Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Fat Lady

Last week I wrote that the McCain campaign isn't quite dead but is on life support. I stand by that. If anything, they look better now than they did then. So what has to happen for McCain to pull this out?

The bad news is, Barack Obama is clearly a plausible President to anyone who's paying attention. But he's not quite an inevitable one, and it's crucial for McCain that Obama doesn't become until he's actually elected. There are a huge number of weak Obama supporters who will vote for Obama just out of intertia if appears that the election is functionally over. Similarly, the lesser committed McCain supporters will probably just stay home.

To keep this from happening, McCain needs some poll movement in his favor. Optimally sometime between now and Friday he needs at least one major national poll showing him in the lead (by any amount, even 1%). It would be even better if there were two. This way a significant number of voters will have to reconsider exactly who they want to be the next President of the United States. As it is, we've seen several polls showing Obama leading by 2-4%. My gut feeling is that isn't quite good enough, but we've got a couple of days yet before the weekend.

Then assuming that happens, McCain needs to have a plurality of these leaners and undecideds to break for him on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Maybe it's just wishful thinking but I actually expect this to happen.

Finally he needs to have the right states break in his favor to win the Electoral College. Remember, the whole business about winning the EC while losing the popular vote only works if the candidates are within say 2% of each other. I think it's beyond hope to think McCain will beat Obama by more than that so he'll need to have some luck in picking up votes in the right places.

Even if McCain is losing, he is definitely not out of the picture, but he needs help from the polls tomorrow and the next day.

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