Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some Thoughts About The Current Political Situation

As we wait for Obama to announce his running mate, here some thoughts about the political situation as it stands now.

1) The crisis in Georgia seems to be helping McCain.  As people get worried about Russian aggression, they turn to the man they THINK will be able to handle it.  For some reason, getting shot down, imprisoned and tortured is good preparation for high level diplomacy.  It's all about the American working class's fetishizing of the military - a trait actively encouraged by the Republican party.  Obama is still essentially tied in national polls but more worrying he's now tied in swing states he was ahead in (like Ohio) and according to real clear politics (see link to the right), he's now just barely winning the electoral college.  Before the Russian invasion of Georgia, Obama was looking to get way over 300 electoral votes.  

2)  Most of these polls are not including either Nader or Bob Barr.  But the first poll I've seen that does include both of these potential spoilers shows that once again, Nader's Raiders are far more likely to damage the  Democrats than Barr will be to damage the Republicans.  The LA Times did a poll that shows that Nader is getting about 4% while Barr is only getting 1%.  

3)  Obama still has a decisive lead in enthusiasm among his supporters.  According to the same LA Times poll (see link in item 2), 78% of Obama supporters are "enthusiastic" about their candidate compared to only 61% of McCain supporters.  The flip side is more worrying for McCain.  20% of Obama supporters are unenthusiastic supporters.  38% of McCain's people are unenthusiastic.  

4) Obama continues to have a huge fundraising advantage.  In July he raised $51 million and has $65.8 million cash on hand.  McCain had his best month in July (helped in part by a huge pay off from big oil companies for advocating off shore drilling) raising $27 million but only having $21 million cash on hand (McCain went into debt in June).  The DNC and RNC have different fortunes.  The RNC is barely out raising the DNC.  The RNC raised $26 million in July and has $75 million cash on hand.  The DNC raised $22 million and a similar figure for cash on hand.  Keep in mind that the RNC will want to devote a lot of their money to keeping Republicans in office down ticket.  

5) Obama is running adds that directly target blue collar voters in the rust belt (Ohio, Michigan, Western Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin).  There is the "hands" ad that LTG dismisses as all potatoes and windmills.  Then there is Obama's new "economic plan" ad.  In contrast, McCain is running a combination of attack ads and ads aimed at convincing people that he "feels their pain" with his "broken" ad.    And Obama is responding with ads showing McCain begging for primary votes by bragging about his ties to Bush - like this.  

Here is the problem with McCain's ads.  The first one starts with a cheering multitude chanting Obama's name.  The second one starts with a down note that admits that the status quo sucks - a status quo that most Americans blame on the Republicans, and especially George W. Bush.  What's more the "broken" ad is vulnerable to exactly the response that Obama's people have come out with, namely quotations by McCain himself bragging about how close he is to Bush.  

Summary)  I think Obama's troubles, such as they are, are related to the crisis in Georgia.  I'm assuming that will be resolved and at least off the front pages relatively soon - probably before the end of the month.  Obama's got better ads than McCain and he's quicker and better at counter punching than Kerry.  And Obama's got a lot more money.  Who Obama picks as his VP will tell us a lot about what his campaign expects the last stage of the election to be about.  Will he pick a foreign policy name with lots of gravitas, like Biden?  Will he pick another "outsider" like Sebelius?  Will he sacrifice control over his own presidency for the sake of buying the Clintons' support?  Or will he pick the Latino with the killer resume, Richardson?  Some potential candidates let him do several things at once.  For example, I think Jim Webb (Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy and retired Marine officer and Vietnam War vet with a chest full of medals) would kill several birds with one stone.  He's also from Virginia.  And although he's only in his first term in the Senate it would be difficult for the Republicans to say he doesn't have experience since he was in Reagan's cabinet.  At the same time, he's not someone who's been known as an insider so he has an "outsider" and independent appeal that would be useful to Obama's change message.

This post got a lot longer than I thought it would.  I'll stop now.


Dr. Strangelove said...

