Hillary supporters have not yet flocked to the Democrats’ tent, even though they concur with the party platform. Wary of Obama’s slim resume and perceived aloofness, the group remains a roadblock to victory. In this tact, the Republicans have succeeded: changing the election into a referendum on Obama. But this convention is about undoing that change and shifting the attention to McCain’s record. The indispensable Ambinder notes about the Democratic holdouts:
It is MUCH harder to convince them to vote for Obama because they LIKE him. It is much easier to convince them to vote for Obama because they think McCain represents a continuation of President Bush’s policies. (Obama’s campaign has polling data suggesting that an unusually large number of pro-choice Democrats don’t know that McCain is pro-life.)
In other words, Obama can consolidate the party by turning it against an external foe. And, using this week to unite the party will lead to a sizable and lasting gain in the polls, not some ephemeral convention euphoria.
Let’s delve into some numbers. Obama hovers in the high-seventies among self-described Democrats, although the precise number ranges from poll to poll. In the past four elections, the Democratic nominee has garnered 89-90% of the vote on Election Day; treat that figure as an optimistic ceiling.
Assume Obama comes out of the convention with 85% of the party backing him. The result: a three to four point bounce in the polls. Right now, the RCP average tacks Obama with a narrow 1.6% lead; the convention bounce would widen that gap to a comfortable margin and potentially put the election away.
It’s worth recalling a point Alan Abramowitz made during the tail-end of the primaries:
The fact that Democratic identifiers now decisively outnumber Republican identifiers means that in order to win, Democrats only have to unite and turn out their own base.
And that’s the purpose of the convention.