Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Off

Have you noticed that with these wonderful 24-hour cable news channels, we get less news? CNN used to have something called Headline News that actually did the news every 30 minutes. Currently it's the Caylee station. (If you don't know, don't bother asking, you're better off.) And they all take Saturday and Sunday off, for reruns (your favorite prison shows on MSNBC). So in the midst of an economic crisis that threatens to begin Great Depression II, and when every minute counts in the attempt to craft a solution that doesn't give in to the Shock Doctrine machinations of the Bushites, and incidentally, the presidential election campaign entering its final decisive weeks--everybody, including reporters online, take the weekend off.

So just about all of Saturday's news was the tracking polls, ticking up for Obama, with two hitting the magic 50%. He hit McCain on all the economic issues, including social security today in Florida, with a crowd of 20,000 in Jacksonville, apparently some sort of record. He's going to stay in FLA all next week, preparing for Friday's debate from Tuesday on. The weird thing is that this debate is supposed to be about foreign policy, but it would be extraordinary if newsman Jim Lehrer doesn't bring up the bail out that by then may have passed Congress. There's going to be a lot of news made this week on that subject, although we may not get much of it.

The Seattle Times, which endorsed Bush in 2000, has come out with an early endorsement of Barack Obama:

Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent. Obama is a little young, but also brilliant. If he sometimes seems brainy and professorial, that's OK. We need the leader of the free world to think things through, carefully. We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip.

Our country is on the wrong track. Average, middle-class citizens have lost confidence that if they work hard, they can improve their lives, afford to send their kids to college and not be tossed out of their homes.

American optimism has been wracked by President George Bush and a previous Republican Congress. If you want change, you do not keep what is essentially the same team in power. You try something different. You vote for the stronger matchup, Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden, a smart and steady hand on foreign policy and other matters."

The editorial compares Obama and McCain on the economy, energy, education and Iraq, and finds Obama with the better positions and solutions. It ends: "On numerous other issues, from media consolidation to health care, Obama has the stronger take. He makes up for a thin résumé with integrity, judgment and fresh ideas. Obama can get America moving forward again."

The McCain Panic

Will the Surge Work?

Obama is surging in the polls. The folks at 538 figures it's a plus four swing in the past week, with good numbers coming out of state polls, many with data before the Monday financial crisis. They conclude that Obama is in a stronger position now that he was before the conventions. They say he has a structural advantage in the electoral college, but also point to this: as the election gets closer, movement in poll numbers become more important.

They were analyzing numbers announced by 9/19. Chuck Todd said a week or so ago that whoever is leading on Oct. 15 is very likely to win the election. Part of that has to do with early voting--in Virginia (which begins now!) and Ohio, for instance. And that assumes that the polls--or an average of the polls-- are accurate. And we've seen several times this year, and in recent presidential elections, that when the race is so close, it can swing on what voters decide the day before or the day of voting.

So the real point here is that time is running out, and if you're going to establish momentum, this is a real good time to start. McCain's last chance to significantly swing momentum may be the debate on Friday.

Apart from another weird personal attack that sticks, the wild card is the government bailout plan to avoid Great Depression II. Will Barack's bi-partisan leadership Friday appeal to independents, or will McCain's blustery new-found populism strike a chord with voters who are angry at government bailing out the big boys? It may depend on how much of a megaphone the media provides McCain, because Obama is on top of the argument--he's saying that the middle class should not be paying for this. It also depends on whether McCain as well as Palin are scaring more people than they are riling up.

As for the polls this week, the Marist has Obama up 9 in Michigan--we'll see if other polls mirror that. Another poll has Obama up in Iowa by double digits, so it probably joins Oregon as pretty safe. Indiana has tightened in most polls, good for Obama. The polls continue to show a closer race in PA than I'd like to see, but even a small lead may turn into a big one with the enormous number of new Democratic registrations.

