As I have been phonebanking and canvassing for Senator Obama’s Campaign for Change for the past two months, one of the focuses has been on “undecided” voters – voters identified by the campaign as on the fence. I have talked to a great deal of people who say they haven’t decided yet. In many of these conversations, by the end it becomes clear that they are actually not going to vote for Senator Obama but are, in fact, McCain supporters. What also is clear is that these people were generally embarrassed to admit their support of McCain and generally can’t explain WHY they are voting for him. Maybe they won’t vote for an African American but are afraid to admit it. Maybe they realize they are voting for a party that has taken our country far down the wrong path. Maybe they are simply uninspired by a 72 year old man with no new ideas. For whatever reason, they are not proud of their choice so they resort to “I haven’t decided” as a way to avoid having to admit it.
McCain’s choice for vice-president has changed that.
Suddenly, with the choice of Sarah Palin and her celebrity status, these “undecideds” are coming out of the woodwork to declare their support of the Republican party. In their minds, she gives them a reason to vote against Barack Obama and for a presidential candidate that is uninspiring and who has been part of the federal government for close to 30 years.
So the polls showing large numbers of “undecided” voters were actually inaccurate until last week. There were very likely significantly fewer “undecideds” and more McCain supporters than they showed. This isn’t surprising – we’re a pretty polarized country right now thanks to the Bush administration and the neocons who have used fear of terrorism and “culture war” issues to drive a wedge between Americans. His choice of Palin has unskewed the polls.
There is clear evidence that even these “unskewed” polls of the past week are still dramatically deficient in terms of representing the actual electorate. As Seth Colter Walls points out in his quite excellent essay at HuffPo, pollsters are missing newly registered voters by significant margins. And the Obama campaign has been nothing if not crazy effective at registering new voters. The AP has recently reported that:
“more than 2 million Democrats [were added] to voter rolls in the 28 states that register voters according to party affiliation. The Republicans have lost nearly 344,000 thousand voters in the same states.”
So, between miscalculating the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in their polling techniques and the fact that the Dems have dramatically higher levels of new registrants, even the more recent “unskewed” numbers are wrong.
Of course a couple of other factors are also at play. First, Obama supporters tend to be younger and/or more educated, both groups who favor mobile phones over land lines. Land lines are not represented in these polls at all.
Second, perhaps the most important and, to my mind, most-overlooked factor is shown by the numbers of people who voted in the primaries and caucuses. In state after state, even before the Republicans selected Senator McCain to head their ticket, the Democrats turned out far more voters in their primaries and caucuses than the Republicans ever hoped to.
Is Sarah Palin going to be enough to bring out equal numbers for Republicans in the General Election? That remains to be seen but the fact that McCain no longer enjoys what Bob Cesca calls “the Barbeque Media Effect” lately (for good reason), Ms. Palin is facing the kind of scrutiny that can only put a smile on the faces of Democrats everywhere. Scandal, misrepresentation and outright lies threaten to bring her positives down, even among a newly energized Republican party. Their support is fresh but also tenuous and, as the facts about this maverickymooseskinningwolfshootingearmarklovinghockeymomlipstickedpitbull come out, that support is quite likely to evaporate by degrees.
The key to success for Senator Obama’s campaign will be getting people out to the polls. Support is meaningless unless people get out and pull that lever or punch that chad. As Democrats, we need to be making sure that anyone and everyone we know that supports Barack Obama is registered and goes to the polls.
Personally, I’m taking vacation time starting the Friday before Election Day to work my butt off on the Get Out the Vote effort. As in 2004, I’ll be making calls, driving people to the polls, and doing whatever I can to ensure that every single supporter of Senator Obama votes on election day.
What will YOU be doing?
I’m just sayin’…