Presidential Race Maps Writing on the Wall

Americans Want Obamacare Debate To End

Posted Mar 31, 2014 at 8:51 AM by Maurice Berger

While Obamacare remains unpopular with many voters, a health-care tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that "53% of all respondents -- including 51% of independents and even 47% of Republicans -- said they are tired about hearing the debate over the health-care law and think the country should focus on other issues."

Is The Two-Party System In Peril?

Posted Jan 16, 2014 at 8:42 AM by Maurice Berger

A survey by Gallup reports that 42% of Americans identify as political independents in 2013. This number is the highest in 25 years. Republican identification dropped to 25%, the lowest over the same period. Democratic identification, at 31%, remains unchanged from the last four years.

Christie Even More Popular With Democrats Nationally

Posted Jan 10, 2013 at 9:13 AM by Maurice Berger

A just released Public Policy Polling survey reports that Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Chrisitie is more popular with Democrats nationally than he is with Republicans. His overall favorability is 51% to 23%.  With Democrats, he holds +29 advantage: 52% to 23%. With GOP voters, his advantage is +21: 48% to 27%. And he is most popular with independent voters with a staggering +34 at advantage: 52% to 18%.

A Note On "Independent" Voters

Posted Nov 06, 2012 at 9:57 AM by Maurice Berger

Much has been made by commentators about Mitt Romney's lead with independent voters in a number of the latest tracking polls. A note of caution: this year, and very much due to the rise of the Tea Party, many voters who self-describe as "independent" are, in fact, Tea Party conservatives (many of whom are supporting Romney). When surveys consider the sentiment of another key demographic group--one heretofore associated with independent voters, but not necessarily in this cycle--"moderates," i.e., voters in the middle of the political spectrum, many disillusioned by two-part polarization--Obama leads, by as much as +20%. Will this cycle dynamically redefine the term "independent"? PollTrack will have more on this issue after Election 2012.

Hispanic Voters Overwhemingly Affiliate With Democratic Party

Posted Jul 05, 2012 at 9:56 AM by Maurice Berger

While a demographic survey by USA Today/Gallup poll reports that 51% of Hispanics in the United States are self-described independents, while 32% are Democrats and 11% are Republicans, the partisan leanings of these voters tell another story: 52% affiliate with the Democratic Party while only 23% lean towards the GOP, another sign of the increasingly Romney's increasingly uphill battle to win over voters crucial to the outcome of the fall election.

The Demographics Of The President's Approval Numbers

Posted Apr 17, 2012 at 8:31 AM by Maurice Berger

Gallup has a fascinating demographic snapshot of the president's approval rating, now at 47%. Significantly, he holds a solid majority from his own party (84%), and does extremely well with African American (88%) and Hispanic voters (61%). The demographic breakdown also suggest a few red flags for the President's reelection effort: only 36% of white voters approve of his performance, he polls no better than 38% with voters over the age of 65%, and--perhaps most significantly--his standing among independents hovers at 40%. The good news for the administration: approval numbers do not always reflect voter sentiment in a general election. Obama's fares much better with independents, for example, when pitted against his likely GOP challenger, Mitt Romney. Stay tuned.

 

53%
-5
49%
+4
38%
-1
36%
-2
71%
+1
88%
-
61%
+7
84%
-
40%
-2
11%
-2

Independent Women Prefer Obama By Wide Margin Over Romney

Posted Apr 11, 2012 at 9:03 AM by Maurice Berger

One reason the president's reelection numbers have improved in recent months, according to a poll by the Washington Post is that his support among independent women -- a key group of swing voters --has improved considerably. According to the survey, "Obama had been trailing Romney by five points in a series of surveys late last year. But that number shifted dramatically in polling conducted in February and March, and the president took a 14% lead over the former Massachusetts governor, marking a net gain of 19%."

Most Americans Believe In Global Warning

Posted Sep 16, 2011 at 1:14 AM by Maurice Berger

While a number of Republican candidates for president reject the idea of global warming, most Americans believe in it. A survey Yale University survey reports that 53% of Republicans, 71% of independents and 78% of Democrats said they believe global warming is real. Interestingly, on 34% of who self-identify as members of the Tea Party believe in global warming; 53% do not.

Troubling Signs For Obama Reelection?

