Our models/understanding of what is coming is therefore necessarily
projective, but, here is what we know for sure:
The McCain campaign has made impressive strides over the last week of
The campaign is functionally tied across the battleground states ...
with our numbers IMPROVING sharply over the last four tracks.
The key number in our mind is Senator Obama's level of support and the
margin difference between the two candidates.
As other public polls begin to show Senator Obama dropping below 50%
and the margin over McCain beginning to approach margin of error with a
week left, all signs say we are headed to an election that may easily
be too close to call by next Tuesday.
1. We are witnessing a significant
shift across the battleground states.
The race has moved significantly over the past week, closing to
essentially tied on the last two-day roll. These gains are coming from
sub-groups it should be possible to sustain over the next week,
- Non-college men;
- Rural voters, both men and women;
- Right-to-life voters; and most encouragingly;
- We are beginning to once again get over a 20% chunk of the vote among
Importantly as well, our long identified target of "Walmart women" -
those women without a college degree in households under $60,000 a year
in income are also swinging back solidly in our direction.
Finally, in terms of critical improvement, even as this track shows
more Republicans voting for us than Democrats supporting Obama, we are
witnessing an impressive "pop" with Independent voters.
As I said during our Sunday briefing, we do substantially more
interviews per day than any public poll, but, given the shift we were
witnessing, it was my expectation that by Tuesday/Wednesday multiple
public polls would show the race closing. A quick glance at Real Clear
Politics would indicate this is happening by today, Tuesday, and that's
2. It is not surprising we are
witnessing this closing as we are finally having an opportunity to run
a campaign that focuses on Senator Obama's record on taxes and his lack
We are tracking how much people have seen, read, or heard about a
number of thematic elements from both campaigns, including the false
charges about Senator McCain's health care plan, being out of touch on
the economy, and the Obama's campaign charges about Medicare. At the
same time, we are testing awareness of "Joe the Plumber," Senator's
Biden's quote about his own running mate being so inexperienced it
invites being tested by our enemies around the world, and Obama's
proposals that will raise federal spending by a trillion dollars.
This has been the week where "Joe the Plumber" has literally become a
household name. An astounding 59% of voters in these battleground
states have heard "a lot" about this story, 83% have heard "a lot" or
"some" about this episode.
The 59% "a lot" dwarfs the other stories/thematic elements we are
tracking this week.
The campaign's relentless focus has helped strengthen our margins on
the issue of taxes and broadened as well to the attribute of handling
the economy and jobs.
3. Our opponent is being correctly
perceived as the most liberal nominee in modern times.
In our tracking, now 59% of battleground voters describe Senator Obama
as being a "liberal," a percentage that is higher than previous
Democrat losers Gore/Kerry, and significantly higher than for President
Clinton and President Carter.
A majority (54%) of voters profile as saying Senator Obama is more
liberal than they see themselves politically.
As Senator Obama's profile as a "liberal" increases, it has helped
further erode his support among key sub-groups.
4. Turn-out IS going to go through the
Public Opinion Strategies has been using a 1 to 10 scale to help look
at self-described interest in the election since 1993. In 1996, in our
last track, 48% of voters described their interest in the election as a
"10." In 2000, the last track was 54% saying "10." Remarkably, in 2004,
our last track had self-described "10s" at 75% of the electorate.
You need to understand we are witnessing a day-to-day trend of serious
magnitude as self-described "10s" increase in every roll.
Last night, 81% of voters described their interest in this election as
a 10! Wow.
Here is the importance of this number: We have watched as turn-out has
gone up in the last three presidential elections from roughly 96
million voters in 1996, to 104 million voters in 2000, to a whopping
122 million voters in 2004.
I now believe turn-out will begin to approach levels not seen since
other comparable presidential campaigns in 1960 and 1968.
In today's terms, that could mean breaking the barrier of 130 million
There is simply no model that begins to know or predict the composition
of the electorate at this level of turn-out.
My own view ... and our own weights in our surveys ... reflect a belief
that African American turn-out will be at historic levels, there will
be a significant boost with voters 18 to 29 years old, yet the overall
high level of turn-out will begin to mute the increase in the
percentage these sub-groups represent in the overall electorate.
5. There is more elasticity in this
campaign than is imagined.
We have merged all of our interviews over the last three plus weeks to
identify undecided and respondents who "refuse to respond" on the
ballot question. This can be as high as one out of ten voters, but is
generally about eight percent (8%) of the electorate in battleground
These voters might generally be non-voters in most cycles. But, in this
cycle, 61% describe their interest in the election as a 10. This is
higher than the last track among ALL voters in 1996 and 2000.
These voters are older, downscale, more rural, and are certainly
economically stressed. They are quite negative about the direction of
country and seek change. They voted for Bush over Kerry by a margin of
47% to 24% and this partisan advantage is a critical element to
understanding our capacity to "get" these voters.
They have significant hesitations about Senator Obama's experience and
Given an Obama TV media barrage we have not witnessed since the last
candidate to run without public financing, Richard Nixon in 1972, and
the daily drumbeat about Obama's chances, given their demographics, it
is my sense these voters WILL vote in this election and WILL break
decisively in our direction.
These undecided/refuse to respond voters breaking decisively against
Senator Obama mirrors the pattern of the last two months of the
Democrat primary season.
When they do break, I believe they will add a net three plus points to
6. I am becoming more and more
convinced Senator Obama "gets what he gets in the tracking."
Typically a Republican candidate trails among African Americans on a
survey by a margin of something like 78% to 14%. As a firm, we
consistently warn our clients that on Election Day, they will
underperform their polling margins with African American voters. If
their tracking says 78% - 18%, they should expect to only carry 8% of
the African American vote, as the Democrat candidate will typically
carry more than 90% of the African American vote.
Senator Obama's numbers are different than anything we have ever seen
before among African Americans.
In most polls, McCain is losing these African American voters by
margins like 97% to 1%.
This means when you see Senator Obama's number in a survey, it already
reflects his significant and full support among African American