“Obamacans” vs. “McCainocrats”: The scoop

Over the course of the primary season, and now the general election, Obama – in an attempt at showing he’s a man who can “unite” Republicans and Democrats so as to help weave this image of a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere in DC (cough) should he become elected president – has talked about so-called “Obamacans”, Republicans who are supposedly switching over in heavy numbers to vote for the O-man, or who plan to come November.

Andrew Romano at Newsweek has done some digging on this claim and found that when it comes to which side has been crossing over more to vote for the other candidate, during the primaries it’s actually not Obama who won that battle; it was McCain.   General election polls so far show them running about even (via Dan Riehl):

As I discovered from examination the last 18 months of head-to-head general election polls, the answer seems to be “no.” In fact, John McCain’s share of the Democratic vote has typically–and surprisingly–been larger than Obama’s share of the Republican vote. In other words, it’s not that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scared the Obamacan masses off, as some pundits have theorized–it’s that they never existed (in any unprecedented way) to begin with. In December 2006–before the unfamiliar Illinois senator had officially announced his candidacy–McCain attracted 25 support among Dems versus Obama’s eight percent among Repubs, according to a FOX News poll. Those numbers tightened over the next few months, but Obama never established a sustained lead. A February 2007 Quinnipiac survey showed McCain with 17 percent crossover support, for example, versus nine percent for Obama; in a June 2007 sounding by the same firm, McCain still led 15 percent to 11. During primary season–between December 2007 and April 2008–McCain’s Democratic number hovered between 18 and 22. Obama, meanwhile, never climbed higher than 13 percent.

Much of this gap can be attributed to the primary clash with Clinton, whose supporters often said they preferred McCain to Obama in head-to-head polls taken before the final Democratic contests on June 3. But even though McCain’s support among Dems declined after Hillary bowed out–a natural result of Democratic unity–Obama’s Republican backing didn’t budge. Today, Republicans for Obama and Democrats for McCain effectively cancel each other out. The latest numbers from CBS News show Obama at 11 percent crossover support and McCain at 10 (and tied among Independents); FOX News puts the pair at six percent and seven percent, respectively. That deadlock mirrors 2000, when George W. Bush won over 11 percent of Democratic voters and Al Gore poached eight percent of Republicans–and it means that neither Obama nor McCain, both of whom have repeatedly boasted of their “strong record[s] of bringing people together from the left and the right to solve problems,” will be able to count on crossover voters to carry them to victory. They may not even best their predecessors.

Things could always change, of course. Perhaps over the next 84 days the newly-formed “Republicans for Obama” will add a game-changing number of actual Republican voters to its current roster of Republican politicians. But I’m inclined to see it mostly as a publicity effort. With Obama vacationing in Hawaii this week, the major challenge facing Chicago is finding a way to control the news cycle without its candidate’s help. “Republicans for Obama” was today’s solution–a convenient way to repackage a handful of well-timed GOP endorsements and reinforce the senator’s “post-partisan” brand in the process. Whether or not it reflects reality, or has any electoral impact, is probably irrelevant–as long as it transforms a few whispers into a day’s worth of headlines.

Keep that in mind when you read stories like this one of Republicans crossing over for Obama.  The mediots hype stories like this more than they do crossovers for McCain because, well, Obama’s The One and all ;)

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