IN-Pres: Campaigning Matters
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 03:39:27 AM EDT
When news emerged that the Obama campaign was running ads in and sending a key staffer to Indiana, the first reaction from some was that this might be a "head-fake" designed to trick the McCain campaign into wasting resources in a state that will likely follow its tradition in 2008 by voting GOP on the presidential level. Maybe not. Here's SurveyUSA:
In an election today in Indiana, Barack Obama takes 48% of the vote, John McCain 47% of the vote -- a statistical tie -- according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for WHAS-TV Louisville and WCPO-TV Cincinnati. Obama's 1-point lead is within the survey's 4 percentage point margin of sampling error, and these results should be reported as a tie. Among men, McCain leads by 5; among women, Obama leads by 7 -- a 12-point gender gap. Among voters age 18 to 49, Obama leads by 5; among voters 50+, McCain leads by 3. Obama leads by 22 points among voters under age 35. 16% of Republicans cross over to vote for Democrat Obama; 19% of Democrats cross over to vote for Republican McCain; Independents favor Obama by 7 points. Among those voters who say they have already made up their minds, the two candidates are tied; among the 25% who say they could still change their mind, Obama leads by 2.
Think this poll is a mere aberration, an outlier that shows Obama unusually and incorrectly strong in his neighboring state of Indiana? The Pollster.com trend estimate, which tracks all of the recent polling from the state, doesn't, showing Obama leading by an average of 48 percent to 47 percent. Neither does Real Clear Politics, which shows Obama up 47.0 percent to 46.5 percent, or Five Thirty Eight, which shows Obama up 46.5 percent to 45.4 percent and gives the Illinois Democrat at 55 percent shot of carrying Indiana (a state it now calls a "tossup").
These numbers underscore a couple of important points. First, the maps from previous years cannot be taken for granted as the starting point for this fall's election. They just can't. The country has changed and moved a significant amount during the last four years, and the internal politics in a number of states have shifted dramatically during this time (think states like Ohio and New Hampshire tending to move towards the Democrats, or a state like Louisiana moving towards the GOP). Second, campaigning matters. Nate Silver suggests this point as one explanation for the latest Indiana numbers: "Apart from Obama being a Midwesterner, the explanation for his results in Indiana may be as simple as this: the Democrats had never really bothered to compete in the state before, until the presence of an important primary there forced them to." That's spot on. You campaign somewhere, you move numbers (but not necessarily always upwards -- see: Rudy Giuliani). If you cower away and refuse to play in states you think you'll lose, you're going to lose those states.
Does this mean that Obama has Indiana in the bag because he waged a competitive primary there, because he has sent a top political staffer there, and he is willing to invest advertising dollars there? No. But at the same time, the Obama campaign has now put Indiana, a state the Democrats last carried during the 1964 presidential election and only won four times during the 20th century, into play, a big achievement that almost undoubtedly increases his shot at winning the White House come November.