Posted Mar 11, 2011 at 1:01 AM by Maurice Berger

A just released Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that there may be problems ahead for President Obama in his 2012 reelection bid: Americans now believe the country is on the wrong track by a huge margin--64% to 31%. The move is driven largely by the rise in gasoline prices due to Middle East turmoil. A perhaps even more ominous warning sign: the president's job approval dropped slightly to 49% from last month, but his approval rating among independent voters--a key continuency for his reelection chances--took a significant ten point dive to 37%.

Self-Identified Democrats Drop Off

Posted Jan 05, 2011 at 6:39 PM by Maurice Berger

According to Gallup only 31% of Americans identified themselves as Democrats in 2010--a 5% drop from two years ago. That number also ties for the lowest annual average in the last 22 years. Democrats still outnumber Republicans by two points. But the most dramatic change is the percentage of respondents identifying as independents, which increased in 2010 to 38%, among the highest annual averages over the past two decades.

Gallup: Americans Support Two Key Elements of Tax Compromise

Posted Dec 10, 2010 at 1:50 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup Poll, "two major elements included in the tax agreement reached Monday between President Barack Obama and Republican leaders in Congress meet with broad public support. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed." Here is Gallup's breaking along party lines:

Support for Extending Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits, Among National Adults and by Party, December 2010

In terms of opposition to parts of the bill, Gallup notes: "Looking more specifically at the different ideological wings of each party, only liberal Democrats oppose extending the tax breaks for everyone: 39% are in favor, while 55% are opposed. Among the other groups, support ranges from 64% of conservative/moderate Democrats to 87% of conservative Republicans. "Similarly, conservative Republicans are the only political/ideological group opposing the extension of unemployment benefits. The majority of moderate/liberal Republicans are in favor, as are most Democrats, regardless of ideology."

Independent Voters Are As Angry As Republicans

Posted Sep 24, 2010 at 1:20 AM by Maurice Berger

In what may be another problem for Democrats, a new Associated Press-GfK Poll reports that 58% of independents and 60% of Republicans said "politics is making them angry," compared with 31% of Democrats. The GOP tilt of independent voters in recent surveys--and the anger that appears to drive the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and others--may give a solid competitive edge to the GOP in its effort to get out the vote in November.

Presidential Approval At New Low

Posted Jul 15, 2010 at 1:19 AM by Maurice Berger

According to several polls, President Obama is passing through a rough patch vis-a-vis public opinion about his performance in office. Public Policy Polling survey reports that President Obama's approval rating has dropped to a new low: Now, 45% of voters approve of the job he's doing; 52% disapprove. PPP continues: "The two most troublesome things for Obama in his numbers at this point are his standing among white voters and independents. Whites now disapprove of Obama by nearly a 2:1 margin, with 62% giving him bad marks and only 35% saying he's doing a good job. With independents his approval is just 40% and 56% disapprove of his performance." Another poll by Bloomberg reports that Americans disapprove of President Obama's handling "of almost every major issue and are deeply pessimistic about the nation's direction, offering a bullish environment for Republicans in the November congressional elections . . . . A majority or plurality disapproves of Obama's management of the economy, health care, the budget deficit, the overhaul of financial market regulations and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, almost 6 in 10 respondents say the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause."

President Obama Behind With Independents

Posted Jul 08, 2010 at 1:32 AM by Maurice Berger

In another ominous sign for the President and Democrats in general in this midterm election year, the latest Gallup tracking poll finds President Obama's approval rating is just 38% among independents. This marks  the first time approval of Obama among independents has dropped below 40%. A year ago, his standing among these voters was 56%, +18% higher than today's numbers. 

Democrats More Confident About Economy Than Republicans Or Independents

Posted Mar 04, 2010 at 1:38 AM by Maurice Berger

According to a new Gallup survey, "Democrats were less negative than either independents or Republicans about the economy in February, as has been the case since shortly after President Barack Obama took office in early 2009. Democrats' -10 reading on Gallup's Economic Confidence Index in February compares to -34 among independents and -44 among Republicans . . . Americans' views of the economy clearly reflect their political orientation and can vary sharply, depending on which party controls the White House. Republicans are most positive when there is a Republican president. Democrats are the most positive when the president is a Democrat."

