Obama Still Strong In The Swing States Despite McCain Bounce

It remains far too early to predict what will happen November but the post-convention polls give clue as to how Sarah Palin might affect the race. Either candidate can certainly still win, but my suspicion is that the major effect of choosing Sarah Palin will be to change the outcome from an Obama landslide to a narrow victory. Choosing a polarizing candidate such as Palin has been called a gamble for McCain. The real effect might be to  help keep him from being blown out as opposed to helping him win.

McCain has certainly had an impressive bounce, and he managed to limit Obama’s by wisely springing his announcement the day after the Democratic convention concluded. The problem for McCain is that this might have converted an election which was primarily a fight for the center to a replay of the old Karl Rove campaigns aimed at the bases. The problem for McCain is that the Republican base is much smaller than it was in 2000 and 2004. Palin will help McCain avoid a landslide loss by preventing the religious right from staying home as they otherwise might have, but will hurt McCain among the independents, especially as the country gets a closer look at Palin.

McCain looks good in the national polls, at least for the moment,  but we know the election is really won in the electoral college. It doesn’t do McCain much good to expand his lead in conservative states which are excited about Palin if he cannot convert this into victory in the battleground states. The Fox/Rasmussen Swing State polls show reason for hope that Obama would still win in the electoral college, especially if McCain is now near the top of his post-conventon bounce. Nat Silver summarizes these polls, along with PPP‘s new poll of Michigan and SurveyUSA‘s new poll from Virginia:

At a macro level, these numbers seem like basically good news for Obama, since the overall numbers in swing states haven’t moved much at all – just shifted around some from region to region. McCain is polling about 3 points better right now than he was at the pre-convention equilibrium. It’s possible that those 3 points are manifesting themselves mostly in states that were already very red. Maybe Obama will lose Idaho and Nebraska and Alabama by 30 points rather than 20, but that doesn’t help McCain very much electorally (an exception might be in a state like Indiana).

In other words, I suspect that the probability of Obama winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote probably increased as a result of the post-convention dynamics. If you literally just looked at the polling out today, McCain would win the popular vote by 2-3 points, but Obama would probably be at least even money in the electoral college, by just barely holding onto Michigan and Pennsylvania and then either winning the Colorado/Iowa/New Mexico parlay, or perhaps Florida.

TPM Election Central reviews several swing state polls:

In Colorado, Obama leads by a 49%-46% margin, actually an improvement for him since McCain’s 49%-48% edge three weeks ago. Both results are within the margin of error.

In Florida, the race is tied 48%-48%, compared to a 48%-46% McCain edge from about three weeks ago.

In Ohio, McCain leads 51%-44%, compared to a 48%-43% lead for McCain from almost three weeks ago. Rasmussen has been the most favorable pollster for McCain in Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, Obama has a slim 47%-45% edge, not significantly different from his 48%-45% lead two and a half weeks ago.

In Virginia, McCain has a 49%-47% lead, not significantly changed from a 48%-47% McCain lead from over three weeks ago…

Separately, a new SurveyUSA poll of Virginia conducted this past Friday gives McCain an identical 49%-47% lead, with a ±3.7% margin of error. This is also not significantly changed from a 48%-47% McCain edge from over three weeks ago.

These state polls show that the increase in McCain’s national lead since the convention does not tell us very much about the real state of the presidential race.

Shooting Down The Maverick Myth


Above is the latest ad from Obama to take on the claims that McCain and Palin are mavericks (via Marc Ambinder). There is far more which could be said on this subject in a thirty second spot. I have one specific complaint. When commenting on the often repeated charge that Palin has lied about changing her position on the “bridge to nowhere,” the ad quotes The New Republic. Rather than quoting a partisan liberal magazine it would have been better to quote on of many mainstream editorials which have hit McCain and Palin on such dishonest statements. Obama could have even quoted Chris Wallace of Fox News or The Wall Street Journal on this subject.

AP has done some fact checking on this ad noting, “McCain and Palin together have told a broader story about the bridge that is misleading.” They conclude:

Palin’s reputation for standing up to entrenched interests in Alaska is genuine. Her self-description as a leader who “championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress” is harder to square with the facts.

The governor has cut back on pork-barrel project requests, but in her two years in office, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. And as mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million.

While I agree with the need to debunk claim that McCain and Palin are mavericks, or that they offer anything significantly different from what the Republicans have already done to this country, I am also becoming troubled by the way in which the campaign is shaping up with Republicans being on the offensive and Obama responding. Perhaps he plans to do this more as we get closer to the election, but Obama needs to go more on the offensive with more arguments than comparing McCain to Bush. Defense might win football games, but it does not win political races.

There are many specific points to hit McCain on. Obama needs to summarize both his tax plan and McCain’s to show both that McCain has been lying in his attacks. He can even quote Fox News on that one! Obama needs to show that both candidates promise tax breaks but that the major difference is that McCain gives tax breaks to the top one tenth of one percent while Obama gives the breaks to the middle class.

Obama needs to go after McCain on health care, showing that McCain’s plans will not do hardly anything for the millions who are uninsured or underinsured. In the past Democrats have been at the disadvantage politically in being portrayed as bringing about radical change as their plans are mischaracterized as “socialized medicine.” This time it is McCain who has the health care policy which the average voter would find scary. Obama needs to show how McCain’s plans would increase out of pocket expenses even for the insured. What good is McCain’s puny tax cut for the middle class if they must pay far more for health care under McCain’s health care plan?

