1:30 p.m. ET: Does John McCain have a problem with women voters? Yes, he's got a woman on his ticket, but that hasn't stopped his polling numbers with the fairer sex from trending in the wrong direction.
Two of the major tracking polls, which do surveys every day and then release averages of the last three days' results, report today that Barack Obama has increased his advantage among women voters this week. The Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby survey has Obama boosting his lead in that demographic from 9 points yesterday to 12 points today (his overall lead went from 4 points to 5 points). And the Diageo/Hotline poll, which had the race down to one point on Wednesday, now puts Obama's overall lead at 7 points, fueled by his 9-point lead among women.
Why is this movement happening, and what does it mean going forward? The simple explanation is that women voters, even more than men, are concerned about the economy and are tipping toward Obama because they prefer him on that issue. It's also possible that they responded well to Obama's performance during the second debate, though it's still not completely clear whether the Democrat got a real bounce out of Nashville.
Going forward, does McCain's move to go all negative look smart or foolish? Might female voters be more put off by a hostile campaign than men would be? Alternatively, will attacks on Obama's basic character and judgment like the William Ayers ads worry women and drive them back to the safer, known quantity of McCain? Keep an eye on those tracking polls Monday.
8 a.m. ET: Here's John McCain's dilemma: On a day when the headlines are about plunging global stock markets, when GM faces potential collapse, when analysts wonder -- seriously -- whether this is "The End Of American Capitalism," how can the Republican's campaign possibly keep talking about William Ayers without seeming jarringly off-topic?
We have the answer this morning, sort of, in the form of a brand new ad being launched by the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee. Titled "Ambition," the spot attempts to kill two birds with one stone by linking Obama's Ayers asociation with ... wait for it ... congressional Democrats' responsibility for the housing crisis. How? By saying that "blind ambition" and "bad judgment" are why Obama worked with Ayers despite his past, and why Democrats wouldn't regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. See, so the Ayers story really is related to the economic crisis. The ad will be "televised nationally," according to the campaign, but let's watch to see how many free vs. paid airings it gets.
(That's not to be confused with another ad the RNC is running that mentions Ayers. Titled "The Chicago Way" -- and who doesn't love a good Untouchables reference? -- the spot is airing in Indiana and Wisconsin, where viewers might respond to the association of Obama with the purported evils of the Windy City.)
Much of the horse-race coverage today is not good for McCain, focusing on the negative rhetoric of him and his surrogates and the surliness of his crowds rather than, say, his mortgage plan. And the McCain camp isn't even completely unified on how negative it should go, with McCain saying Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright should be off limits and some advisers wondering why.
Obama, meanwhile, is still coasting along, occasionally engaging on the subject of Ayers but mostly talking about the economy. Main Street and Wall Street may be hurting, but the Democrat's bank account is not -- he's dropping $2 million per network on a half hour of primetime on CBS, NBC and possibly other networks. Maybe the campaign can boost the American economy just with its spending.
October 10, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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