Wednesday, Sep 10, 2008 3:10 PM UTC

The South will not rise again

Barack Obama's campaign had talked of making a play for a couple of Southern states, but that dream seems to be fading away.

It was just a couple months ago that Barack Obama’s campaign was talking big about making a play for some Southern states that had for years seemed far out of reach for Democrats. Forget just going after Virginia; the Obama camp had its eyes set on North Carolina, Georgia and maybe even beyond.

Well, for right now, that dream appears to be dying a quick (and, frankly, unsurprising) death. On Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Obama campaign has begun moving personnel out of Georgia. Three weeks ago, it stopped running ads there.

The AJC article does say that those staffers are being moved “into more competitive states like North Carolina.” But the ability of the Obama camp to make a serious run at taking North Carolina has been thrown into doubt recently as well. On Tuesday, SurveyUSA released a poll showing John McCain ahead of Obama by an astounding 20 points.

Now, that’s most definitely an outlier. McCain had been leading by only single digits in previous polls there, and another survey released on Wednesday, which relied on different party identification numbers, showed McCain up by just 4 points, within the margin of error. Deciding the proper ratio of Democrats to Republicans within a sample is notoriously tricky, especially in a cycle like this where the numbers are so different from the last election. So it’s hard to say which company has it right in this case. But SurveyUSA has a record of being one of the country’s most accurate pollsters. And, as FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver observed of SurveyUSA’s results in North Carolina, “Even if it is a big outlier — say Obama is really down 10 points rather than 20 — and even if it’s owing in part to the convention bounce — say Obama rebounds to 5 points behind — is there any way in hell that it’s going to be a tipping point state? I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. The only reason for Obama to be maintaining a field operation in North Carolina is to help [Democratic Senate candidate] Kay Hagan.”