I really want to see a new Pew Research national poll -- they were among the most accurate in 2004. Obama's lead is mostly stable in these national polls so I feel each group is probably getting a good feel for the momentum of the race (or lack thereof) It seems like it's the likely voter model that is really off this year. All the young people and first time voters can't be fully accounted for. The over sea's military vote is questionable too -- lots of unhappy military families right now. There is also the obvious issue of racism. The thing with racists are most of them are ashamed of themselves so it's hard to get any statistical sample.
One thing remains clear from all these polls: It's a very stable race. 90% of the electorate has made up their minds. The problem McCain is facing now is the solidification of support for Obama. Everyday that passes it becomes harder for McCain to etch away even 1% of the voters in any given state. McCain needs a major game changer at this point. The question is how far is the Bush administration willing to go to help him?
Produce Osama Bin Laden: Seeing as terrorism is not the big issue of the campaign I'm not sure that would change the game. Same goes for any Bin Laden audio or video recordings -- short of Bin Laden saying he's good pals with Obama. (given current CIA technology for producing fake videos I would not write this off as a possibility quite yet)
Terrorist Attack: Not sure this helps McCain at all. Puts the spotlight back on the failures of the last 8 years.
Palin drops out: Too late in the game for that. Radical right wouldn't allow it.
McCain drops out (or drops dead): Probably more likely but, again, that wouldn't really help the ticket at all.
Economy recovers: Simply not enough time for it. The fear and doubt would will linger long after the stock market has made a numerical recovery.
US attacks Iran: The most likely "game changer" event given how easy it would be for the Bush administration to pull it off. It's hard to figure how it would change things. Traditionally you'd think it helps the Republican party. I don't think McCain has been able to connivence voters he's a clearly better choice to deal with the situation. A lot would depend on how Obama responded. "we're in this war, we gotta fight it and win" vs. "we need to get the fuck out now"
Scandal for Obama: No, not a fake made up scandal like palling around with terrorists but a real scandal -- something with video or audio evidence. I don't believe a sex scandal would work though -- Clinton's popularity stayed strong throughout his witch hunt trial. I think it's arguable it would help Obama to some degree as voters are showing a lot of distain and mistrust for McCain's attacks right now.
If I were John McCain's campaign manager...
Keep fighting in the battleground states. Don't waste resources on defense. If you're going to lose VA or NC you have no chance in hell of winning in NM, CO, NV, etc. The only chance for McCain would be for the red states to come home to him on their own. Under this strategy he would need to aggressively fight in the battleground states. From the campaign schedules it appears this is what McCain is indeed doing.
Obama now needs to make the choice of which states to really focus on in the next 2 weeks. There are two ways to look at it:
1) Go for the landslide. Focus hard on OH & FL -- with some trips to VA, NC, maybe even GA. This is kind of an all or nothing strategy. If you don't win FL & OH you are then in a situation of relying on states you haven't aggressively campaigned in over the last 2 weeks of the election.
2) Focus on the battlegrounds, NM, CO, NV, and hope OH & FL fall in line. This strategy is a bit more conservative but maybe less satisfying to the left who desperately wants a big victory. It's the smart move though. It accounts for the possibility McCain could squeak out a victory in FL and/or OH. It's a firewall strategy. McCain can win OH & FL and Obama still wins the election.
I believe Obama will break 300 EV but only win the national popular vote by under 5%.