Good post, RbR. It helps to hear a status report and summary of the campaign... I can get lost in the minutiae. Here are my thoughts on your points.

1. Military affairs present one of the few arenas in which old, established politicians enjoy a built-in advantage over young, fresh faces--for exactly the reasons you describe. (To make things worse, RCP now has Obama losing the Electoral College as of last night.) But let's not forget that Obama's is the kind of campaign that requires constant effort to maintain a sense of "newness" and interest... And not only did the Olympics drown out everything except the Georgian affair, but Obama was also out on vacation last week. Fortunately, starting with Saddleback, Obama is back in the saddle. And I might add that I think Obama did well there, considering it was clearly Republican turf.

2. Several weeks ago I heard a breakdown of one poll which included both of these potential spoilers, and apparently most of the Nader voters had McCain as their second choice! (These were grumpy curmudgeons who apparently did not find McCain grumpy or curmudgeonly enough. One must admit, Nader beats almost everyone on those counts.) The local public radio talk show was agog over the idea... Although I was pleased they acknowledged the small sample problem made this a very iffy proposition. Still, I wish I could remember the source for that.

3. The "enthusiasm gap" is very important. I think the race may rest on this, especially if--as I suspect--it comes down to another battle of the bases a la 2000 and 2004.

4. Obama must be able to raise at least $80 million more than McCain to pull even with him, since McCain has accepted public dollars. So far he is earning $25 million more, which for four months is only $100 million net. Obama needs to do better than that to make his reversal on public funding worthwhile.

5. Obama still needs better ads, although I feel "Hands" was a good start. (I did not like the "broken" ad very much. Lousy production value.)

I agree with your summary, although we should note that Webb long ago took himself out of the running for VP, as have many other prominent Democrats. I think Obama would do best to choose a VP with good foreign policy credentials who also excites the base. Biden and Richardson are among the many residents of Yawnsville (somewhere near Georgetown).

Obama has indicated regional balance is not his primary concern. Assuming that is the case, I like the idea of choosing some prominent Democratic names. LTG has mentioned Dianne Feinstein, who works except for the "she's not Hillary" problem. I think Ted Kennedy would be a superb choice, assuming he continues to recover well. And on a fun note, Michael Moore has recommended Caroline Kennedy, "pull a Cheney."

Dr. Strangelove said...

I should note that two places where war does not help McCain are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The recent huge Taliban attack in Afghanistan shows how impotent the Republican strategy has been. Redeploying to fight the real enemy, Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan, has been Obama's theme and he should stay on message.

Raised By Republicans said...

I keep forgetting that Webb took himself out of it. Wishful thinking I guess. He would be perfect!

I think Ted Kennedy is way too old and in poor health. His being on the ticket would also be likely to energize the Republican base. In short, a very bad choice.

I've heard rumors about Daschle and I really don't get the logic on that one either.

It is odd. Bad news in Iraq or Afghanistan is bad for McCain but bad news from just about anywhere else may be good for him. I can only say that I think this would be the case because of the Republican branding success on foreign policy. Despite being the party of one foreign policy disaster after another since 1989, they continue to be given credit for being the presumed experts on foreign policy. They've also succeeded in convincing voters that foreign policy and military policy are the same thing.

Dr. Strangelove said...

There's always Lieberman.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There is no doubt that Obama's campaign is in a bit of trouble. Since August 1, it has been rather off-message. The prep for Denver and the VP choice is obviously part of this. But we're getting close to one of those tipping points. The DNC convention could not be happening at a better time.

Raised By Republicans said...

"The DNC convention could not be happening at a better time."

It's almost like they planned it like this...oh wait, they did.

USwest said...

Another problem has been that with Obama gone for a week, McCain has been able to talk about Iraq as if it just started in 2007 with the surge. Keith Olbermann did a great job pointing that out on last Countdown. He talks about "Winning" as if that is really an option.Smoke and mirrors. It's all smoke an mirrors.

Obama needs to come back strong that the war was, apparently already won, according to President Bush.

