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Thursday, October 30, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

There has been some talk of the race between McCain and Obama tightening as we hit the home stretch (for example, Chuck Todd was writing about it yesterday, and I heard it discussed on an NPR program (I am not sure, which one) late this morning). An example of actual numbers from earlier in the week: the Gallup daily tracking poll had a two point gap, and then a three point gap (today it is back to five). Such numbers, along with some internal polling, has led McCain’s pollster, Bill McInturff, to put a rosier spin on the numbers than has been the case of late (some discussion of this can be found in Slate and a response by pollster Stan Greenberg in the form of lengthy letter to McInturff analyzing the current state of the numbers, as well as in the Todd piece linked above).

All of this “tighrening” talk leads me to make three observations:

1. Of course there is some tightening of the race at this point. As we come closer to the actual election, we typically see a narrowing of the gap between the candidates as undecided voters actually, well, decide. It is also during this period that polling in general becomes more accurate because the data being gathered is in the context of an actual decision being made, rather than in the context of a decision that will be made at some point in the future (which is convoluted way of saying that the numbers get more accurate the closer to the election that one gets).

2. It is in the McCain camp’s interest to play up any shift in their direction. They are faced with the daunted task of an almost insurmountable uphill climb (the math is what the math is). As such, they need to motivate their voters (and themselves) with as much hope as possible.

3. Despite the notion that the MSM is totally in the tank for Obama, it is in their best interest to talk up the horse race aspect of the situation and to especially point to any evidence of race-tightening. After all, who’s going to watch the news if it is cast as a fait accompli? The MSM’s main bias is not towards liberals, it is towards drama, because drama brings eyeballs to the sets.

Having said all of that, the race really doesn’t appear to be tightening in a way to suggest that it is actually within McCain’s reach. Whether one looks at Gallup. Zogby, 538,, or RCP, the EC map looks rather Obamish.

Again, the math is the math.

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4 Responses to “On Race Tightening”

  1. Scholar in Training Says:

    If I were in charge of the McCain campaign I’d be talking about 2000. All of the polls and academics had Gore winning, but Bush won the Presidency. I would probably fail to mention that whole popular vote thing, though, and stick to the other facts. :)

  2. PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Ties in MO and NC? Says:

    [...] is good news for the McCain camp, and part of the “tightening” that I noted last night. However, the bad news for McCain is twofold. First, the very fact [...]

  3. Max Lybbert Says:

    The thing I’ve noticed is that each poll has a wildly different sample of Democrats vs. Republicans vs. Independents. Quite simply, we know what the results will be if Obama manages to get out the vote the way he did during the primaries. On the other hand, we also know what the results will be if traditional voters do vote and traditional non-voters (eg., college students) don’t vote. The question is who will vote, not how they will vote.

  4. PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Tightening? Says:

    [...] projection shows a little tightening, but nothing of any serious consequence to the likely outcome. As I noted the other day, some tightening is expected, but let’s be realistic, shall we? addthis_url = [...]

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