I've only seen one tracking poll today, but it's impressive: Obama 52%, McCain 40%. (Research 2000.) Obama is up a point, on the first day that the VP debate figures significantly in the poll. Update: Obama is at 51-45 in Rasmussen, 50-42 Gallup and 48-41 Hotline. Writes Nate Silver:With the first set of tracking polls out to incorporate at least one full day of post-debate interviewing, there is no indication that John McCain and Sarah Palin have made progress in closing their gap with Barack Obama. In fact, Obama ticked upward in three of the four national tracking polls that published today, although he lost a point in Rasmussen. In addition, Ipsos/McClatchy has come out with a poll showing that the debate moved undecideds slightly toward the Obama ticket, confirming the results of most of the snap polling conducted on Thursday evening.
But the polls are in on the debate itself, and it's not even close. Not when the biggest spread is from Fox: Biden 61% Palin 39%. For Independents only, MediaCurves shows 67% for Biden.
Though the TV response was somewhat favorable to Palin, a good deal of the newspaper response now coming in is not.
Several media reports yesterday said that almost every cent the McCain campaign is spending on media is on negative ads. Several reports today said that the McCain-Palin campaign is gearing up to go even more negative, presumably into Rev. Wright territory. VP candidate Palin is already doing her pit bull stuff, calling Obama a friend of terrorists. It's worth noting that when she accused Obama-Biden of waving the white flag of surrender in Iraq, focus group response nosedived. When Biden said they would end the war, response soared.
In his analysis of why McCain dissed Michigan, Nate Silver points out that "McCain's problems ultimately stem back to the early summer, when his campaign decided to throw a ton of money into negative advertising rather than to build a robust field operation." They were able to cut into Obama's lead then, but it has more than rebounded since. And now the McCain campaign has less money (though with the RNC, it's still a pile) and little ground organization.
Where the race is probably close, as in Ohio (according to Al G's analysis), it's the ground game that can make the difference (and since Ohio is early-voting now, may be making that difference right now.) Where it is not so close, even a barrage of vicious ads probably can't shave enough off Obama's lead, especially if they are simply repeating and amplifying old charges.
Besides which, the Obama campaign is beginning its own barrage of provocative ads, very negative but on issues and policy positions, especially health care. It's the final fight to focus the rest of the campaign. Obama is just so well positioned right now. All the preparations when people were wringing their hands in previous weeks are starting to pay off. Hundreds of thousands of new and re-registered voters. Energized volunteers, with well-organized field offices. And money to stay flexible on response ads as well as to stay on the attack. Plus outside organizations like moveon.org willing and able to go where the official campaign can't.
Plus the next two debates, which means that until two weeks before the final voting, McCain will have to face Obama as Obama refutes charges and makes his own on the issues that voters are clearly focused on: the economy, health care and ending the war in Iraq.
Jonathan Turley makes an excellent point. VP candidate Palin is the first candidate for national office ever to be campaigning while refusing to honor a lawful subpoena. Moreover, her husband--not even a state official of any kind--is also refusing a lawful subpoena. Yet the McCain campaign has nothing to say about this, and what's worse, neither does the media. Why isn't she asked about this? Why isn't this a major issue?
With a huge audience and (despite the first polls) a pundit consensus that she rehabilitated herself in the debate, Sarah Palin is losing no time in trying to advance her career.
She's on Fox (and will be on nowhere else this weekend, apparently) saying how she was "annoyed" by Katie Couric, and how she disagrees with the McCain campaign decision to leave Michigan.
Meanwhile, the McCain campaign is busily trying to correct some of her errors on McCain's actual positions, such as on bankruptcy. And analysts are trying to figure out what she meant (if anything) about expanding powers of the vice-presidency.
Journalists digging into her statements have already found that she lied about her support as Governor of Alaska for divesting investments in the Sudan over Darfur--her administration killed that measure in Alaska.
Meanwhile, with the classic Friday afternoon document dump, her tax records were released and reporters are going over them. But perhaps the biggest event happened just before the debate, when a judge in Alaska refused the petition by Republicans to stop the investigation into Troopergate, which I hope they start calling Palingate.
Palin is acting as though she won the debate last night, but most tellingly, she is acting as she has at times in the past like the presidential candidate, the head of the ticket. This is classic overreach, political hubris, and it's going to be her downfall.
