Rasmussen has Obama and McCain in a tie. This is troubling.

(NOTE FROM JOHN: I’ve added my thoughts to the end of joe’s post.)

The trend of the tracking polls hasn’t been good of late. Rasmussen, which is a quite reputable poll, has Obama and McCain tied today — and with leaners (basically people who haven’t made up their minds, but are forced to choose for the poll), McCain is up by one point. This is the first time that McCain has tied or beaten Obama in the poll, Obama has always been up. Not anymore:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows the race for the White House is tied with Barack Obama and John McCain each attracting 44% of the vote. However, when “leaners” are included, it’s McCain 47% and Obama 46%.

This is the first time McCain has enjoyed even a statistically insignificant advantage of any sort since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3 (see recent daily results).

I’ve had a bad feeling about the direction of the campaign for the past couple weeks. We’ve been saying for months that McCain and the GOP would go negative, very negative. No surprise. That is what’s happening. Karl Rove and his crew are at their best destroying people and they’re running the show now. The latest tracking polls seem to indicate that McCain’s negative attacks are having an impact. The corollary is that Obama’s response hasn’t been working, or at least it hasn’t been enough. That needs to change, fast.

Granted, this is a national tracking poll and, as we’ve written many times, this election is about the states, because it is. I’ll be monitoring FiveThirtyEight.com for any movement on the state polls.

For those who think it’s too early to be worried, here’s some historical perspective: the first Swift Boat ad attacking John Kerry was launched on August 5, 2004.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I’ve learned that when Joe gets worried, it’s time for the rest of us to worry too (Joe was the one who predicted in early November that Hillary would lose the nomination and Obama would win it).

Obama seems pretty much on his own in facing down McCain’s increasingly nasty attacks (yes, we have the blogs, but the blogs aren’t enough by themselves – see my discussion of this further down). The conventional wisdom is that the best way to respond to these kind of attacks is to respond in kind, and blow them out of the water (note how McCain responded to Obama’s “race” comment, and note how it threw the Obama people off-balance – also, note what McCain did to Wesley Clark). You do that with the candidate himself, sometimes (if you feel a need to show that the candidate can get angry if necessary, i.e., has balls), but more often you use outside groups and surrogate members of Congress, and other third parties, like the blogs, talk radio, etc. But in this case, our outside groups were shut down a few months ago, so they’re gone, and many of their staff, some of the top political people in town, aren’t even working on the election at all now. As for Democratic Senators and House Members, they’ve been oddly silent over the past week or two, and at least don’t seem part of any larger, public, and coordinated strategy to counterattack. And yes, finally, the blogs are still here, but as I’ve argued many a time (see the Alito filubuster fiasco), the blogs can’t act in a vacuum. A proper political marketing strategy requires multiple layers, multiple actors, each complementing the other’s work, the other’s message, the other’s attacks.

Rasmussen’s poll today sends one message to John McCain. His disgusting, sleazy, personal attacks on Obama are working. We can now expect a lot more, and there’s little reason to think that they won’t be just as effective next time.

Just very, very disturbing.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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