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Did McCain Really Get the Bigger Bounce?

Obviously with a headline like that, you’re probably expecting me to go all counterintuitive on you, and to some extent you’d be right.

Going into the conventions, the race was trending to Barack Obama by roughly 1 point. At the height of his convention bounce early last week, Obama had moved into a 5-6 point lead, indicating a convention bounce of 4-5 points. Now, over the past weekend, the polling appears to have transitioned into a 2-3 point McCain lead, indicating movement of 7-8 points.

But the question is where are we measuring the McCain bounce from. If you measure it from the peak of the Obama bounce, then indeed McCain has swung the polls more. If, on the other hand, you’re measuring it from the pre-convention baseline, McCain’s bounce is arguably slightly less — especially since Obama’s bounce was probably blunted to some extent by the Sarah Palin selection.

This is all academic, I suppose, but the point is that while the Republicans had a reasonably successful convention, the Democrats did too. Once the dust settles, I think you’re going to see some movement of evangelical voters further into the McCain category, and some movement of Clinton Democrats into the Obama category. I think we can say this because even polls conducted during the peak of Obama’s bounce had McCain gaining ground among evangelicals, and even polls conducted this past weekend had Obama gaining ground among Clinton Dems. Where other groups of voters will settle, however, remains to be seen.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.