Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Week

One week to go, and there has been very little movement in the polls over the past 7 days. Obama seems to be ahead by 6-8 points in the national polls, and continues to run ahead by a few points in McCain must wins states like Pennsylvania (actually probably more than a few), Ohio, and Florida. Colorado may already be a lost cause, and although no one would give up on Virginia because of it historical voting, it looks like Virginia is going to be very hard to get too. (Obama seems to be making some runs in places like Montana and even Arizona, but McCain doesn’t appear to be making any similar inroads into Obama states – except, maybe, New Hampshire.)

The latest argument put forth by the McCain camp against Obama is this redistribustionist/Socialist/Marxist line. The problem is that 1) they can’t get the argument straight – the official surrogates won’t call him a Marxist or a Socialist, while the bloggers are jumping straight to Marxist or worse (Communist); 2) that redistribution of wealth is something that we have had for over a hundred years now – its called the progressive tax system, and has been supported by ever Republican president, including McCain fav Teddy Roosevelt; and 3) in an economy where tax payers are bailing out banks to the tune of a trillion dollars, and yet those banks have been paying there top executives 50 million dollars a year, a little distribution doesn’t exactly sound awful to the average voter. (Plus the time to make this argument, which is little different that the typical tax and spend argument that Republicans always make was in July and August, not with less than two weeks to go in a campaign, when many people have already made up their minds – or even voted!)

Finally, yesterday there was this brouhaha on the right about an audio/video tape from 2001, in which Obama was talking about the civil rights movement and the use of the Courts for social and economic justice. The right wingers jumped all over this, and Drudge ran headlines about how Obama thought it was a tragedy that the Supreme Court hadn’t re-distributed wealth. However, not only was that not what Obama said, he in fact said just the opposite. He said that one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement is that they focused too much on the Courts, and not enough on changing the political climate – a point that conservatives should actually agree with.

And interestingly, the conservative legal commentators [Bainbridge, Orin Kerr, David Bernstein] have not jumped on board; some have in fact been surprised by the depth of thought given by Obama to the topic. Even if they disagree with the policy aspects, few of the conservative legal thinkers could get worked up over what Obama said.

So, the Obama camp is on cruise control and the McCain camp is fighting amongst themselves. That alone should illustrate how the race stands with a week to go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

12 Days

Despite one outlier AP/GfK poll that shows the race tightening to a single point, the McCain situation gets bleaker by the moment. The latest national polls show him 8, 10, 12 or even 14 points down. The daily tracking polls are a little kinder (usually showing about a 6 point deficit), but they haven’t shown any movement McCain’s way in the past week.

The state by state situation is even bleaker. Despite some anecdotal evidence that the race is tightening in Pennsylvania or Iowa, the latest polls just don’t seem to support it. McCain supporters are left with the usual “polls are wrong” and “the silent majority will speak” arguments, that might be persuasive in a tighter race.

Further, the down-ballot races all seem to be moving Democratic. Even if you assume that Obama isn’t as popular as Democrats as a whole, this down-ballot tidal wave would certainly help Obama. (I don’t buy that assumption, but wouldn’t be surprised to see the “generic” Democrat numbers out perform Obama on Election Day.)

Not that all is lost for McCain, but it does mean that something new should be tried. Mike Murphy (McCain’s 2000 advisor) suggests a national address “Hail Mary” that would include a mini-Mea Culpa for the negativity that has been seen in this campaign. It might appear desperate, but at this point McCain has nothing to lose. He can continue to campaign as he has and lose, or he can try something different and hope for a miracle.

(That said, after listening to McCain’s grumpy appearance on the Imus show yesterday, he doesn’t appear to be in the mood for game changing.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Case Closed

There may be external events that can change the course of this campaign, but whatever those are, they are now outside the control of John McCain. Obama was eloquent and appeared knowledgeable and thoughtful on many issues. Much like his campaign, John McCain couldn't decide whether to attack, or whether to stress his record.

This was, by far, the best performance by Obama (and/or the worst by John McCain).

The fact that they were debating who was more negative was a loss for McCain. The fact that McCain left the Ayers issue of the table, even after Obama was begging him to raise it, until the very end of the question was a loss. Just having to defend Gov. Sarah was a loss.

