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Lanny Davis: Still a Hack After All These Years

From his new column at Fox News:

What is pretty clear, however, is that Sen. Obama leads Sen. McCain as of now nationally by a relatively small margin — and about the same margin that John Kerry led George Bush in June of 2004.

That is the good news.

The reason for continuing concern for the Obama campaign, with which I am sure they would agree, is that the Gallup tracking polls (and virtually every other mainstream national general election poll) continue to show that the two are still so close — even with all the bad news on the McCain side of the political equation, from Bush’s below-30% approval ratings, to more than two-to-one wrong direction-right direction ratios, to the self-identified Democrats and leaners (who are at the highest gap over Republican identifiers in decades), fuel prices skyrocketing, and McCain himself conveying neither coherent themes nor projecting positively in the daily TV sound bites.

Yet, over the last six months, really ever since Iowa and up to the present, Sen. Obama has rarely, if ever, won more than 47% or 48% of the general electorate. That apparent ceiling, at least so far, should be worrisome to the Obama senior strategists and probably has been noted. It is reminiscent of both John Kerry and Al Gore’s polling numbers vs. George Bush.

Two quick points. Firstly, Davis is flat wrong that John Kerry held a national lead of the magnitude that Obama has now. Kerry flirted with a 2-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average at various points over the summer, but he never had the 6-point lead that Obama presently has in the RCP number. Al Gore, for that matter, trailed significantly for most of the summer (Bush led by an average of 5.3 points over 34 polls conducted in June and July 2000) before making a comeback after the Democrats held their convention.

Secondly, is Davis really still at it with that whole Hillary Clinton racket? At the time she abandoned her nomination bid, Clinton held about a 3-point lead over McCain in the national averages, which was pretty much her high-water mark all year. That’s still three points less than the lead that Obama holds now. And Obama’s gains appear to have come precisely in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida that appeared to make up the core of Clinton’s electoral argument (and also in Michigan, where Clinton never polled especially well), while he continues to poll strongly in places like Virginia and Colorado that Clinton might have had difficulty competing in. I would guess that, if you polled the 49 Democratic Senators on Capitol Hill, you wouldn’t find more than a dozen who would want to replace Obama with Clinton on the ticket right now. But hell hath no fury like a surrogate scorned.

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