This breakdown of the Electoral map and the trends within it shows that not much has changed since 2004 but that much of Obama’s presumed edge before his convention has diminished in the wake of the GOP’s convention. As this story puts it: red states are getting redder and many blue states are turning purple. I agree with those who say that the "bump" for the Republicans will smooth out/is smoothing out now that we’re a couple weeks past it. But the thing is that McCain’s initial "bump" was bigger than many dared to hope and, more important, it was also a stronger bump (because it was so jarring and fundamental) than the typical post-convention bump. It wasn’t just the afterglow of all the lights and cheering. After the confetti settles, we may see more sticking power to McCain’s bump than Obama would like. This is because the essential things McCain had to do with his bump were to energize his base and to make some reasonable inroads with voters on the fence in key states. He’s done both of these things and, moreover, he’s shown that he’s got a pretty good grasp of the fundamentals in the race. He’s shown that he wants to win and that he’s not going to be satisfied with the honor of the nomination. He’ll need to maintain his gains, of course, but I don’t see him slacking off.
As I said, if it was ever Obama’s to lose (though the static nature of the electoral map defies that thesis) I’d say he’s working on it. The truth is, howver, that I don’t think it was ever Obama’s to lose. Obama came at the election with exactly the same electoral map that faced John Kerry--despite dissatisfaction with Bush and a terrible mid-term Republican showing. Nothing fundamental has changed in the country to make people trust Democrats. Anger with Republicans for acting like Democrats does not translate into a desire to elect real Democrats. This election was always Obama’s to win and he was doing a good job of working on that while he had the momentum. But this was before the close of the primaries with Hillary. I think Obama lost the momentum in late April and that it was sitting in limbo until McCain gave it a reason to come out and switch sides two and a half weeks ago. The momentum is now with McCain/Palin. I am loathe to exude too much confidence because I never underestimate the potential of Republicans to blow it . . . but I think they’re going to have to blow it for things to turn around for Obama.
That said, I do agree that the problems in the markets and with the financial institutions present a golden opportunity for Democrats to exploit Republican weakness--at least in terms of public perception. McCain and Palin need to be on top of their game with this one and they need to develop an argument about it that is clear, concise, and penetrating (in other words, one that voters can easily repeat in arguments with their friends) and make that argument with some regular force to those voters who feel newly energized by their candidacy.