Ladies and Gentleman, the comeback has begun! The polls were starting to narrow anyway, and John McCain gave the campaign a final boost by blowing Obama away in tonight’s debate. The media can say what they will, but everyone I talked to thought that Senator McCain won convincingly and turned in his best performance yet. Senator Obama, on the other hand, looked flustered by McCain’s spot-on criticisms. After the debate ended, Obama looked worn out while McCain was bouncing off the walls. I don’t care what any pundit says; both candidates on stage tonight clearly knew who won and who lost.
Now, the question becomes how to build on this momentum and continue climbing until Election Day. By most counts, Obama is up by between three and eight points. Some polls, particularly the Gallup Daily Tracker, have shown a wider lead. However, I refuse to put stock in the Gallup Poll as they have recently changed their definition of a “likely voter”. Luckily, Gallup is honest enough to report how their poll would have come out if the traditional definition of a “likely voter” was applied. In today’s poll, for instance, Obama enjoys a 7% lead among registered voters, and an 8% lead among “likely voters”. However, if the standard definition of a likely voter had been used rather than Gallup’s new expanded version, the very same poll would have shown Obama leading by only 3%! Hence, my personal feeling is that Obama’s actual lead going into the debate was somewhere in the 3-6% range. Based on McCain’s performance tonight, I would expect a 1-2% shift in his favor in the next few days, leaving the race in a statistical dead heat. This is where Sarah Palin once again enters the picture.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Gov. Palin has been granted MUCH more independence lately and has ramped up her end of the campaign. She’s doing well in her speeches, and more importantly she has been doing well in interviews. I listened to her on Rush Limbaugh yesterday and the Mike Gallagher Show this morning - she did beautifully in both. She’s also been getting a bit more positive coverage by doing things like stopping the Straight Talk Express at Wal-Mart to buy diapers for Trig (don’t laugh, it happened recently). Finally, if she does indeed appear on Saturday Night Live, she will likely generate a good deal of publicity and emphasize the difference between Tina Fey and the real Sarah Palin. These moves by Gov. Palin may be able to shift the polls another 1-2%.
I’ve already lined out the possibility for a 2-4% shift based solely on McCain and Palin’s actions. Taking into account other factors, it could easily be bigger. The stock market will gradually begin to stabilize, deflating the panic that has inflated Obama’s recent numbers. ACORN is becoming a major issue as more and more fraudulent voter registrations are found. I would not be surprised to see several more major ACORN busts, possibly accompanied by criminal charges. Finally, if there is any major international news, McCain is the natural beneficiary based on his foreign policy credentials.