The Folly of Early Polls and the Success of Palin’s ‘Magic’ Bus / Open Thread

With about seven minutes left in last night’s NBA Finals game, it appeared the Miami Heat would cruise to victory, and most likely go on to win the series. After all, they led by 15 points, had the hottest duo in basketball dunking on Dallas almost at will, and teams that lead 2-0 in the Finals almost always capture the Larry O’Brien trophy.

But then something happened: there was still time on the clock!

In an amazing 22-5 run, the Mavs roared back from the huge deficit and won the game 95-93, stunning the Miami Heat and their fans. (Kinda fitting after the Heat did that exact same thing to the Mavs in 2006. And yes, I do try to forget the Mavericks are owned by the loathsome Mark Cuban. I’m pulling for them solely for Dirk and Jason Kidd.) The Mavericks now have the momentum going home and all the opportunity in the world to win the NBA title, something no one would have predicted halfway through the fourth quarter of Game Two.

The game isn’t over when it comes to Governor Palin and her favorability polls, either. In fact, it’s not even halftime yet. She has plenty of time to turn around her negatives and secure a victory. Signs in bellweather Ohio, in fact, point to the fact that Governor Palin is over-performing her favorability ratings. In other words, people say they would vote for her even though they don’t hold her in particularly high regard (as of yet). In a hypothetical match up with President Obama, adjusted for most recent actual voter turnout, Palin polls within the margin of error, according to Poll Insider.

Obama 46%, Palin 43.5% – Here we see a statistical dead heat. We rework the PPP numbers showing the makeup of the 2010 electorate of 36% Democrats, 36% Republicans, and 28% Independents. It is safe to assume that the 2012 electorate will be much closer to the 2010 one than to the 2008 one now that Obama has a (fairly unpopular) record in the state. Sarah Palin actually tops Obama slightly in Independents by 1% and even gets 1% more Democrats than Obama gets Republicans.

Even if you believe some of the more negative polls for Governor Palin, the same people telling us she has no chance probably think Hillary Clinton is president right now. After all, Hillary led Barack Obama by 33 points early on in the primary race in 2007-’08, right? Likewise Rudy Guiliani won the GOP nomination, right? Ooops, but he led significantly over Mitt Romney and John McCain at this stage of the last presidential cycle.

So much right now is up in the air. The GOP field is not set. The economy appears to be in a downward double-dip. And Governor Palin hasn’t even started campaigning yet on her own behalf. We have no idea what will happen to the support of Bachmann and Cain or even Romney and Pawlenty once Governor Palin starts making her move toward the nomination. For all the loose talk of Governor Palin being “toxic” to independents, the same was said of Bill Clinton when he won the nomination and the presidency in 1992, despite infidelity and allegations of drug use and draft dodging. Moreover, Hillary Clinton was also viewed as “polarizing” after her tenure as first lady, but went on to win two elections to the senate quite handily and famously make 18 million cracks in the presidential glass ceiling. She turned her image around and unexpectedly became the darling of the blue-collar Democrat.

Governor Palin may not describe her bus tour as “testing the waters” but it does, in fact, test the waters in several key regards. In highlighting America’s history and the good things about our country, she is testing a messaging strategy that makes the election more about our country, than about her individually, were she to run. Secondly, the bus tour tests an unconventional media strategy that she would deploy were she to run for president, one that relies heavily on local reporting, and unscripted appearances.

And finally, the bus tour shows Sarah Palin is a masterful campaigner when “campaigning” on behalf a Constitutional Conservative message. People who meet Sarah Palin in person come away impressed, as this gentleman confessed after a surprise encounter this morning in New Hampshire. Scott Conroy reported:

Palin’s formidable retail politicking skills and natural ability to connect on a human level could play well here with Republican primary voters like Jack Doykos, who happened to be eating breakfast with his wife when Palin stopped by the Golden Egg.

Though Doykos is still an undecided voter, he had a telling response when asked what he thought of Palin just after he met her for the first time.

“I think more of her now than I did 10 minutes ago,” he said.

And that’s just after one week on the Magic Bus tour. Think of what she could do in one year?

As someone who used to be a diehard Democrat, I can tell you without reservation that it’s possible to change hearts and minds quickly. I went from loathing George Bush to loving him almost instantaneously right after his moving RNC address in 2004. His love for our troops came through loud and clear and touched my heart. I can’t really explain it, but I suddenly had to go out and scrape the Kerry bumper sticker off my car the next day.

Palin can touch people’s hearts with her love of America, and love of Americans. It shines through. And even people who absolutely hate her may find themselves warming to her patriotism and common sense solutions to America’s problems. I certainly never thought I’d pull the lever for George Bush in 2004 after calling him an idiot for four years, but that is exactly what I did.

In politics, as well as athletics, the game is never over until it’s over. Those who engage in premature celebration over Palin’s unfavorable polls may find themselves in the same position as LeBron and D-Wade right now, wondering how they lost after they had victory “in the bag.”

Meanwhile, let’s all appreciate the success of the first leg of Governor Palin’s One Nation tour, with a little “Magic Bus” action from the Who, huh?

What else is going on tonight?

Here are some more pictures from the tour … and here.

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I'm a mother of three, and devoted Palin blogger.

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