Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the South?

An interesting finding from the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, which overall puts Barack Obama up 47 percent to 46 percent nationally against John McCain:

John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate has shaken up the presidential race, lifting enthusiasm among his once-subdued supporters, and boosting the ticket's appeal with women, rural voters, and Southerners.


The poll suggests they may be right about the Southern states. Nearly six in 10 Southern voters now favor the McCain ticket, up from fewer than half in August. [emphasis added]

Gallup is apparently finding a similar trend. McCain's support among Southerners is at a high for the poll since the beginning of the summer, the earliest point from which data is available, leading Obama in the region by a 54 percent to 39 percent margin, up from the 48 percent to 44 percent spread found a week earlier. And according to Gallup, McCain leads only in the South.

For historical reference, in 2006 Republicans carried the South by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin, in 2004 George W. Bush won the region by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin, and in 2000 Bush carried Southerners by a 55 percent to 43 percent margin. So at least according to the NBC/WSJ poll, McCain has moved up so much and so quickly in the South that he is now outperforming in the South, perhaps drawing more support than even Bush earned four years ago.

What does this mean? If this is where McCain's bounce is coming from, or even a large chunk of his bounce is coming from (which appears to be the case, at least according to both Gallup and NBC/WSJ), the meaning of his increased support nationwide is being overstated. Merely shoring up support in areas that aren't in play may help increase buzz and bump up nationwide numbers, but in the end presidential elections aren't about buss and nationwide numbers -- they're about a race for 270 electoral votes. There are at least a couple competitive Southern states -- Virginia and Florida -- so gaining support in the region is not all for naught. But for the most part the region is just not in play this election (as was the case in at least the last couple of presidential contests) -- and even in the case of both Florida and Virginia, there is real reason to believe McCain hasn't been able to pull away.

Don't get me wrong, there is reason for Obama supporters to be concerned in this poll. The movement among women, in particular, needs to be reversed.

One significant shift in the poll is among women. Back in August, Obama was leading McCain by 14 points. Now his lead is just four points.

That said, taking all of the internals into account, as well as the majority of national polls showing the race to be tied or well within the margin of error, it's still not clear to me that it's time to get excessively concerned by the national numbers.

Tags: White House 2008 (all tags)



Re: Are McCain's National Gains

when are the state polls coming out?  

by anna shane 2008-09-09 07:02PM | 0 recs
Haven't some already?

Only Ohio moved far away outside of statistical noise. It seems to be right down the middle (minute Obama lead) in the others.

by iohs2008 2008-09-09 07:35PM | 0 recs
winning 270 without the popular vote...

...maybe Obama's only chance.  His best shot is all the Kerry states plus CO, NM and IA.  Same as it ever was.  

Going forward, it's probably best to give up on the South except for Florida and Virginia.  Eventually we'll need on or both of these to make up for fewer EVs in the Midwest and Northeast.

But for rest of the South, whistle past it.

by esconded 2008-09-09 07:04PM | 0 recs
North Carolina is changing

But it may be awhile yet.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-09-09 07:19PM | 0 recs
Re: We never really played for the south

We may not have, but the Obama campaign pissed away millions of dollars in southern States like Alabama and North Carolina, betting on a paradigm shift.

Let's all micro-analyze dynamic polling and try to find trends that favor our candidate though.

Can someone pass me that Koolaid?

by RedSox04 2008-09-10 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: We never really played for the south

You mean cyanide, right?

Chill the fuck out for a week or so, and see how the trend looks.

by username 2008-09-10 05:36AM | 0 recs
Re: We never really played for the south

lol, i need to chill out because i'm not following the day-to-day microtrends here, and am assuming that this race is going to be a nailbiter?

in case we forgot, the Republicans are really really good at campaigning (probably as good as they are bad at governing).  somehow, a legion of Obama supporters assumed that he would be invulnerable to Republican tactics, and that he would change the paradigm to allow him to win states in the South.

49/49 come end of October.  

by RedSox04 2008-09-10 05:48AM | 0 recs
Re: We never really played for the south

Agreed.  It's always close, because with two parties, smart consultants, and no obvious crises, it's always a game of inches.