Indepdendent Voters Made The Difference And Now Spell Trouble For The Democrats

Posted Nov 04, 2009 at 3:00 AM by Maurice Berger

President Obama's approval rating on election day was at 50%. This number suggests a problem for the Democrats, especially to the extend that it reflects a drop off in independent voter support. Indeed, it was the dramatic decline in the support of unaffiliated and independent voters that gave Republicans a decided advantage in Virginia and New Jersey. The situation with indepdendents was dire: Republican Christie won independent voters in New Jersey by 30 points (60%-30%); Obama won them 51%-47% last year. McDonnell in Virginia won indies by 33 points (66%-33%); Obama held a slight 49%-48% last year.With a nation closely divided between the two mainstream parties, independents can now tip the balance in states and localities where party registration is relatively even. In New Jersey, the message is even more dire for the Democrats: with Democrats enjoying a significant advantage in party identification, Jon Corzine still lost. Does this prefigure Democratic loses in the 2010 midterms? Hard to tell this early. But PollTrack will be watching independent voters--as well as the President's approval numbers--very closely in the coming months.

Obama's Support Among Independents May Be Falling Off

Posted Jul 07, 2009 at 2:11 AM by Maurice Berger

While President Obama's overall approval rating appears to remain stable--hovering around the 60% mark--his support among one of the most crucial voter groups, independents, may be declining. A new Quinnipiac University poll reports that while "Obama's first five months in office have seen his job approval remain stable overall--currently at a politically healthy 57% - 33% percent--his disapproval has risen 8% - 10% points among several key demographic groups even as the national mood has improved somewhat in recent months, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.  Approval among independent voters is 52% - 37%, compared to 57% - 30% percent in a June 4 survey . . .  The survey of more than 3,000 voters also finds that voters feel 32% - 30% that things in the nation have gotten better since President Obama was inaugurated. Independent voters say 32% - 27% that things are worse, with 40% saying things are the same. " Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, writes: "Those who liked President Obama the most from the start - African-Americans, Democrats, women - still like him by the same margins, but a chunk of voters who were undecided have decided he's not their cup of tea. Among independents, men, white Catholics, white evangelical Christians and Republicans, his numbers have fallen. He still has a ways to go before his coalition becomes politically unstable, but there are some groups and issues - especially the economy - where he needs to make sure this trend does not continue."

 
 
 

Conservatives Are The Largest Ideological Group

Posted Jun 17, 2009 at 1:41 AM by Maurice Berger

How do Americans rate themselves on the ideological spectrum. According to a new Gallup poll, those calling themselves "conservative" have a slight edge. Gallup writes: "Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed . . . describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004. The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s."

How Much Are Americans Willing To Sacrifice To Provide Universal Health Care?

Posted May 21, 2009 at 1:59 AM by Maurice Berger

How much are Americans willing to sacrifice to provide health insurance for all. Not all that much if they are Republicans or independents, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey: Just "32% of American adults say they’d be willing to pay higher taxes so that health insurance be provided for all Americans. . . . 54% say they’re not willing to pay more in taxes. Most Democrats (54%) are willing to pay higher taxes to expand health care coverage. Most Republicans (77%) are not. As for those not affiliated with either major party, 29% are okay with the higher tax bill and 60% are not." 

Bellwether Colorado: Is Obama In Trouble?

Posted Apr 24, 2009 at 1:40 AM by Maurice Berger

In the 2008 cycle, the state of Colorado was the ultimate swing state, a strong bellwether of other states that have remained close in recent national cycles. Where does the state stand today with regard to Barack Obama? PollTrack suggests that the answer may not be good news for the new president. According to a new Public Policy Polling survey, Obama receives approval from only "49% of voters with 45% dissenting. . . . a much smaller swath of the electorate approving of [his] job performance than voted for [him] last fall, and it looks like a lot of that may have to do with [his] standing among independent voters. An average of PPP’s final three Colorado polls last year found Obama . . . doing spectacularly well among independent voters. Obama had a 24 point lead . . . But now only 48% of independents approve of what the President is doing with 47% disapproving."

