For all the McCain election hype about closing the gap, aided by a new Wall Street Journal poll that shows Obama's lead shrinking from ten to eight points, 51% to 43%, and a Fox news poll with Obama ahead by seven points, 50% to 42%, there's no way to avoid the simple fact that the numbers are overwhelmingly in the Democrat's favor.
On Pollster.com, one of the most respected polling sites which continually monitors and aggregates various polling organizations, their latest national polls have similar findings, with Obama's support ranging from 50% to 52% and McCain's from 44% to 46%.
Issues that were of concern to Obama's campaign and provided a lift to McCain's no longer seem to be factors: In today's Washington-Post/ABC News poll, which is consistent with other poll data:
- More than half see Obama as sufficiently experienced;
- He is now "widely viewed as a 'safe' pick" now tying McCain for that distinction.
- Almost half of respondants report they are "less likely" to vote for McCain because of Sarah Palin, more evidence of her continuing drag on the Republican party.l
- The biggest drag on McCain is that many see him as the next iteration of a Bush admistration; almost all who believe that support the Democrat.
- Almost 60% think Obama is "about right" ideologically, demonstrating that the Republican effort to portray him as somehow different is not working. Far fewer have the same view of McCain.
But the real battle is taking place in the states, and it is difficult to put together a winning formula for McCain. CNN forecasts Obama with 291 electoral votes (210 safe, 81 leaning) and McCain with 157 (121 safe, 36 leaning.) The Cook Political Report projects Obama with 286 electoral votes to McCain's 139, with 113 in the toss-up category. Pollster.com is the most aggressive with Obama at 311 electoral votes (264 strong, 47 leaning) and McCain at 142 (129 strong, 13 leaning) and 85 as toss ups.
Regardless, how does McCain pull off a victory?
First, CNN, reasonably conservative in its approach, lets one play with its electoral map, so let's give McCain all the undecided states: FL, NC, OH, IN, MO, ND, and MT. That brings him to 247, 23 votes short of the magic 270. Note that Obama leads by a slim margin in all but two of those states. Only Ohio, where Obama leads by five points, may lay outside the margin of error.
Second, McCain is going to have to pick off Pennsylvania, which Pollster.com lists as strong Democratic. He has certainly been targeting Pennsylania, but that's only 21 electoral votes. More important, Pollster.com lists four polls on PA that ended November 2nd with a range of 6 to 14 percentage points in favor of Obama, and in all, his rating is over 50 percent.
Third, if McCain does win PA, he then has to pick off another two votes. Of the states that CNN calls leaning Democratic, it's an even higher climb. The Obama advantage, according to Pollster.com's aggregate of polls is:
- Nevada: 6.8 percent
- Colorado: 7 percent
- New Mexico: 8.5 percent
- Virginia: 6 percent
- New Hampshire: 12 percent
Fourth, McCain's success is dependent on Obama not winning any of the swing states and losing at least two Democratic states.
Cook is known for being non partisan, and his analysis on October 31st has to be sobering for the Republicans. "Since early September this race has shifted rather dramatically in Obama's favor. As long as the focus is almost exclusively on the economy, this race is almost unwinnable for McCain."
"At this point, John McCain probably can't win without divine intervention," writes Cook.
The numbers don't lie. Absent a deus ex machina, our next president will be Barack Obama.
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