Even after the debate, majorities in the polls believe she is not qualified for even the VP. She's a George Bush persona with Dick Cheney ambitions. Barring the Alaska Supreme Court overturning the lower court decision, the next time she makes news may well be when the Palingate report comes out, no later than Oct. 16. And unfortunately for her and her boosters, the only person debating two more times for her side is John McCain.
And by the way, the idea that Palin quashed further TV satire is already history: a debate sketch is planned for Saturday Night Live this weekend.
I've said weeks ago that the Obama campaign would focus on health care issues for the final weeks before the election, and that appears to be happening now. This ad from the debate last night is out today. In places like Ohio, people losing health care is often the first effect families feel of this economy in trouble.
Meanwhile, Obama expanded his lead in two tracking polls, and maintained it in two others. In Gallup he is up one point and McCain down one point; in Hotline he is up one. He is at 51% in two of the polls, with an 11 point lead in Research 2000 for the second straight day.
With the VP debate done and if the House passes the financial rescue package today, the way is clear for the home stretch of this campaign. And if McCain doesn't rebound very soon, it could be a victory lap for Obama.
The VP debate is over with; I said what I had to say over at Dreaming Up Daily. The instant polls, the CNN focus group and most of the pundits, including some Republicans, said that Biden won the debate. I'll emphasize one point: the CNN instant poll in particular showed Biden winning over Palin by almost the same percentage that some polls show Obama over McCain. I wonder if that's a coincidence, or is this election essentially set in cement, and voters have chosen Obama.
Well, maybe a little more about the debate. I said here in my last post that the 90 minute format was going to work against Palin, and I was right. She got weaker as the debate went on, and she inserted her same talking points no matter what relevance they might have, and her syntax and sense began to collapse. Some commentators kept saying that Palin at least stopped the late night mockery. I wouldn't be so sure. She made some very strange statements in that debate.
And in that CNN poll, Palin changed few minds on whether she was qualified. Before it started, 54% thought she wasn't. When it was over, it was 53%.
Today, Friday, the VP debate will already be fading as the House takes up the rescue passage. If they actually pass it early in the day--some say the vote could be taken as early as noon--then maybe the VP debate talk last a little longer. But most of the talk moves on to the economy, and then the next presidential debate on Tuesday.
So here's my sense of things: if the poll numbers don't improve for McCain, even a little, through the weekend, then this race could be over. If they improve a little, we may be seeing some Republicans returning to the fold. But virtually no one among the pundits thought that Palin swayed many Independents or undecideds. That's borne out in both the CNN and CBS instant polls. Chuck Todd said this morning that the campaign is reaching a tipping point, and tonight he thought that Palin's performance didn't really change anything.
But if McCain does move up in the polls a few points, then with the VP debate and the financial rescue package out of the way, he has a final opportunity to get voter attention. If he doesn't, this thing could well be over before the third debate on Oct. 15.
The big political news of Thursday was McCain abandoning Michigan. If he concedes that state, then he has to win both Ohio and Florida, and keep the rest of the Bush states, including Virginia, Indiana and Missouri, and he has to pick off Wisconsin, Minnesota or the big prize, Pennsylvania. According to Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, Obama is at least 5 points ahead in enough states to be one electoral vote short of victory. So he has many more paths to victory than McCain does.
What we've been seeing on the campaign trail is both Obama and McCain spending time in states that McCain would be expected to win. In other words, Obama is playing offense, McCain defense. Obama is not neglected the blue battlegrounds, either: he was in Michigan Thursday (and apparently won't have to go back) and in PA Friday. But he's going into some red battlegrounds pretty late in the campaign.
McCain has to change the conversation somehow. His increasingly erratic behavior frankly doesn't inspire much confidence either in him, or in his ability to change the game. It may be too late anyway. We'll probably have a much better sense of that next week at this time.
The polls today are surprising--not because they've reversed, but because McCain's slide continues. He lost a point in the Kos poll--down 51%-40%--and about the same in the other tracking polls.
