The Corner

Polls and Irrational Exuberance

Last night on Hannity & Colmes, John McCain said he was happy with where his campaign is relative to Obama’s (he’s currently within 2-3 points in daily tracking polls). Even in the midst of the present world swoon over Obama, this is not irrational exuberance. At the same point in the 2004 campaign, Kerry was leading Bush by 4-6 points; Kerry lost by 3.   The fact that Obama regularly overperformed in the  polls preceding various primaries gives further credence to the probability that the race is a dead heat.

In 2004, a Globescan poll  of the citizens of 35 foreign countries showed that 30 preferred Kerry, 3 preferred Bush and 2 split. The margins favoring Kerry weren’t small: Germans preferred Kerry over Bush 74% to 10%; Brits preferred Kerry 47% to 16%. Obama probably beats McCain by margins at least as large but, for all of the spectacular visuals of Obama surrounded by adoring foreigners, they’re unlikely to have much impact on domestic opinion. There may even be modest blowback.

Media wisdom in light of Obama’s world tour, his presumptive cash advantages, the Democratic tide (though apparently eroding as noted by Rick Brookhiser below) and Obama’s consistent lead in the polls is that he’s  the heavy favorite to win in November.  But remember, a string of 14 polls in late summer 2000 showing Gore leading Bush by 1–10 points prompted Will Saletan to write his ” Why Bush is Toast” article.

Given that recent Democratic nominees have seen summertime leads of as much as 15 points vanish by November, any irrational exuberance is more properly ascribed to Obama’s fans in the media.


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