the [Presidential/Vice Presidential] nominee!"
9:17 PM MDT: More from Sean:
"When she turned to "Why are you in it?" from that point to the end of the speech she warmed even my slow-to-warm heart. That was a great speech. She did what she came to do. Nate's "Shame on You" moment was more or less accomplished by the Twin Cities line. She explained to her supporters that if you support my agenda, you will vote for Barack Obama. Like Nate said, she was sincere. A sincere Hillary Clinton is a great Hillary Clinton."
9:09 PM MDT. I wish I had a more substantive, less rah-rah reaction for you, but I really think she just accomplished everything that she needed to, and did so in style.
Or as Sean puts it: "goddammit, Hillary, don't make me like you again!"
9:03 PM MDT. One thing about Clinton -- really both Clintons -- they understand the audience they are speaking to better than any other politicians in America.
9:01 PM MDT. Like Schweitzer, Hillary started out a little slow, but there are Republicans kicking chairs over right now in RNC offices all across America.
8:58 PM MDT. Hillary's sincerity factor is very high tonight and getting higher.
8:57 PM MDT. C-SPAN could pretty much just keep a camera trained Bill's face 100% of the time and I'd be entertained.
8:54 PM MDT. Yes, one could certainly bring up the point that Hillary is talking a lot about Hillary.
8:48 PM MDT. "No way, no how, no McCain". Not quite a "shame on you" moment, but certainly getting warmer.
8:45 PM MDT. She's gotten off strong out of the blocks.
8:37 PM MDT. Time for the Main Event. Sean is going to have a closing thought on Schweitzer, and then we'll open a new thread.
8:35 PM MDT. Not sure if the networks are picking this up, but Bubba likes what he sees.
8:30 PM MDT. Sean calls Schweitzer a closet wonk, which means that he's basically using the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer technique. "I'm just a rancher..." (who happens to have a masters' in soil science). In any event, he definitely hit his stride once he started talking about the energy stuff.
8:28 PM MDT. This (Schweitzer) speech has a little bit of an extemporaneous quality to it, which is alternately endearing and off-putting.
8:22 PM MDT. Looks like Brian Schweitzer has put on the Freshman Governor 15.
8:08 PM MDT. "George Bush started on third base, and then he stole second."
Ted Strickland just delivered the best line of the convention so far, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a baseball fan. Shades of Ann Richards.
8:00 PM MDT. Warner: B/B+ for delivery, B/B- for messaging? Very few direct hits on McCain, although that's not traditionally not been the keynote speaker's role. On the other hand, the Democrats are keeping their speeches nice and short this year.
7:58 PM MDT. For the 99.98% of you who are watching this on some network other than C-SPAN, Deval Patrick and Brian Schweitzer are the two speakers scheduled in between Warner and Clinton.
7:56 PM MDT. A shout-out to Peoria, Illinois? Illinois is not a swing state. Rookie.
7:50 PM MDT. Warner's actually pretty good up there -- Sean says he's much better than when he used to watch Warner in Virginia. But he still has this thing going on where he seems like he's a dude playing a president on TV.
Clever Olympics reference, though. Although, for the sake of context, the US won more medals in Beijing than in other fully competitive Olympic Games (excluding 1984 and the year in St. Louis that we held an Olympics and nobody else came).
7:41 PM MDT. Purely in terms of body language, does not Mark Warner remind you just a little bit of Richard Nixon?
7:36 PM MDT. Stupid pundit thought: could the two featured speakers tonight -- Hillary Clinton and Mark Warner -- be a preview of the 2012 primary field if Barack Obama fails to win the election?
Also, Bob Casey Jr. was surprisingly good in a live setting. Were it not for the pro-life thing, he probably would have gotten a lot of VP buzz.
7:28 PM MDT. What Hillary needs to do tonight: show some emotion. Challenge her supporters in the most direct terms she thinks she can get away with: express empathy with their grievances, but challenge them to really think about the stakes of the election. And than take that visceral bit of emotion around and turn it on John McCain. In order to call it a home run, I am looking for nothing less than a "shame on you, John McCain!" moment.
