Hanging around

Despite horrible financial news, and Barack Obama’s solid debate performances and virtual monopoly on campaign ads, John McCain seems to be “hanging around,” to borrow a sports cliche. Rasmussen’s tracking poll has Obama leading by only 4 percentage points. If you split the difference between Gallup’s “traditional” tracking poll and its “expanded” one, you also get 4 points (as I understand it, the traditional poll figures out who “likely” voters are based on past voting behavior and “current intentions,” while the expanded poll uses “current intentions” only).

If McCain really is, say, 5 percentage points behind Obama, then he’s certainly within striking distance. Some might even argue that, at that spead, Obama isn’t really ahead, given (a) the margin of error, (b) what happened to him during certain primaries and (c) the notion that black candidates tend to “underpeform” on election day in comparison to how they poll.

That’s not my opinion, particularly in view of the likelihood of voter fraud and Obama’s concerntration of resources in key states. But I’m pretty sure that, in theory, two and a half weeks is sufficient time to overcome a 5 point lead (assuming, again, that this is what Obama has).

In practice, McCain’s only hope of overcoming such a deficit is through relentless advertising, including a healthy dose of negative ads. McCain’s one advantage is the same one he had after the Democratic convention. Then, voters had heard far more from Obama than from McCain. The Republican convention closed this information gap and, as a result, McCain erased a polling gap of more than 5 points.

Today, McCain again suffers from an information gap. Given Obama’s resources, McCain can’t match his opponent ad for ad. But he doesn’t need to — Obama’s ads will begin to yield diminishing returns, indeed, that’s probably already the case. McCain’s would be relatively fresh.

If McCain has the resources, it’s now or never. If not, it’s simply never.

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