Opinion: The poll picture of the Barack Obama/John McCain race? Static

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A spate of new national polls in recent days add up to one bottom line: For all the travel miles racked up by both presidential campaigns, for all the shifting of positions by the candidates and the sound and fury emanating from each camp, the race has remained essentially static over the summer.

A new Time poll shows Barack Obama ahead of John McCain, 46% to 41%; the five-percentage-point margin was exactly the gap between the two in a survey commissioned by the magazine back in June.

A piece Wednesday by David Paul Kuhn noted that on Sunday, Aug. 3, the average of national polling on ‘had 46.6% of the public supporting Obama, putting him narrowly ahead of McCain. Exactly two months earlier, on June 3, that same average had Obama at the exact same level of support — 46.6%.’

The obvious question raised by the various results, and discussed last week here in The Ticket, is why Obama hasn’t staked out a firmer advantage, given the plethora of trends strongly tilting toward the Democratic Party. Why, in particular, can’t he crack the 50% mark?


CNN and MSNBC earlier this week examined Obama’s seeming underperformance, and it’s the thrust of Kuhn’s article.

Clearly, Obama still has his work cut out for him (though, as a new Pew Research Center poll discovered, the upcoming break he’s taking from the spotlight is probably a smart move).

But another question sparked by the polls is this: Why has McCain so rarely gotten above 45% and, for the most part, consistently scored just below that level?

Aside from the relative handful of voters who are eyeing Ralph Nader or Bob Barr, it just may be that the 10% undecideds are in no hurry to do so -- thus, no discernible bump for either Obama or McCain.

And why should those voters be in a hurry? They’ve not yet had a chance to evaluate the key personnel move each major-party contender must make: choosing a running mate. They’ve yet to hear the nomination acceptance speeches. And they’ve yet to see Obama and McCain square off on a debate stage.

To us, all this adds up to a race that may remain static until the stretch run.

-- Don Frederick