My feeling is that Obama is retrenching a little and getting geared up. The polls that will really matter will be after the conventions. People are just waiting now.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think Obama is going to devastate McCain in the "debates." He knows all these policies much more thoroughly. McCain only knows (barely) whatever talking point he's been told to give this week - and they often contradict what he said the week before. Obama thinks more than quick enough to take advantage of that kind of stuff.

USwest said...

Yeah,RBR, but that is what I thought back in 2000 as well. Guess what . . .

The Law Talking Guy said...

Beginning with the trip abroad, I feel as if Obama has wasted the last month. The polls show a slide. He has, quite simply, sputtered and lost momentum. Denver cannot be more of the same. This is a problem. His campaign has got to pivot back from foreign policy to the economy and Bush. Choosing Biden will not help in this regard.

On the other hand, once we shift back to the economy and Bush's failures, McCain has nothing to say. But for a war in Georgia that had nothing to do with his campaign, McCain would have had nothing to say this past month.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Demographically, Obama faces three problems. First, the working class / union Democrats from Ohio and PA that went for Clinton. Second, older women. (In these, you can see the reason Obama supporters remain furious at Clinton - we believe that these groups would be more disposed to Obama if Clinton had not campaigned so hard amongst them against him). Third, white suburbanites. He has focused primarily on the white suburbanites. This is what has given him a shot in CO and VA.

However, older women and working class Democrats are also, above all, economy voters. So the pick for VP needs to be part of a focus back on the economy. Edwards would have been a decent choice but for, um, you know.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree that the main issue in this campaign is the economy. Obama needs to combine a positive message with broad and, frankly, simplistic appeal with scathing negative attacks on McCain's similarity to Bush. He needs to flood the airwaves with his own economic plan and mix in a healthy dose of ads showing McCain hugging Bush with McCain's 95% pro Bush voting record superimposed on the picture.

I'm not sure I agree that the last month was completely wasted. Obama had to check the "travel overseas" and "tour Iraq" boxes before the debates or else McCain would lambast him for being disinterested in national security. It was a costly exercise for Obama but he had to do it. When he got back, he had the Olympics dominating people's attention and the convention to plan and a VP to pick.

But yes, it is now "go time." Obama has got to come out swinging with the vigor he displayed in the primaries.

USWest said...

And Obama may have to simplify his message. What pisses me off is that people like McCain and Bush talk in these short, nothing sentences . . .when they can even get trough a sentence . . . that contain no content, but also no ambiguity. And the masses suck it up. "he's an average Joe, like us! We like him." And then we get democrats like Kerry and like Obama who are articulate and practical and who recognize the complexities of problems and who, as a result, speak in more nuanced tones. And they get hit with "flip flopper" "indecisive" etc. So time and again, they vote for the "black and white straight talker" whom they understand, and people like Obama get dinged. And it doesn't matter to these people that the "straight talker" is lying through his teeth, and most of them, based on recent poll releases, don't realize how much flip flopping McCain has done! They forget. Their little pea-brained memories forget.

This is what worries me about the debates. If Obama doesn't remain straightforward and concise, it will be Bush v. Gore, Bush v. Kerry all over again. It's fine to soar with the rhetoric, but don't get too fancy because he'll inspire, but make Joe Bob feel inferior. And so help him if Joe Bob is made to feel inferior by a black man.

If McCain manages to set the bar so low like Bush did, then Obama will be declared the "loser" every time just because McCain managed to get through without drooling on himself.

Raised By Republicans said...

McCain has had so many positions on the key issues I doubt he'll be able to keep them straight in the debates. He's already had a "I voted for it before I voted against it" type moment on the New GI Bill - which he opposed.

The biggest flip flop that McCain can't escape that I expect Obama to nail him with in a debate is his connection to Bush. In the Primaries McCain made his 95% pro-Bush voting the center piece of his campaign. Now he's trying to convince people he knows there are problems and he's just the guy to fix them. Look for at least one moment in the debate where Obama calls him out on that.