Daily Fluctuations in Polls

Regular readers may have noticed that, while I will comment on them from time to time, I write far less about the polls than many other political blogs. While the overall trend showing that Obama has a possibly insurmountable lead (at least based upon past elections at this stage), the day to day changes are not as significant as many make them out to be. A good example can be seen in the Gallup daily tracking polls.

Last week Obama had gone up by as many as eleven points. Suddenly he had a day yesterday in which he was only up by seven and some were using this to claim that John McCain was making a come back. More likely it is just part of the daily noise in the poll which is not precise enough to mean very much on a day to day basis. My discounting of yesterday’s result was verified today, with Obama back up by ten points. Other polls are showing similar results, such as a Washington Post-ABC News poll also showing Obama leading by ten.

These day to day variations do not mean much, unless there is a sustained trend. Even an upward move by McCain does not mean that the fundamentals of the race are changing. It is common for a politician who trails by this much to close the gap by election day. It is highly unlikely for a candidate this far behind to actually win. Hubert Humphrey came back from twelve points behind, but still wound up losing a close election. If not for butterfly ballots and a blocked recount in Florida, Al Gore was almost an exception in coming back from seven points behind, but Gore did not have the obstacles of an ever greater deficit and tremendous sentiment to throw out the governing party.

This is not to say that it is impossible for the race to change, but it will take some major news and not more of the same attacks from McCain. The only case where a candidate came back from a deficit of anything close to this size was Ronald Reagan, who was behind Jimmy Carter 47% to 39% on October 26. In this case the debate wasn’t until October 28. McCain is unlikely to accomplish what Reagan did as in this case Barack Obama is the candidate in the Ronald Reagan role, having already reassured voters who seek a change in government that he is up to the job in earlier debates.

Something we don’t anticipate might still happen, and the number of presidential elections which had contests in which both candidates had a realistic chance to win do make up too small a sample to predict anything with certainty. Still there is enough history to safely predict that only major news can shake up the race and a change in the polls from one day to the next means very little.

Not All Right Wing Attacks Are Racist

Adam Serwer has an article at The American Prospect on What Right Wingers Mean When They Call Obama A “Socialist.” In the subtitle he writes, “Right-wing attempts to paint Barack Obama as a socialist aren’t just disingenuous. They’re rooted in a history of conservative smears against black leaders.”

There is no doubt a large element of racism in the right wing attacks on Obama, but calling him a socialist does not necessarily indicate racism. Just because the charge is ridiculous considering the influences of the University of Chicago on Obama’s economic views does not mean that racism is necessarily behind the attacks. After all, there are many conservatives who call all Democrats socialists regardless of race.

There are three traits which are common but not universal on the right. Racism is one, but is not the only source of their idiocy. Conservatives also tend to have distorted views of economics (including confusing Republican corporate welfare for capitalism) and tend to have very poor understanding of what liberals believe. This is largely caused by conservative pundits and politicians who typically base their attacks on straw men they have created which are quite different from the actual views of their opponents. As hard to believe as it may seem, there really are right wingers who believe all those talking points, including claims that liberals are socialists. They have zero concept of Obama’s actual economic views, or how in many ways Obama is really a fiscal conservative (as Andrew Sullivan pointed out earlier today.)

This is not to say there is not validity in Serwer’s post on the treatment of black activists, but only that being called a socialist could be due to the more generalized ignorance of conservatives as opposed to being due to racism.

Obama Picks Up Seventeen Newspaper Endorsements Over Weekend

Editor and Publisher reports that Barack Obama picked up seventeen newspaper endorsements over the weekend, compared to two for John McCain.  Their overall tally has Obama leading McCain in endorsements 28-11. Unfortunately such endorsements do not seem to have very much influence. In 2004 Kerry beat Bush in endorsements 220 to 205. Obama had picked up the endorsements of several newspapers which did endorse Bush in 2004 and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Editor and Publisher posted excerpts from some newspaper endorsements. One paper here in West Michigan, The Muskegon Chronicle, wrote an excellent editorial which was mentioned but not quoted. I’ll post their editorial in full under the fold.