You can all stop hyperventilating now.
After yesterday’s polls showed little sign of Republican momentum, today’s polls — which incorporate reaction to Sarah Palin’s speech for the first time — now show some bounce toward John McCain. You can fill out basically every square in the ‘B’ column of your bingo card with the national polls today: CBS now shows a tie; Rasmussen shows the race tightening to 2 points (down from 5 yesterday); the Economist shows it at 3 points, Gallup at 4 (down from 7), Democracy Corps at 5, and the brand-new, Diageo-Hotline tracking poll at 6.
I would not worry too much about any one of these individual results. The CBS poll, for instance, which had shown Obama 8 points ahead over the weekend, had a fairly small sample size and a fairly massive shift in party ID, as can sometimes happen when you’re ringing people up while the convention is on the tube. That doesn’t mean that its tied result is “wrong” any more than its 8-pointer for Obama is “right” (polls conducted over the weekend have their own problems). But it does mean that there’s probably some noise in there, rather than true movement (especially since this poll was conducted before the Palin speech).
Clearly, however, there has been some movement back toward McCain-Palin; it’s just a question of magnitude. From what best I can tell (and this is not an exact science) the one-night results from yesterday’s tracking polls showed something like a 1-2 point Obama lead. If — and this is a big if — that is the extent of the GOP bounce, this is a somewhat underwhelming result for them. Last night and tonight should be among the best individual nights of polling that the Republicans see all year. If the best they can do is close the race to a tie, or an Obama +1 on those nights, they are not going to win the race based on inertia alone.
What they need, rather, is actual momentum: enthusiasm, buzz, media cycles won, new narratives entrenched. And they might get it — Republican spirits certainly seem to be lifted, and McCain and Palin gave a terrific, energetic performance in Wisconsin today. On the other hand, I think they may be making a major mistake if they follow through on plans to take Palin off the campaign trail. She is their narrative, buzz, momentum at this point.
A couple of state polls are out today too. Alaska certainly no longer seems to be in play, as Ivan Moore shows McCain-Palin opening up a 19-point lead, and Ted Stevens getting some coattails in his senate race as well. In Indiana, on the other hand, Howey-Gauge shows just a 2-point lead for McCain, suggesting that it still has some potential as a swing state.