Friday, August 01, 2008

It's the 1st of August--Do You Know Where Your Candidate Is?

It's been a week of relentless attack by McCain and the GOPer chorus, as well as some members of the hot air media, and it ends with the Gallup tracking poll tied. So these are anxious times for Obama?

First of all, a video message that fellow contributors received today from the Obama campaign says that these attacks helped generate some 200,000 campaign contributions this week, and 100,000 yesterday alone, the last day of the month (on the last day of June, the Obama campaign took in almost as much as the McCain campaign did all month, perhaps in honor of my birthday, or maybe not.) A third of these contributors were new. Also during the month, Obama field offices opened all over the place, and after these attacks, volunteers were "pouring in."

As for the polls, the head-to-head national polls using whatever method still show Obama ahead, but the states are where the electoral votes are, and they look very good for Obama. Reviewing the most recent ones, FiveThirtyEight concluded: This is generally a pretty good set of polling for Barack Obama. Abstract these numbers for a moment. If you had told a Democrat a year ago that, on the last day of July, their candidate would be ahead in Ohio and Florida, well ahead in Pennsylvania , way ahead in California, tied in Montana, within single digits in a couple of states that went really red in 2000 and 2004, they'd be pretty thrilled with that set of polling."

Recall for a moment that John Kerry came with a few electoral votes of being elected President in 2004. The Gallup demographic data shows that Obama is scoring higher than Kerry in every demographic group, except that he's a few points behind in Democrats as a whole--he's winning them 80%-11%. Obama is now showing great strength in virtually every poll among Latinos--and that could be the ball game right there.

Speaking of the final score, Kos posted his monthly analysis, based on aggregates of the polls of the month, and he calculates that Obama is winning 336 electoral votes to McCains 202. His June analysis showed Obama ahead 317 to 221. So Obama gained ground in July. The Obamagic number is 270.

Of course the race is still changing, but remember again: John Kerry was only a few electoral votes short--and factor this from Kos: Obama is winning all the Kerry states, most of them with bigger margins than Kerry won them. So Obama has a base of 210 safe votes. McCain has all of 72.

And we haven't had the conventions, we haven't had the debates, and the real ground game campaign is a month away from really beginning (although off the radar, the Obama army is registered voters all over the place.)

It's no time for complacency. But it's certainly no time for panic.

Convention news: Hillary Clinton will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday of convention week, and her name will not be entered in nomination.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama Responds

Polls, Veeps and Smears (with Updates)

Veeps first. I've just watched Tim Kaine being interviewed by Charlie Rose for 50 minutes, and I'm sold. I'd be very comfortable with him as Obama's VP. I think he'd add a lot to the dialogue, he's very positive, his vocabulary can connect with everybody--especially those much discussed white working men--he has a good grasp of Obama's vision and shares it, and he has a real presence in motion (as opposed to the still image.) He's fresh and refreshing, he talks sense and that's motivating. I think in his own quieter way he can bring some excitement to the ticket.

He's not likely to be the cliche of the attack dog VP, but the way McCain is going, what's there to attack? By attacking Obama so much so early--a smart strategy in some ways, for as Craig Crawford explained it Wednesday on Countdown, the McCain people want to burst the Obama balloon before they lose hold of it and it floats up, up and away--McCain is giving the Obama campaign ample opportunity to learn what works in defense. And they're starting to get good at it. Obama himself is calling McCain out, challenging him to articulate his positive vision---if he has one. Meanwhile, refutation of McCain lies seems to be working--but more on that in a minute.

As all this pertains to the VP, Obama doesn't need an attack dog, but maybe somebody like Kaine who can defend with a genial half smile and that great flat midwestern accent (for this Governor of Virginia is from Kansas City.) I don't much like the sound of Obama-Kaine, for several reasons (confusion with "McCain," the sound of it as one word and various associations) but if the campaign avoids using it as much as possible, looks to me like Kaine is a plus.

But for all the speculation, a NY Times piece indicates that the selection process is chugging along but not at the decision stage, and may not be for a few weeks. Their reporting shows that Obama hasn't yet become directly involved. Update: Chris C. of the WAPost agrees, saying that the list of names under consideration is still longer than generally believed.

On the GOPer front, I saw a fairly startling quote from Mitt Romney at the Political Wire, but no one else seems to have picked it up or read it the way I did--as a disavowal of interest in being McCain's VP. Meanwhile the debate goes on as to whether he'd be a plus or minus to McCain.

Which brings us to smears and lies. I'm trying to focus politics at this blog, but when this election has such a major impact on the future, I revert to posting about this stuff at Dreaming Up Daily, so there are pertinent posts about the latest round of McCain lies and negative ads here and here and here. What's been interesting about the lying doesn't care about the troops ad--which was directed at McCain's base: the media, since it has been played much more on the hot air networks for free than as a paid ad--is that while the bloviators, especially on cable, started by treating it as a false "controversy" the way they did the Swift Boat Liars in 2004, there was a backlash in the past couple of days thoroughly exposing the lies.

