Here is how the presidential race has changed in the last week...
1) The race tightened a bit as John McCain consolidated Republican-leaning voters, but not nearly enough to erase Obama’s lead:
The GOP candidate achieved a degree of media parity, spending his remaining cash in the final days of the race. This gave him an uptick in the daily tracking polls, reducing Democratic contender Barack Obama’s lead by an average of 2.2 points in the five days to Oct. 28 Obama nonetheless continued to lead in the pollster.com poll of polls, 50% to 44%, at that stage.
The latest Democracy Corps national poll, completed Oct. 28, shows some of the groups involved in this move. Last week’s post identified the Republican-leaning groups which still had large proportions of undecideds. Since then, the share of undecideds has dropped sharply among young rural non-college women from 11% to 2%, while McCain’s vote among them has surged. There was a similar shift among non-college whites with technical or vocational education. Joe the Plumber got some traction for McCain among blue-collar whites.
2) McCain’s gains narrowed the gap in certain tossup states, including Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio:
Three of the five Missouri polls finishing Oct. 28 or later had the Republican ahead; the other two reported a tie or had Obama one point up, after he had been comfortably ahead earlier in the month. In North Carolina, where Obama also consistently led earlier in the month, the eight polls finishing over the same time had Obama up narrowly in five, McCain ahead in two, and a tie in the last, with all but one within the margin of error.
Perhaps the most important test has been in Pennsylvania, where McCain concentrated much of his remaining funds to try to flip a big state from the Democrats, who carried it in 2004. On pollster.com, McCain’s vote climbed 5 points, from 40% to 45%, between Oct. 9 and 28. Unfortunately for him, however, Obama’s vote remained stable in this time at around 51% to 53%, well above the margin of error. The same seems have happened in Ohio, Joe the Plumber’s home state, a must-win state for McCain in the Electoral College.
3) McCain has been tanking in western swing states:
McCain has been sliding in the West over the past week, while Obama’s vote share has swelled in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. With his resources elsewhere and a campaign focused on concerns of Eastern working-class whites, McCain made himself less relevant in his home region. Even in his home state of Arizona, that should have been safely his, McCain’s lead contracted sharply as Obama went up on the air. The electoral map is changing.
4) As the campaign took on a strongly partisan character, the vote was increasingly driven by party identification, giving Obama the advantage:
In the cacophony of partisan themes and attacks that has marked the campaign close – a contrast to the usual attempt to finish on positives – we haven’t heard much post-partisanship. Between McCain’s attacks on Obama tax plans, character, and national security qualifications and Obama’s painting McCain’s economic and foreign policies as the third term of George W. Bush, the two candidates hurled out a lot of partisan red meat – and the voters responded in kind.
The final Gallup poll, finished Nov. 2, shows the Republican and Democratic contenders each taking around 90% of their partisans and splitting Independents almost evenly, with a slight edge for Obama, 48% to 43% for McCain. However, given the 12-point edge that Democrats enjoy in party identification, one of the major legacies of president Bush, a vote based on partisanship yields a final Gallup vote estimate of Obama 55%, McCain 44%. The Democracy Corps results were quite similar. Obama may not be your generic Democrat – but it appears he will be propelled into the White House by the generic Democratic vote.
Craig Charney is president of Charney Research, a New York polling firm.