The Race Is Tightening, And That’s A Good Thing!

Contrary to the Gallup Daily Tracker which actually has the national gap between McCain and Obama widening, the Pollster aggregated trends show the race for the White House narrowing and believe it or not, this is actually good news for Obama.

This assertion may seem counter-intuitive at first; after all, don’t you want to go into election day with as big of a lead as possible?  Not necessarily… especially if you are running the kind of campaign that Obama is running which heavily relies upon voter turn out.

The problem with a seemingly insurmountable lead is that it gives voters who don’t want to stand in lines, or don’t necessarily always vote, a reason to not cast their ballot on election day.  If Obama is up by, say, ten points on election day, there are going to be a lot of people that think to themselves, “Oh, there’s no way he can lose, it won’t matter if I vote or not.”  And if you get enough people that have that same thought on election day, you can run into some serious problems.

In this context, perhaps the one wise campaign decision that McCain has made has been the constant suggestion that he’s going to win, that he has Obama right where he wants him, that the polls are being deceptive, etc.  The reason why I say this is smart is because it keeps his support from suffering from depression.  Just as people who think their candidate can’t lose may not show up to vote, people who think their candidate can’t win may not vote as well.

Thus, if Obama goes into election day with a huge lead, a perfect storm scenario could occur wherein complacency drives down GOTV efforts on Obama side while at the same time McCain’s attempts to make this race seem closer than it is has the effect of driving up his GOTV efforts.

Now, if the race is tighter, tight enough to remove a sense of complacency among Obama supporters, the dynamic at work changes significantly.  It then becomes a matter of the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign pitting their GOTV efforts against each while both are running at maximum effectiveness.  In a race of this nature, given how Obama’s ground game has proven time and again its own superiority, the advantage is clearly in Obama’s corner.

And so we have several sweet spots depending on which lens through which you observe polls.  If you believe that the Bradley Effect (wherein black politicians underperform compared to their polling) will present itself, then the sweet spot will be in the five point advantage for Obama.  This puts the race close enough to maximize GOTV Obama efforts while at the same time accounting for the Bradley Effect.

If you think like I do that an Obama Effect (the tendency for a politician to outperform polls due to failures in polling to adequately measure a candidate’s support), the sweet spot is actually dead heat.  A dead heat will kick the Obama GOTV effort into overdrive and ensure the highest turnout.  At the same time, an Obama Effect could effectively give Obama an 8 point edge over the polling which would give him a comfortable win.

If you think that no special effect will be in place, the ideal sweet spot is about a three point lead, just inside or outside the margin of error.  Again, the principle here is that you are keeping the race close enough to maximize voter participation, but this is occurring at a time when the polling deficit should still give Obama a decent win.

Oh, and do take note that this is all talking about national polls which many people still tend to focus on instead of state by state polls.  Given that low information voters et al. tend to follow national numbers more than state by state, I’m comfortable with the state by state polling still giving Obama sizeable leads in key states.

One Response to “The Race Is Tightening, And That’s A Good Thing!”

  1. radical_Moderate says:

    I actually think that we may be in for a big surprize on Nov 4; I’ve never been polled (I don’t have a lan line); further, I think that Obama will get out voters that Pollsters haven’t considered…my gut feeling? It won’t be close, and Obama will get the mandate we are hoping for, but I agree with you kyle, I’m not bothered by the “tightening” poll numbers.

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