The latest CBS/New York Times poll shows Barack Obama with an astounding 14-point lead over John McCain. Fifty-three percent of likely voters say they plan to vote for Obama, while just 39 percent say the same of McCain; 6 percent remain undecided.
Over at FiveThirtyEight.com, the omniscient Nate Silver preemptively downplayed the size of Obama's lead, writing:
Presently, our best estimate is that Obama has about an 8-point national lead. However, CBS polls have leaned about 3 points more Democratic than the average this year. In other words, our baseline expectation is that a CBS poll should be showing about an 11-point for Obama right now.
You wind up to the Obama side of the +/- 3 point margin of error, and that's how you get to 14 points.
Seems like a good analysis. However, there are other numbers contained in the poll that should be similarly worrying for the McCain campaign and its supporters. For instance, independent voters have been trending at an astonishing rate away from the Republican nominee and toward Obama. In the last CBS/NYT poll, released Oct. 6, 39 percent of likely independent voters said they preferred Obama, while 49 percent supported McCain. Now, 51 percent support Obama, and McCain's number has fallen to 33 percent.
Moreover, 21 percent of voters said their opinion of McCain has changed for the worse over the past few weeks -- 7 percent said it has improved. (Broken down by party identification, which is the key here, I think, 10 percent of Republicans, 28 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of independents said their opinion of McCain had changed for the worse.) On the other hand, 17 percent of respondents said their opinion of Obama has improved, compared with 7 percent who said it has gotten worse.
Asked why their opinion of McCain had gotten worse, 22 percent of respondents gave Sarah Palin as their answer, 23 percent listed McCain's attacks on Obama, 10 percent cited his debate performance and 10 percent his economic policy, and 10 percent gave a description of him as "erratic/unsteady."