But the bigger surprise is that the McCain campaign has pulled out of Michigan--no ads, no campaigning, nothing. It wasn't so long ago that Michigan looked like it might be the key to the election. Now McCain is forced to defend usually GOPer states like Virginia (where the McCain operation has beefed up) and Indiana. The big battleground now appears to be Pennsylvania, although some polls show Obama ahead there now about as much as in Michigan.
Today everyone is talking about the VP debate which begins in a few hours. The set-up I expected is in evidence here and there, as in Chuck Todd saying the campaign is at a tipping point, and this debate is the McCainers chance. With Palin's expectations so low, a declared win is likely.
But there are some counter-themes. One is that Palin has been pretty successful as a campaign debater, so expectations are a little higher. Another is that she's lost the confidence of so many voters---60% in one poll say she is unqualified--that glib attacks tonight may not help that much.
And yet another is that with the combination of history (VP debates haven't had much impact on presidential elections) and the news cycle (the drama of the House vote on the economic rescue plan tomorrow will wipe out the debate chatter) this debate doesn't matter all that much. For instance, this piece by Walter Shapiro in Salon.
But now that the debate is here, and it is likely to have a huge audience, let's look at the format. It is basically the same as the first debate, but with shorter periods of time for answers and responses. Yet it is plenty of time for Palin to get as utterly lost as she did in some of those interview answers. Here's my feeling about this: she will depend on zingers and attacks. But people are looking at her differently now. She's a VP candidate in a scary time. This isn't a debate for mayor of a town the size of a gym, or a state with the population of a medium sized city. This is the big stage. And as stupid as national politics often are, I don't think she's going to get away with being glib and clueless. Just the fact that she cannot construct an ad lib sentence is, over 90 minutes, going to sink her.
She may win the battle of the sound bites. She is not going to win the debate.
are sugar and spice. Obama holds his lead in the daily tracking polls, including that sweet 51-41 Research 2000/Daily Kos number. Time has him up 7 nationally, with 50%. Pew also has Obama up 7.
But it's the battleground state polls that are riveting. CNN's numbers are amazing: Obama 54% to 43% in Minnesota! Obama 53% McCain 44% in VIRGINIA! 51% to 47% in Florida! The same in Nevada!
It's not just the lead, not just the spread, it's being over 50% in all those states, plus at 49% in Missouri (just a 1 pt. lead there.) Anytime a candidate is over 50% this late is very, very good news.
Even better news: this is confirmed by Quinnipiac in their battleground polls released earlier in the day, showing Obama over 50% and up by 8 in Florida and Ohio, and 54% to 39% in PA. These numbers are so big and show such a swing that this poll looked like an outlyer. But CNN essentially confirms them, and now virtually all the new polls show Obama leading in Florida.
It's all good, though TPM quotes a major labor leader saying don't start celebrating yet--his polling shows these gains are still soft. Low info voters are still not sold on the new guy. First Read looks at some polling that shows new voters favor Obama by 2 to 1. The question as always is whether they will vote this time (the category includes lapsed as well as first time eligible voters). Early voting is probably going to help with this group. There are reports of Ohio State students marching to the polls in groups. It's a party!
Yeah, I'm ready to party. Why isn't the election today?
Update: While a TIME blogger warns that "polling five weeks out is never a sure predictor of final results," he also quotes Peter Brown of Quinnipiac: "Sen. John McCain has his work cut out for him if he is to win the presidency. There does not appear to be a role model for such a comeback in the last half century."
And there are two more national polls: AP Obama 48-41, CBS Obama 50-41.
Monday's polls continued to show Obama gains, including three of the four tracking polls, with a lovely 51%-41% in the DKos poll. State polls also good again, with Obama in the lead in Florida for the first time in awhile. Though the Washington Post poll has settled down from the 9 point lead last week to 4 this week, Obama still is at 50%. (The Post poll apparently has sampled more GOPers and more whites this time.) This poll and the latest CNN suggest Obama's surge had less to do with the debate than the economy.
As wonderful as it would be to see this all continue, it's not a sure thing. McCain and Palin were hammered again today in the media, to the point that it's not worth repeating any of it. It's so consistent now that it's begging to hit bottom, and a new narrative to begin. That's how the media works. That's how the media thinks.
