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Starting Gate: Shaken And Stirred?

"The American people aren't stupid." That was Barack Obama on the campaign trail yesterday dismissing the attempt by John McCain's campaign to co-opt the "change" mantle in this race.

Obama's suddenly harsh rhetoric was directed at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin over her sometimes different opinions on that infamous "bridge to nowhere," but it also reflected growing suspicions that this campaign itself has undergone some sort of fundamental change. At the very least, there's a lot of confusion over just what has happened over the past couple of weeks.

A rash of new polls out indicate that Palin's addition to McCain's ticket has given him an unexpected boost in a political environment in which he has no reason to expect it. The latest CBS News poll is just one survey in which McCain has taken at least as slim lead. And, as the CBS poll indicates, a lot of that is because of Palin, who has not only energized the Republican base but has also made a favorable impression overall. After her acceptance speech last week, 48 percent of registered said they had a more favorable opinion of her.

Looking at the Real Clear Politics rundown of recent national polls, McCain either leads or is tied in every one. Obama had an eight-point lead in the CBS poll after his convention, McCain now leads by two. The new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that McCain has reversed a huge gap among white women, going from an eight-point deficit to a 12-point advantage in just a week.

When it comes to polling, it's no longer "too early" to begin paying attention to them with the election just eight weeks away. But that doesn't mean we won't see some wild swings in between now and Election Day. And, of course, it's those state-by-state polls that matter most and, so far, there haven't been similar big shifts there.

Palin has clearly shaken the race up and after a week of trying to kindly dismiss her, the Obama campaign is changing tactics. And target number one is that bridge to nowhere. "She was for it until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it," Obama said at a Michigan rally. "You remember that? … For it before you were against it? I mean you can't just make stuff up. You can't just recreate yourself. You can't just reinvent yourself."

Maybe not but the McCain has done a pretty good job of remaking the GOP ticket with their pick of Palin. And it seems to have frustrated Obama's campaign, for the moment at least.

Around The Track

  • Obama's campaign is "struggling" to meet its fundraising goals that were set when they decided to opt out of the public financing system, the New York Times reports.
  • Palin has charged the state of Alaska over $43,000 for travel expenses since she became governor of the state, the Washington Post reports.
  • Hillary Clinton took to the campaign trail in Florida on behalf of Obama yesterday but while she criticized the GOP ticket, aides said not to expect a "cat fight" with Palin.
  • In anticipation for post-election legal fights, the Democratic Party has at least 7,000 volunteer lawyers ready to head to key states, the Associated Press reports. The Republican Party would not say how many they have assembled to be on had in the event of legal challenges.
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