Today, Barack Obama took back the lead in the Gallup tracking poll; he’s up by two points, 47-45. This is not a statistically significant lead; indeed, it means the reace is effectively tied. But what it does indicate is that, in the early going, the worrisome news about the markets is benefiting Obama. Gallup:
Today’s report includes two days of interviewing conducted after reports of the collapse of Wall Street financial institutions and changes in the stock market began to dominate the news on Monday. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data show that in each of these individual days (Monday and Tuesday) consumer ratings of the U.S. economy have become more negative. Similarly, in each of these individual days’ interviewing, Obama has led McCain in election tracking. There is thus a correlation between the bad financial news and Obama’s gains, although the data do not allow us to conclude definitively that there is a causal connection between the two.
What this suggests is that, when tomorrow’s tracking-poll number is out, we should expect Obama to be up more, maybe even by four points (since Gallup here is effectively saying that McCain had the lead in the first day of this three-day track; when that number drops out and a new number from today takes its place, McCain should drop further).
This should not be taken lightly. With the Dow Jones average plunging 450 points today and signs pointing to a short-selling attack on the two standing investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the economic news is only going to get worse as the week and the month progress. To recover his footing, John McCain will have to speak more forcefully about solutions to the problem rather than merely relying on a “they’re all greedy up there on Wall Street” line. Attacking corruption, demanding accountability, and talking about holding hearings and convening commissions are a Senator’s methods of dealing with a crisis, but they are not actually examples of leadership. They seem a little like preening, even though McCain has more right than almost any other politician in Washington to claim that he foresaw the trouble we’re in (David Frum has the details).
Still, that was then and this is now. If Obama benefits from bad economic news, the only way for McCain to deal with that is to change the story from the bad news to the need to cut a path out of the jungle.