So despite all the Failin Palin news, we are absolutely primed for a turnaround Thursday. If Palin is perceived to do well--even with the expectations absurdly low--that may be enough to swing the narrative to an energized McCain-Palin resurgence, especially if they get an uptick in the polls. I'm not saying it will happen. But there's more than an even chance that, if Palin just has a few good zingers for the replays, it could. I don't think she will appear remotely qualified, and I do expect voters will reject her because of that, but the combination of what for her would be seen as a good debate performance with the media's need to change the story, could do it.
On the other hand, they are running out of opportunities. McCain had what is likely to be his best opportunity in the debate last Friday: the foreign policy/national security topic was his strength, and it was possibly his best debate performance. But he didn't walk away with it, and at least initially, Obama was seen as the winner. (If Obama wins it all, it will still be seen as a JFK-type turning point.)
The VP debate is probably the GOPer ticket's best opportunity if it can change the conversation for a week or so. If it doesn't result in some momentum for them, there are still two presidential debates left, but it will become increasingly difficult for McCain to pull away. He has to defeat Obama on Obama's turf--definitely in the third debate, but also in the second, because most of the questions at the "town hall" are likely to be about the economy. But McCain has his friendliest format, and friendliest debate moderator in Tom Brokaw. And Friday's debate didn't get as big an audience as predicted, apparently because it was on a Friday. The other debates won't be.
McCain also has to hope that once the "rescue" or "bailout" plan passes, he and Palin can change the emphasis from the economy to issues raising doubts about Obama. That's going to be difficult, not only because the economy is still going to be a hot topic, but because there are two debates in which Obama can impress, and parry attacks.
Still this isn't over, at least in terms of polls and campaign theatre--and who knows how many votes that's actually going to change. Right now you have to like Obama's chances, especially since he's surging just as early voting is beginning. It started in Ohio Monday. With the current momentum, the Obama ground game has the advantage: enthusiasm breeds synergy. There's a month left in the campaign, but really McCain/Palin have only about two weeks to change the dynamic. And their best shot to begin this is Thursday's VP debate. But if M-P can't stop Obama's momentum, they're looking at an electoral landslide loss.
The numbers are preposterous: a $700 billion bail-out (a figure picked out of thin air, a Treasury official conceded, just because they wanted a really big number) is rejected by 2/3 of the House members of the President's own party, and the stock market tanks for the largest one day drop in history--over 777 points--losing $1.2 trillion in value.
The predictions are all over the place: Great Depression II by today (said McCain, who also took credit for victory before the bill was defeated), apocalypse by next week, a long recession just ahead, a long recession ahead anyway, no matter what they do, etc.
The politics of it all are almost as chaotic, but a little more in focus. As Richard Wolfe said on Keith, McCain hurt himself at least four ways by his own actions in just a few days. Or as Steven Hurst wrote for the AP, "Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead end and has five weeks to find his way out." But as others said, this is disaster for McCain no matter how you look at it.
There was also talk about this as the death rattle of the Republicans, at least in 2008. Nate Silver was a bit more analytical--of the Republicans he wrote (the elipses are his, not mine):
Their worst-case scenario for them might have been ... what just happened this afternoon. Opposing the bailout had been a political freeroll before because it wasn't manifest to the public what the risks of a nay vote would be. But with the Dow having dropped 780 points today, the risks are now painfully obvious. What had looked to be a politically prudent position 24 hours ago now looks cavalier and reckless. And yet, the Republicans will still by and large will get blamed for putting us in this predicament in the first place. Plus, the failure of the bill is an embarrassment to John McCain..."
While some faulted Obama as well, Joe Klein was among those making these points:
I do blame McCain for his puerile histrionics and for dragging this issue--which should have been above partisanship--into presidential politics. Let's make no mistake about it: his various gimmicks had absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the issue. He doesn't know all that much about the substance of the issue. The gimmicks were a failed attempt to make it seem as if he had powers, and knowledge, he didn't have.
As for Barack Obama, his visceral aversion to showboating did him a service. He laid out four requirements for his support of the bill--requests he had, clearly, coordinated with the Democratic Leadership (and which McCain supported). He made the necessary calls to keep up with the negotiations (as McCain did). He made it clear, without ostentation or fuss, that he supported the compromise. Even today, after the bill failed, Obama warned against panic and advised the Congress to get back to work and, "Get it done."
