The movement in national polls is one thing — McCain holds a small lead – but the electoral map (McCain now leads 227-217 according to RealClearPolitics) which is based on state polling tells a more dramatic story about the shift in the presidential race.
Despite spending an estimated $8-million on campaign ads in America’s biggest battleground state and putting in place the largest Democratic campaign organization ever in Florida, Obama has lost ground over the summer. Florida has moved from a toss-up state to one that clearly leans toward John McCain, fueling speculation about how much longer the Democratic nominee will continue investing so heavily in the state. Obama can still win Florida despite the polling gains McCain has made since naming Sarah Palin his running mate, and there is no sign Obama is pulling back in Florida yet. Far from it. Obama allies say he has about 350 paid staffers in the state and about 50 field offices, including in places not known as fertile ground for Democrats, such as Sun City Center, Lake City and Sebring.
Nevertheless Obama maintains a large staff and is burning millions of dollars there.
Likewise, a new poll today gives McCain a small lead in Nevada. (Even New Jersey is brightening for McCain with a poll showing the gap down to three points.) Virginia also now shows a small McCain lead.
None of this is irreversible and in none of the key swing states where McCain has moved ahead is his lead very big. But likewise it may be that some of these trends intensify — in McCain’s favor. Still, for now, some fifty-one days before the election (and less before early voting starts in many states), the race is starting to look vaguely like 2004. (And, speaking of 2004, in Ohio where the race was decided last time McCain also has a small lead.)
All of that said, Republicans should be under no illusion that this is in the bag. Democrats made that mistake and look where it got them.