The Palin Effect
So what effect is Sarah Palin having on the ticket? Obviously a good one so far, but the key is how she handles herself the next 2 weeks on two key things: the VP debate scheduled for early October when she squares off against the seasoned Biden, and the unscripted one-on-one interviews with the press. National polling shows McCain has pulled in the lead by anywhere from 4 to 10 points, and the main swing in support has not come from Republicans as you would have thought, but Independents and females in particular. Among Republicans, McCain has consistently held approximately 85%-90% of the vote both “pre” and “post” Palin. However the energy level has risen with the GOP base, practically erasing a huge advantage in intensity the Democrats have enjoyed all year long. Among Independents however, what was once a 5 to 10 point lead for Obama has now shifted to an approximate 5 point lead for McCain. This is huge. McCain now leads among all Independents, and the the real shift was Independent females (McCain has traditionally led with Independent males). So the Palin effect has been real. In PA, however, the results are not as clear. Independents in PA make up less than ten percent of all votes cast are are not likely to be a factor. In states like New Jersey however, Independents and “undeclared” voters are a huge factor, and our early polling in various pockets of NJ shows McCain dead even with Obama among Independents “pre” Palin. This may be enough to turn NJ from a solid blue to leaning blue state. He could even be doing better with them (we’ll know more soon). In PA though, the Palin effect will largely come among Republicans, and two regions in particular are vital. First, the South Central or Harrisburg region, where our August poll showed Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr getting 4% of the vote. In this region, McCain NEEDS to win by a bigger margin than Bush did in ’04, or we won’t be able to offset the Obama gains in Southeast PA, where our polls show he’s on track to over perform (in relationship to Kerry ’04 results). The other area of the state is the Southwest/Pittsburgh region – a treasure trove of blue collar, Reagan Democrat-types, although mainly Democrat in registration. This is an area already fertile ground for McCain, adn our polls show he is winning by ten points (excluding Allegheny County), but the Palin effect could be even more importnat if her blue collar working class image further solidifies his base in this region. We’ve said all along that SW PA is the real battleground for McCain given the huge potential from Hillary-type voters who can’t seem to swallow casting an Obama vote. Our polls in the spring showed Clinton beating McCain by 17, but McCain beating Obama by 11 if he was the Democratic nominee. So, this area is ripe for a Palin message if she can survive the next couple weeks. In the Southeast, our initial polling is showing that Palin is either loved or hated, so we question how much traction she will get with soccer moms, or hocket moms for that matter. By the end of September, I predict we will know whether or not she effectively helps or hurts McCain because by then the nation will have gotten a much closer look at her. As I write this her first battle scars from her first live interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson are not thought to be lethal, but definitely have given her opponents enough ammo in the chamber to keep pressing their case that she is unfit and lacks the foreign policy credentials to be one heartbeat away from the Oval desk. The next couple weeks will tell us the answer.