Here’s what I think it’s safe to conclude: the GOP had a successful convention. John McCain now holds a 3-point lead over Barack Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll, his largest lead since May. And Rasmussen shows the race tied at 48-48, after having shown Barack Obama with a 5-6 point lead at the peak of his convention bounce.
We will have to see how the other polls weigh in (sorry if I can’t take anything from Zogby Interactive too seriously, although it is officially included in our model.) More critically, we will have to see what the new state-level electoral landscape looks like. Since John McCain’s daily results seem to be improving over the course of the tracking window, by the way, we should probably expect this bounce to get bigger before it gets smaller.
Still, we just don’t know in what direction the polls are going to move from here forward. There just isn’t any precedent for so many political molecules being packed into such a tight space, with the conventions and VP selections having come right on top of one another. If one assumes that the Republicans are getting a typical 6 or 7-point convention bounce, that suggests that the race still probably leans by a a couple of points to Barack Obama once the polls return to equilibrium, the current numbers representing some sort of short-lived, dead cat bounce along the lines of what happened to Walter Mondale in 1984. If, on the other hand, one assumes that both parties have had their say and that these polls already represent the new equilibrium, things are looking up for McCain-Palin. The truth, of course, is most likely somewhere in between. Our tracking graph still regards Barack Obama as roughly a 3-point favorite, but it is designed to respond cautiously to new information. If McCain sustains these numbers over the course of the next week or so, it will shift toward him relatively rapidly.