My cabbie and I had a good conversation about politics yesterday night. Interesting guy; he has a masters’ degree but is driving a cab, and says he knows a lot of people in the same boat. This is going to sound a little xenophobic, but one thing I have noticed in Chicago is that the higher the percentage of taxi drivers that speak English without an accent, the worse off the economy is doing. Lately, I've had a lot of cabbies who spoke the King's English.
He’s a swing voter – white, maybe 53 years old, listens to Air America one night, Rush Limbaugh the next. He isn’t buying what John McCain is selling, and thinks it’s pretty obvious that he’ll take the country in the wrong direction.
But he’s yet to be entirely persuaded by Obama. Likes what Obama has to say. Liked Michelle’s speech. But he feels like he’s heard a lot of the same rhetoric before, and seen too many politicians who couldn’t deliver on it. Says he might vote third party instead, or just sit the election out. He didn’t like the Biden pick, and says a lot of his customers didn’t either. Reinforced too much of his sense that Obama is a typical Washington politican, perhaps well enough intentioned, but like most politicians inclined to overpromise and underdeliver.
He also expressed a great deal of admiration for Ross Perot, particularly Perot’s foresight on NAFTA. And this is one that I have heard before – I had a very similar conversation with a man in Austin, who said in essence that Perot was the only politician he’d trusted in the last thirty years.
Perot’s name still has a lot of currency among certain voters, especially here out West. Perot is not any fan of John McCain, but he’s yet to endorse a candidate. If Perot were to endorse Obama, that would be a very big deal – bigger, perhaps, than any endorsement of the general election campaign, save perhaps for Colin Powell. But even if he doesn’t (and it isn’t likely that he will; Perot made a fairly soft endorsement of Mitt Romney in the Republican primary), the Obama campaign ought to invest some thought into what made the Perot voter tick. I know of at least one vote he’d win that way.
This tracking polling will NOT reflect any convention bounce (or its absence). These polling firms concluded their interviews by mid-evening, before Michelle Obama's speech and before network coverage of the convention began. So if there is a response to the events of Monday night, it will show up in the field on Tuesday, which means that it will be reflected in polls released on Wednesday. Moreover, our research has concluded that there typically is not any bounce until the third day of the convention. As such, this polling tells us nothing at all about the convention so far, and it probably won't tell us a whole lot until at least Thursday or Friday.
It might tell us something about Joe Biden. I tend to agree with the conventional wisdom that there was liable to be a bit of a near-term backlash whenever Obama announced his VP choice, provided that the VP was not Hillary Clinton. The key phrase in there, however, is "near-term". If Hillary is able to rally her supporters to the Obama-Biden ticket tonight, there could still be a latent/lagged VP bounce for Obama that gets rolled up into his convention bounce.
Besides all that, we also have a number of state polls today which generally look pretty decent for Obama.
Yep, Quinnipiac released its "big three" swing state polling this morning. The results are literally identical to last month in Pennsylvania, where Obama leads by the same 49-42 margin, and essentially identical in Ohio, where Obama's lead is down from 2 points to 1 (although with undecided and Bob Barr improving). The difference is in Florida, which swung from a 2-point Obama lead to a 4-point deficit. Obama's investment in the air wars in Florida does not appear to paying immediate benefits. Still, this result is about where other polling firms had shown Florida, as Quinnipiac had been a modest outlier before. And that Obama's lead is holding relatively steady in Pennsyvalnia should reassure his supporters.
There is also polling out in North Carolina (PPP) and Texas (Rasmussen), which shows North Carolina and Texas at the same margins they have been polling at since antiquity, with McCain holding a 10-point lead among Texans and a 3-point lead among Tarheels.
EDIT: To clarify one thing: how can I imply that some of these state polls are good for Obama when they show his numbers -- at best -- holding steady? Because they beat the model's expectations. Our model had already anticipated about a 2.5-point decline for Obama since the last time these Quinnipiac polls were in the field in late July, and that decline was already priced in to our numbers. That turned out to be prescient in Florida, where his numbers slipped by 6 points. But Obama polled somewhat more strongly than anticipated in both Pennsylvania and Ohio.
I'm beginning a chat over at Baseball Prospectus in a few minutes. It's mostly going to be baseball, but we'll take a few politics questions as well.
Then the daily polling thread will go up.
