The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll today has McCain at 49% and Obama at 44%. Yesterday it was 48% and 45%, respectively. All the interviews in today's poll were completed after the Republican convention, so the convention gave McCain a 5-point bounce.
What are the differences between the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll and the USAToday/Gallup Poll, which showed the numbers at 54% McCain and 44% Obama? The first surveyed registered voters; the second surveyed "likely" voters. The first surveyed 2,733 adults; the second surveyed 1,022 adults, including 63 who weren't registered to vote. [Gallup has a different definition of "likely voter" than I do.] The first I can live with; the second sends me into a blue funk. Both surveys were conducted on the same days, September 5-7.
From USA Today:
"The Republicans had a very successful convention and, at least initially, the selection of Sarah Palin has made a big difference," says political scientist Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. "He's in a far better position than his people imagined he would be in at this point."
However, in an analysis of the impact of political conventions since 1960, Sabato concluded that post-convention polls signal the election's outcome only about half the time. "You could flip a coin and be about as predictive," he says. "It is really surprising how quickly convention memories fade."
So, don't drink the hemlock quite yet.
Josh Marshall sums it up:
At several points over the last year, I've underestimated Obama's campaign. And I take it that their position now is that they're not going to get knocked off their game. Instead they're staying focused on the ground game in the dozen and a half states where they believe the race will be won or lost. That's difficult for someone in my position to evaluate. The messaging and air war is something that is inherently visible. The ground game is very difficult to evaluate because it's much more difficult to see. So we're left to take it on faith that they know what they're doing, without having much way of seeing for ourselves.
I certainly hope they do. But what I see is a campaign that is for some reason either unwilling or unable to take the initiative in the national messaging war. It's all reactive. And, yeah, that worries me.
I still think those guys know what they're doing, though.
Update: There's now a CNN poll out, conducted on the same days as those above, that shows Obama and McCain tied at 48%. That doesn't leave many people undecided, does it? The poll surveyed 1,022 (there's that number again) registered voters.
I feel better now, thank you.