This was, I believe, eminently rational behavior in a moment of crisis. Obama didn't pretend that he could, or should, do something that he couldn't do. He didn't lead, but then, he wasn't in a position to lead. (McCain's games were the opposite of leadership--they were an unnecessary distraction.) There may be times in the future--in the next few weeks, in fact--when events will call for Obama to be a far more forceful presence. We'll see whether he has it in him. But this wasn't the time for that. It was the time for a cool head, something McCain has yet to demonstrate."
Paul Krugman was among those who thought Obama should have done more, but he also had this to say:So what do we know about the readiness of the two men most likely to end up taking that call? Well, Barack Obama seems well informed and sensible about matters economic and financial. John McCain, on the other hand, scares me....The real revelation of the last few weeks, however, has been just how erratic Mr. McCain’s views on economics are. At any given moment, he seems to have very strong opinions — but a few days later, he goes off in a completely different direction.... The modern economy, it turns out, is a dangerous place — and it’s not the kind of danger you can deal with by talking tough and denouncing evildoers. Does Mr. McCain have the judgment and temperament to deal with that part of the job he seeks? "
And while the longer these economic fears are front and center, the better it is for Obama, that could turn unpredictably. My guess is that the Democrats and Obama are going to seize the initiative on a rescue plan. They'll still have the issue of the economy and how Bush ruined it.
Politically, Obama's surge in the polls continues, up to 51% in the Daily Kos poll, with a 9 point lead over McCain. State polls continue to show Obama gains, with at last some breathing room in PA. Tomorrow will be the first tracking polls with all data after the debate.
Apart from the titanic bail-out failure, the talk today was about Sarah Palin, as CBS continues to dribble out more video, and everyone was showing the part of the devastating Saturday Night Live sketch in which Tina Fey repeats one of Palin's responses word for word, getting lots of laughs. The assault on Palin's fitness for the VP continues, and there are stories about changes in her debate prep, including, apparently, less of it, since she's being trotted back out on the campaign trial.
But what is likely for the VP debate and for the McCain-Palin campaign in general is relentless attacking of Barack Obama. Palin will try to turn every question into an attack, quoting Joe Biden whenever possible. If she's effective, the pundits may not even notice she isn't answering any questions. This will cheer the rabid right base, and then she'll be sent out in attack dog mode. The hockey mom stuff is done and gone. We won't hear her talk about herself, or a substantive issue or a constructive idea for the rest of the campaign.
And there won't be much substance from McCain either, just attack. Their ads will try to amp up the negativity, if that's possible. As ugly as it was before, it's going to get uglier now. It's McCain-Palin's only chance. But people are listening to the Obama-Biden economic message. Excessive negativity in debates turns Independents and undecideds off. Plus this economic mess is unlikely to be under control by Thursday's debate, and Palin's qualifications will be seen in the light of the need for serious people to solve very serious problems.
As for other news of the day, there was some mention of the prosecutor appointed to deal with the Justice Department firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, but shockingly nothing about the NY Times story pinning what amounts to a McCain version of an organized crime syndicate feeding off the gambling industry. How could this story not be important? Even on the latest (but perhaps not last) Black Monday.
"Change is what's in your heart and in your gut, and who you're fighting for." Talking heads like Chris Matthews should invest 26 minutes and hear what Barack Obama is saying in his campaign, and how people are responding. This fiery speech was held in the rain in Virginia a few days ago to a crowd approaching 30,000--a good part of it (as you'll see) in the rain.
In three of the four daily tracking polls that came out today--the first day that debate reaction is figured it (at a third), Obama is at 50%: an 8 point lead in Gallup, 7 in Research 2000, 6 in Rasmussen. He has a 5 point lead in the Hotline poll.
A couple of newer polls confirm that Obama won the debate. This one from the LA Times has this great internal: The difference is even more pronounced among debate watchers who were not firmly committed to a candidate: 44% said they believed Obama looked more presidential, whereas 16% gave McCain the advantage.
