Senator Obama was expected to enjoy something of a bounce in the polls after locking up the nomination. At least according to Rasmussen, that's gone now. Obama and McCain are tied at 46% each in a two-way preference matchup. If you filter out the people who haven't made up their mind but are "leaning" one way or the other, it's Obama 43, McCain 43.
That's a dead heat, folks. The bounce is over and these two horses are running neck and neck.
To me, this means that the electorate is falling into its classic structure -- people who are Republican or at least are sympathetic to Republicans are picking the Republican, and same thing on the Democratic side. And guess what? The country is more or less equally split between those two categorizations. So there is almost no advantage to either party and the candidates are left competing for the moderate middle, which is shrinking in size as the public learns more about what each candidate would do if elected.
Looked at as a whole, the country is not red or blue, it is purple -- a purple made up of functionally equal parts red and blue.
So it's not surprising to see both candidates run to the middle, as they've been doing -- but in so doing, they cool their bases, which results in an erosion of support. Each gains more than they lose by doing so, but at the same time, it makes things murkier.
For now, I say the tie goes to Obama. Why? It feels like we've had Republicans in charge forever, and we're in a recession and gas in California has been hovering at four and a half dollars for several weeks now. Other prices of other goods are starting to inflate because of it; this has been inevitable, in my opinion, for about a year, and no one seems to have any idea how to stop it. The pinch is starting to kind of hurt. Is this all the Republicans' fault? No, but they are still perceived as being in power (despite Congress being in the hands of the Democrats) and therefore they get to take the blame for all of it. So it's still about change.
An administration unable the shake the legacy of an unpopular war or to effectively combat inflation. High gas prices. Closely-divided partisan identification with significant regional and urban-versus-rural cleavages. A bruising fight for the Democratic nomination between the party's Establishment standard-bearer and a surprising upstart who came from nowhere to stun that Establishment with a canny and innovative primary strategy, promising hope without offering any specifics. And teenage boys wearing shaggy hair. Folks, it's 1976 and we are about to elect Jimmy Carter all over again. Tell me I'm wrong.