From Dan Balz, one of the Washington Post's senior political writers:
Other aspects of the poll may be more problematic for McCain than the overall margin, however. The survey suggests that McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, got a real bounce from their convention, but that, as with bounces of the past, it has dissipated. Whether that's because of the new focus on the economy, a natural settling or other factors is less important than the fact that what went up has begun to come down.
Take Palin. There's no question that she has energized the Republican base. The crowd she drew in Florida on Sunday -- estimated at up to 60,000 people -- says she's captured the fancy of the party faithful. But the Post-ABC poll shows that independents are notably less impressed with her today than they were in the week after she made her national debut.
Actually, the McCain campaign claimed 60,000. Apparently, the real number was less than half that, but hey, for Republicans that were previously (and jealously) sneering at Obama's "celebrity", that's still pretty good. But it's clear that her waning fortunes are costing the McCain campaign much of the advantages she seemed to bring to the ticket early on, and the news media is noticing.
Of course, this shift in the CW is greatly aided by polling data. Thanks to our daily tracker, we had advanced notice of her precipitous collapse, but in time, other polling outfits have added to the body of evidence. So much so, that it's been impossible for the tradmed, except for a few dead-enders, to continue claiming Palin is a "game changer". Even the early Palin-fueled boost in GOP voter intensity is waning.
Similarly, McCain got a boost from his convention in the sheer enthusiasm for his candidacy -- an area where he has long lagged behind Obama. The new poll shows that strong enthusiasm for McCain fell back in the past two weeks and is now about half as great as for Obama. Can McCain rev up the enthusiasm down the stretch? The Obama campaign long has argued that this enthusiasm gap is a real advantage in the battle to get voters to the polls on Election Day.
And what about women? Wasn't she supposed to have been a boon among white women?
Did John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate lead to significant gains for McCain among white women? While this hypothesis fits easily into the media's coverage and the excitement around Palin's historic status as the first female Republican vice presidential candidate, continuing analysis of large Gallup Poll Daily tracking samples from recent weeks do not provide evidence to support it.
Among white women All Registered Voters
Obama McCain Obama McCain
9/15-21: 45 47 49 44
9/8-14: 40 51 45 47
9/1-7: 42 49 47 45
8/25-31: 43 47 48 42
8/18-24: 39 48 45 45
So check it out -- McCain had a 9-point lead before the conventions. During the Dem convention, that narrowed to a 4-point lead, and during the GOP one, it expanded back to 7.
Then, the week after, at the height of Palinpalooza, McCain expanded that lead to 11. Happy times! It even helped give him a Palin-fueled 2-point lead over Obama. Yet even at the height of the Palin craze, McCain's lead among white women was still only two points better than before the conventions. In short, the Palin-advantage was minimal, even if it looked outsized compared to the numbers during the DNC convention.
And now? McCain leads among white women by only 2 points, much worse than before the conventions.
If Palin was supposed to increase McCain's support among women, stealing some Hillary supporters along the way, then mission definitely not accomplished.
p.s. In case you are wondering, non-white women love Obama according to Gallup's aggregate data from 8/1-9/21. Among African American women, it's Obama 91-3. Latinas pick him 53-35. And Asian women 60-28. And there's little doubt where the "undecided" in these categories will fall on election day.