We saw the Obama campaign’s “Rear View,” a negative ad targeting John McCain, on KVOA, Channel 4, this evening, so it appears Barack Obama is not just running the positive ad “Something” in Arizona.
Meanwhile, a Mason-Dixon poll released today shows Obama trailing McCain by just four points.
You have to consider the source, but Daily Kos commissioned a poll that shows Obama within one point of McCain and ahead among early voters. That sounds a little optimistic to us, but we still think the close race helps Democrats in down-ballot races.
I have to say that I’m not a big fan of this from standpoint of marginal electoral strategy. A slew of recent polls in Arizona show the state close, by margins ranging from 1 to 8 points. However, this is the time of year when “close” means something very different from “functionally tied”. A 3-to-5 point lead in a state, which is where the Arizona polls average out, is fairly significant at this stage of the contest. That lead still belongs to John McCain.
And needless to say, it is hard to elucidate a scenario in which Arizona serves as some sort of tipping point state. Obama will not perform better in Arizona than in New Mexico, Nevada, or Colorado, neighboring states that have been polling anywhere from 5-20 points more strongly for him. Suppose somehow that Obama were to insult the Pittsburgh Steelers or something and lose Pennsylvania; could Arizona matter then? Not really. The Kerry states less Pennsylvania, but plus Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona total 267 electoral votes, three fewer than Obama needs for victory. Obama would also have to win something like Montana for it to matter (while losing Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina etc.). Our model thinks that the odds of this happening are something like 800,000-to-1 against.
Of course, this is probably not an ad buy framed around marginal electoral strategy; it is one framed around marginal media strategy. As Chris Cillizza notes, the tightish polls in Arizona, which the campaign can draw attention to with this maneuver, provide Obama with a good piece of evidence to argue that the national race is not particularly close. An ad buy in Arizona — and I’d expect this to be a very small, largely symbolic ad buy — is David Plouffe’s version of a Drudge Siren.