Economic fear driving voters toward Obama

I’ve heard all week from election historians how economic difficulties often drive the electorate toward the Democratic candidate. More and more, given the economic news, it appears as though Obama is riding this wave. What changed between now and the conventions? Bad economic news which has just seemed to keep coming. Of course, as we know, it’s the economy, stupid.

I found an interesting article discussing this concept which I feel hit the nail on the head as to what changed in the past few weeks which has given Obama a strong lead.

Story on this from the UK Globe and Mail:

WASHINGTON — Economic fears among voters have produced a seismic shift in the U.S. presidential election in key swing states.

According to a spate of new polls, contests that for weeks seemed to be toss-ups, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Iowa, have swung solidly in favour of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. And several states that appeared to be safely in hand for Republican John McCain, including Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri and Nevada, have become the new battlegrounds.

At the state level, the situation for Mr. McCain is becoming desperate.

A week ago, all eyes were on Pennsylvania. The Republicans were challenging the Democrats in this key battleground state, with two different polls showing both candidates in a dead heat.

Not any more. A Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday puts Mr. Obama ahead of Mr. McCain in Pennsylvania by a whopping 15 points, 54 per cent to 39 per cent.

Three other recent polls, by Fox News/Rasmussen, Franklin and Marshall and Morning Call, all put Mr. Obama ahead by seven or eight points.

In Michigan, the other battleground state that the Democrats took in 2004 and simply must hold if they are to win in 2008, a recent Detroit Free Press poll had Mr. Obama in front by 13 percentage points.

With Mr. Obama comfortably ahead in the big states where he was considered most vulnerable, attention is shifting to two key states that the Republicans took last time out: Ohio and Florida.

Quinnipiac has Mr. Obama eight points up in Florida, while a CNN/Time Magazine/Opinion Research poll also released yesterday has Mr. Obama ahead 51 per cent to 47 per cent. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling has Mr. Obama up three points, while Fox News/Rasmussen has the race tied.

This is a marked change from previous data, which showed Mr. McCain with a modest but consistent lead in the Sunshine State.

Quinnipiac also has Mr. Obama up eight points in Ohio, although other surveys show the race essentially tied. Again, most previous polls showed Mr. McCain modestly ahead in the state that tipped the election for President George W. Bush in 2004.

So what gives with the shift since, for months before the conventions, Obama was unable to open up a lead anywhere near what he appears to have now.

Here’s the answer:

“There are three things driving this election right now: the economy, the economy and the economy,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in an interview.

Voters have long rated it the most important issue, and they have long trusted Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain to manage it. But that trend is accelerating.

In Florida, for example, the Quinnipiac poll shows 60 per cent of voters now rate the economy issue No. 1. And 53 per cent of all voters said they preferred Mr. Obama on the economy, compared with 39 per cent for Mr. McCain.

Unless the current economic crisis recedes in importance over the remaining 33 days of the campaign, or unless Mr. McCain can reverse the majority perception that the Democrats are a better bet on economic issues, then the Republicans are headed for a difficult day Nov. 4.

Polls have showed for months that voters seem to favor Obama on the economy which wasn’t a huge issue for McCain until recent weeks when the economy became front and center.

Of course, McCain’s lax schedule of weekends off doesn’t help him either.

As of this very moment on October 5th, things look for good Obama. However, there are about 30 days left in this race which, as we saw during the primary season, can change things on a dime.

So the article concludes:

So is this race over? Heck, no. If Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin exceeds expectations tonight or if Mr. Obama performs poorly in the two remaining presidential debates, the narrative could shift. And as Mr. Richards observes: “The one thing you can predict in this campaign is that it’s unpredictable.”

Mr. McCain could use a very strong dose of unpredictable, right now.

Palin held up her duty and performed well enough at the VP debate. I believe the race will come down to the final two presidential debates in which McCain will have to really try and unseat Obama’s current position. Obama will simply have to remain collected and hope nothing new comes up between now and November 4th.

This is the most exciting time of the campaign as both sides are doing their best to make no mistakes yet make effective attacks on the other side, it’s a tightrope.

The next debate is this Tuesday, October 7th at 9PM ET. The final one is Wednesday, October 15th at 9PM ET.