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Has anything happened?

To read certain conservative bloggers and listen to certain conservative commentators, you would think that John McCain’s prospects have taken an appreciable turn for the better recently and that the underlying dynamic of the election may have been altered. It’s possible that this has happened, but I don’t see any evidence of it. More likely, it seems to me, some conservatives are confusing their mounting negativity towards Obama with a meaningful shift in the electorate’s view of the relative merits of the two candidates. It’s not diffiicult to do.

But let’s look at some numbers. The four most recent non-tracking polls have Obama up by five to seven percertage points. The two tracking polls (Rasmussen and Gallup) both have Obama very slightly ahead. Both are essentially where they were throughout most of July. The most one can say, I think, is that Obama’s brief bounce from his trip has been lost. But he’s still ahead, and by about the same three point margin that I’ve been estimating for some time.

There are, of course, several ways to spin this. On the one hand, Obama’s high-profile effort to pull away from McCain was a failure. On the other hand, McCain seems to have put Obama on the defensive and taken some of the bloom off the rose; yet Obama maintains roughly his normal lead.

For me the key points are (1) Obama, though an under-performing candidate, has the edge and (2) the underlying dynamic of the race probably won’t change much until the Democratic convention, if then.

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