Numbers continue to show that VP candidate Palin is not helping generally and is hurting McCain with particular groups and in particular places, like Florida. Further, the chief investigator in the abuse of power investigation in Alaska says that despite the McCain campaign attempt to derail it, he is confident that he will issue a report with a conclusion in early October. Information like this, showing that Palin lied about the reason she fired the public safety chief, indicates that there is enough on the public record and in previously obtained testimony (some in a separate investigation) to reach a conclusion.

Now I'm going to post a minute or so from Obama's campaign speech in Coral Gables, in which he suggests that McCain is showing panic. Panic is a very important word in an economic crisis. In fact, that's what an economic/financial crisis like this one used to be called: "panics." Herbert Hoover tried to get away from the sound of that, so he began calling that little downturn that began in 1929 just a "depression."

I'll also post excerpts from Obama's earlier statement on the economy after his meeting with econ experts (in which he also says that this is not the time for panic), over at Dreaming Up Daily.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Roll

The first debate will be one week from today. I'm writing in the wee hours before Friday's polls, but I'm willing to bet that Obama will improve on his 6 point lead in the Dkos tracking poll. He's ahead or even in all the tracking polls now, and in the new Pew survey. Update: Yes--Obama is up 7 in Dkos, but because McCain-Palin is down 1 point.

The state polls: good news in Oregon--a ten point Obama lead threatens to put the state out of reach for McCain. Another set of midwestern polls show virtual ties in ten states, including Ohio, although Obama is leading marginally in 8 of them. With the Obama ground game hopefully overwhelming GOPer cheating, a tie is a likely win.

On the stump, Obama looks like he's on a roll, taking advantage of opportunity. He's pretty much mocking McCain. I can't help thinking that Obama probably hoped to conduct this campaign on the issues, and on letting voters get to know him. But McCain's people went after him with personal attacks and lies that Obama had to fight back and try to destroy McCain's credibility.

That credibility may or may not be shredded with voters just yet, but it clearly is gone from the media. The latest big name to recant is Elizabeth Drew, who wrote a book praising McCain in 2002, but who now writes:

When Bush, issued a “signing statement” in 2006 on McCain’s hard-fought legislation placing prohibitions on torture, saying he would interpret the measure as he chose, McCain barely uttered a peep. And then, in 2006, in one of his most disheartening acts, McCain supported a “compromise” with the administration on trials of Guantanamo detainees, yielding too much of what the administration wanted, and accepted provisions he had originally opposed on principle. Among other things, the bill sharply limited the rights of detainees in military trials, stripped habeas corpus rights from a broad swath of people “suspected” of cooperating with terrorists, and loosened restrictions on the administration’s use of torture. (The Supreme Court later ruled portions of this measure unconstitutional.)

McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Drew also writes: Other aspects of McCain, including his temperament, began to trouble me. He seemed disturbingly bellicose...McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man. In fact, it’s not clear who he is."

I've been reading Elizabeth Drew since her excellent reporting on Watergate. She remains one of the best political journalists around. What is probably unprecedented about her current view is that her 2002 book, Citizen McCain, is now being issued as a paperback. I assume this comes from the new introduction.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Barack Does Vegas

Jed Report's compilation of local Vegas TV coverage and
a few choice words from Barack: 2 min. 20 sec.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Line of the Day (and Maybe the Campaign)

The Turning?

CNN is just now announcing its results of battleground states polling: Obama gaining. Obama ahead in Ohio, tied in Florida in head to head, but when third party candidates are figured in, he's 4 points ahead of McCain.

Later--the CNN poll link is here. The CBS/New York Times poll is even better--a five point lead--and the internals are encouraging: McCain's bid to be the change candidate is failing, most voters associate him with Bush, almost nobody believes he picked Palin because she was the most qualified, Palin's popularity outside the GOPer base is non-existent, Obama leads on the economy, etc.

