The Final Fortnight

The debates are in the rearview mirror, the candidates are (finally) starting to ramp up their daily campaign events and you cannot turn on a television without hearing "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message."

But there are still a few things that could happen in the next 15 days and alter the dynamics of the presidential race…

1. ELECTION POLLS could/will tighten and prompt the inevitable "Mac is Back" storyline that the media may be itching to start writing (who wants to cover a football game that is over at the end of the third quarter?)

In the first ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll, Obama still holds a lead in overall vote preference, 53-44 among likely voters. This is essentially the same as last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll.

ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer notes that McCain has made gains on economic empathy and "change" since the third and final debate last week but those gains to do not alter the basic dynamic of the race.

Per Langer:
"Focusing on economic concerns at the debate and since, McCain has trimmed Obama's lead in better understanding Americans' economic problems from 31 points last week to 19 points now; on bringing "needed change" to Washington, from 34 points to 21; and as the "stronger leader," from 17 points to 8."

Advantages still remain for Obama: He leads in trust to handle the economy overall by 16 points (55-39) and leads more voters think he is the candidate that has presented the clearer economic plan (50-32).

2. EARLY VOTING stories start churning out of key battleground states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Colorado allowing the chattering class to start to project how Election Night will go.

Thirty-six states (including 11 battleground states) have some form of early voting. In person early voting started in Florida today and the absentee ballots are already starting to come in.

ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports the following numbers out of Florida, per political sources there:

FL -- RETURNED ABSENTEE BALLOTS
Republicans 295,130 51%
Democrats 199,849 34%
Independents 76,798 13%

FL -- REQUESTED ABSENTEE BALLOTS
Republicans 869,149 48%
Democrats 638,513 35%
Independents 285,970 15%
(As of October 20, 2008)

ABC News' Bradley notes that the Republican Party's returned and requested ballot advantage from this same point in 2004 is down.

Oct. 20, 2004 – FL RETURNED ABSENTEE BALLOTS
Republicans 95,604 60.75%
Democrats 46,041 29.26%
Independants 15,717 9.99%

Oct. 20, 2004 – FL REQUESTED ABSENTEE BALLOTS
Republicans 431,503 55.41%
Democrats 227,554 29.22%
Independants 119,632 15.36%

Obama continues his Sunshine State swing on Tuesday with rallies in Lake Worth and Miami.

3. REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT makes a comeback on the campaign trail – not with guest appearances, but through the McCain-Palin campaign messaging.

ABC News' Jake Tapper writes that in an interview with Republican talk radio host Hugh Hewitt last Thursday, Rick Davis, campaign chair of McCain-Palin '08, said the campaign is re-thinking McCain's earlier decision to not attack Obama on the subject of his controversial former preacher. http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/10/mccain-camp-re.html

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