Today’s PPP result from Ohio, showing Obama 51, McCain 39, is serious news. PPP got the Ohio primary results within a point, and the new number is a big reversal from mid-March (McCain 49, Obama 41). FiveThirtyEight.com now makes Obama the 1-2 odds-on favorite, which is roughly consistent with the Intrade betting market.
Of course it’s too early to start deciding which Presidential portraits Barack Obama should hang in the oval office. There’s a lot of campaign between here an November, and the Republicans have already made it clear that they plan to fight dirty. We won’t know whether the country will really vote for a black man for President until the votes are actually cast and counted.
That said, I’d rather have Obama’s hand to play at this point than McCain’s. This is a bad year for Republicans; McCain so far is a leaden, stumble-tongued campaigner; Obama will have the edge in enthusiasm, organization, and money; and this seems to be the year when the under-30 crowd, where Obama dominates, has decided to vote.
Naturally, the bitter-end “Obama’s not electable” crowd won’t believe it. But then reality has never been their strong suit.
Update An anti-Obama, pro-Clinton reader challenges me on the final paragraph above: since I concede uncertainty, how can I call the “Obama will certainly lose” crowd reality-impaired?
Simple answer: People who make strong assertions without any evidence to back them up are fairly described as out of touch with reality.
Right now, there’s no empirical support for “Obama will certainly lose.” For example, he was supposed to have a “Latino problem”; he’s beating McCain by at least two-to-one among those voters in all the polls. Obama is up about four points in both national tracking polls and the few standard polls that have come out recently, and he’s doing very well in many key states.
And the details of the polling results are also encouraging. Right now, McCain seems to have about nine out of ten of the shrunken population of Republican identifiers. Obama leads McCain even though he’s not doing as well among Democrats as McCain is among Republicans. That means he can get over 50% simply by persuading some of his wavering co-partisans to back him; if the “Obamacan” turns out not to be an actual species rather than a mythical beast, that’s just icing on the cake. McCain, by contrast, has to persuade Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to vote for a third George Bush term. That’s not going to be an easy sell.
Moreover, large numbers of voters still believe that Obama is a Muslim and that McCain is pro-choice, or at least “moderate” on abortion rights. Those beliefs are equally false, and you would expect their prevalence to shrink over the course of the campaign. McCain isn’t trying to conceal his “pro-life” commitment because he still feels the need to energize his base, and Obama will emphasize the distinction. And even the mainstream press has decided that Obama’s Christianity is a fact and not an opinion.
My guess is that most of the people who say they think Obama is a Muslim aren’t susceptible to reason or evidence; that belief reflects, rather than causing, their distrust of him as “not one of us.” Some of those who say that they’re not sure (not a small number) may be willing to be informed. But Obama may not gain much from having his religious commitment perceived more accurately.
On the other hand, most of the people who think McCain is a moderate on abortion are simply misinformed. When he and his opponent both tell them that McCain wants to overturn Roe v. Wade, they’ll believe it, and that will cost McCain some votes.
In the immortal words of Damon Runyon, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But that’s the way to bet ’em.” Right now the smart money has to be on Obama.
Second update More from Quinnipiac: Obama +6 in Ohio, +4 in Florida, +12 in Pennsylvania.
(And Democrats in those states like the idea of Clinton on the ticket, but independents don’t.)