Barack Obama, John McCain, the Polls, and the Electoral College

The Democratic ticket has been gaining in national polls—and, more important, in state ones.

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The economic crisis hasn't been bad for every single American: Sen. Barack Obama (and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden) seem to have benefited from it. Not financially, of course, but in the polling data that continues to improve for the Democratic ticket, despite or perhaps because of economic declines. Even better for Obama/Biden, the gains are not just in the national polls but in the all-important Electoral College and battleground states.

This from Rasmussen Reports today:

The Rasmussen Reports Balance of Power Calculator shows Obama leading in states with 193 Electoral College votes while McCain has the edge in states with 174 votes. When "leaners" are included, Obama leads 255-247 (see Quick Campaign Overview). A total of 270 Electoral Votes are needed to win the White House."

Electoral-vote.com doesn't show any change in the Electoral College vote from yesterday, but Sen. Obama leads by a comfortable margin: "Obama 286 McCain 252."

The McCain campaign is well aware of those numbers, and that's why McCain took the unprecedented and purposefully high-profile step of "canceling" his campaign. I put canceling in quotes because this was more of a media stunt than anything. To the extent that media stunts are judged by how much publicity they create, this was a stunning success. Whether it continues that way is another story.

Electoral-vote.com has this interesting take on its front page:

It is not clear yet what will happen in Mississippi tomorrow evening if McCain does not back down. For starters, SurveyUSA already published a poll on whether the debate should take place yesterday. Three quarters of the voters want the debate to happen; only 10% want to cancel it. About 36% would like the focus to be changed to the economy. It is possible that as a "compromise" McCain agrees to changing the topic to the economy so the later debates, closer to the election, focus on national security, his strength. In fact, his whole game plan might have been to switch the subjects. But it is risky because if the first debate is about the economy and Obama does well, many people may make up their minds, cast their vote early, and not watch the other debates.

McCain has shown a remarkable capacity to use offbeat, risky strategies to turn things around when his poll numbers droop. The Palin selection was one such move. The postponement of the start of the Republican convention because of a hurricane was another. Whether this move (pretending to place the economy front and center) will be as successful won't be known for a few more days. Watch for McCain to switch strategy once again if his support for the unpopular bailout plan keeps driving his poll numbers down.