Sean will have a post on early registration in Ohio.
And we'll be liveblogging the events of the evening.
We'll see you folks tomorrow night, when the most important speech of the campaign will occur.
9:02 MDT: Show, don't tell. That last exchange with the kids may have been a setup but it was unfakeable. There is no greater common denominator than a genuine expression of love in a family. Everyone relates to that. That isn't a person telling a touching story about how they were raised, that was love in real time.
8:56 MDT: [Nate] Last five minutes of her speech definitely had Favreau's fingerprints on it. But I think it slightly exceeded expectations -- mine anyway.
8:47 MDT: Michelle Obama has given many speeches on the campaign trail this election season, this is the big stage to reassure those who have been slow to warm to Obama that this is the fully American couple. There has been an ongoing effort with warm supermarket-aisle mags (not the Weekly World News) to present the Obamas as the quintessential American family. This is a good speech, particularly notable for the buzz moment of mentioning Hillary Clinton, but will it penetrate? Ironically, Hillary Clinton supporters should appreciate the story of this woman, as she is a brilliant, co-equal partner in the Obama marriage, fully independent and strong. "That is why I love this country" is the sound bite of the night.
8:20 MDT: [Nate] And ... it's probably good that Claire McCaskill was not the VP nominee.
8:15 MDT: Waiting for the other big moment of the night, the Michelle Obama speech. Happened to share a ride from the airport last night with Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), who reports Obama now has 50 field offices in North Carolina. For those of you who may remember Miller's 2006 race featured a truly deranged opponent named Vernon Robinson, dubbed "the black Jesse Helms." Robinson raised over $2 million to run overtly racist, homophobic ads that included a claim that the married Miller was a gay lover of the married Markos Moulitsas. Showing grace and good humor, Miller posted a diary at DailyKos later titled "Markos and I Are Just Good Friends." Miller won 64-36. His opponent this year only has $15,000, so Miller should coast.
7:42 MDT: This is Nate jumping in for a quick comment. Call me a grouch, and this is probably my background in sports journalism kicking in, but I find the cheering in the room kind of annoying (here in the Blogger Tent, not the Pepsi Center).
7:33 MDT: "I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate."
7:28 MDT: There had been a buzz of social conversation inside the Big Tent prior to the Kennedy Moment, but when Caroline Kennedy began speaking, the crowd mostly quieted and began gluing into the the screens strewn around the room. In spite of the younger skew of the blogger crowd, there was a clear sense of respect paid and historical understanding for the long shadow Ted Kennedy casts over his party. When Kennedy says during the video montage "it's time for Barack Obama," the room bursts into applause. Wild applause at the introduction.
7:19 MDT: Caroline Kennedy is speaking, introducing what promisesto be the emotional fulcrum of the evening, Ted Kennedy's appearance at the DNC...
7:18 MDT:. Live from Denver, it's Monday at the Democratic National Convention! It's been a busy, up-energy day here, the streets teeming with delegates, merchandisers, bloggers, media cognoscenti, a handful of Hillary Clinton marchers and a visible presence of SWAT/Denver police. There's a good vibe in the blogger area, but that could just be the beer. Anyway... on to the liveblog.
Five Reasons to Expect a Large Bump:
1. Obama has twice the usual number of swing voters to reach out to: independents and PUMAs.
2. Enormous amounts of star power in the lineup -- including, of course, Obama himself.
3. Interest -- and ratings -- will be high.
4. McCain comeback story is getting old; media pendulum may be swinging at right time.
5. Hillary's reputation is on the line, and she will rise to the top of her game.
Five Reasons to Expect No Bump, or a Small One:
1. Even small PUMA eruptions will be magnified by the media.
2. Expectations for Obama's speechmaking powers will be exceptionally high.
3. The VP bounce is often part of the convention bounce, but Biden hasn't moved the numbers much so far.
4. McCain team can quickly stomp on any bounce with response ads and veep speculation.
5. Bill's ego is on the line, and he will not be at the top of his game.
Three firms snuck polls in overnight. Here in Colorado, Suffolk University has Barack Obama ahead by 5 points. I think a touch of skepticism is warranted about this poll, simply because Suffolk has never before polled Colorado, but we certainly have a wide mix of polling in Colorado, with no fewer than seven firms having released numbers within the past couple weeks. It all points toward a toss-up, perhaps just slightly tilting toward Barack Obama.
