From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** A new generation? A brand-new NBC/WSJ/MySpace poll is further evidence that the number of new voters who turn out on Election Day could very well decide the presidential contest. According to the survey, new and lapsed voters (those who didn't vote in 2004) back Obama over McCain by a 2-to-1 margin, 61%-30%. If you take the Bush (62 million) and Kerry (59 million) vote totals from 2004, assume turnout increases by 20 million additional voters (about what it did in 2004), and assume Obama wins these additional voters 2-to-1, then Obama would best McCain nationally by more than three million voters, 72.4 million to 68.7 million. But if turnout increases by just 10 million, then the numbers become Obama 65.7 million, McCain 65.3 million -- a virtual tie. "An Obama victory could very well depend on getting these folks to the polls," says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Neil Newhouse (R). What's more, we've done the math that a 20% turnout increase in swing states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia can flip these red states from red to blue. What has to worry the Republicans is that this is a whole generation of new voters who are leaning Democratic. What does that mean for the GOP's future? It was a whole new generation of young voters who grew up with Reagan who helped bring in a Republican Congress and two terms for George W. Bush. This generation of new voters grew up Clinton, could they be what puts the Democrats on a 20-year power trajectory?
*** Obama's challenge: But one potential sign of worry for Obama in this NBC/WSJ/MySpace poll is that these new/lapsed voters aren't as interested in the election as your average voter is. In the poll, 49% of them say they're very interested, but that's compared with 70% of all registered voters who said this in the most recent NBC/WSJ survey. "Obama still has a significant challenge to get [these new voters] to the polls," Newhouse observes. One note about the methodology in the poll: It was conducted partly online and partly by phone, the online portion was a poll of a panel survey. That said, the results are consistent with our normal crosstabs from our NBC/WSJ poll.
*** Time to change the subject? The campaign trail returns to Capitol Hill, as Biden, McCain, and Obama all come back to the Senate to vote tonight on the bailout measure. Isn't it interesting how eager both Obama and McCain are to see this rescue package pass? Sure, the two want it passed because they believe the country is in a financial crisis. But both also want the issue out of the way. Neither seems comfortable dealing with this issue (see last week's debate), and both appear to be tired of it taking up space on the trail. For McCain, it gets in the way of reform, experience, and tax and spending issues that he'd like to see at the forefront. As for Obama, while his campaign has certainly benefited politically from this mess, he would rather be talking about health care, Bush, and overall change.
*** More good polling news for Obama: A new round of Quinnipiac polls for Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- taken before Friday's debate and then after it -- shows Obama leading McCain in all three states and hitting the 50% mark in the post-debate surveys. Before the debate, the polls had Obama up in Florida by six points (49%-43%), up in Ohio by seven (49%-42%), and up in Pennsylvania by six (49%-43%). And Obama increased his lead slightly after the debate: He's up eight in Florida (51%-43%), eight in Ohio (50%-42%), and 15 in Pennsylvania (54%-39%). A couple of points to make here: 1) This is more evidence that Obama appears to have won Friday's debate perception-wise, despite many analysts declaring it a draw; and 2) This poll, in addition to a new Franklin & Marshall poll that has Obama up seven in the Keystone State, compels us to move Pennsylvania back to Lean Obama in our next battleground map.
*** In need of a new game-changer: Indeed, as a slew of new state and national polls are suggesting, McCain is now behind. It's no longer fair to call this a dead-even race; it's moving in Obama's direction. The question is: How does McCain stop this momentum? The fastest way is with the upcoming VP debate -- and it's not about Palin, it's about Biden. Palin's No. 1 job may be to attempt to bait Biden into a gaffe. They need Biden to step in it and become the weekend story in some form. It may be too big of a slog to try and resuscitate Palin at this VP debate. But if the campaign can make Biden seem like a net-negative for Obama, then maybe they blunt the Palin issues. It's not going to be easy. Biden has been one of the more disciplined debaters during the primary season, and it's one of the under-remembered aspects of his unsuccessful candidacy. How many times in this race, by the way, have we seen the worm turn just as it seems one candidate is running away with things?
*** 34 days later: Today, we're just 34 days out until Election Day. And given that mark, NBC/WSJ co-pollster Neil Newhouse reminds First Read to consider everything that has happened in the preceding 34 days: Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at Invesco; McCain made Palin his running mate; Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the Gulf Coast; the US unemployment rate hit its highest mark in seven years; Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and Merrill Lynch was bought out; Bush called for a $700 billion bailout package; Ted Stevens became the first sitting US senator to go on trial since 1981; McCain and Obama debated; and the House defeated the bailout package. "If the next 34 is like the last 34, we're in for quite a ride," Newhouse says.
*** Bubba watch: For the first time today, Bill Clinton hits the campaign trail for Obama. He'll be in the battleground of Florida, holding rallies in Orlando and Fort Pierce. Of course, given his recent tepid praise of Obama and effusive comments about McCain, Clinton's events today will receive a bit more scrutiny. And they come just as the McCain campaign unveiled a new TV ad yesterday that uses a quote from Clinton that appears to blame Democrats (in part) for the current economic mess.
*** More wolf ads: Without much fanfare and despite Obama's earlier appeal for them to stay out of the presidential race, Democratic interest groups have been cranking up their TV activity -- and they're targeting Palin. One of the least talked about, yet most provocative, ads this cycle has been the Defenders of Wildlife spot that blasts Palin for supporting aerial hunting of wolves. The ad had been running in the battlegrounds of Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, and now the AP reports that Defenders of Wildlife will extend that buy to Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, and even St. Louis in time for Thursday's VP debate. Query: Where are the Republican ads? We've seen some on Fox News and other cable outlets, but nothing for swing voters.
*** On the trail: McCain stumps in Kansas City, MO before heading to a fundraiser in Los Angeles. Obama campaigns in La Crosse, WI. And Michelle Obama hits events in Boulder, CO and Kansas City, MO.
Countdown to the vice presidential debate: 1 day
Countdown to the second presidential debate 6 days
Countdown to the third presidential debate: 14 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 34 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 111 days
Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.