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Posted by on Jul 9, 2008 in Politics | 11 comments

Gallup: Obama Leads McCain By A Hair In Potentially Ominous July Polling

The tepid good news from Gallup for Democratic Presidential presumptive nominee Senator Barack Obama is that he still leads Republican Presidential presumptive nominee Senator John McCain but by a hair — 46 to 44 percent, indicating a race that is now getting closer.

The bad news from Gallup is that the candidate who leads in July has in many cases — particularly in most recent political history — lost the general election.

But the truly bad news for Obama which Gallup doesn’t note is that in a time with soaring gas prices, signs that the economy should immediately check into an Urgent Care facility, and President George Bush’s numbers perhaps now ranked below that of salmonella, Obama is now part of polling that shows a sharply divided and polarized electorate. As Obama himself comes under fire for moving to the center (which he denies he’s doing) and some key Clinton supporters signal more interest in payback rather than supporting Obama for President, the Illinois Senator is seemingly stalled.

Is it a sign of the pre-convention doldrums — or of something more profound?

The Gallup poll numbers, which we regularly report here, indicates neither he nor McCain have hit a home run or are close to striking out:

The nation’s registered voters remain closely divided in their presidential preferences, with 46% of those interviewed in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from July 5-7 saying they will vote for Democrat Barack Obama and 44% favoring Republican John McCain.

Obama’s lead has been as great as seven percentage points over the past month, but has averaged only three points thus far in July, identical to his average lead for the month of June.

The fact that Obama has consistently held an advantage over McCain among registered voters in Gallup Poll Daily tracking since early June suggests that he could very well win the election were it held today (depending on voter turnout patterns). The important question, however, and one addressed in detail Monday on Gallup.com, is whether his consistently narrow lead at this point in mid-summer bodes well for him in November.

Gallup has found that the lead in July polling lost 6 of 9 competitive races. Not a good omen:

In 9 of the past 15 U.S. presidential elections, the candidate who was leading in Gallup polling roughly four months before the election ultimately won the popular vote for president. However, narrowing the set of races to the nine that were competitive, the early polling proved prescient in only three of those.

With Barack Obama leading John McCain by no more than six percentage points in Gallup’s early July polling, the 2008 race currently fits best into the “competitive” category. Given that assumption, Gallup’s election trends from a comparable point in previous presidential election years offer no strong indication of whether Obama or McCain is headed for victory in November.

(In 1976, Jimmy Carter, who won that election, was ahead by 33 points in mid-July, but the race narrowed significantly by Election Day and he won by only two points. Thus, for the purposes of this analysis, the 1976 race is classified as competitive.)

One tidbit of good news for Obama: a new Gallup poll indicates Obama is now gaining on McCain among voters who have less formal education.

In June, voters with a high school education or less were as likely to prefer John McCain as to prefer Barack Obama for president. That represents a change from earlier in the campaign — McCain led Obama among this group during the prior three months, but by diminishing margins.

What does this mean?

–Both the Obama and McCain campaigns know full well that in modern politics they have to be ready to adapt and respond – and mega-quickly.

–The Democrats and Obama can’t assume even one iota of victory in the race. It won’t be over until this lady sings and she isn’t even in the room yet.

–Both McCain and Obama will be looking for something to change the close dynamics of this race. The one who’ll shift it will be one who does something positive or fumbles so the other side can capitalize on it.

–McCain’s efforts to shore up his conservative base yet maintain his independent voter support are increasingly vital.

—Obama’s efforts to move to the center, woo over Clinton supporters and key former Clinton campaign elites who can work for him to win over Clinton supporters, yet maintain support from his party’s progressive base and independents are increasingly vital.

–All analyses in the new and old media on the political race written in June and July could be as outdated as May’s gas price signs by the fall.

But remember that polls do differ. Rasmussen reports has Obama enjoying a steady 6 point lead. Zogby has shown Obama with the same lead and way ahead in electoral votes.

But a look at the cumulative poll chart on Pollster.com shows the race is close — and stuck on close.

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