In Michigan, the EPIC-MRA poll for the Detroit News has Obama ahead by 2, the same margin he held last month. Obama's win percentage moved down a bit in Michigan, not necessarily because of this poll, but because the house effects adjustment that we introduced this morning took a couple of points off the very favorable (+7) poll that he got from Ann Selzer last week.
And in Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch poll has made its first appearance, showing John McCain ahead 42-41. The Columbus Dispatch poll, which is conducted by forms mailed out to registered voters and voluntarily returned by mail, is infamous for being the lowest-rated poll in our database, having held the bottom spot since the Nauoo Expositor poll, which was conducted by carrier pigeon, was officially discontinued after mistakenly having projected a landslide victory for the Constitutional Union party in the election of 1860.
Before we proceed, it is VERY important to distinguish house effects from either "bias" or "partisanship". Those things can cause house effects, but far more often they are, in Franklin's words: "[D]ifferences ... due to a variety of factors that represent reasonable differences in practice from one organization to another."
Nevertheless, house effects do present some problems for our model. Say you have a pollster like, oh, Mason-Dixon, that tends to have a fairly consistent lean toward McCain. We don't know whether Mason-Dixon is right or wrong -- and they very well could be right, since they are a pretty good pollster! But it is the case that, in states where you have a Mason-Dixon poll, the numbers are going to lean more toward McCain than they do in states where you don't. This has nothing to do with the states themselves itself -- rather, it's simply a matter of who polled them. It would be nice to be able to adjust for this somehow.
Likewise, say you have a pollster like Selzer, which is a very good polling firm, but has had a pretty strong Obama-leaning house effect so far. Selzer only polls a handful of states -- usually Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. If we have Selzer polls in those states and don't have them anywhere else, we may get a false impression of the relative ordering of different states. This is pretty important in Michigan right now, where Selzer's Obama +7 is really bringing his numbers up.
Of course, bad pollsters can have house effects too (I just wanted to list a couple of good pollsters first to debunk the notion that house effects mean 'bias'). Zogby Interactive has a pretty strong Democratic lean, for instance. TargetPoint has a pretty strong Republican lean.
I don't have quite as much time as I'd like right now to describe our process in detail, but the basic steps are as follows:
1) Each poll in our database is compared against the trend-adjusted average of all polls in that state. Adjusting for the time trend is important, because otherwise you could easily mistake a timing effect for a house effect, if a pollster happens to release a bunch of data at a particularly good time for one of the candidates.
2) We throw these +/- numbers into a regression model to produce both a house effect coefficient and a standard error for each pollster.
3) The house effect adjustment is enacted only in cases where we are at least 90% certain that there is a house effect. Even in these cases, we hedge our bets a little bit, by subtracting 166% of the standard error from the house effect coefficient. (If you have no idea what this means, don't worry about it. In plain English, it means we're being conservative, since house effects can sometimes appear to arise when they're in fact due to plain old luck).
That's basically it. Well, actually not quite. As Franklin notes, we also have to figure out where to 'center' the house effect. We know that pollsters may have a lot of different methodologies that produce consistently different results -- but we don't know which one is right.
So what we do is compare the averages given by that actual mix of pollsters that we have in our state-by-state numbers against that produced by an optimal basket of pollsters. How do we determine what is optimal? We combine the sample sizes from all the polls that a given firm has conducted in this election cycle -- including national polls -- and then assign it a weight based on our pollster ratings. So the pollsters that have the most say on where the avreages stand are the best pollsters, provided that they've given us enough data such that we have a reasonable idea of where they stand. It turns out that the optimal mix of pollsters is just a tiny bit more favorable to Barack Obama than the actual one we have, so his numbers have gotten bumped up by a fraction of a percentage point.