Still over two weeks left, but after tonight I don't think that there is anything that the McCain campaign can do to beat Obama, he needs outside help.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


As far as the conservative reaction goes, it has been noticeable. The Corner has gone nearly silent, as opposed to the almost orgasmic response following the Palin debate. (Maybe McCain should have winked -- okay, maybe not.) And even worse, on the Weekly Standard Blog, (Stephen Hayes -- Dick Cheney's hand picked biographer) gives the debate to Obama. Even Bill Kristol couldn't muster much enthusiasm for John McCain's performance.

And of course, on FOX, Greta Van Sustren had only 10 minutes on the debate, and then immediately began reporting on Gov. Sarah's comments about Bill Ayers. I also didn't hear the Frank Luntz focus group, but I may have just missed it.

Expect the right wingers to bang on Ayers, and one would assume beginning next week, on Jeremiah Wright. Apparently since they have decided that they can't win on the actual issues, the GOP and their faithful have decided to try and tear down Obama. Frankly, this is a political tactic (or a strategy, I'll call John McCain to figure out which is which) that, if it was going to be used, should have been done in the summer (ala John Kerry and the Swiftboaters.) Doing so a month out of the election just seems desperate, and voters don't like desperate candidates. And frankly the GOP may have to worry about the brand here, if the next month is all about trying to tear down Obama, the GOPers down the ticket may suffer.

And for the record, the best strategy (or tactic) the McCain campaign has used is Obama's inexperience. Unfortunately, the Gov. Sarah pick negates this, and even worse, makes McCain look like a hypocrite. I don't think that McCain would be ahead right now if he had picked Mitt Romney, but I guess he wouldn't be so far behind, and at least a Obama gaffe away from the Presidency.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

2nd Debate - Staus Quo

It was very unwieldy, and I thought poorly organized. Was it the Tom Brokaw debate or a town hall setting? I don't really know, although I guess that the campaigns fought so much about format that it ended up as something that neither would like. (Of course, both campaigns probably figured that they would be ahead and didn't want to take any risks.) Either way, Obama emerges unscathed. Neither candidate came away with a big plus or minus soundbite, which I think was the big concern when these rules were negotiated.

The big item out of this debate might be the mortgage buy-out that McCain proposed. It was strangely presented, and he didn't say how he would be paying for this, and I think that most people just found it weird. Plus how much will this cost? It sounds like it might be 300+ Billion, which can't be made up through the earmarks that John McCain rails against. (On the other hand, if this program will buy my house in CT for 2005 prices, I'll be happy to vote for John McCain, or he could just send me a check for $90,000.)

I know the conservatives will be disappointed that the entire debate wasn't about Bill Ayers, but my guess is that the Obama camp had a pretty good, maybe even devastating rejoinder if it was necessary. But despite the growing GOP desires, economy trumps some 1960's radical that most of us never heard of. I think that the McCain campaign realizes this, but also realizes that this is the last line of motivation for the base, and they can't give up on it. (Expect Gov. Sarah to talk about it every day for the next 27 days.)

In the end, the result was that Obama looked Presidential and McCain looked like, well, he looked like John McCain. Advantage Obama, and I'd be surprised if the polls don't slide even further his way by this weekend.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Not that I think that the election is even close to being over, but I wonder how different the reactions to Gov. Palin's non-answer answers would be in a primary debate with the likes of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee. I think that all of them would jump all over the fact that she can't provide a real answer.

My guess is that if she is sent back to Alaska in November, she'll be spending the next three years studying. A performance like last night in 2011 simply won't stand.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Now they can exhale

The McCain campaign and many conservatives found out that it is actually possible to hold your breath for 90 minutes tonight. And when they actually drew breath again they were elated. Sarah Palin did not fall on her face or burst out in tears . . . therefore she won!

However, conservatives have been so down over the past few weeks, and Palin's performance has been so bad during that time, her performance tonight will be something to get them reved up again.

In the end, as is usually the case, the winner was determined by your view point coming into the debate. For some, Sarah Palin's down-home, regular talk is just what is needed for the country. For others, her non-answers and cutsey folkisms were like 90 minutes of fingernails on the chalkboard.

From my view point, Biden was a clear winner on points (and fwiw, the dials on CNN certainly seemed to reflect that as well). Does that matter? I don't know. If the public feels that substance was more important than style, Biden will be seen as the clear winner. If style points are factored in, I think it is a tie.