A little more than two months ago, I ran through a scenario that predicted what might happen if half of the Hillary Clinton Democrats who said they were going to vote for John McCain instead gravitated back to Barack Obama. The prediction was that the so-called “unity bounce” would be worth 4-5 points to Obama in the popular vote, bringing him northward of 320 electoral votes and making him roughly a 3 to 1 favorite to win the election.
That is almost exactly where we have Barack Obama’s numbers after a series of new polls from Quinnipiac. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads by 12 points — up from 6 last month. His Ohio lead is 6 points — he had trailed McCain by 4 points before. And then there is Florida, where Quinnipiac has Obama ahead by 4 points. Barack Obama has never before led a Florida poll — not against John McCain, nor against Hillary Clinton — so this is something of a watershed moment.
If Florida is in play, then John McCain’s defense is completely broken; it was the one traditional swing state that always had looked off-limits to Obama. More frustratingly for McCain, he had spent the better part of three days in Florida earlier this month, hoping to raise doubts about Obama among Jewish voters. Although Quinnipiac does not break out the Jewish vote, Obama holds a 61-31 lead in Southeast Florida, where most of the state’s Jewish population is concentrated.
Obama’s surprisingly strong lead in Ohio isn’t any better news for McCain. As recently as a week ago, McCain’s strategy looked pretty simple: target Ohio and Michigan, and hope to win one if not both. But now, Ohio looks tough for him, and even if McCain can steal Michigan, Obama has so many other places he can pick up electoral votes — Virginia, the Mountain West, Iowa, Missouri and now possibly Florida — that McCain still might have trouble winning a close election.
Obama’s lead nationally is still relatively small — we have it at somewhere between 4 and 5 points — but looks to be an unusually robust one in terms of the Electoral College. Rick Davis can probably give these numbers about another week or two to settle down before he has to start thinking about some fundamental changes in his candidate’s messaging.