Saturday, October 18, 2008

From Here

The debates are over, and the McCainiacs have free reign to foist their crap on the public without direct rejoinder. My notes on their voter suppression efforts should be up in a few minutes at Dreaming Up Daily, but that's a major thrust. Although they got beaten back in Ohio by the unlikely agency of the U.S. Supreme Court and there's been a high profile push-back by the Obama campaign.

Actually I hope they keep up the negative crap and the voter suppression efforts, since nothing Obama can say will do as much to keep supporters from getting too complacent.

Complacency is also likely to be less of a problem if the polls tighten, as some expect they will, if only because they usually do. Although Five Thirty Eight thinks it's more likely that the numbers will simply stay the same. In any case, it seems unlikely the tracking polls will move towards McCain for the next couple of days as the Obama post-debate bounce shows up (as it has started to in some but not all of the tracking polls Friday.) But the tightening could start next week. Supporters don't need to know that even a 4 point national lead is pretty substantial.

Still the name of the game at this point is getting voters to the polls (or however they vote), and getting those votes counted. That's where primed and even anxious supporters do their thing, with what looks so far like excellent back-up from the campaign hq.

We may also be in for only a week or so more of McCain-Palin negativity--if they don't make the traditional move to a positive campaign in the last week, then they're really desperate, if not self-destructive. But this campaign has been unprecedented in so many ways, all historical bets are off.

But if you want to be premature (though not complacent) and look ahead to election night, you may recall that I said that by the time we're all the way down the East Coast to Florida, it might be over, if Obama indeed wins Florida. But according to Mike Allen at Politico, it might be indicated sooner: "The quandary is highlighted by Virginia, a state that has not voted Democratic for president since 1964 but where Obama is now leading in polls. There is no realistic McCain electoral college strategy that does not depend on winning the Old Dominion. If it is clear on Nov. 4 that Obama has won in Virginia by the time polls there close at 7 p.m. — it will still be daylight west of the Mississippi — the obvious conclusion will be that Obama is headed to the White House."

But Florida would seal it, Florida would be so sweet--and Team Obama believes it can be won on the ground. This LA Times article says they think they can win FLA with turnout, whereas they still need to persuade some voters in Ohio.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I advocated in 2002 for environmentalists to stop talking about global warming and climate change, and start talking about global heating and the Climate Crisis. When Al Gore started using it, the Climate Crisis became preferred.

In the summer of 2004 I passed along a suggestion through someone with access to high levels of the Kerry campaign: the campaign slogan of "A Fresh Start." In the last weeks of the campaign, Kerry was using "A Fresh Start for America" as his slogan. No one ever acknowledged anything.

A few years ago I was interviewed on an Oregon public radio station about issues related to a piece I'd written, "Consuming the Future," and we talked about how to get the country back on track. I suggested that the theme of such an effort should be "We're all in this together." That's become a theme that Barack Obama repeats often.

Then there are little things, that get picked up and passed around, who knows how--and who knows who really came up with them first. I've heard nomenclature from my blogs repeated by Keith Olbermann, for example, although I doubt he reads these. But my readers may have noticed that he's picked up the "Hate Talk Express" title I used for a couple of days. However, this time, even if he stole it from here, he didn't steal it from me. I stole it from the text by a front pager at Daily Kos--and I don't even remember which one.

It's a weird way to participate, the invisible way, and at times it all seems like my fantasy. Which it probably is, but on the other hand, I must be on to...something.
Time to Fight

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire--where it was clear that he has refined his stump speech for the ultimate power of a closer--Obama warned his supporters against complacency. And he's right. The polls are apt to contract (although probably not right away--the last debate bump starts showing up Friday), and even with lots of early voting, the real fight lies ahead.

Fortunately the stage is set, since the Obama campaign paid such attention to organizing and gathering the resources for just this moment. But it's going to take more than hope, or talk, or for that matter, blogging. So even though I've stepped back from most campaign activity--leaving it to the younger generations who frankly are going to do it better--I will be making calls in these final days.

And vigilance plus support of those who are more active are also important. Vigilance for the kind of desperate robo-calls the McCain campaign--not 527 groups, not even the RNC, but the McCain campaign itself--are making. Like this one and this one and these two.

Vigilance for voter suppression tactics, as is happening in Ohio--although this year, it's a Democratic state government, and the Ohio Secretary of State has announced that she's going to fight hard against attempts to disenfranchise 200,000 voters.

