Are The Polls Tightening? Revisited

Last week I wrote a short post which argued that the race was likely to end with McCain picking up some lost ground but not in any way altering the central dynamic of the race - which today appears to have Senator Obama heading towards a significant victory.

Today the various polls averages have the race about 50-43, which means that there are 7 percent undecided (see the latest from DemFromCT). Giving Senator McCain 4 of those 7 points gets him back to 47, a very low number in a 2-way Presidential race.  Obama ends up at 53 - still landslide territory.  So it is very possible for us to end this campaign with McCain making up a significant amount of ground and still suffering an historic, potentially realigning defeat.   Which is why those who are arguing that the race is "tightening" or that things are getting "closer" have to take a deep breath before implying that the race has become competitive - which is all that really matters now.  Turning a 30-0 football game into a 30-14 may make the losing team fell better but it doesn't alter the fundamental dynamic of the game. 

So the key number to watch now is not McCain's.  One should assume McCain gets back to the mid forties, reclaiming ground he has ceded due to his terribly disapointing campaign.  The number to watch is Obama's.  If he can stay at 49-51, and not show any signs of weakening, the race while getting closer will not become competitive.  For the race to become competitive Obama will have to start sliding, giving up ground.  And to date there is not much evidence of this at all. 


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