Roundtable on What the Polls Mean

Roundtable on What the Polls Mean

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - October 24, 2008


MICHELE OBAMA, SEN. BARACK OBAMA'S WIFE: It will be close. Don't be fooled. We do not look at the polls. We don't listen to anything. We know that every moment counts. We take nothing for granted.

What I know is that Barack Obama will be the underdog until the day he is sitting in the oval office.

CINDY MCCAIN, SEN. JOHN MCCAIN'S WIFE: I really think we're going to win this. I feel really good.

John and I have been able to gauge a lot of things through the years, and what we see is what's in the crowds. We can tell in states, in places that we weren't doing very well, but we could see it and feel it. But we have had phenomenal outpouring of people. I mean, they're really excited.


BAIER: There you see the wives of the presidential candidates today-- Cindy McCain in an interview with Carl Cameron and Michelle Obama in Ohio.

As we look at the race, the polls are all over the place. The Gallup daily tracking poll came out 50-42, that's an eight-point spread. It was seven just yesterday. Associated press poll, the most recent one, 44-43. That's a one-point spread, obviously.

CBS news/"New York Times," poll, 52-39, huge spread there. And then the average, the Real Clear Politics average, 50.2 to 42.8.

So what about all of these polls, the state of the race, and the developments this week? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Fred, polls obviously at the end of races, throughout races, often are all over the place. You look at the average for where most of them are. What do you think explains some of these variations from one point to 14 in the CBS/"New York Times" poll?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, you get different samples depending on who is doing the polling. Some pollsters wait, you know, decide, well, we don't have enough Democrats in here. We have to give a greater weight to that.

And then you just have the normal thing, Bret, where you will get--if a candidate is really about five or six points ahead, the way I suspect Obama is, you will get some below that and some above that. And it's really quite normal.

You wouldn't expect every poll -- now we know there are dozens of them now, many by polling outfits we don't know whether they know the time of day about campaigns. But, in any case, they come up with numbers.

In any case, I think we can safely say that Obama is ahead by five, six, seven points. I certainly believe that.

And then there was a time when people covered campaigns when you didn't have all these polls and you got a feel for a campaign. And if you're good at covering politics, I think you could get a fairly accurate feel. And certainly this feels like an Obama lead.

BAIER: Mort, we saw today Michele Obama again urging caution. We heard that from Barack Obama earlier this week and the campaign.

But today David Plouffe, the campaign manager, had a conference call which he talked about confidence in the different states. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just cold hard numbers. In order for McCain to win Pennsylvania, he is going to have to win at least 15 percent of the Democratic vote, 95 percent of the Republican vote, and 60 percent of the Independent vote.

And we believe McCain is losing independents by about 20 points right now in Pennsylvania. So he would need a 40-point swing.

BAIER: Mort, do you buy those numbers?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Every poll conducted in Pennsylvania shows a significant Obama lead. McCain has been going there, and it is rated as solid for Obama.

McCain has been going there, and it's rated as solid for Obama, McCain has been going there hoping to steal it away. I don't know on what basis, but presumably there is some internal polling in the Republican side that shows that they have a chance there.

But, look, if you take the Real Clear Politics averages of the state polls, McCain is 113 electoral votes short of 270. He is going to have to take all the tossup states, all the states that are leaning in Obama's direction, and he'd have to run the table on all of it. I mean, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and just take them all.

And the chances of doing that-in a lot of those states, Obama is not yet over 50 percent even though he is leading McCain. But, again, as I say, he would have to win everywhere. And I just don't see how he puts it together.

BAIER: Charles, what about the developments this week? We heard Joe Biden earlier in the week, Sunday, talking about the possible crisis in the first six months of an Obama presidency. Now it is a part of a McCain campaign ad.

Did that shake things up at all? What about the developments this week?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't know if it shook up things, but it sure gave McCain his only real opening. His only real opening is that at the last moment people will step in the booth and they'll think twice about electing a newcomer. That's McCain's only hope.

And the reason why Obama is ahead is because in the four and a half hours of debates. He stood up there and looked fluid and comfortable, presidential, and he overcame a lot of that, perhaps all of it.

But I think McCain has to keep harping on the question is he ready, is he prepared. And when you get Biden himself saying that he is young and inexperienced, Obama, and thus that in and of itself will provoke a crisis, you have an opening.

I just don't want to add that after hearing Michelle Obama say we don't look at the polls, and seeing Cindy McCain saying I think we're going to win, you wonder if after 20 months of this campaign, is anyone able to tell the truth anymore? Even the wives, apparently, can't.

It's quite remarkable. It's hard to see, if you look at the map of McCain, all you can say is that if he closes three or four points nationally by harping in on the issue of say, preparedness, or perhaps taxes and spending, or his liberalism, then it will tighten everywhere.

But it has to be a real shift in momentum, and it's hard to see how it's generated internally in the absence of remarkable external events.

BARNES: There is one thing that is very telling today. There is one candidate who is visiting his grandmother in Hawaii, and there's another candidate who's out campaigning madly.

Now, obviously the one visiting his grandmother thinks he's ahead and is going to cruise to victory. That's Barack Obama. So, despite what his wife said, if he thought that his election were really in great jeopardy, he wouldn't be visiting his grandmother in Hawaii, which is a safely Democratic state.

KONDRAKE: The Obama people are haunted by the example of New Hampshire, where everyone said that he was going to beat Hillary Clinton, and he ended up losing by two points. They do not want people to get complacent.

KRAUTHAMMER: Sarah Palin has to shed a tear in a coffee shop somewhere.

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