McCain Mutiny continued: Newsweek adding even more: The McCain campaign told reporters the fees were irrelevant because Davis "separated from his consulting firm … in 2006," according to the campaign's Web site, and he stopped drawing a salary from it. In fact, however, when Davis joined the campaign in January 2007, he asked that his $20,000-a-month salary be paid directly to Davis Manafort, two sources who asked not to be identified discussing internal campaign business told NEWSWEEK. Federal campaign records show the McCain campaign paid Davis Manafort $90,000 through July 2007, when a cash crunch prompted Davis and other top campaign officials to forgo their salaries and work as volunteers. Separately, another entity created and partly owned by Davis—an Internet firm called 3eDC, whose address was the same office building as Davis Manafort's—received payments from the McCain campaign for Web services, collecting $971,860 through March 2008.
One senior McCain adviser said the entire flap could have been avoided if the campaign had resisted attacking Barack Obama for his ties to two former Fannie Mae executives, which prompted the media to take a second look at Davis. "It was stupid," the adviser said. "A serious miscalculation and an amateurish move.
The AP does Palin:Though Sarah Palin depicts herself as a pit bull fighting good-old-boy politics, in her years as mayor she and her friends received special benefits more typical of small-town politics as usual, an Associated Press investigation shows."
Meanwhile, John McCain was supposed to do ABC's "This Week" this morning as a town hall meeting in Ohio with independent voters. But he cancelled the town hall--although without notifying a lot of the attendees, who showed up, went through security, only to be then told it was cancelled. McCain did an interview instead, which Obama partisans at least thought did not go well (this link has video.)
The McCain campaign got on the phone to say that the New York Times no longer does journalism. That was supposed to make them shrivel up and die. Since then, they've added to the significant story of how McCain's campaign manager has never stopped getting paid for influence peddling if not lobbying, with Newsweek nailing down even more damning details. Several Times columnists have called VP candidate Palin unqualified and said in no uncertain terms how this reflects badly on the guy who picked her.
Now in Sunday's Times a lengthy story about McCain himself and his long-time involvement with the gambling industry, not to mention with gambling itself. The story shows how, in true organized crime fashion, he and his lobbyist associates (including Rick Davis, his campaign manager) systematically took apart the gaming influence empire of Jack Abramoff, and picked up the pieces for themselves:
"But interviews and records show that lobbyists and political operatives in Mr. McCain’s inner circle played a behind-the-scenes role in bringing Mr. Abramoff’s misdeeds to Mr. McCain’s attention — and then cashed in on the resulting investigation. The senator’s longtime chief political strategist, for example, was paid $100,000 over four months as a consultant to one tribe caught up in the inquiry, records show. "
The overall conclusion: "Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors."
"For much of his adult life, Mr. McCain has gambled as often as once a month, friends and associates said, traveling to Las Vegas for weekend betting marathons. Former senior campaign officials said they worried about Mr. McCain’s patronage of casinos, given the power he wields over the industry."
This story comes as the bank crisis suggests the relevance of McCain's history as a close associate of Charles Keating, who went to jail for his involvement in the Savings and Loan scandals, and as a member of the so-called Keating Five. The media has actually stayed away from this story (Rachel Maddow did a segment on it, as did CNN, though it may yet emerge, especially after this gambling story. Here's Jed Reports 90 second video about it.
Meanwhile, as one scandal for VP candidate Palin seems to recede, another emerges. The Washington Post reports on a possible violation of Alaska state law by Palin, shortly before McCain chose her for his VP candidate, involving her opposition to a state referendum also opposed by the mining industry but supported by environmentalists and fishermen. The referendum was then defeated, making it easier for mining development. The story says: "Mining interests have courted Palin since her inauguration. Northern Dynasty contributed to her inaugural fund, and other mining companies have offered gifts and paid travel expenses for Palin's husband to go on fact-finding trips."
How is the McCain Mutiny faring with the electorate? How convincing has the Obama campaign become?
The day after the debate, where did Obama go? To North Carolina, a state he is not supposed to win and has no business campaigning in to start the final month. Yet North Carolina is still in play, he got a big crowd and he's in playoff form. McCain has been forced to spend money in Indiana and Virginia. Obama is in Colorado again on Monday. These are not states that were in play in 2004. Democratic registration is way up all over the place. Obama continues to climb in the polls--and Sunday will be the first day that polling after the debate will figure into the tracking polls (it will be 1/3.) It will be very interesting to see where Obama campaigns from now on.