Obama needs to take on McCain more strongly on foreign policy. Rather than letting McCain take credit for supporting the surge, Obama needs to keep the issue focused on the primary question of deciding when to take the nation to war. Obama needs to point out that he was right and McCain was wrong, raising the question as to whether McCain can be trusted to make decisions of war and peace in the future.

We know McCain and Palin know how to attack. After all, they are Republicans. Force them to actually defend their policies when the facts are against them. Conservative are great at rhetoric, but their arguments fall apart every time when confronted with the facts.

Obama v. Palin (Finally)

After the announcement by John McCain of his choice of Sarah Palin a large percentage of posts here were devoted to investigating her record and criticizing her extremist views. At the time many were saying that we should concentrate on McCain and not Palin as the top of the ticket was what mattered.

Even the Obama campaign seemed to be following this advice at first, but it didn’t bother me. First of all, I am not part of the Obama campaign. As the primary topics of this blog are on social issues and civil liberties, having a major party vice presidential candidate who was on the wrong side of these issues was a topic worthy of discussion regardless of whether this should be the major front in the campaign. Secondly, even if it made sense for the Obama campaign to avoid these issues, it would still be beneficial to have the media and blogosphere dig into Palin’s views and record. Thirdly, my suspicion was that this bit of conventional wisdom would change. The voters have been hearing about McCain and Obama for a year and a half and were eager to hear about someone new. While this certainly might not be the case in November, I suspect that, at least for the short run, the election campaign would revolve around Sarah Palin.

It looks like Obama has caught on to this. Via Marc Ambinder I find that Obama did bring up Palin when campaigning in Flint:

Well, how about Gov. Palin? She’s you know, an up and comer from Alaska. She – they’re starting to run an ad now saying she opposed the bridge to nowhere. Well now, let’s get the facts clear here. When she was mayor, she hired a Washington lobbyist to get earmarks  – pork barrel spending – all the things that John McCain says is bad, she lobbied to get! And got a whole lot of it. When it came to the bridge to nowhere, she was for it until everybody started raising a fuss about it and she started running for governor and then suddenly she was against it!

You remember that? For it before you were against it? I mean you can’t just make stuff up. You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid.

Well, maybe they are stupid based upon the recent polls. Besides, they were stupid enough to elect George Bush twice (or at least give him enough votes in 2000 make it close enough so he could get away with having the Supreme Court hand it over to him). Being right on the issues does not mean the American people will vote for you.

Fortunately the polls are just a snap shot of what is happening now and the bounce will only persist until the next major news event. Either candidate can win, but the election won’t come down to the current post-convention bounce.

There are many reasons why Obama needs to campaign against Palin as well as McCain but most come done to the fact that McCain is not who many voters believe he is. McCain claims to know how to fix this and fix that but never gives specifics. The biggest decision he has made so far was to make Sarah Palin his vice presidential candidate. The folly of this decision, and the incompetence shown by the failure to vet Palin, can only be clear when Palin’s lack of qualifications are demonstrated. The experience issue has turned from a disadvantage for Obama to an advantage, but only if he clearly makes the case that his experience is far more significant than Palin’s (and far more than being a community organizer).

McCain claims to be a maverick and fighter against earmarks. Arguments like Obama’s statement above help to debunk that one, but Obama cannot fight them on this issue alone. Obama cannot only show that McCain’s argument is a fraud. He must go on to show why his policies are better.

People think McCain is a moderate. Many voters even think he is still pro-choice, being unaware of how far to the right he has moved on abortion rights and many other issues. No moderate who respects the principles upon which this nation was founded would ever take a chance on an extremist such as Sarah Palin being only a heartbeat away from the presidency. Sarah Palin’s extreme views help give Obama reason to defend liberal values. Rather than running away from the culture wars as Democrats generally do, Obama should face this battle head on in contrasting his views with Palin’s. This was harder against McCain since, while he has made it clear he will give the far right the Supreme Court judges he wants, he is not personally identified with the religious right. While Obama would have difficulties targeting McCain directly on this, having Sarah Palin on the ticket makes it both easy and essential to do so.

Shake Up At MSNBC

Poor MSNBC has always been on the bottom with respect to cable news. For several years it attempted to be a conservative Fox News imitator, believing that’s where the money was. It never did a very good job of it and conservatives never had any reason to leave Fox. After Keith Olbermann became a hit they finally realized that with conservatives dominating the broadcast media, and with CNN having turned into the Conservative News Network(although far less biased than Fox) after Ted Turner left, there was money to be made with offering a home to liberal viewers.

This never worked out too well either. More Democrats wound up watching the convention on CNN than on MSNBC (with Republicans still sticking with Fox). Having Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews anchor political coverage was often more interesting than the other networks, but it was, to be mild, journalistically flawed. This especially proved to be a problem as the reputation of MSNBC also affected the reputation of NBC. The New York Times reports that Olbermann and Matthews are to be removed as anchors for the remainder of the coverage of the election.

From an entertainment point of view I am a little disappointed. MSNBC was often the network to turn to when the actual news was slow. It certainly could not be called objective journalism but it was the next best thing to having Jon Stewart as anchor. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to have a serious anchor and mix in personalities such as Olbermann and Rachel Maddow for commentary from the left, Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough for coverage from the right, and I’m not exactly sure what Chris Matthews might be good for beyond random screaming.

For now the plan is to have David Gregory anchor the coverage the nights of the debates and for election night coverage. There will be episodes of Countdown both before and after the debates. Other nights liberals will also have Rachel Maddow, whose new show begins on Monday.