There are about 130 million actual voters, but only 10% or so of those are legitimately "undecided," and of those, only 20% or less are in swing states.  So no more than 2.6 million (ignorant) people actually decide who becomes President, and each campaign is spending at least $100/head to influence these folks.  The first person to figure out how to flat-out pay these people to vote will dominate our elections.

This could (and should) have been a crisis election, but instead it's the same old shit.  So we play the same old game of inches.

by username 2008-09-10 06:38AM | 0 recs
Re: winning 270 without the popular vote...

worst advice ever. bad for 2004. bad for 2008. ignore any state, ignore all states.
people from atlanta, are in chicago on tuesday, san francisco on thursday and fly down to florida for the weekend.

what mccain is doing is energizing a base that took down kerry in 04. destroyed him.

and that base , once its awakened will destroy obama.  obama's wins in the southern states were knockouts, new voters registered left and right.

Obama needs to win by a huge margin not just a squeaker. you are suffering from analysis paralysis my friend.

by Trey Rentz 2008-09-10 07:27AM | 0 recs

Florida is in the South?

News to me ...

by JD Lasica 2008-09-10 11:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the So

I still would not count Ohio out either...

We've got a great ground game in both Ohio and Virginia,  McCain would probably have to be up by 3% or so by November to counteract that.

by neko608 2008-09-09 07:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the So

Me neither, but we will need help there.

by iohs2008 2008-09-09 07:34PM | 0 recs
No. They're coming from BS polls

Check this out: they've been messing with party ID #'s again--CBS, Gallup, USA Tday--all of them: /poll-madness-mccain-takes_n_125158.html

(tried to embed the link--wouldn't work, sorry)

by rhetoricus 2008-09-09 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: No. They're coming from BS polls

There is an alternate explanation: Independents came out of hiding. I don't think we should fool ourselves into believing these numbers aren't accurate. They may very well be pessimistic, but we should campaign like we have 10 points to make up.

by iohs2008 2008-09-09 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: No. They're coming from BS polls

speaking as an independent, i would have to say alot of us are basically ex-republicans.
palin makes you feel the brand, you know?

republicanism is more about brand these days.
but still no.

by Trey Rentz 2008-09-10 07:28AM | 0 recs
Don't Give Up on the South

The polls are not accurate and the convention bounce will fade.  

by markieparkie 2008-09-09 07:22PM | 0 recs
Tracking polls are never accurate...

...but they are precise, and do capture shifts.

I don't think anyone should believe that we are not currently down: Campaign like we're 10 points behind, right?

If the election were held today, I feel McCain would win in a margin similar to Bush over Kerry. But it's September, not November, and MCain is at his high water mark.

I'd like the tracking polls to range from dead even to Obama by 2-3 before I relax.

by iohs2008 2008-09-09 07:33PM | 0 recs
Palin Effect
Your premise and conclusion is false.
While the numbers in the South have shot up for McCain, they have also gone up dramatically in blue states like Washington state where the number today is plus 4 Obama where it was plus 14 for Obama a month ago. You see similar compression in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, etc. Plains states like Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri have also seen a vast expansion in McCain margins.
The McCain jump is due to the Christian conservative base coming home and the massive move of white working class women (no college) from Obama to McCain.
The changes we see are NOT a bounce. The change is structural, those white working class women have moved over for good and the western states electorate in Montana, Colorado, and Nevada have done the same.  
by oliver777 2008-09-09 07:36PM | 0 recs
Oliver Olive

The gallup numbers show no change out West; that bodes poorly for McCain in Colorado if McCain got a bounce in Montana (which he will win by 12 instead of 6 now) and Washington state (which he will lose by 5 instead of 10 now) and still could not move the numbers in the West.

Obama gained +5 after both conventions and after McCain and Palin stopped by Colorado Springs according to Rasmussen.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-09 07:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

Give it up. Sarah Palin is made to order for the American west. The moment McCain selected her it was over in Montana, Colorado, and Nevada. The polls within the next two weeks will show, like Montana today, the race will be outside the margin of error in both states.  The only chance Obama has is New Mexico which I believe will end up as close as 04'

by oliver777 2008-09-09 07:50PM | 0 recs
Rasmussen is a truth-teller

The numbers are the numbers Oliver; perhaps if the convention wasn't held in Denver, then Palin Power would have overtaken the state.  I bet "Enough" is still ringing in the air there.