If we didn't do this -- and we weren't doing it before -- our averages tend to be dominated by a relatively small number of pollsters:
Right now, our four most prolific pollsters -- Rasmussen, SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac -- collectively account for about 2/3 of all the data that forms our daily averages. Rasmussen and SurveyUSA alone account for just more than half of our data, and Rasmussen alone counts for 37 percent. So, our recentering method gives more weight to the little guys at the expense of the big guys -- provided that the little guys are good pollsters. (We don't want to give more weight to Zogby Interactive -- we want to get it the hell out of our numbers).
What this process ends up doing for a pollster like Selzer is that it diffuses some of Selzer's impact over all states. The fact that Ann Selzer's polls think that this will be a very good election for Barack Obama is certianly something we should take notice of. But it really has nothing to do with the particular states that she's polled. So instead of giving Barack Obama a large bounce in states like Michigan and Iowa, we instead take some of that and give him a much smaller bounce spread out over a lot of states.
So which pollsters have a discernible house effect? Not necessarily the ones that you'd think. A lot of the pollsters that have a statistically significant house effect are tiny pollsters that might have released just one or two polls in one or two states. One really nice 'side effect' of this methodology, by the way, is that it will reduce the effect of particularly extreme outliers, in some cases even based on a single poll.
Rasmussen's polls have a slight, Republican-leaning house effect. But it's small -- less than one percentage point (Franklin finds a larger effect, but he's not looking at their state numbers, where the effect has been less pronounced). The effect is nevertheless statistically significant, mostly because we have so much Rasmussen data to work with, but it's not really anything worth getting worked up about.
Strategic Vision has a pretty recognizable Republican-leaning house effect. Mason-Dixon too, which we mentioned.
The pollsters with a Democratic lean tend to be national pollsters, which is one reason why our averages -- which are ultimately still based on state-by-state numbers -- have tended to be less favorable for Barack Obama than things like the RCP national average. Washington Post / ABC and New York Times / CBS have both had a little bit of a Dem-leaning effect. Quinnipiac's polls have been fairly Obama-friendly, but not enough to show up as statistically significant. PPP, a firm that has frequently been accused of/assumed to have a Democratic-leaning house effect in fact does not have one.
To repeat, house effects are not necessarily bad -- but we can make our model even more robust by understanding and accounting for them.
n.b. In our poll detail chart, the house effects are considered part of the 'trendline adjustment' and take effect there. The 'polling average' line is still a pure, unadulterated weighted average, just as it was before.
This is not good news for Obama, who had led by 7 points in a CNN poll released in late July. It would be nice to know why the decline occurred. However, the analysis of the poll omits several important pieces of context, and may come to a misleading conclusion about the reason for his decline.
CNN implies that the reason for the downtrend is a backlash among Hillary Clinton's supporters who had wanted Clinton to be the VP nominee:
In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll out Sunday night, 47 percent of those questioned are backing Obama with an equal amount supporting the Arizona senator.There is a little bit of sleight-of-hand here. The analysis begins by comparing Obama's performance in this new poll to CNN's next-most-recent one, which had been conducted in late July. However, CNN then switches to discussing a different poll, one which was conducted in late June, and pulls several pieces of information about the preferences of Hillary Clinton supporters from that June version of its survey.
“This looks like a step backward for Obama, who had a 51 to 44 percent advantage last month,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
“Even last week, just before his choice of Joe Biden as his running mate became known, most polls tended to show Obama with a single-digit advantage over McCain,” adds Holland.
So what’s the difference now?
It may be supporters of Hillary Clinton, who still would prefer the Senator from New York as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.
Sixty-six percent of Clinton supporters, registered Democrats who want Clinton as the nominee, are now backing Obama. That’s down from 75 percent in the end of June. Twenty-seven percent of them now say they’ll support McCain, up from 16 percent in late June.
“The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most although not all of the support McCain has gained in that time,” says Holland.
Why does this matter? The hypothesis suggested by the article is that Barack Obama's support has been impaired by the negative reactions of Hillary Clinton's supporters to his VP pick. The best way to test that would be to compare a poll conducted immediately before the VP pick to one conducted immediately after, before other events had a chance to intervene.
CNN is only in the field once a month or so, and so their most recent poll had been conducted three or four weeks ago, not quite as recent as we'd like. However, this would still be a lot better than a poll conducted seven or eight weeks ago. Why didn't CNN cite the preferences of Clinton supporters from its July poll instead of its June one?