And although the CNN poll has Obama down 6 in Indiana, a new poll by the Indianapolis Star has Obama up by 3 points. I thought Indiana would be close, and Obama has a good chance of winning it.

I guess the impression is that at worst the race is now back to where it was before the conventions, but that polls in coming days and next week could show even greater Obama gains as the economic crisis sinks in. I have to say I was also bouyed by the campaign's video on their strategy. First, the registration numbers are amazing, and all those resources going to ground game--this was emphasized in the pitch--could really pay off. Second, there's been talk in recent days that Florida might be getting out of reach, that Obama might stop spending so much money there. But the campaign video emphasized the attention they're paying to Florida, and the major resources they're committing. And then, an hour after I saw this, the CNN poll came out--with Obama ahead by 4 points when the third party candidates are figured in.

Speaking of that, the Libertarian Bob Barr is now on the ballot in PA. I'm wondering who benefits?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A really bad day for McCain-Palin. Besides a re-energized Obama and a fiery Biden taking control of the economic meltdown issues, McCain appeared tired and testy on Today and Morning Joe, his CEO surrogate admitted that Sarah Palin wasn't qualified to run a company, and one of his advisors boasted that McCain had helped create the tech revolution symbolized by the Blackberry.

And McCain's losses among the media continued, in a fairly big way with this column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. Cohen had the rep of a McCain guy, always willing to give the maverick the benefit of the doubt. But no more, not with words like this: "... the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised." "McCain has turned ugly. His dishonesty would be unacceptable in any politician, but McCain has always set his own bar higher than most."

But here's the most devastating part of Cohen's column: "I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty." The reason was: "It had to do with integrity. McCain has soiled all that. His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir -- the person in whose hands he would leave the country -- is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not."

"...McCain lied about his lying and maybe thinks that if he wins the election, he can -- as he did in South Carolina -- renounce who he was and what he did and resume his old persona. It won't work. Karl Marx got one thing right -- what he said about history repeating itself. Once is tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both."

Consider all the lies that candidates tell--mostly Republicans, like both Bushes--and the media ignores or "balances" with denials from the other side without mentioning that factually they are lies. I can't recall so major news media people and even news institutions coming out and branding a presidential candidate as a liar.

And apparently once it starts, it becomes relentless. The New York Times even editorially analyzed a McCain commercial that appeared only in Spanish, and exposed McCain's "fraudulent" assertions about Obama's record on immigration under the title "What's Spanish for Lies?"

Meanwhile, Palin's popularity continues to plummet in tracking polls, some high level national press is camped out in Alaska to cover the McCain machinations attempting to forestall the legislative investigation into her potential abuse of power, and a David Brooks column gives voice to national security conservatives who are saying that she's simply not qualified to be VP.

What effect this is having on voters is not yet known, as polls coming out now are still within the shadow of the Palin convention bounce (the Dkos daily tracking poll had Obama up another 1 point on Tuesday, for a total lead of 4 pts.) But with the first debate less than two weeks away, an interesting dynamic is at work. There is polling evidence that the Palin bubble is gone, and so the two presidential candidates go into the debate either even or with Obama ahead. If the economic news continues to be bad--and it certainly won't be good, it just might fade--then McCain is going to find himself at the debate with the primary issue being exactly the one he is weakest on: the economy, and specifically the area of regulating financial institutions.

Not only is his campaign run by lobbyists for some of the most troubled Wall Street firms and banks, and not only is much of the current crisis traced back to the deregulation pushed through by his economics mentor, Phil "mental recession" Gramm, but McCain's own record on deregulation is very suspect, including his involvement in trying to limit government's ability to regulate the Savings and Loan scandal, as a member of the Keating Five. He has to be very worried that this topic will be resurrected.

McCain is already acting paranoid in media interviews (even though he hasn't had an actual press conference in over a month.) He doesn't respond well under pressure--the question is will people really notice it this time?

