2:15 p.m. ET: With apologies to Thomas Friedman, the world -- specifically, the bizarre, overheated world of the presidential campaign -- is flat.
In the past month, there have been debates and ads, gaffes and controversies, tens of millions of dollars spent and hundreds of polls conducted. And yet basically, on a national level, the race on the last day of October stands almost exactly where it did on the first day of October. If you're not convinced, check out the numbers.
On Oct. 1, Barack Obama led John McCain by 4 points in the Gallup tracking poll, and he led by 6 points on Sept. 30. Today, he leads in the same (traditional) Gallup model by 8 points, after leading by 5 points yesterday. Obama's lead has moved 2 points up since Oct. 1 in the GWU/Battleground Survey, 2 points down in the Rasmussen poll and 1 point up in the Diageo/Hotline track.
For the overall trend, here's a useful chart:
Okay, that's not that easy to read. All you need to know is that this represents the average of ONLY the daily tracking polls, and that it starts Oct. 1 and ends Oct. 31. Notice anything? Today's margin is almost exactly where it was a month ago.
Now, that doesn't mean nothing has changed at all in the race. First of all, McCain has a lot less time to make up ground. Erasing a 5-point deficit in 34 days is very doable, doing it in 4 days is much less so. And Obama has brought more states into play, opening consistent polling leads in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and other states McCain can hardly afford to lose. Just today, Obama's campaign said it was going up with advertising in Arizona, North Dakota and Georgia, three states that did not look competitive a month ago.
Still, in that month, millions and millions of words have been written on Obama's lead expanding, or tightening, and McCain mounting a comeback, or falling apart. And in the end, it is as it was in the beginning. Four more days, and then the race really will change, one way or another.
8 a.m. ET: Tired by now of campaign ads? Deliberately using your TiVo so you can skip them? Well, good luck in the last four days of the presidential campaign, because new spots are still rolling off the assembly line. Republicans, specifically, seem to believe that an avalanche of aggressive ads is the key to mounting a comeback. So as a public service, we bring you The Rundown's New Ad Revue (note the kitschy spelling you just don't get on other blogs):
● John McCain's campaign unveiled a new spot this morning featuring words of praise for McCain from ... Barack Obama! The irony! The spot -- titled "Obama Praising McCain" -- features a quote from Obama lauding a McCain proposal on climate change. Where does that rank on the public's current list of the most important issues?
● McCain may have vowed that his campaign wouldn't bring up Jeremiah Wright, Obama's controversial former pastor, but that won't stop an outside group you've never heard of from doing it for him. The National Republican Trust PAC is up with a new ad The Rundown saw on CNN this morning titled "He Never Complained Once." It details Obama's long history with Wright and includes the money quote: "G-ddamn America!"
● Speaking of controversial topics, the group Let Freedom Ring continues to run its curious "Not This Time" ad, which features a black man speaking to the camera, explaining that he will heed MLK's admonition not to vote on race and thus won't vote for Obama. Who is this ad aimed at? Black voters? White liberals? White conservatives?
● Downballot, a holy war has broken out in North Carolina, where Elizabeth Dole is getting desperate in her efforts to save her reelection bid against Kay Hagan. By now you've probably seen Dole's controversial ad, which hits Hagan for taking money from supporters of atheistic causes and, kind of, sort of suggests Hagan doesn't believe in God. Subtle. Anyway, Hagan is up with her response. Closing question: When was the last time one candidate accused another of "bearing false witness against a fellow Christian"? It's been a strange campaign.
October 31, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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