McCain, GOP - they're baaaaack

Gallup poll shows McCain leading Obama

Jake Turcotte

Perhaps not as creepily as when Poltergeist's Carol Ann announced to her family that the undead have returned to their home (or maybe more - depending on your point of view), John McCain appears to be back.  Not only has he returned, but thanks to new GOP rock star Sarah Palin the Republican party is re-energized, for the time being anyway.

The post-convention bounce for the McCain-Palin ticket is quite healthy, according to the latest Gallup poll – not only erasing the seven point lead Obama had last week, but sending the numbers in the other direction.

The 50% to 46% McCain lead is the largest he has enjoyed (and there have been few) since Gallup began daily tracking in May.  While doing that, the Republican base, says Gallup, is fired up.

"There has been a very substantial jump in the percentage of Republicans saying they are more enthusiastic about voting in this election, from 42% a week ago (after the Democratic convention, but before the Republican convention) to 60% today," says the report.  "Democrats still retain a slight lead on this measure, having increased their enthusiasm slightly this last week as well. But the enthusiasm gap, which has been so much a part of the story of the presidential election so far this year, has dwindled from 19 points in the Democrats' favor a week ago to only seven points today."

It is unlikely Barack Obama rolled his TV out of the hotel room upon receiving today's news.  It's the norm to receive a post-convention bounce. He had one too. Sustaining it is another issue. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were able to ride their bounces, in 1988 and 1992 respectively, to the Oval Office.

Contrast that to Jimmy Carter and Al Gore who saw their numbers increase after their conventions only to emerge as First Runner-Ups in their respective elections.

Psychotronic energy

The immediate take-away from the polling appears to be the re-energizing of the Republican base.

Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told CBS that in a year not looking to be Republican-friendly, McCain even being competitive is "an amazing achievement."

“The wind is at the Democrats’ back. You look at the number of House and Senate seats the Democrats are likely to pick up this year, and you look at where this race is…they’ve hung in there the whole way," Trippi said.  "They definitely executed with tough circumstances. The hurricane, they had to reshuffle the deck. Picking Palin, whether it turns out to be a disaster or not, is probably the bold thing he needed to do to give himself a shot. They’ve taken the risks they’ve needed to take and so far they seem to be benefiting.”

Run to the light...colored states

It's not so much the solid red and blue states.  It's the yellow states -- the toss-ups, the battlegrounds.  Where to watch?  There are plenty of these states, but this year, as Monitor colleague Linda Feldmann reported yesterday, Virginia – where McCain and Obama are currently tied - could be the tell-tale state to key your eye on.

“If either candidate starts to pull away in Virginia, and we get clarity in Virginia, we’ll get clarity in a lot of those other states,” said independent pollster John Zogby.

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