Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's the Next Hail Mary From McCain

I can hear it now. “The only poll that counts is the one on election day.” Don’t worry, you’ll be hearing it a lot from the McCain camp over the next few weeks. Three new polls are out from Quinnipiac University in three all important battleground states illustrate what may be the beginning of the end for John McCain. The Quinnipiac polls of likely voters showed Obama leading in Florida 51% to 43%, in Ohio 50% to 42%, and in Pennsylvania 54% to 30%. These numbers indicate a sizable shift from McCain’s high water point right after the GOP convention. What “Hail Mary” can we expect from McCain next?

McCain’s first Hail Mary was the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. To continue the football analogy, that Hail Mary was reversed, after further review. His second Hail Mary was the “parachute jump” into the financial crisis. McCain “suspended” his campaign and eventually went to Washington 24 hours later. This Hail Mary was intercepted after being knocked down by members of his own team (the House Republicans.)

It is hard to imagine John McCain winning the electoral vote without Pennsylvania, considering that New Mexico and Colorado appear to be solidifying into the Obama column. If McCain loses Ohio, his chances of winning the election are rated at two percent by, a web site full of statistical analysis of polling data. If Obama wins Florida, it’s game, set, and match. McCain cannot win this election if he loses Florida.

So what does John McCain do next? We addressed the idea of the “reset” button in the September 30th blog, but I don’t think they exist in politics, so he needs to do something else. The most likely thing to happen would be a major Obama stumble or another terrorist attack on American soil.

A terrorist attack on American soil would throw the election into turmoil. John McCain would benefit directly from an attack, because the one area in which he still holds a slight advantage over Obama is in the area of national security. Although watching McCain flounder with the national financial crisis might be a harbinger on how he would react to such a terrorist attack. Obama remained calm through the financial crisis and appeared to be more Presidential than the “shoot from the hip” McCain.

The Obama stumble is much more likely, but it is still a long shot. Obama got beaten up by one of the best political teams around --- Hillary, Bill and company. The long, hard fought primary campaign with Hillary did nothing but strengthen Obama. Hillary made Obama a much stronger candidate. She never gave up, and her campaign against Obama was certainly not a “love fest.”

Polls taken in June are a lot less indicative of election outcomes than those taken in October for a number of reasons. The two most important of these reasons are voters’ choice are becoming hardened. It is much less likely that they will change their opinion in October than they would have in June. Secondly, people have already begun voting, and it goes without saying, that once you vote for your candidate, you may change your opinion, but you can’t change your vote.

So, John, I can’t help you. We’re entering the fourth quarter of the game, and you got pummeled in the third quarter (after one hell of a good half-time show). Maybe you should call Doug Flutie.

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