The Campaign Spot

Obama Loses 10 Points on ‘Handling The Economy’ In a Week

Today’s Hotline Diageo tracking poll has Obama ahead of McCain, 47 percent to 43 percent. But take a look at the question on who would be better handing the economy:

McCain continues to close in on Obama’s lead, which has decreased from a 5-point lead in the September 20 Poll, to a 1-point advantage in today’s Poll, (43% – 42%). 

In fact, on September 16, the Diageo-Hotline poll, a tracking poll, had Obama ahead, 47 percent to 36 percent, on which candidate would do the best job of handling the economy. So Obama has lost 10 points on that question in a week.
A reader asked how I thought the financial crisis was affecting the campaign. I responded that it’s scrambling the race, and clearly is creating divisions within the parties, as Bush, Paulson, and the Democratic Congressional leadership seem on board with it, (or generally on board with it), along with Dodd and Frank, but the rank-and-file are skeptical. My readers are basically split – if they’re in finance, they see it as a necessary evil to avoid a serious economic crisis; my non-finance readers think this is horsepuckey (or other words) and that reckless Wall Street managers are getting a “get out of jail free” card and pillaging the U.S. Treasury.
From where I sit, McCain’s response has been hot and cold. The “Resolution Trust Corporation 2.0″ idea seems to be popular with Wall Street, and he deserves a bit of credit for getting ahead of the curve; on the ther hand, calling for Cox to be fired left a lot of traditional allies unimpressed, and the Andrew Cuomo idea is arguably the dumbest McCain has ever come up with. Obama seems to think that by hanging back and saying little he’ll look wise; maybe, or maybe he looks like he’s in way over his head.
Biden, by comparison, blaming tax cuts and talking about President Roosevelt going on television in 1929 sounds unhinged.
Neither McCain’s nor Obama’s instincts and background are suited to this problem, nor is Biden or Palin. If I were either of the candidates, I would make Mitt Romney and Robert Rubin my de-facto “other running mates’ until further notice, attending each event and explaining, with charts if necessary, what happened, how it happened, and how to address the problem, and the consequences of action and inaction… I understand the temptation for populist drum-beating, but this seems like a time to talk to the public like they’re grownups.
UPDATE: A reader urges skepticism about the Hotline poll, pointing to this post, arguing that

If you look at the daily results… you see… incredible volatility…. [If they reported the daily samples] people could see that this is basically statistical noise in a stable race…  . But Gallup doesn’t report its daily results, they report a… three day rolling average, [and] you get these pleasant looking peaks and valleys in the race. The change over time here is large enough in magnitude… but also slow enough in pace (unlike on the one day chart) to be plausibly interpreted as public opinion shifting in response to events.

I hear that argument, but even if you don’t like the particular numbers, the trend over the past seven days (seven separate daily samples) has been pretty consistent — McCain up or even, Obama down or even. 

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