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GOP memo foresees boffo Obama "bounce" -- all the better to flail him later

August 22, 2008 |  2:24 pm

DENVER -- Barack Obama will hit a home run with his VP pick, his campaign will shake off the doldrums that have plagued it this summer, Hillary Clinton diehards will let go of their grief and rally behind the party's new leader, who in turn will emerge from next week's Democratic convention with the huge bump in the polls that pundits have been awaiting.

The ravings of an Obama acolyte already addled by Denver's mile-high altitude?

No. In fact, it's the thrust of a memo by John McCain's director of strategy, Sarah Simmons, that was passed along to "interested parties" today (that includes us). And it may have established a new standard for setting the bar incredibly high for a rival  -- the easier to later scoff at the foe for failing to meet the expectations.

Simmons -- perhaps with a straight face, perhaps not -- insists in her memo that Obama is primed (or should be) to replicate the 16-percentage-point bounce in the Gallup poll that Bill Clinton got after the Democrats officially nominated him in 1992. It is "reasonable," she writes, for Obama "to expect nearly a 15-point bounce" out of his convention.

She dutifully passes along a chart of Gallup's post-convention polling for every campaign since 1964, which might be interpreted as undercutting her case. It shows how rare Clinton's surge was, and that bounces were nonexistent four years ago: John Kerry actually lost a poll point after his convention in Boston, while President Bush's standing rose by only 2 points after his confab in New York.

We look forward to Simmons' post-convention memo when, as almost assuredly will be the case, Obama falls short of the goals she put forth. For what it's worth, click on this line to read what she wrote...

... "Monday marks the beginning of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.  A combination of factors makes this particular convention historic on many levels.  Democrats have just completed an incredibly compelling primary cycle that has both energized and divided the Democratic Party.  Because of the unique nature of the Democratic primary, we believe Obama will receive a significant bump from his convention.

"This cycle mirrors Bill Clinton’s Democratic convention in 1992: A historic 16-point bump.  Barack Obama is more similarly situated to Bill Clinton in 1992 than any other candidate in recent history.  Bill Clinton was a new candidate on the national scene; he was running in a “change” oriented election cycle and the economy was voters’ top issue -- a dynamic he was able to capitalize on.  He received a 16-point bump coming out of his convention.  Obama is also a “new” candidate in a change-oriented environment.  And, like Bill Clinton, he will spend the convention presenting himself as the agent of change who will fix the economy.

"Obama will ride his VP bump.  In addition to Obama taking advantage of the political environment, he will announce his Vice Presidential candidate late this week.  This announcement typically gives a candidate a 5-point temporary bump that dissipates.  However, Obama’s timing allows him to maximize his Vice Presidential bump and sustain press attention for the course of the week.  He will ride the wave of an announcement from late this week (announcement expected by Saturday) through his speech on Thursday.  This means that whatever bump he gains from the announcement has the potential to be lasting.

"Obama will correct his underperformance with Hillary Clinton’s primary voters and emerge with a much more cohesive base.  This convention gives Obama a platform to unite his base.  There continues to be a divide in the Democratic base: Between 10-15% of Democrats are voting for McCain or sitting on the fence.  In target states, that number is even higher, between 15-20% in many surveys.  The Obama campaign knows that winning or losing in states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania depends on Obama’s ability to bring these voters home.  If his convention successfully showcases Hillary Clinton and heals the wounds from the primary, he will move large groups of voters in those key places.

"Obama’s stadium address on Thursday -- the 45th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech -- will result in effusive and overwhelming press coverage.  On Thursday, Obama will give a great speech, as has been his trademark.  The press will sing his praises and remark on his historic address and Obama’s place in history.  For example, The Associated Press today published an article comparing the historic nature of the addresses – a week before Obama’s speech.  This coverage will be impenetrable and will undoubtedly impact the polls.

"We believe Obama will see a significant bump, and believe it is reasonable to expect nearly a 15-point bounce out of a convention in this political environment."

-- Don Frederick

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