Gallup Daily Tracker: Hint of Something Big, or Just Another Fluctuation?

I admit, allowing yourself to hang on every tick and bump in Gallup’s daily tracker is bad for the ticker.  A quick glance at the entire trend since February shows that the race has essentially remained even with hardly either candidate appreciably pulling away from the other

That there were times where one candidate was over another was more likely the result of statistical fluctuation, with slight bumps and nods going in one candidate’s direction or another depending on the news of the day.

So when Obama racks up a tie for the biggest lead he’s had over Hillary since the daily tracker’s inception, a skeptical eye would rightly expect that this is merely another fluctuation and should settle itself down in the near future.

But there is cause to think that this may not be the case depending upon a number of factors.

For one, we should look at the development of endorsements lately.  We’ve had two major Super Delegate endorsements in the space of about a week, first Richardson who came in at the tail end of last week, and Bob Casey Jr. today.  Now, I’m not implying that major endorsements are going to drive polls through the roof, but what Casey’s well timed endorsement could do is bolster or stabilize the current level Obama has achieved over Clinton.

This because while endorsements might not change minds, they can help make up the minds of undecided voters.  Also, they tend to positively drive news cycles for the endorsed candidate and at the bare minimum bury less positive leads.  Thus, with Casey’s endorsement, we can reasonably predict that Obama’s eight point lead over Clinton nationally would have no reason to fall as this is the biggest campaign story heading into the typically slower weekend.

Next thing to consider is the change that some have noticed in the mainstream media narrative.  While normally they have been content to fuel the narrative that Clinton was still in it, we’ve seen a concerted shift to focus more on the low probability of Clinton winning the nomination without resorting to extreme and potentially damaging measures.  Such a narrative shift will obviously energize Clinton’s more ardent supporters, but will affect the undecideds and fence-sitters in a totally different way.

As a result, there is a very real possibility that this new polling trend could be self-driving.  That is to say that we have the beginning; Obama has weathered the Wright storm, while Clinton is flailing amid the Bosnia debacle (and to a lesser degree taking heat for her approach to the Wright story).  This informs the current tracking poll.

We then have the positive media for Obama from the Casey endorsement while Clinton is likely to face more negative media as they report more realistically on her chances of winning the nomination.  The current polling trend is going to feed into that latter narrative and lend it more credibility.  The Casey endorsement should bolster the current polling numbers long enough for the new media narrative to actually continue to affect the polls in the same direction.

This, of course, is far from a guarantee.  Several things have to happen in order for it to continue on this way.  For one, more high profile endorsements for Obama could hardly hurt to help keep media coverage towards him generally positive.  Meanwhile, Clinton’s behavior over the next week is going to be crucial; if there are more reports of her campaign playing dirty, if she fails to adequately address the Bosnia situation, etc.  And it requires the media to continue to report on the state of the race as it actually stands based upon delegate math.

Another thing to look for over the next couple of weeks is if Obama starts making up ground in Pennsylvania.  He’s currently behind Clinton in double digits, but if he manages to pull that deficit into the single digits, it’s only going to feed the current narrative even further, and you’re going to see his national numbers jump up.  This is altogether feasible especially since his campaign has announced an aggressive campaign schedule throughout the state.

This is important given that the bar has been set so low for Obama he should, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, clear it easily.

Granted, this could all be just another fluctuation, but the events on the ground would tell a different story.  Obama has come out only scratched up a little from the Wright affair while both the Wright story and the Bosnia story have delivered some serious blows to the Clinton campaign.  Meanwhile, Obama received two key endorsements and enjoyed some very positive reporting on his race relations speech while Clinton only received the Murtha endorsement which was met by many in the liberal blogosphere with skepticism, and outside of that, she hasn’t really had much positive press over the past week.

So it could still very well be a fluctuation.  We could see a situation where this trend actually drives itself as I outlined above.  Or, what I really didn’t discuss, is that Obama is simply starting to break away and this is just the precursor.

Only time will tell, really.

(h/t memeorandum.  See also:  The Moderate Voice, CNN, The Daily Dish and No Silence Here)

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