Starting Off Strong

First and foremost, if we are going to compare this election to the last presidential election, let’s keep in mind that the whole way through, Kerry polled TERRIBLY against Bush.  Throughout the course of Rasmussen’s daily tracker, Kerry’s best lead over Bush nationally was 2 points.

Obama’s lead out the gates?  Six.

This lead agreed upon by both Gallup and Rasmussenwhich both give Obama a six point starting edge, though at differen points on the over all scale.  Considering how close Kerry came to winning the election in 2004, and he never came close to a six point lead, this looks good for Team Obama, and bodes poorly for John McCain.

No wonder the GOP have their doubts about McCain’s chances this fall.

McCain does indeed have a tough road ahead of him.  In an election year where public disdain for our government is at a breaking point, his opponent has tuned his message almost perfectly to tap into both the mass hatred for the sitting president, as well as for the growing animosity towards the rancorous partisanship that grips DC.

It’s not all messaging, though, even if McCain thinks he can coopt his way into changiness.  The fact is, people are sick of Washingtonian games, and no matter how hard he tries to paint himself as an outsider, it’s simply hard to do that when you you’ve been in the Senate for over two and a half decades.  It’s kind of hard to claim you’re really in touch with average Americans when you have something on the order of eight houses and are married to an heiress eighteen years your junior.

I’m out of touch and I drive a Jetta.

This compared to the son of a single mom (raise your hand if you grew up in a broken home), who is of mixed ethnicity, and got his college education based on scholarships.

The son of a single mom, or the son of an admiral, you tell me which candidate had a more silver spoon stuck in their mouth growing up.

But there I go, digressing.

The point is that McCain’s almost purely antithetical to just about everything most Americans are looking for in a president this cycle, the only thing that keeps him buoyed being his reputation of a Maverick.  But this, too, shall pass, I think.  As I’ve stated over and over, and will continue to state over and over, those notably few instances where McCain did buck the party line have all but disappeared.  The only two things where McCain still remains on the outs are on immigration (though, it should be said that he’s almost perfectly in line with Bush on this one, and conservatives HATE him for it), and in that he actually acknowledges climate change, but I think you’ll find few people who would really pick him over Obama to actually do anything about it.

Obama, on the other hand, couldn’t ask for a better starting position.  As Justin Gardner, linked above, makes available, Obama’s starting off with over eighty percent of the party behind him (and that’s saying something as I don’t think anyone believes that the healing process is even close to over from the primaries), and he’s doing better over McCain among swing voters.

Given that I think that Democratic mobilization and energization this fall is going to be extraordinary, I think Obama can pull off a significant, mandate estabishing, win if he just keeps up with McCain on the independents and maxes out in party support.

That he’s owning the field all the way bodes particularly well.

But it’s not all sunshine and daisies for Obama, and he’s likely to have a bumpy road ahead of him.  For one, very few on the right side of the aisle, from the chattering class to the party, seem to be making a strong push to positively define McCain, instead, all resources appear to be focused on a slash and burn effort against Obama.

It’s early, but if the dynamics on this don’t change, Obama will need to ensure he has a crisp counter punch and defense strategy inplace and ready to enact at the drop of a hat.

Also, and this is one thing I don’t think many have considered at this point, there is the potential that some of Obama’s good fortunes in the polls may be a result of the “shadow candidate” effect.  While it’s hard to imagine someone who has the “rockstar” label heaped upon him frequently as having a name recognition deficit, one should not forget that McCain is one of the most recognizable figure in politics.  Thus, there’s the potential that Obama in some circles is acting as a shadow candidate.

That’s to say that since he’s not as well known as McCain, some positive polling responses may not necessarily be a result of the questionee supporting Obama as much as using Obama as a referendum on McCain and the general opinion of his party.  They’re not voting for Obama, they’re voting for the generic candidate against McCain.

In this instance, with Obama now sharing more of the national spotlight with McCain, it’s possible that he could lose some of his bump as people stop looking at him as his own person and not as the anti-McCain.

However, I don’t think that the shadow candidate effect with Obama is going to be something that is widespread given the high profile and broad reach of the Democratic primaries.  He’s been on the national stage now for a year and a half and has introduced himself to a wide swath of the country, now it’s a matter of introducing himself to those who may not have paid attention up to now.

And we should all know how successfull Obama is once he gets on the stump and starts campaigning.

In previous weeks, I’ve heard some whisper that Obama could run the summer with a double digit lead.  I’m not so sure that is likely or even possible, but Kevin Drum suspects that Obama will hold five points throughout, and given these numbers, I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibility at all.

More at MemeorandumThe Daily Dish, Open Left, Top of the Ticket, Outside The Beltway, Donklephant, Eunomia, The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room, TPM Election Central, The Swamp, The Other McCain and Achenblog

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