Why Isn’t Obama Further Ahead?

Jake Tapper is on a real role today; now he has this ridiculously ignorant, but made for selling a compelling media story, article about the “close” polling wondering why Obama isn’t further ahead of McCain.

Now, more than a few people have responded to this, most noteably Noam, but I’m going to offer up a wholly unmentioned fact, at least so far as I can tell; 6% is a fairly wide margin in contemporary politics. The most obvious reason being the statistical rule of big numbers; the larger the number of people you’re working with, the smaller room for percentile movement at the margins, as otherwise large numbers of people become smaller percentages of the group as a whole. And taken in the context of recent American history, 6% could be considered at least a median range. In fact, since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide, only 2 elections (out of 5 total) were decided by more than 6%; George H.W. Bush’s 8% win in 1988 and Bill Clinton’s 9% re-election in 1996 (both of which, incidentally, would be within this polls margin of error). Clinton’s 1992 election was won by 6% of the popular vote, while Bush was re-elected by 1.5% in 2004 and, of course, lost the popular vote in 2000.

If Tapper could be forgiven for not checking for contextual framing for the poll, he can not likewise be forgiven for failing to so much as dig into the detail of the ABC News poll. He is after all, supposedly anyway, a journalist. According to the ABC News poll (but admittedly not the published analysis, which saw fit to likewise play up the idea of Democratic division and a tight, competetive race) Obama currently holds the support of “7 in 10” Hispanics. That’s absolutely astounding. John Kerry only managed 53% of hispanic votes in 2004, and pushing that to 70% would have flipped New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado from red states to blue, and John Kerry would be President of the United States. Additionally, the ABC poll (the full write up, not the sensationalized “analysis” Tapper links to) flatly states that, “Obama is not disproportionately weaker among Clinton supporters who comprised her core groups, such as women, seniors and working-class whites,” but that doesn’t even seem to make Tapper blush in leading his “take” on the poll with “No Bounce, Resistance from Clinton Supporters.”

I’d say, on the whole of it, it might be time for Andrew Sullivan to add a “Tapper Award” to his repertoire, for unmatched hackery and misinformation in journalism.