The Rasmussen poll was taken after her and McCain visited Colorado Springs and she couldn't move the numbers; the numbers went the other way.

The numbers are the numbers; I'm casting my lot with Scott Rasmussen this election cycle.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-09 08:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

check out regional polling at gallup ate-Support-Region.aspx

east O 51% M 40%
midwest O 48% M 42%
south O 39% M 54%
west O 50% M 43%

can McCain win with only southern support?

not to mention the # of newly registered dems across the country.

by epiphany 2008-09-09 08:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

Oliver777 sounds like a very conservative Republican friend of mine.

by tietack 2008-09-09 08:19PM | 0 recs
by JJE 2008-09-09 09:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

Her Christian fundamentalism doesn't play well out west. Now Ron Paul- who is now on the ballot in MT- he plays well.

This convo came up at 538- a lot of libertarian types said Palin plays poorly , for example, in MT.

In CO, the problem is that Bush maxed the support of evangelicals there in 2004, and the numbers have been shifting democratic since that year.

The problem McCain faces is that in the states he needs to win- there aren't enough fo the type of voters to over come his deficits. He has a short term blip from those who don't know the ticket. I don't see that sustaining itself.

He also openned up FL. every jewish person I know said this pick ws a mistake for Fl.

by bruh3 2008-09-09 08:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

Sorry, that comment gets a big huge FAIL.

Palin is good with the exurban right-wing demo. There's a fair bit of them out there. So far, so good.

Palin is a disaster with Hispanics. There are a fair number of them out there too. Not so good, if you're McCain.

The way Palin was selected is a disaster with Mormons. I personally know a few who are pretty bitter about the way Romney was treated, and they tell me it's pretty widespread.

Are there more Hispanics and Mormons out west than exurban right-wingers? Hard to tell. The way the numbers have moved so far suggests yes.

I'm also not in the least sure that the base is going to be quite as excited about her two months from now. Some of them, sure. But some of them are going to be a little less thrilled about a lying, cheating, venal, pork-barreling non-maverick non-reformer by then. And that narrative's setting in -- outside the blogosphere and outside the merely "liberal" media.

by Texas Gray Wolf 2008-09-09 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

Why even pretend to take him seriously? There's approximately a 0% chance of Ollie giving Obama odds of winning up through election night. So let him belch, I won't encourage him.

by vcalzone 2008-09-09 08:11PM | 0 recs
Vcal, I'm buying your theory

a little bit more right now about the "pig" story after Dunn's statement and that McCain and Obama had used the reference in the past; it has parallels to the "hard-working" controversy that was ginned up by some up in the media who were doing Obama no favors by calling West Virginians racists pre-emptively (Bill Burton didn't do any him favors by responding either; this guy should have been canned a long time ago).

I don't expect McCain's camp to push this further tomorrow; I think they realize that by now the downside to the gender card backlash after watching the race card backlash.  The question is whether Anita Dunn, Stephanie Cutter, or Linda Douglass will go on air tomorrow morning and push it themselves.  What is the equivalent of the "bottom of the deck" in the context of gender politics?

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-09 08:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Vcal, I'm buying your theory

their mistake here with this fake controversey is that nearly everyone knows what lip on a pig means. no one associates it with sexism.  you don't hand the american people a simple idea like this,a nd expect them not to look at you like you are full of it.

by bruh3 2008-09-09 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Vcal, I'm buying your theory

If it's true, I have to give them every bit of credit in the world. Maybe Terry McAuliffe is making good on his offer to help. That's the only thing I could think of that would explain why they'd do something this smart and this calculating.

They DID come out super fast on it, I have to admit. Perhaps it's true.

by vcalzone 2008-09-09 08:42PM | 0 recs
Actually, they didn't come out too

strong initially; Anita Dunn's statement is their third official statement on the matter and an incredibly aggressive one, much stronger and easily a statement that can be construed as an offensive rather than defensive one.  The first two statements are defensive.  McCain's camp came out immediately with their "Truth Squad."  They thought that they had something here.

