Obama cautiously manages expectations, polls waver

Sen. Barack Obama began to temper the chances of his success on November 4th reminding his audience that he believes they could still “screw it up” between now and Election Day. Whether that’s true or not is anyone’s guess, however, it does speak to the Obama campaign’s conscience decision to begin managing election night expectations.

Report from Breitbart:

Barack Obama headed onto Republican turf Friday bidding to seal the deal with voters 18 days from election day while warning Democrats not to forget their ability to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

The Illinois senator was en route to Virginia, which has not voted for a Democratic White House hopeful since 1964 but is now very much in play as Republican John McCain struggles to shore up his own support for November 4.

But while he is flush with cash and poll readings that hint at an election wipeout, Obama issued a clarion call against complacency following a fundraising concert here late Thursday with Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.

“Don’t underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said, only half in jest. “Don’t underestimate our ability to screw it up.”

He added: “I want everybody running scared. Over the next 18 days, other than your family and your job, I want you to make a decision that there is nothing more important than bringing about this change that we need.”

A report from the CBS Early Show discussing the ongoing strategies:

While the polls have remained in Obama’s favor, there are a few stragglers now showing that the lead appears to tightening up and the race is coming back to the middle, report from the WSJ:

A spate of widely publicized newspaper and network polls over the past week have shown Barack Obama opening a big lead over John McCain. But other surveys tell a somewhat different story, suggesting the presidential race is still close, and the Republican has even gained ground in recent days.

The reason for the divergence: Pollsters are facing new challenges this year, trying to gauge whether the electorate is changing, and how much.

Surveys giving Sen. Obama a large and growing lead tend to assume that a growing proportion of voters are Democrats, and a shrinking percentage Republicans. They also point to a big increase in turnout, particularly among voters under the age of 30. Surveys showing a closer race assume less change in party affiliation in particular.

To be sure, Sen. Obama leads in every national poll, and the Electoral College map appears to favor the Illinois senator, who campaigns this weekend in Republican-leaning states that all voted for President George W. Bush.

Real Clear Politics, a nonpartisan Web site that tracks major polls, reported Thursday that Sen. Obama led Sen. McCain by 49.5% to 42.7%, based on an average of 13 national surveys taken in the past week.

The polls feeding into that conclusion show a wide range, from a CBS/New York Times poll giving Sen. Obama a 14-point lead, to a Gallup poll showing the Illinois senator with just a two-point edge, equal to the margin of error.

A Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll this week shows the Illinois senator leading by nine points, while a Pew Research Center survey gives him a seven-point lead. But an Investor’s Business Daily-TIPP poll shows Sen. Obama with a nearly four-point advantage. Recent polls by Rasmussen Reports and Zogby International show Sen. Obama leading by four and five points, respectively.

One Gallup poll shows the Democratic nominee’s lead has shrunk since last week, falling to six points from 10. “Clearly, the race has tightened,” says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Daily.

It seems to me that there is such a discrepancy in polls from Obama with a 14 point lead to Obama with only a 2 point lead based on the difficulty pollsters are having narrowing down the electorate. We’ll know on November 5th, however, hindsight is always twenty-twenty but that doesn’t help us now. I’d say it’s a 4 to 5 point race perhaps.

Either way you slice it, Obama has lead nationally, even if it has seemed to tighten over the past week.