The McCain campaign looked to be on the verge of collapse before the GOPer convention, and he pulled a Palin out of the hat to live on for awhile. The question now is whether the final collapse is underway.
The Fundamentals

Reality Intrudes

It's a shame that so many will have to suffer before it is over, but the economic chickens are coming home to roost for Bush-McCain-Palin.

But even before reality intruded with a stock market crash and the fast unraveling of financial industries, there were signs that the fantasy world constructed by imagery and McCain lies was coming apart.

I noted some of the signs yesterday. Marc Ambinder sums up his list . Notably, he observes that "The Press Has Turned" against McCain, after giving him a pass on all those gaffes in the summer and the pre-conventions lies.

Given the Palin bubble, you have to wonder why they indulged in such overkill after the GOPer convention. Perhaps to score a knockout blow right away, but that didn't happen. They rose in the polls a bit, but not a lot. And now, Chris Kofinis on Keith and this guy agree with my intuition yesterday that the Palin bubble has burst. Voters are focusing on the fact that she would make a horrific commander in chief. And now Palin-McCain is refusing to cooperate with the Alaska investigation into her alleged abuse of power, which doesn't look all that good for her transparency and ethical reform image.

In the polls, the McCain bounce seems to have evaporated. At least one tracking poll shows an Obama resurgence (after being tied, he's up 3.) We'll see what happens the rest of the week.

So they've got nothing but some dwindling momentum, and a rabid right base that is more energized. As Ambinder suggests, Palin bought McCain some time.

Now the stock market crash has gotten the media's attention in a way that unemployment rising above 6%, falling production and consumer confidence apparently couldn't. Pig lipstick was more important.

Now some attention may be paid to what Obama and Biden have been saying about the economy. They both need to do a better job of more comprehensively explaining how we got into this mess, and what they will do to make things better. It's not guaranteed. But the election is theirs to win.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You Can't Run Away from Your Record, McCain

Lies Coming Home to Roost

Scared Straight

P candidate McCain didn't have a good weekend, media-wise. More of his campaign's lies were exposed by major newspapers and news services, including a whole list of them in this story. Paul Krugman had already concluded, in his column titled "A Blizzard of Lies," that "the Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse." Notice that word: lies. These folks usually stay away from it. Now it's becoming the buzz.

VP candidate Palin had an even worse weekend. There were major--and I do mean major--exposes of her time as governor of Alaska (in the NY Times) and mayor of Wasilla (in the Washington Post.)

Perhaps the most devastating critique of the McCain-Palin ticket came in a column by Frank Rich: " A week ago the question was: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? The question today: What kind of president would Sarah Palin be? It’s an urgent matter, because if we’ve learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it’s that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America’s chief executive. This unmentionable truth, more than race, is now the real elephant in the room of this election."

But all this means little unless there is evidence that it is making a difference in how voters view this election. That may come in the next few days--the most recent tracking polls show McCain's progress stopped and Obama gaining a bit. We'll soon see if this is a viable trend, although it looks like a stock market crash on Monday may also get a little attention and throw yet another wild card into the mix.

But what I see and sense, both online and in person, is that all this has reached one part of the electorate with major force: the people who are suddenly scared to death by the prospect of McCain-Palin.

They're coming out to cheer Obama in New Hampshire with new fervor, and they're contributing money to the Obama campaign. New 527 groups are gearing up, and there looks like a new urgency for Obama. People who loved him but were laying back, figuring this was a done deal, are getting up out of the chair. People who aren't sure they are that enamoured with him are looking at the alternative, and getting scared straight.

Add them to the 2.5 million Obama contributors, the half million who joined up just in August to break all records for campaign contributions by a healthy 11 million bucks (for an August total of $66m). And this was before VP candidate Palin. Among the new activists, about a thousand women demonstrating against Palin in Alaska.

So watch for more evidence of this in the coming week. VP candidate Palin may have galvanized some of the GOPer base, but she has also scared a lot of other people straight to Obama.