Partly that's because the facts were known to reporters traveling with Obama, and some of them took umbrage (although some at first simply allowed the lies and talked about how the Obama campaign should have handled the situation.) But part of the reason probably is that Obama enthusiasts aren't sitting still for it, whether on the blogosphere or in direct contact with networks and newspapers. Witness Wednesday's idiocy, when a Washington Post reporter (with a reputation for GOPer sympathies) took an Obama quote out of context to make it sound directly opposite to Obama's meaning. That inspired this call to let the Post know about it, and we'll see if that's also effective.

Update: Here is the revealing story of the campaign so far--David Kiley's column in Business Week (hat tip to Political Wire.) Kiley begins with a summary of the ad technique used by Faux News Hannity and political adsters of repeating a lie relentlessly until it becomes real in the political dialogue. He then turns to McCain. "I've written good things about McCain's ads in the past, and I expect I will again if they ever return to a level of at least being for grown-ups." But after reaffirming that the charges in the McCain ad on Obama not going to visit wounded soldiers in Germany were blatant lies, he reveals the other ad that the McCain people were preparing.

Recall that Obama ultimately decided not to visit that hospital after the Pentagon questioned whether bringing his military advisor would constitute a partisan campaign stop. Obama didn't want the visit to be politicized, and decided that it now would be, so rather than subject the troops and the hospitals to becoming political fodder, he didn't go.

Here then is what Kiley reveals: What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie. End o update.

Is this this corporate media trying to fix the election, the result of a comfort level with the old buddy McCain over the new Obama and his new political team, or the frantic attempt to inject drama into an election that may be one-sided already? Well, it could be the first, but the second and third are sufficient. In any case, the controversy is more often about Obama than McCain. Tuesday's was: Sure Obama is leading in the polls and he has been for weeks (the recent Gallup poll showing McCain ahead has been pretty much discredited as using a lunatic likely voter model), but why can't Obama break 50%? Much bloviating on that matter, and then the CNN poll came out Thursday: Obama 51%, McCain 44%.

Today's blather was about Obama being presumptuous and arrogant (though that same poll showed the voters aren't buying it.) And supporting that was the misquote of something Obama has often said, that the campaign is not about him, he's just the symbol of the change America wants.

Some attention is being paid to McCain going relentlessly negative--even some GOPers aren't too pleased about it. But more apropos is Mark Green's focus in his piece titled "McCain's 1968 Heroism Can't Excuse His 2008 McCarthyism" : Pundits on the talks shows say that the '08 election is all about Barack Obama: Can he pass the commander-in-chief test and avoid gaffes and reassure white voters? The burden is always put on him. But another question is whether John McCain can pass the character test. So far, he's failing.

It's time that McCain's acolytes and the mainstream media stopped assuming that his extraordinary military service nearly 40 years ago gives him immunity to questions about being President today in a different century...Start with the truth that a maverick has morphed into a McCarthy -- and that the honorable McCain of 2000 wouldn't vote for the angry McCain of 2008.

Or wasn't eight years of a Liar-in-Chief enough?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Move On for Obama

Veep Creep

Veep news keeps creeping closer. The Washington Post seems to feel Tim Kaine is near the top of Obama's list, if not already selected. Unless the vetters know something I don't, I still like Kathleen Sibelius over Kaine. All his positives plus a proven ability to work with Republicans and Independents, which Kaine apparently doesn't have so much. A bit more experience as a governor, too. Only negative I see: he might help in Virginia, whereas she may not be able to help much in Kansas. But I still like her: she says change, they look good together, she'll help with women independents and Republican women as well as women Democrats. And just as the B. Clinton-Gore ticket was two young guys from the South, Obama-Sebelius is two fresh faces from the Midwest. Look West, Democrats. I have my doubts that Kaine would make the difference in Virginia anyway.

People are arguing whether McCain really needs Romney, or Romney will kill his chances, but the talk definitely is Romney.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Obama speaking, at least in the imagination of
a pre-schooler. See story below.
Posted by Picasa
The Trip (with Updates)

The substantive evaluations of Obama's overseas week, such as they are, are starting to come in. Frank Rich writes about "How Obama Became Acting President" in the Sunday NY Times. (I've posted some excerpts at Dreaming Up Daily.) Mark Green writes of the week as 7 Days That Ended A War and a Candidacy, meaning McBush's.

