Republican strategist Bill Greener writes at Salon that “if history is any guide, Barack Obama, as an African-American candidate for political office, needs to be polling consistently above 50 percent to win. And in crucial battleground states, he isn’t.”
At FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver writes that he’s cherry-picking his poll numbers and ignoring that 2006 was just a lousy year for Republicans, white or black.
Greener notes that in Tennessee, Democrat Harold Ford Jr. was able to pick up one out of every five undecided voters. In Massaschusetts, undecideds split 2:1 for Republican Kerry Healey over Democrat Deval Patrick, even though Patrick led handily. (I’ve wondered if there is a Bradley effect for African-American Republicans; somehow I suspect voting for the white candidate in those races carries less social stigma than when the races are reversed.)
The back-and-forth spurred me to look at this study, “Ashamed Not to Vote for an African-American; Ashamed to Vote for a Woman: An Analysis of the Bradley Effect from 1982-2006″ by two UC-Irvine researchers. Unfortunately, the study doesn’t quite draw definitive conclusions: “Those who claim that the Bradley Effect is an artifact of the past are partially correct. Though the smoothed line in Figure 2 suggests that the Bradley Effect may be disappearing for black candidates, this apparent increase in the accuracy of polls is, according to our findings, due largely to changes in the context in which black candidates are running… Our findings suggest that black candidates are truly susceptible to problems with pre-election polling.”
I remain divided on whether we’ll see a “Bradley effect” this year. But I note that if the RCP average is accurate, then Obama is over 50 percent in several key states, including previously-red Colorado, Virginia, New Mexico and Iowa — in addition to previously-blue Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. If there were no other surprises, and every other state remained the same as 2004, that would give Obama 291 electoral votes to 247 for McCain.