Hofstra's National Center for Suburban Studies had the misfortune earlier this week to roll out a fascinating new poll on the contours of the Obama-McCain race in the suburbs on the worst possible day -- Monday, at pretty much the very moment the House was rejecting the Wall Street rescue/bailout package.
We've finally had some time to pay attention to it, and it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in understanding how places like.... Long Island .... are shaping the race. The polling was done in late September and showed how critical the suburbs are: Obama dominated cities (57-34), McCain dominated the rural vote (51-35) and only the suburbs were competitive -- McCain 48, Obama 42.
The poll also, however, shows how deeply economic doldrums and the housing crisis have embedded themselves in the modern suburbs, and ex-Newsdayer Larry Levy, the director of the Center, says that's crucial to understanding McCain's decline as the economy has emerged as the leading issue over the past two weeks:
"Not only are there more enrolled Republicans in the burbs as a whole (there are different types of burbs, some still more hospitable to the GOP than others), but the poll shows that McCain is more in sync with suburban values and positions on the issues.
"The bad news for McCain, beyond the demographic shifts in recent years that have helped make the burbs politically competitive, is that the economic crisis has really hit suburbia hard. Thus, the candidate who has the best or most credible message on the economy has the best chance of connecting.
"And for now, especially after the past week, it is Obama. Of all the numbers in the poll, it's the economic ones that I found most surprising — even knowing something about the reality of the suburbs. About 38 percent of suburbanites reported living pay check to pay check. There are other similarly startling numbers. So much for the myth of the prosperous suburbs."