So far the polls show a modest bounce, but since their tracking poll showed more movement for Obama late in the week, Gallup expects more to show up next week. Obama now has a 7 point lead in that poll, matching his largest margin. Update: Later Sunday, Gallup announced Obama's lead was 9 points, his largest. Obama is at 49 (just shy of the magic 50%) with McCain at 40 (also an important number--below 40 is trouble.) A week ago it was 45-42. Which makes the week's bounce from 6 to 9 points in the polls so far. Another new poll puts Obama over 50% (51%) and McCain below 40% (39%.)These polls don't mean a lot separately or for very long, but they're not meaningless either. If a candidate is over 50% and the opponent under 40% for very long, pros consider this a tipping point indicator.

But the evidence in other ways?...Check out this Kos diary in which a young parent observes pre-school kids dramatizing Obama speaking (the photo above.) Jon Stewart showed the American flags waving in Berlin and thought there was a malfunction--they weren't burning. Rich makes the same point: some children have never seen pictures of American flags flying in Europe unless they were burning. Until Obama spoke in Berlin. (Apparently he could have drawn just as big a crowd in Paris and perhaps London as well.)

Speaking of flags, a possible red one for some folks (like me, in fact) was Obama's talk about moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Are we trading one war for another? But in this interview, Obama says that goals in Afghanistan should be modest, and military action must be joined with diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. The entire interview is pretty interesting. Imagine there's a President who is thoughtful and speaks in complete sentences.

Speaking of imagining, one reporter heard a reference in Obama's Berlin speech that I missed (I only caught JFK, Reagan, Lincoln and FDR): John Lennon.

I read one article today about the poor press relations of the Obama campaign. Then there's this piece, that says they became pretty good after the beginning of the trip. I certainly saw the difference between (angry) night and (sunny) day in Andrea Mitchell's demeanor: angry when no reporters were in Iraq, and absolutely bubbling when she reported Obama's remarks to reporters on the plane to Berlin.

The McCain campaign is currently trying (in its usual inept fashion) to demonize Obama for not visiting wounded troops in Germany, which apparently was a problem with the military over campaign staff. The McCains cut a quick commercial on the subject, with Obama shooting that 3-pointer as evidence he was too busy to visit the troops, except of course it's obvious that he is visiting the troops in that very picture. Update: the two Senators who accompanied Obama on the congressional part of the trip to Iraq, Afghanistan etc.,--Democrat Jack Reed and Republican Chuck Hagel-- defended him against this charge and denounced the ad on Face the Nation Sunday, saying also that they all visited wounded troops in the battle zone.

The dirty little secrets the McCainites don't want revealed is that Obama has taken in more donations from servicepeople than McCain has, and in a recent poll taken within the military showed more than 54% favored Obama's Iraq policy, to nearly 39% favoring McCain's.

Most of the dramatics on this trip were visible to the cameras, with at least this exception: the King of Jordan personally driving Obama to the airport, bringing his sporty Mercedes to a screeching halt in front of the waiting Secret Service.

The Frank Rich column lists McCain's gaffes while Obama was away, and some of the visuals: Obama in the helicopter over Iraq with General Petreus; McCain in a golf cart with Pappy Bush. Obama in the Middle East; McCain in the cheese aisle of a supermarket (sharp-eyed Jon Stewart noted the "Dole" packages in the picture), his rambling attempt to redefine the Surge being interupted by the supermarket loudspeaker; Obama speaking at Magic Hour before a quarter of a million people in Berlin; McCain buying cream puffs in a lonely German restaurant, and talking to a fake customer (planted by the local GOPers) while bumping a load of apples onto the floor in yet another supermarket.

McCain announced an event on an offshore oil ring in Louisiana (although as Rich says, everybody with a TV knew that a hurricane was approaching), then quickly cancelled it. Even without the wind, there was the problem of the Mississippi being closed at New Orleans because of an oil spill. (However, polls showing more support for drilling suggest the GOPers will try to ride this issue.)

With good sense, Obama suggests the campaign will remain close because, although people want change, they don't know him that well. But there's also talk that it really isn't close; the hot air networks have to make it sound close, or they'd have nothing to talk about.

The next drama is the VP choice. For McCain, it's still likely to be Romney, with Pawlenty seemingly the only other one in the running. For Obama, much more complicated. Jack Reed took himself out of contention, John Edwards currently has a tabloid problem that probably isn't anything but..., and Hillary honcho Terry McAuliffe (man I thought I'd never have to hear from him again) is promoting Gov. Kaine of Virginia, which may be the kiss of death for that guy. And in the midst of this the name of an obscure Republican cabinet member surfaced. Please don't blow this, Barack! But one thing this overseas trip has probably done is obviate any need for foreign policy backup in a VP. The election is going to be won or lost now on the economy and energy. My instincts say to either go with one of the other presidential candidates (Edwards, Richardson, Dodd) for stature or go for the change poster with Kathleen Sibelius.