A brief word from Barack Obama

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by Jeff Fecke, 9/16/08 • We partisans are a nervous lot, and in the post-RNC period, with John McCain holding a slight lead in the polls, it’s understandable why a lot of us were starting to panic. Could McCain really win? Was Sarah Palin a huge game-changer? Had the Obama campaign come apart at the seams? We needed them to change themselves completely, retool on the fly, change everything, now! The election was slipping away!

Eh, not so much:

The Wall Street crisis was the first major event of the post-convention news cycle — the first thing that really tested the robustness of the Republican bounce. And what happened? The bounce proved to be about a mile wide but an inch deep. McCain consolidated elements of his base (evangelical conservatives) during the Republican convention; Obama did likewise with many Clinton Democrats during his convention.

But the two campaigns also had a tug-of-war over independent voters, with first Obama and then McCain winning them over. Independents, however, are notoriously fickle in their Presidential choices, and as the afterglow of the Republican convention wore off and was replaced by news about the economy, they reverted back to the equilibrium point they’ve been at all year, roughly splitting their votes between the two candidates (Quinnipaic has independents dividing their vote 46-45 as of this morning).

McCain’s other problem is that Sarah Palin may no longer be an asset to the ticket; in fact, she may be a liability. Averaging the candidates’ favorability scores across four recent polls — as one should always try and do when looking at favorability numbers since they can vary greatly depending on question wording — Palin now has the worst net scores among the four principals in the race[.]

Yup. A quick look at the Gallup tracker confirms the movement back to equilibrium — Obama up by four, just like he’s been for most of the summer. The RCP average now has Obama by 2.2. Most of the most recent polls show Obama with around a four-point lead, with a few outliers like Rasmussen showing a tie. Only Battleground Tracking shows McCain with a lead.

That doesn’t, of course, mean the race is over, and Obama’s won. There’s a lot of time between now and November, and the situation on the ground could change. The news this week has been economics, which favors Obama. The McCain/Palin ticket has been struggling the past few days, but they might get their feet under them. This is still a reasonably close election.

But this does vindicate the Obama campaign’s central theme, which has been to stay calm, and not make panicky decisions that can end up hurting them in the long run. Contrast that with the McCain campaign, which appears to be playing for each news cycle, ignoring the long game in pursuit of short-term gain.

The Obama strategy may fail — nothing’s guaranteed. But we chattering masses might want to remember that the Obama campaign has been very successful thus far. They’re in good shape, and running, ironically, a conservative, goal-oriented campaign, with an eye on November, not the current Gallup tracker. Maybe the rest of us could learn a thing or two from that.