Polls showing John McCain tied or even ahead of Barack Obama are stirring angst and second-guessing among some of the Democratic Party’s most experienced operatives, who worry that Obama squandered opportunities over the summer and may still be underestimating his challenges this fall.
“It’s more than an increased anxiety,” said Doug Schoen, who worked as one of Bill Clinton’s lead pollsters during his 1996 reelection and has worked for both Democrats and independents in recent years. “It’s a palpable frustration. Deep-seated unease in the sense that the message has gotten away from them.”
Joe Trippi, a consultant behind Howard Dean’s flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign in 2004 and John Edwards’ race in 2008, said the Obama campaign was slow to recognize how the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate would change the dynamic of the race.
A major Democratic fundraiser described it a good bit more starkly after digesting the polls of recent days: “I’m so depressed. It’s happening again. It’s a nightmare.”