Well, there are two possible reasons. Reason #1 is that they did not identify Clinton supporters in July, but had done so in June and then again now in August. This is entirely possible; most pollsters rotate different sorts of questions into and out of their polls in different months.
But we have no way to know, because CNN has not released any additional detail on at least its last three polls: no complete set of topline results, and certainly no detailed cross-tabular information. The only information we get is the information that their analysts decide to make available to us.
Essentially every other reputable polling organization, including Gallup, CBS/NYT, NBC/Wall Street Journal, ABC/Washington Post, Fox News/Opinion Dyanamics, LA Times/Bloomberg, Newsweek/Princeton Associates, Economist/YouGov, Rasmussen, SurveyUSA, Pew, Cook/RT Strategies, Public Policy Polling, Mason-Dixon, Quinnipiac, Tarrance/Battleground, IBD/TIPP, Hotline/FD and Democracy Corps, routinely makes this kind of information available. A handful of others are less consistent about it, however, they tend to strike a far less editorial tone in the presentation of their results than does CNN.
The other possibility, of course, is that CNN did identify Clinton supporters in its July poll, but chose not to cite those results because they didn't fit with its storyline. The number of Clinton-supporting Democrats will be fairly small in any given survey (probably about one-sixth of the total sample), and results from that subgroup will therefore shift around a lot, with or without reason.
All a poll really is is a series of statistics, and all statistics really are are facts, expressed numerically. As such, they deserve the same respect as any other series of facts reported in any other journalistic context. Too often pollsters think that they are making news by a conducting a poll, rather than simply reporting it.
Mason-Dixon, whom we haven't heard much from thus far, is the principal actor today, having released polling in six Western states. And their numbers are a little ... weird. Obama winning by 3 in Colorado, but losing by 4 in New Mexico? McCain with a larger lead in Nevada than in Arizona? Mason-Dixon has a pretty good track record, but these polls have unusually small sample sizes of 400 persons each, which makes this sort of thing more likely. The only state that Mason-Dixon had surveyed before was Nevada, where John McCain had been 2 points ahead in mid-June.
Quinnipiac also has their take on Colorado: John McCain has a 1-point lead. That's down a hair from 2 points last month, but better for him than their June edition, when Obama had led by 5. And Public Policy Polling gives Obama a two-point lead in Virginia, the same margin he's held in their two prior polls of the Commonwealth.
Colorado, Virgina and Ohio remain the three principal focal points of Obama's offense. Our model makes Obama a very slight favorite in Colorado with a 53.0% probability of winning. Obama wins the election 95.9% of the time that he wins Colorado in our simulations.
Obama remains a small underdog in Virginia, winning that state 43.1% of the time. But he wins the electoral vote 99.3% of the time that he does win Virginia.
And Obama is a slightly longer underdog in Ohio, winning there 39.6% of the time. However, it is nearly impossible for him to lose the election when he wins Ohio, as he takes the election 99.8% of the time that Ohio swings his way.
See some of you in Denver.
Note: Factors colored in red can generally be thought to help McCain. Factors in blue can generally be thought to help Obama. Factors in purple have ambiguous effects. Except where otherwise apparent, the numbers next to each variable represent the proportion out of each 100 residents in each state who fall into that category. Fundraising numbers reflect dollars raised in the 2008 campaign cycle per eligible voter in each state. Figures for seniors and youth voters are proportions of all residents aged 18+, rather than all residents of any age. The figure for education reflects the average number of years of completed schooling for all adults aged 25+. The figure for same-sex households reflects the number of same-sex partner households as a proportion of all households in the state. The liberal-conservative index is scaled from 0 (conservative) to 100 (liberal), based on a Likert score of voter self-identification in 2004 exit polls. The turnout rates reflect eligible voters only. Unemployment rates are current as of June 2008.
What McCain Has Going For Him
Highest rate of gun ownership at a staggering 60%. 2d highest Bush 2004 margin. 3d highest percentage of military veterans. Low unemployment and a fairly strong statewide economy. Very male, very few black voters, not many young people… want us to go on? OK, how does a 53-25 partisan ID edge for Republicans sound? The bottom line is that while libertarians are not at all excited about the previous eight authoritarian years under Republican rule (though Wyoming graciously bestowed Dick Cheney upon us), there are just so many built-in demographic advantages that Wyoming isn’t in danger of going blue at the presidential level anytime soon. Other states with bigger liberal areas such as Missoula, Montana would flip first. John McCain's "maverick" brand plays well in a place like Wyoming, and he should coast to an effortless win.
