Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Creation of the Upset

The Washington Post reports that according to their latest joint poll with ABC, Barack Obama leads 48% to 42% over John McCain. A six-point margin can whittle down to nothing in five months, and for the Obama campaign, the devil is in the details of these results:

In the first Washington Post-ABC News poll since the Democratic nomination contest ended, Obama and McCain are even among political independents, a shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee over the past month. On the issues, independents see McCain as more credible on fighting terrorism and are split evenly on who is the stronger leader and better on the Iraq war.

Nearly a quarter of those who said they favored Clinton over Obama for the nomination currently prefer McCain for the general election, virtually unchanged from polls taken before Clinton suspended her campaign.

The key statistic is that this poll is deja-vu:

The new survey shows Obama running ahead of McCain by 48 percent to 42 percent among all adults. Among registered voters, the margin is essentially the same -- 49 percent to 45 percent. At this point four years ago, Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry held identical leads over President Bush among all adults and among registered voters.

The translation, of course, is that this poll doesn't really mean a thing. For several months prior to the 2004 General Election, we were all told about John Kerry's poll leads. The very day of the vote itself, the networks were declaring that the exit polls were heavily favoring Senator Kerry. Once the actual results began to come in, the scene was reminiscent of 1948, when H.V. Kaltenborn predicted Thomas Dewey the winner-until the results came in and he retracted himself.

The 2008 election so far has all of the makings of a news media-created upset, including opinion polls and skewed press data that do not reflect the reality on the ground-rather like 2004.

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