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Despite Stark Media Favor, McCain Trails Obama

May 15th, 2008

Obama and Clinton are just winding down from five months of bashing each other, while McCain has had the luxury of being the party nominee for two and a half months, campaigning and raising money without opposition, with his former rivals lauding him, taking potshots at the Democrats at leisure. The media has been incredibly kind to McCain, courting him in his “Straight Talk” barbecue media love-fest, playing down his scandals and even actively defending him (as they did when the lobbyist affair story came out), refusing to ask him questions or report on stories that could give him a bad rep–all while piling on the Democratic nominees aggressively, especially Obama with the Wright story, which ran for weeks and weeks and weeks, with an endlessly-playing video loop of “God Damn America.”

0508-PartyidWith all of that and much more in McCain’s favor, one would imagine that McCain would be leading in the polls. And yet, despite a brief bump a few weeks ago, McCain has been trailing both Clinton and Obama most of the time. Today, a Quinnipiac poll put Obama ahead of McCain by 7 points, Hillary by 5. Rasmussen, which polls more favorably for Republicans, has Obama leading McCain by one point and Clinton leading by two. CBS, which often swings the other way, Has Obama over McCain by 12 points. ABC has Obama winning by 7, Gallup by 4, Times/Boomberg by 6, the AP by 4.

If McCain is doing so poorly against Obama now, after Obama has been bashed so heavily and McCain given the buddy treatment, that is not a good sign for McCain. McCain should, by all rights, be ahead by a touchdown or two. Instead, he’s lagging behind.

Helping to explain, perhaps, is the major GOP loss in Mississippi’s first district. Democrat Travis Childers beat Republican Greg Davis 54-46. Doesn’t sound like a big margin, except for one small detail: MI-01 is a Republican district–a strong Republican district. Bush won the district in 2004 with a 62% majority, a 25% lead over Democrat John Kerry.

Keep in mind that Davis was not beset by scandals; he simply lost the race fair and square. And this is the third time in three races that a Democratic candidate has won a special election to fill a vacated House seat in a Republican district–the first was in Dennis Hastert’s district–Hastert having been the Speaker of the House.

After seven years of Bush and almost as many years of a Republican Congress, the Republican Party name has been dragged through the dirt. Given the chance to lead, they have not only failed, but failed spectacularly. The number of people who identify themselves as Republicans has dropped to 27%, while Independents and Democrats both claim 36%; and of Independents with a preference for one party over the other, 60% lean Democratic. Compare that with 2004, when Republicans had 33%, Dems had 35%, and Independents, at 33%, were split almost evenly between the two parties. That allowed Bush to win the race, as party identification was within just a few points (the margin of error) of Bush’s win. Now, however, Democrats look to have more than a 10-point advantage over GOP’ers in party affiliation or preference.

And that helps explain why, after Obama getting trashed and McCain getting feted for the past few months, Obama still leads in national polls. Had the media treated the two candidates equally, Obama would probably lead by an average of 10~12 points, instead of 4~6.

Unless something unexpected happens, expect Obama’s lead to hold or strengthen.

Meanwhile: since the Indiana/North carolina elections last week, Obama has picked up 31 superdelegates to Hillary’s 1.5. Hillary got 20 pledged delegates from West Virginia to Obama’s 8, giving her a 12-delegate gain. Offset that by superdelegate pickups, and Obama has jumped ahead by 17.5 delegates. Having picked up John Edwards now Obama’s lead can only continue to grow; Edwards brings 18 pledged delegates with him, though those are not counted in Obama’s column quite yet. However, if Obama continues to get 4 new supers a day like he has for the past week, he’ll be another 30 delegates ahead when Kentucky and Oregon come–and Hillary’s win in Kentucky will be offset by Obama’s win in Oregon.

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