McCain's Challenge II

Posted Oct 22, 2008 at 3:46 AM by Maurice Berger

Another big challenge for McCain--one that may be impossible at this point to overcome--is his standing with independent and unaffiliated voters. Last night's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had sobering news for the Republican: with 13 days to go, Obama has opened a breathtaking 12% lead among independent voters, 49% to 37%. While it is true that Obama does not break the 50% mark with these voters, and some may still be persuadable, these numbers present an enormous roadblock to McCain, who is facing renewed Democratic enthusiasm and a dramatic jump in new Democratic voters. In effect, in a two-party system that is now closely divided by affiliation, unaffiliated voters are the tie breakers. Why are they moving to Obama? [1] His campaign has been very effective at reaching these voters. Obama's first debate performance will probably be seen as a turning point in the election: cool under fire, eminently knowledgeable and focused, detailed in his response to complex questions and issues, the Democrat went far in allaying the doubts (and prejudices) of non-partisan voters. [2] The fundamentals of the economy are NOT strong. McCain's politically devastating remark, made hours before the full impact of the Wall Street crisis would become known, undermined his credibility on the economy at a time when most voters were losing confidence in the country and its direction. With under 10% of the nation believing the nation is "headed in the right direction," a national record, the electorate (and especially non-partisan voters) want a president who can make things better. [3] The Republican brand is suffering. With President Bush also breaking records with an all time low in public approval of his performance--and the Republicans in general blamed for the economic meltdown--independents may be ready for a change. Until the meltdown, McCain's own reputation as an independent and maverick helped to convince these voters that he, too, was an agent of change from the policies of the current administration. Indeed, until the Wall Street disaster it appeared as if he could actually win, despite the ailing Republican brand. What a difference an economic crisis makes.

One Reason The Polls May Be Narrowing

Posted Oct 21, 2008 at 2:31 AM by Maurice Berger

PollTrack would like to suggest one reason why the presidential contest may be tightening somewhat: Republican voters--and conservative leaning independents--are coming home. Over the past decade, the nation has tended to be polarized along party lines; in the past four presidential and national cycles, party loyalists and fellow travelers eventually dropped back into the fold. Another, related reason may be that Obama peaked too soon. Generally, a candidate wants to reach peak numbers as close to the election as possible. With Obama polling as much as a +14% lead just a week ago, the only way his numbers can go is down as Republicans and conservative voters come home to their party.  Despite this narrowing, the underlying dynamics of the race have remained relatively stable for the past three weeks, with Obama in the high-40s, McCain in the mid-40s. Thus even if wayward Republican and conservative voters fall into line, it will difficult for McCain to make up his current deficit of around -5%. (This is true, of course, as long as independent voters favor the Democrat; after the conventions, they tilted sharply to McCain for a few weeks.) The electoral math may be even more daunting, given the Democrat's significant lead in all of the blue states and a modest advantage in most of the battleground states. With McCain rumored to be pulling out of Colorado (a rumor denied by the candidate and the RNC), he will need to pick off a blue state or two in order to reach 270 EVs. His campaign hints that it will fight for Pennsylvania, where Obama now has a +11.5% advantage according to PollTrack's average (though the internal polls of both campaigns apparently show a closer race).

The Fluid Independent Voter

Posted Oct 01, 2008 at 7:51 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday's ABC News/Washington Post survey observed that independent voters appear to be unusually fluid this cycle: "Movement continues among independents, quintessential swing voters and a highly changeable group this year. They favored McCain by 10 points immediately after the Republican convention, swung to Obama last week and stand now at a close division between the two – 48 percent for McCain, 45 percent for Obama" Another key voter bloc, Catholic voters--they've gone with the winner in last eight presidential elections--also appear to be quite fluid: "Preferences in this group are steady from last week,but essentially evenly divided – 47-46 percent, McCain-Obama. They had tilted heavily to McCain after his convention." Have these vital groups of swing voters settled into place? The fact that Obama's lead has decreased by 6% from last week's ABC News/WP survey (the Democrat's advantage was +9% last Tuesday; other polls continue to show a 4.5% lead on average)  suggests that the election may continue to be fluid. The answer could very well determine the outcome and/or the closeness of this election.

The Undecided Factor: Will The Debates Make A Difference?

