Race Still Tied After Conventions

The presidential race was essentially tied going into the party conventions.  As expected, Barack Obama got a small bounce, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 points, from the Democratic convention.  As expected, McCain is getting a bounce from his convention.  The wild card factor, the announcement of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate and her subsequent convention speech, seems thus far to have worked out swimmingly, reenergizing the campaign with the base.

The shake-out from all of this, though, is that we’re right where we started, with a race that’s essentially tied.    Yesterday’s Zogby poll has McCain-Palin at 49.7 percent and Obama-Biden at 45.9 percent.  Then again, Zogby, who uses a complicated party weighting and likely voter adjustment, had McCain up 47.1 to 44.6 going into his convention.  Gallup’s daily tracking poll — which uses a ridiculously small sample and does not screen out those unlikely to show up to vote — had McCain up 4.2 points as of Friday. RealClearPolitics, which hasn’t updated since Friday and whose most recent polls therefore don’t fully account for the GOP bounce, has Obama up 2.4.

What’s interesting, though, is that despite the race having shown no real movement in the national head-to-head polls, Obama has made some gains in the more meaningful state-by-state race.  Electoral-Vote.com has it Obama 301, McCain 224, Ties 13.  On the eve of the conventions, they had it at Obama 269, McCain 256, Ties 13.   The difference?   The flipping of Ohio and several western states from “Barely GOP” to “Barely Dem.”   Their methodology is overly reliant on single polls  (RealClearPolitics still has it at 273-265) but the movement bears watching.

I’ll continue to believe, unless confronted with strong and sustained contrary evidence, that this is Obama’s race to lose.  All the fundamentals point to a Democratic win this year and he’s a much more dynamic speaker than McCain.  That it remains a statistical toss-up  — that Obama isn’t running away with it — at this stage is interesting, indeed.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. just me says:

    I agree that it is still Obama’s race to lose.

    However, Obama probably needs to stop running against Palin-it makes him look weak. Actually he should just shut up about her and pretend like she isn’t running.

    I think in the end it is going to be another close race.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    It’s hard to do really, really badly in a Presidential election. Even Bob Dole and Walter Mondale managed to beat 40% of the national popular vote, and much-derided luzers John Kerry and Al Gore got around 49%. I think that John McCain, from a standpoint of pure electoral politics, was the best candidate the GOP could have chosen this year, since his “maverick” cred, however undeserved, gives him at least an opening to position himself as somehow not connected to all those other Republicans.

    Sort of at an angle from just me’s comment, I wonder if there’s a risk that Palin starts to overshadow McCain, making him look like too much of a sidekick to his own campaign. I think that could hurt. But ultimately, unless all the banks have gone out of business by election day, McCain should still be able to manage 45%-50% of the vote, either winning or not.

  3. Michael says:

    That it remains a statistical toss-up — that Obama isn’t running away with it — at this stage is interesting, indeed.

    I think that with any given Democrat and Republican candidate, you wouldn’t have had more than a 10% difference. Our country has become too divided by, and identified by, party affiliation for the candidates themselves to make more than a token difference in our voting pattern.

    I that regard, Jim Henley definitely has a point that McCain’s “maverick” label lets him pick up support from some that wouldn’t support him if he were simply “Republican”. I think he knows that too, which is why they play it up so much, Obama would be wise to try and undermine it.

    I agree with just me (and consequently disagree with Jim) that Obama would be better off ignoring Palin. Her troubles are already know, and surrogates can keep them in the news, but for the most part people like Palin, people that Obama needs to vote for him, so his best option is to keep her in the news, but out of the race. If Palin were to upstage McCain, that would probably help them, as she is more likable and presentable than McCain, especially if the GOP keeps using green backdrops on the man.

  4. It continues to amaze me how much stock is placed in these polls. Clearly the different methodologies and results aren’t well understood by the general public and perhaps not even by many of those referencing them. I know the “margin of error” isn’t.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Pollsters have said the any bounce from the Republican convention would not show until polls released Monday or later. It’s too soon to make any firm judgments.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    I started relying on Pollster.com during the campaign, rather than RealClearPolitics, because I kept getting annoyed that RCP wasn’t calling states right. Pollster shows the road ahead on the state level being very difficult for McCain…

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    It is Obama’s race to lose? Wait until he has to answer McCain’s question of what his relationship with William Ayers is. One of the debates, they have to answer eachothers questions. McCain was a POW while Ayers was trying to kill servicemen in Ft. Dix. Next question, will you let Ayers and Dohrn sully the Lincoln bedroom. Will you allow Jeremiah Wright in to defile the White House? Next question. Outside of Drug of choice, diapers and your mind, Sen. Obama, what have you ever changed? For an agent of change, what he would change is our way of life. People need to pay attention to who and what this guy associated with, not what he says because his record of doing anything is very sparse. Last, McCain is even with and on one poll ahead of Obama and it is not even Monday.

  8. vnjagvet says:

    My advice for BHO would be to concentrate on the Appalachian regions of Ohio, Pennslyvania and West Virginia where he lost badly to Hillary.

    Unless he can break through that largly European American ethnic vote he will lose the election.

    From what I’ve seen, the messages from him, Biden and his surrogates have not been effective in resonating with this demographic

  9. DL says:

    The gap in, “which one will protect America?” is still the big issue. I suspect the enemies of America (not counting leftist liberals) are holding back till after the election, not wanting to have to face McCain -preferring the Carteresque warrior, Obama.