What Obama Has Going For Him
Demographically, not much. He still beats McCain in per capita fundraising (both do above average in that department here) and Wyoming is slightly more educated in terms of number of schooling years per voter than the average state, but that’s about as good as it gets for Barack Obama in the demographics. One positive sign for at least base enthusiasm is that Obama solidly beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary here, and not simply because Wyoming held a caucus rather than a primary. Republicans successfully turned the Clintons into the poster children of gun control during the 90s, and the NRA plans on turning Obama into the 2d Amendment boogeyman during the general election. In a state where nearly everyone owns a gun, being seen as a gun control candidate is like being painted an atheist in South Carolina. This is not a partisan issue but a cultural one. Moreover, Obama’s compromise on FISA probably didn’t wear well with Wyoming Democrats.
What To Watch For
Since the presidential race and both Senate seats are safe Republican again in Wyoming this year, about the only drama will be at the House level. With Barbara Cubin’s retirement from the House, will the now-better-known Trauner close the deal against Wyoming Treasurer Cynthia Lummis and send a Wyoming Democrat to Washington for the first time in three decades? If 2008 is another national Democratic wave year downballot, it’ll be worth watching to see whether Obama’s presence on the ticket helps or hurts Trauner against the spread. Bush and home stater Cheney beat their Democratic opponents here by 40 points each of the last two races; based on sparse polling data Obama appears poised to hold McCain to a 20-point-or-less win. If Obama winds up winning but loses by a wider margin than we expect, it'll signal that an Obama administration has many more inroads to make with libertarians.
Rasmussen has some instant feedback on Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden. As their write-up notes, there appears to be a gender gap in the initial response to his selection. And it's the reverse gender gap than you'll usually see when a Democratic candidate makes news: men like the pick better than women.
What's interesting is that the gender gap is different between the several formulations of the question that Rasmussen employed. There is a big difference in the question of whether Biden was "the right pick" -- apparently seeming to indicate that, for many women, any pick other than Hillary was not going to be the right pick. But there isn't very much difference in favorability scores for Biden, nor upon the prospective impact upon one's vote. So the message that women seem to be sending is that: (1) yeah, we're kind of ticked; but, (2) it's nothing personal against Biden, and (3) we'll probably get over it.
The McCain campaign, however, isn't going to make it any easier on them, having announced a commercial, to debut at literally any moment now (it's 3 AM on the East Coast -- get it?), called "Passed Over":
This ought to be a lot of fun. And frankly, I have no idea what to expect. I could see the ad being very effective. But it also tosses a big softball to Hillary Clinton, who will speak to a national audience on Tuesday. The risk to the Republicans can be summarized in five words: "Shame on You, John McCain". A finger-wagging, how-dare-you moment by either of the Clintons at the convention -- but especially Hillary -- could be both effective and therapeutic, especially when coupled with a reminder that McCain voted against measures like SCHIP (and voted to impeach her husband).
“She won millions of votes. But isn’t on his ticket. Why?” an announcer says in the 30-second spot.
The answer? “For speaking the truth.”
The ad, which has not yet been released, then ticks off a litany of criticism Clinton used against Obama in the prolonged primary, according to a transcript sent to reporters.
“You never hear the specifics,” Clinton says.
“On the Rezko scandal,” the voice says.
“We still don’t have a lot of answers about Senator Obama,” Clinton says in footage from the primaries.
“Senator Obama’s campaign has become increasingly negative,” Clinton says in another scene.
The announcer closes by saying “The truth hurt. And Obama didn’t like it.”
By the way, this involves some voodoo math, but it appears to me that Barack Obama's overall advantage over John McCain in Rasmussen's one-day sample was 3 points. Rasmussen's numbers had been oscillating between a 1 and 2 point lead for Obama for several days now, so there may be a teensy-tiny bump here, but it's within the margin of error.