Posted Sep 26, 2008 at 4:09 AM by Maurice Berger

The presidential debates could matter a lot in this election. No matter who is leading in any individual poll, all surveys report a fairly significant bloc of undecided voters, anywhere from 5% to 18%. PollTrack guesses that voters are pretty confused right now. While each candidate can count on a solid bloc of very committed voters, neither candidate consistently breaks the 50% in PT's national daily and periodic polling averages. The wavering segment in the middle--unaffiliated, independent, and undecided voters--has been fairly fluid the past two months, affording both candidates the lead at one point. One widely quoted article reported this week "the norm is for very little swing in candidate support" in the period immediately following presidential debates. PollTrack cautions against reading too much into voters' initial responses to the candidate's debate performance. Yet, debates have mattered a great deal. But their effect takes time to enter into voter's conscious and unconscious decision making. Most important, debates can affirm or allay doubts already present in the minds of voters: Michael Dukakis's dispassionate answer to a 1988 hypothetical debate question about whether his liberal views on crime and justice would be shaken if his wife were raped went right to voters' concerns about his clinical and unemotional approach to politics and governing. Conversely, Ronald Reagan's adept and reassuring debate performance in 1980 convinced voters that he was not, as many feared, an extremist out of touch with the middle of the country. PollTrack imagines that the debates in this cycle could well have a similar and powerful effect on the electorate.

Obama's Independent Problem?

Posted Sep 25, 2008 at 1:39 AM by Maurice Berger

With Obama's numbers improving in a number of battleground states, the candidate still appears to have a problem with independent voters. Yesterday's NBC/Wall Street Journal survey reports that in this key demographic, McCain leads Obama by 14%, up 6% from a month earlier. And while voters overall say they identify with Obama's values and background by a 50%-44% margin, those numbers are essentially reversed among independents. Obama leads overall in the poll by +2%: 48% to 46%.

The State Of The Race: 45 Days To Go

Posted Sep 19, 2008 at 1:33 AM by Maurice Berger

Yesterday, a rush of statewide surveys resulted in a changed Today's Map. What are the implications of Indiana going from red to gray, Minnesota from blue to gray? One important observation: it looks like the national divisions of 2000 and 2004 are still around. With the exception of usually true-red Indiana (PollTrack still believes the state will eventually trend back to the Republicans), the same swing states are drawning down to a tie. (And, yes, despite the fact that no Democrat has won the state's electoral votes since LBJ in 1964, Virginia is now a swing state: it has actually grown bluer in recent years. Consider the 2006 senate race, where Democrat James Webb defeated Republican George Allen by a mere 8,000 votes.) PollTrack suspects that these divisions may be sharpened by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates. McCain has been able to solidify the Republican base, take the lion's share of the very dependable (re: voter turnout) 65+ demographic, and appeal to independents. Obama does well with urban voters, young people, African-Americans, and Hispanic voters. The problem for both: they each appeal to the same constituent demographics as Gore and Bush, Bush and Kerry, leaving a slim pool of swing voters (married suburban women, for example) to essentially break the tie. PollTrack suggests that other factors--preeminently Obama's race, women disaffected by the Obama campaign's handling of Hillary Clinton, McCain's age, and Palin's  religious conservatism--are making it difficult for either candidate to eat into the other's base or to pick off large segments of independent and unaffiliated voters.

"Obamicans": The Myth of The Expanding The Electoral Map

Posted Sep 17, 2008 at 5:11 AM by Maurice Berger

Back during the primaries, Obama partisans and surrogates touted the idea that their candidate's popularity was so broad and deep that he would flip Republican voters (into so-called "Obamicans") and get the lion's share of independents in November. During the primaries, his campaign did capture its share of crossover voters, including a modest number of Republicans. What a difference five months makes. Now, the picture is quite different: with Republicans firmly in McCain's grasp and independents leaning his way, the electoral map is much as it was in 2004. During the primaries, pundits talked about Obama redrawing the electoral map by winning in traditional Republican strongholds in November (such as Kansas, the Dakotas, Georgia, and North Carolina). As PollTrack has noted before, this is not panning out. Further proof that both camps are relying on the same limited field of battleground and swing states comes this morning from the Wisconsin Advertising Project: "Despite much talk about an expanded playing field, by and large, states receiving advertising in 2008 look similar to the states targeted in the 2004 presidential campaign. The Obama campaign aired ads in seventeen states from September 6-13, while the McCain campaign aired ads in fifteen of those same states."