As with the hard-working comments, there is not just plausible deniability but total deniability if the intent was to sucker McCain into playing the gender card.  Why else did Huckabee back off today on Hannity's show?  I think he got some instructions to stay the hell away from this story.  It may be up to Obama's camp to push this if they want to do it.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-09 08:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually, they didn't come out too

They might be more inclined to focus on McCain's really awful sex ad. Asking whether John McCain is against stopping pedophiles could get into the news in a way that would be plausibly deniable. Would make McCain look much worse than he could have made Obama look. If the McCain folks want to get into a debate about sex ed, I think Obama should welcome it. It gives the media the opportunity to actually ask about Bristol Palin.

by vcalzone 2008-09-09 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually, they didn't come out too

I agree. I'd love to see the response be, flat out: "This law was intended to help little children avoid sexual predators. Senator McCain apparently thinks it would be better to pass up a chance to protect them. In our campaign, we believe in protecting children. We invite Senator McCain to renounce his crass partisan politics and join us in standing up for protecting children."

Note the theft of the "for the children!" meme.

by Texas Gray Wolf 2008-09-09 09:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually, they didn't come out too

No, here's an even better idea.  Play the part of the McCain/Palin commercial that slams the sex ed classes and then have the announcer go Scooby-Doo on it - "Huh?  Here's what they're talking about" and follow with a short shot of kids being taught how to keep from getting hurt or molested.  Then "So John McCain is against this?  And he wants to run our country?  Tell him 'Thanks, but no thanks' in November."

by beerwulf 2008-09-10 04:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Oliver Olive

I'm also on a college football board on a regular basis. On there, there's one guy who comes in every so often and says "we're going to LOSE! we're doomed! Podunk State is going to stomp us 100-0!"

It's his thing. He'll sometimes post nice detailed breakdowns of why we're dooooooooomed; sometimes it's a drive-by. But the core message is always the same: we're going to lose. Badly. To everyone. If we played our own third-string we'd lose. Badly. Everything that happens is bad for us.

He's a big supporter of the team, mind you; he's just superstitious as heck and thinks it's better to go for jinxing us to win than risking the opposite. It's not a bad idea.

I tend to think of oliver and people like him as like that guy. It's a lot more generous than thinking of them as McTrolls, in my book, and it's certainly more generous than assuming they've actually thought it out and this is the best they can come up with.

People still respond to that guy, just like people respond to oliver. It wouldn't be half as fun on either side if no one responded, and -- let's face it -- if someone like that actually happens into a legitimate argument, one you find you can't blow out of the water -- THEN it's time to worry a bit.

by Texas Gray Wolf 2008-09-09 09:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Palin Effect

Washington is "blue" like OR and CA are -- a dense blue coast and sparse inland sea of red(necks).  It looks like Palin, unsurprisingly, brings in the redneck vote.

by username 2008-09-10 05:39AM | 0 recs
Southern Women?

What if the shift in female voters occurred in the the south, and offset any decrease in female support in swing states?

I think crosstabs in state polls will be key: if Obama's loss of female support is nationwide, then yes, that is a problem. But if it is happening only in select areas, then it is of less concern.

by iohs2008 2008-09-09 07:30PM | 0 recs
That's possible

So Palin is moving men in some non-Southern states but only moving white women in Southern states?

Rasmussen has Obama up nineteen among women in PA, but McCain is up seventeen among dudes.

by Blazers Edge 2008-09-09 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Southern Women?

that's my question, answered by state polls.  If they're all in one place it isn't quite as bad.  

by anna shane 2008-09-09 07:40PM | 0 recs
Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the South?

There's certainly an argument that the polls lately have been based on biased and incorrect models of party registration.

But even assuming the models are correct, the latest SUSA NC poll (showing McCain up 20%)

When contrasted to the polls of more traditional battleground states (FL, MI, PA, etc) - where the numbers have barely changed

suggest that the thesis is correct.

by tietack 2008-09-09 07:33PM | 0 recs
SUSA Poll of NC is an Outlier

- That SUSA poll had a 41% GOP / 40% DEM breakdown.
- The real registration numbers are 45.3% DEM / 32.7% GOP.
-That's a 13% swing caused by inaccurate weighting.

