14 Days To Change
A lot has happened in the past few days when I was inconveniently otherwise engaged so let's catch up. First the news that broke Monday evening, that Barack Obama is flying to Hawaii to be with his gravely ill grandmother. He will be absent from the campaign trail on Thursday and Friday. Madelyn Dunham is 85, and she largely raised Barack for much of his life. Here's Andrew Sullivan: "If you have read Obama's memoir, you will immediately understand why he would suspend a national campaign for the most powerful job on earth to be with his grandmother right now. One gets the impression from Robert Gibbs and from this decision that this might indeed be one of the last chances he gets. "Toot" was a formative figure - she brought him up with her husband during some critical years. Her death would be the death of his last parent."
There's already been some TV speculation on the political effect, and there's likely to be more when the windbags re-inflate in the morning. In campaigns past, the opponent might drop off the trail as well (when Nixon had to be briefly hospitalized in 1960, JFK stopped campaigning while Nixon couldn't) but that's real unlikely to happen this year. But the idea that McCain will own the news cycle for 48 hours is also unlikely. This is a drama within a drama, and may get more attention than McCain does. Every grandparent in Florida, PA and the rest of America is going to notice.
Before this, the big news was Colin Powell endorsing Obama on Sunday, following the announcement that the Obama campaign raised a truly astonishing $150 million in September. Both of these were far more important than any of the other topics the TV bloviators yakked about Monday. Powell was precise and eloquent--there's a lot of what he said in the Jed video I posted below.
Obama and Biden both warned over the weekend and on Monday that the race will tighten, but fourteen days out and signs are mixed, even in terms of polling. Nate Silver sez the trend over the past week or so is "slightly McCain," but the tracking polls on Monday showed a slight increase the past few days for Obama. (Update: the first two trackers released Tuesday show Obama gaining again slightly, with an 8 pt. lead in both.) A new tracking poll debuted from CBS/Washington Post Monday and it shows a healthy ten point lead for Obama, 52-42 among registered voters, and 53-44 among likely voters. Ambinder summarizes some salient numbers in the polls released Monday. Various polls find that McCain's Joe the Plumber is working no better than the Ayres attacks, and that McShame is still seen as overwhelmingly negative.
There's no doubt the GOPers have turned ugly, and Daily Kos is replete with diaries about slashed tires, vandalized signs, nasty confrontations and threats, including Obama hung in effigy. The Hate Talk Express is leading the band. But there are two important internals in these polls: favorability and enthusiasm. The New York Times/CBS poll finds that McCain's unfavorable rating is still higher than his favorable, and now so is Palin's, but the reverse is true of Obama--plus his favorability has risen to this point: "Mr. Obama’s favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls."
Joe Biden's favorables are also up, and Palins are lower than any VP candidate in the history of the poll.
That's seems a pretty healthy sign for a ticket under attack. But will Obama-Biden voters vote? Democratic enthusiasm is higher, and I believe it was the CNN poll that says that nearly half the Democrats call themselves Very Enthusiastic, but only about a quarter of GOPers do. Update: new NBC poll Tues. finds these same proportions: over half of Dems enthusiastic, about a quarter of GOPers.
What about the states? There are reports of conflict between the McCain campaign and the state GOPers in Virginia and Florida--two states McCain must win. Two new polls confirm Obama ahead in Virginia, and although one poll has McCain slightly ahead in Florida, early voting began on Monday with long lines and heavy Democratic participation. North Carolina may have half of its votes cast before Nov. 4. Early voting in Nevada is also heavy, and heavily Democratic.
John King on CNN was reporting that the McCain campaign may be quietly abandoning Colorado, as well as North and South Dakota. McCain resources, he suggested, may be going into Pennsylvania, where McCain is substantially behind according to public polls. If I had to interpret the Obama campaign's body language, I'd say they are skeptical about Ohio, working really hard for Florida, and eager to pick off as many western states as they can, while keeping the pressure on in Indiana. (Obama is in Florida again on Tuesday, holding a jobs summit with several governors.)
The candidate who holds all the states his party won in 2004 and gets one or two the other party took will win the presidency. The basics of this race are the same 14 days out: Obama has leads outside the margin of error in all the blue states. McCain is behind in several major red states. Both candidates are currently campaigning chiefly in the red states.
So McCain needs a big national change, and he's not getting it from national figures of any description--Independent, center GOPers or even many conservatives. Powell is the biggest symbol of that, but there's also the major lopsidedness of the newspaper endorsements so far--many of them traditionally Republican-- and what they say in common: Obama is steady, new leadership; McCain has been eratic, and his pick of Palin raises serious doubts.
McCain's only path is winning ugly--really, really ugly--with an outbreak of racist know-nothingism that would end this country's chance of returning to relevance in the world. Fourteen days to the change we desperately need.
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