Has Barack Obama Peaked Too Soon?

Poll numbers are raising questions about whether the Illinois senator is following the Hillary arc.

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This weekend's RasmussenReports.com presidential tracking poll results are not good news for the Obama camp, despite the following caveats:

1. National daily presidential tracking polls are lousy predictors of electoral college results. They offer little insight into how key swing states will vote. In tight races, the White House is won in swing states. 2. Three-and-a-half months out from what we know is going to be a tight race, it is still way too early to give much credence to any poll.

Caveats aside, starting this past weekend, there has been a sizable shift in a poll that has pretty consistently shown Sen. Barack Obama beating Sen. John McCain in a two-way matchup since early June.

The Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking poll shows Obama and McCain now tied in the presidential race, erasing the consistent 5-point lead Obama has maintained in that poll since early last month.

Two more caveats:

1. Rasmussen Reports uses telephone robo-polling, meaning respondents give their answers to a recording and the results are tallied (by real human beings) later on. Despite this, I have found Rasmussen's results to fairly represent the mood of the country during the past two presidential elections.

2. Even Rasmussen's website continues to show Obama winning the electoral college vote.

Taking all these caveats into account, Obama should still be ahead by 10 to 15 percentage points at this moment in the contest. It is a tight race, when it should have been an easy sprint for the Democratic nominee.

President Bush has run a ruinous administration. The economy is in the tank and not likely to climb out anytime soon. The Bush administration launched an unwinnable and financially devastating Iraq war. There is no reason for any Democratic candidate to be polling even with the Republican candidate at this point, unless that Democrat's candidacy is horribly flawed.

McCain, by normal GOP standards, has run a disastrous campaign of his own. He can neither find nor keep good staff. He's off message more than he's on. And he's produced his own series of flip-flops (albeit rather petty ones when compared with Obama's gaffes).

Has Obama peaked too soon? If upcoming polls find his lead to have evaporated long term and this weekend's findings turn out to have been more than just "statistical noise," then the answer will be "yes." If so, it might just be a bit of poetic justice. A little less than a year ago, Sen. Hillary Clinton was the media-anointed front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Then last winter, she was deemed to have peaked too soon.

Along came a rock star, a messiah, the Democrats' great hope, in the form of one Sen. Barack Obama. Clinton was tossed aside as so much detritus.

Lots can happen between now and November. Obama can regain the support of media figures who seem to have turned on him since he secured the nomination. Clinton supporters are hoping he will choose her as his running mate, but it remains to be seen if even that will be enough to woo her dispirited supporters into the Obama fold.

She peaked too soon, and that may just be what is happening to him right now.