As Obama's trip wraps up, the media will increasingly turn its attention to the polls. The predominant theme in media discourse will be 'What's up with those polls?'. (To review Obama as Christ-->Obama as FlipFlopper-->Obama goes round the world-->Polls: WTF!?)
What happened? He went abroad, his trip was executed perfectly, no gaffes, he got adoring coverage, and yet the polls actually tightened during this period. Political analysts across the spectrum will be put to task explaining the conundrum. They will speculate: They don't appreciate a candidate speaking to a foreign audience? Is it energy policy? Is it Iraq? Are American's just a racist lot. (It's true the MSM shies away from the last interpretation).
Eventually it will be uncovered that the culprit is a structural weakness in Obama's appeal which has always been present. Getting to the root of this weakness will require even more national psychoanalysis.
Constant attempts to explain Obama's poor polling can do nothing but further harm him as a laundry list of everything that might cause him to be less than trusted is recited.(Since it has already been concluded that this election is a referendum on Obama and therefore no MSM will conclude that people actually like McCain.) Look for new terms to be invented to encapsulate negative beliefs about or demographic groups opposed to Obama. (Something like angry white men, working class whites, Closet Klansmen, whatever term will help members of the media to wrap their heads around the phenomenon.) And expect this term to be a ubiquitous part of the election until November. Also look for a flip-flopper echo effect. (ie. media says Obama's a flip-flopper-->Obama's polls lag-->media wonders if it's because Obama is a flip-flopper-->Perception of Obama as flip-flopper is reinforced.)
Phase two will include a revised look at John McCain. During this period Mccain may actually see increased ability to drive the discourse and will inevitably steer it to Iraq. (Cause that's what he does.) This will be his best chance to connect with voters who have yet to come up with an affirmative reason to vote for him. Were he a more nimble candidate, one with Karl Rove or Fred Barnes as a chief strategist perhaps, he could possibly use this opportunity to re-position himself on energy/the economy. As he is the one-note wonder, this period will simply be a hazardous one where his frequent mis-statements will receive greater scrutiny. (Possibly by a deflated media somewhat embittered to discover they could not coronate the president as they could the Democratic nominee.)
Perhaps this is a good thing as it keeps the focus on his issues. Better a murky debate on Iraq than a murky debate on the economy. But if he fails to communicate a clear plan on energy, housing, and his philosophy of sound economic management, and Obama does those things this will obviously be pointed to as his undoing.)
That's pretty much the dynamic from now until VPs are announced. Since both candidates remain rather undefined, the veep choice will be particularly important.
Since we're going to be talking about polling, whatever happened with those New Hampshire polls? And the California polls? Why were they wrong? Why do we care what the polls say until we can answer why they were wrong? Shouldn't we just be disregarding them or assume that they might be vastly overestimating Obama's support?
It's possible we'll go into election day expecting a giant Obama victory and be surprised to see him lose every battle ground. It already happened once on Super Tuesday.