When tracking polls noted a momentum shift to Obama earlier in the month, I noted this did not look like a post-nomination "bump" that would fade, but a longer-lasting "correction" as Clinton backers gradually joined the Obama campaign.
Two recent polls further that notion: Newsweek's 15-point Obama lead, and LA Times/Bloomberg's 12 point lead. Both polls show a declining number of Clinton voters (18% and 11% respectively) switching parties for McCain.
But also notable is the low numbers for McCain and the somewhat high numbers of undecideds. Obama garners "only" 51% and 49% in the two polls, while McCain is mired in the mid-30s. (It's possible that pollsters did not "push" undecided voters to say which way they "lean.")
Based on the LA Times report, conservative voters appear disoriented, dismayed and discombobulated.
Moreover, McCain suffers from a pronounced "enthusiasm gap," especially among the conservatives who usually give Republican candidates a reliable base of support. Among voters who describe themselves as conservative, only 58% say they will vote for McCain; 15% say they will vote for Obama, 14% say they will vote for someone else, and 13% say they are undecided.
By contrast, 79% of voters who describe themselves as liberal say they plan to vote for Obama.
Even among voters who say they do plan to vote for McCain, more than half say they are "not enthusiastic" about their chosen candidate; only 45% say they are enthusiastic. By contrast, 81% of Obama voters say they are enthusiastic, and almost half call themselves "very enthusiastic," a level of zeal that only 13% of McCain's supporters display.
When [Ralph] Nader and [Bob] Barr are added to the ballot, they draw most of their support from voters who said they would otherwise vote for the Republican.
When Nader is getting more Republican support than Democratic, you know the conservative base is seriously fractured.
For some perspective, in 2004, John Kerry got 15% of the "conservative" vote, while Bush got 84%. Obama is matching Kerry, while McCain is underperforming with conservatives by 26 points.
Obama's base is nearly consolidated. McCain's base is not.
On one hand, you might expect some of that unenthusiastic vote to come back to the Republican fold, allowing McCain to at least get back in the 40s.
But if McCain increasingly seems like a sure loser, conservative support could continue to bleed, leading to greater numbers of protest votes and no-shows.
There are surely more undecided independent voters that Obama can win over to widen his margin. He has not reached his ceiling.
While McCain is caught needing to win over both undecided independents and conservative base voters. And after eight years of failed conservative policies, there is no overlap between the two camps. It's a near-impossible task.
Yes, yes, it's early. Anything can happen. Always true.
Everyone is going back to Dukakis in 1988 who had huge leads after he wrapped up the Dem nod.
But as I noted before, Dukakis' early leads were before the conservative attack machine revved up.
Conservative-style attack lines have already been pursued against Obama -- from the Dem primary, from McCain and from other Republican and conservative groups.
After Obama has absorbed the attacks, he remains substantially ahead. What's been thrown at him so far has only made him stronger.
This is nothing like 1988.