Independents Moving in McCain's Direction

Posted Sep 10, 2008 at 6:42 AM by Maurice Berger

Echoing a host of polls taken since the Republican National Convention concluded last week, a Fox News survey released this afternoon reports a "substantial shift in the vote preference. . . .  Independents now break for McCain by 15 percentage points, 46% to 31%." A month ago, Obama had a 1% lead among independents. The poll gives McCain an overall advantage of 3%: 45% to 42%. Significantly for both camps, it registers a large block of undecided voters, suggesting that this election is very much up for grabs.

Independents Trending Towards McCain

Posted Sep 09, 2008 at 5:49 AM by Maurice Berger

In an observation with possibly serious implications for the Obama campaign, Gallup now reports that independent voters have shifted dramatically towards McCain. He now holds a 15% advantage with these voters according to Gallup.

Palin has helped McCain consolidate the Republican base. The question, if Gallup is correct: Why are independents moving in the Republican's direction?

I another poll released today, Public Policy Polling (PPP) reports that McCain has a statistically significant lead in Florida: 50% to 45%. (PollTrack continue to call the state "Leaning Republican."). In a telling detail--which tends to confirm Gallup's results-- undecided or unaffiliated white voters are now almost all breaking for McCain. Over the past few months, McCain's share of these voters in Florida has gone from 53% to 55% to 61%

2008: Looks Like A Nail Biter . . .

Posted Sep 07, 2008 at 2:04 AM by Maurice Berger

With National periodic and daily tracking polls now reporting the race a tie (Rasumssen this morning: 48% to 48%) and both candidates appearing to inch up over the 45% level, are we in for a nail biter of a campaign?

The answer would appear to be yes. In 2006, the Democrats took back both houses of congress in a political environment that was even worse for the Republicans than it is today. Yet, the national race remained very close. Indeed, the Democrats took back the Senate by winning two highly contested elections-- Montana, and Virginia--by 3,000 and 8,000 votes respectively out of millions cast. In other words, the nation was and remains fairly evenly divided.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Obama should be way ahead right now--given voters generally negative view of the Republican brand. Yet, sharp divisions within the electorate suggest that both parties are evenly divided in support, with each maintaining a base of about 40%. This leaves independents, unaffiliated, and undecided voters to make up the difference. And these voters, too, appear to be wavering and divided. After the DNC, many independents shifted towards Obama. Now they are moving back to McCain. With the Democratic and Republican bases now firmly in place, it is this shift that will account for each candidate's lead (or lack thereof) in the coming weeks.

These conditions are not that different from the last three presidential and national cycles. Indeed, the grand national realignment that the Obama campaign touted several months ago--in which Democrats maintained they would be competitive in tradition Republican strongholds such as the Dakotas, North Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, and Kansas--does not appear to be materializing. McCain is now leading in all of these states (by significant margins in some, and with only North Dakota possibly in play), in good part because he has solidified the Republican base and fired up Evangelicals and Christian conservatives.

Right now we're back to an electoral map that appears similar to 2000 and 2004--with just a few extra swing states thrown in (Colorado, Virginia, and New Hampshire being the most volatile right now).

A nail biter, indeed.

Palin and the McCain "Bounce"

Posted Sep 03, 2008 at 4:59 PM by Maurice Berger

Sarah Palin's speech--both a blistering attack on Obama and an emotional appeal to small town, middle-American values--no doubt fired up the Republican base. It, also, no doubt fired up the Democratic base.


The dueling bases each hover around 40%, leaving a large bloc of independent, undecided (including many Reagan Democrats and a smaller number of moderate Republicans), or unaffiliated voters. Thus, the key demographic to watch--one that will determine the height and depth of McCain's post convention "bounce"--are these voters. Obama has seen a modest up tick in support from these voters in his post convention numbers.

Is this the result of a successful convention, one that delivered the candidate's message effectively and helped build trust among unaffiliated voters?

Or are these voters reacting to Palin, whose hard right politics and religious fundamentalism edge her towards the political extreme rather than the center? Has the hint of scandals turned off voters who now suspect that McCain—a candidate whose major selling point is his bold and clear-headed judgment—exercised poor judgment or even political expediency during the vetting process?

Can one commanding speech alter this dynamic? And, perhaps most important, will the choice of running mates in this election, as in most presidential cycles, have little effect on the outcome?