The Palin effect

Paul Burka reports from the Republican convention.

Roger Williams, the former secretary of state who is in charge of the Republican victory effort in Texas, has had a tough year. The lack of enthusiasm of the Republican base for John McCain has hampered fundraising and volunteer efforts and has threatened to depress turnout. But Williams was in a euphoric mood on Monday. The reason is Sarah Palin. “All year long,” he said, “people have been mad. Now, having a woman on the ticket has turned the energy level way up. All we have to do is keep this energy level. This is going to help our judges, our legislative candidates. If we get our vote out, we win.”

As I listened to him, I wondered: Does Barack Obama regret not picking Hillary Clinton?

Here’s the thing, though. For all the talk about the enthusiasm gap – and I’ve certainly been one of the talkers – John McCain has already mostly solidified his support among Republican voters in Texas. Remember that Texas Politics Project poll that I noted last month? Look at those crosstabs: McCain was supported by 90% of “Strong Republicans”, versus about 82% support of “Strong Democrats” for Obama, and almost 80% of “Not Very Strong Republicans” compared to about 53% of “Not Very Strong Democrats” for Obama. Who’s the one with the room to grow here? That’s what the Democratic convention was about, and that’s what is now reflected in the national tracking polls.

I know, that’s just one poll. But here’s Rasmussen‘s Texas result, published August 25:

This month, McCain is backed by 82% of voters from his own party and 16% of Democrats in Texas. Obama’s support comes from 75% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans. Among unaffiliated voters, McCain has a dominant 51% to 35% lead.

Again, where is McCain’s bounce going to come from? He’s already doing very well among the voters who ought to be happy with his selection of Sarah Palin. I’d say there’s a decent chance he could lose support among independent voters as a result of that, if the DNCC helped warm them to Obama, and if Palin’s hardline views help to remind the indies that used to be Rs why they’re not Rs any more. I can’t wait to see Rasmussen’s September numbers.

Now having said that, there are other ways to measure Palin’s impact on the state races. Williams touched on them – fundraising and volunteer efforts. It’s only recently that McCain had a better fundraising month in Texas than Obama did. He had a very good day raising money immediately after the Palin announcement was made, and his best month ever in August. We’ll see how that goes from here, as he transitions to raising money for the RNC and not himself. I don’t know of an easy way for me to compare volunteer efforts before and after, but I can rely on the good old bumper sticker metric to see if more people are out and proud about McCain. Her speech last night obviously went over well with the base, but will it have any broader appeal? We’ll see what the polls say, to see if there’s more people identifying as Republican, and more R and I voters picking McCain. This season has confounded us all at every step, so who knows what we’ll get.

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2 Responses to The Palin effect

  1. Jeb says:

    My impression has been that the Rs are more excited that she’s a social conservative.

  2. cb says:

    I agree with jeb. Palin is new on the scene but the message will be the same in regard to the issues. In the end after the media frenzy dies down the election will still be all about Obama and McCain.

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