Today's Polls: Roller Coaster

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THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 8, 2008

Today's Polls: Roller Coaster

Polling, especially during the convention period, is often described as
a "roller coaster", but I think the metaphor is a little bit more
powerful than that. You can ride a particular coaster a dozen times,
visualize the ride, and tell yourself that you aren't going to be
scared when you go down the first big hill. But inevitably, if you have
genetics like mine, you'll be still be screaming once you've actually
strapped yourself in and are riding the damned thing. There are certain
things that are so experientially intense that it's probably impossible
to fully prepare yourself for them -- you can know exactly what's
coming, and it doesn't matter.At this very moment, John McCain has a lead of something like 2, maybe 3 points in the national polls.
If I had asked you, before the convention period began, what you
expected the national tracking numbers to look like on the weekend
immediately following the Republican convention, my hunch is that the
average guess would have been right around a Republican +2 lead --
exactly where the polls are now.Is it possible that the race
has entered some sort of new steady state? Yes, of course -- such
things happened following the Republican Convention in 1988 and the
Democratic Convention in 1992, for instance. But history tells us that
far more often, convention bounces recede. And even if this one
doesn't, the absolute worst case for Barack Obama is that he'll be
within striking distance given one good debate performance, and will
probably also have a slightly stronger hand to play in the electoral
college than in the national popular vote.McCain's bounce is
probably now fully manifested. I think he might pick up one more point
or so in the Gallup tracker tomorrow, as I show slightly stronger
results for him on Sunday (+5.0) and Saturday (+7.2) than I do on
Friday (+2.7). But I don't know that he's going to get much more than
that without further, intervening events.Public Policy Polling
also has a survey out in Michigan, which shows Obama with a 1-point,
47-46 lead. Those are better numbers for McCain than other PPP polls of
the Wolverine State -- he had trailed by 3 in July -- but actually
ought to be a somewhat heartening result for Democrats, since it means
that Michigan is polling about 3 or 4 points more Democratic than the
nation as a whole. I will have more thoughts today or tomorrow about
the way that individual states might be affected by the convention
period.

--Nate Silver 

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