McCain is ahead in NC, but his lead is 5-6 points, not 20.

by Bear83 2008-09-09 08:53PM | 0 recs
Re: SUSA Poll of NC is an Outlier

PPP is polling the state starting tonight.... they said that the SUSA number is BS!  They will take a look...

by LordMike 2008-09-09 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the So

Actually it sounds like McCain's gains are with women in the South.  A 10 point move in women across the country and an 8 point move in the South would translate into a much greater movement than McCain has gotten.  

There is no way McCain outperforms Bush on election day in the South.  I promise you that African-American turnout will be the highest in history.  And the increase in Democratic voter registration in Florida will translate into a much closer race there this year.  Same for Virginia and North Carolina.  I don't think the pollsters really know how to measure LVs this time around. Bottom-line, if Obama is even in the polls, then all is good.

by Do Something 2008-09-09 07:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the So

are the polls weighted to account for that? Or are they still based on past voting patterns?  

by anna shane 2008-09-09 07:41PM | 0 recs
McCain's southern strategy

McCain's campaign is making a careful ploy in the south with a subtle and sometimes not so subtle racial undertone. This latest one has got subtle racial subtext as well..."look what the uppity _ is calling our women y'all". Already two Georgia Republicans in quick succession have used the word "uppity" in context of an African-American quite openly (one for Obama and the other for an MSNBC reporter). Sen. Inhofe has questioned his patriotism and the n-word is flying all over the internet in context with this new fake outrage. This is just one more step in the racial dog-whistling that has been adopted by McCain.

by tarheel74 2008-09-09 08:50PM | 0 recs
leave the south

aside from VA, FL, and (maybe) NC we need to abandon the south in prez elections.  we can't win without going zell miller. bill clinton, a multiterm southern governor was only able to win 4 southern states (not counting MO, which is arguably not southern).  AR was a homestate, though the right dem could win, LA won't be coming back for a while, if gore couldn't win TN, no one will for a while, and georgia, it was a nice dream while it lasted.  we need to keep helping state and fed candidates, ones who can be pro-life and adopt other socially conservative positions, but the prez candidates need to focus more on the midwest.  let the south be the albatross for the republicans that it was for us from the late 18 hundreds to 1960.

by Doug Tuttle 2008-09-09 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: leave the south


We might not win squat this year, but, over time, these areas will purple...   The increase in AA vote, coupled with an influx of northerners looking for jobs will trend better for us in the future...  We are laying a foundation necessary for future elections... remember that the south will gain more electoral votes after the census, and the north are going to lose a good many...  

We can win there, but it may take a few years to get there...  still, we need to lay a foundation now...

by LordMike 2008-09-09 09:19PM | 0 recs
Take advantage of demographics

By 2040, the US will be a majority minority nation.

In other words, the same trends which turned California from Reagan country in the 1980s to solid blue starting in 1992 -

is already dissipating the previous advantage Republicans had in Florida (Fl Hispanics were solid Republican through 2004, but I think will finally turn majority blue this year)

and will also turn states such as Texas and Arizona blue starting I'm guessing in 2012.

But I can't disagree with your premise w/r/t states like Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky - demographic changes will be slower there.

by tietack 2008-09-09 09:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Take advantage of demographics

And West Virginia! Don't forget West Virginia.

by vcalzone 2008-09-09 09:40PM | 0 recs
Are McCain's National Gains Coming from the South

So he's doing better in states he was going to win anyway.

by ObamaBiden 2008-09-09 11:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Are McCain's National Gains

as to your diary, i think you are right. Obama is doing well in so many states that I didn't think he had a chance in.

check out regional polling at gallup ate-Support-Region.aspx

east O 51% M 40%
midwest O 48% M 42%
south O 39% M 54%
west O 50% M 43%

can McCain win with only southern support?

not to mention the # of newly registered dems across the country.

by epiphany 2008-09-10 05:32AM | 0 recs


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