Other Thursday news: Five Thirty Eight does its regular mid-monthly projections of battleground states--the last one!--and projects Obama to win 364 electoral votes, with 169 for McCain, and 5 a tossup...The Washington Post endorses Obama: "Mr. Obama has the potential to become a great president." And Lawrence O'Donnell--one of the few voices I attend to, though I don't always agree--predicts that Colin Powell will soon endorse Obama.

About that early voting: there were some interesting reports about how Obama is dominating early voting in five states, and about the lines in Atlanta-- some white voters abandoned them after awhile, but not a single black voter did. In the Five Thirty Eight thread linked above, a comment from Kenyada explained: "I’m not sure you understand. This vote is 400 years in the making...This is not only a vote for a candidate; it is a vote for America, the America we heard about from our parents and their parents, across the generations. Freedom and Liberty sound so trite these days, but I remember those words spoken by my Dad on his way to the March on Washington. January 20th will be a dream fulfilled."

But before January 20 comes November 4, as well as early voting wherever it occurs. There's work ahead. It's time to fight for every vote.

Update: This comprehensive piece in salon notes that the first day of early voting in North Carolina (which was Thursday) saw big turnout, predominately African American. Some battleground states, the piece states, could see as much as half of the vote in early voting. Half the registered voters in Colorado have requested mail-in ballots. Yet states like PA that don't have early voting--and even those that do--may not be prepared for the sheer number of voters on election day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A study in contrasts--to say the least--after the third presidential debate.
Grand Slam

I have just a few minutes to spare here before I have to do some work I actually get paid for, but the third debate is over, once again all the focus groups and instant polls show Obama won by pretty much the same margin as the first two (or for that matter, the VP debate as well.) He scored well again with Independent voters, and in the two focus groups of undecideds on CNN and Fox, the only movement was to Obama.

It didn't take long for the conventional wisdom to develop among the pundits: Obama was cool, calm and collected, while McCain was angry (an exercise in anger management, David Gergen said). So the verdict is that McCain may have helped himself a bit with the base but not outside it, and the election is pretty much over, barring the unforeseen.

I do have one bone to pick with the CV, at least that part of it expressed on the largely right-leaning lineup that Charlie Rose assembles. One after another, including Charlie, opined that Obama hasn't given a clear idea of what he'll do to address the financial crisis, or how he will approach the question of a recession at the time of huge government deficit.

Well, I hope these folks go back and read the transcript of the debate, because I heard it, loud and clear. Obama said several times that we face tough economic times, and the government will need to set priorities, because we can't do everything we want right away. And he signalled clearly that he was for economic stimulus--as he proposed and as the Democrats in Congress have proposed--and for investing government funds in energy independence and growing a green economy, in healthcare and in education, because these will pay dividends in a strong economy later on.

If and when I see a transcript I'll try to document this, but not tonight. As for the obligatory sports metaphor--I'll pass on the boxing analogies thank you very much--the Philadelphia Phillies weren't the only pennant winners tonight.
McCain Reboot=McCain Repeat

Jon Stewart and The Daily Show hilariously match McCain's "new stump speech" unveiled Monday to his GOPer acceptance speech.
The Good News

Despite the ugliness fomented by the McCain-Palin campaign--and partly because of it--there is more good news. Tuesday's talk was about the CBS/New York Times poll which has Obama with a whopping 14 point lead among likely voters, 53% to 39%.

Is it too good to be true? While it may be an outlyer, Nate Silver believes it's only a modest one. And Tuesday's round of state polls showed similar numbers in the battlegrounds of Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Looking at averages, Kos notes that Obama is polling over 50% in states that add up to 308 electoral votes.

But what the New York Times chose to emphasize about its own poll is this: "The McCain campaign’s recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found....The top reasons cited by those who said they thought less of Mr. McCain were his recent attacks and his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate."

Still, there are other indications that Obama is getting more positive support rather than simply benefitting from negative views of McCain. TMP highlighted a number within the LA Times poll which shows a plurality of voters for the first time say Obama is experienced enough to be President. In the NY Times poll, 7 of 10 said Obama has the right temperament and personality to be President, with McCain breaking even. More than 60% said Obama understood their needs and problems, less than half said that about McCain.

Though there is some danger of complacency, being up in the polls also increases enthusiasm, and that activist attitude--the movement as Obama calls it--plus the unique methods of organization and all the attention paid to it on the ground level are really paying off. For another example, some 17% of Ohio voters have been contacted by Obama advocates--an historic percentage.

And the interest is there, even for the seemingly crazy ideas, like Sarah Silverman's "Great Schlep"--there's this account of an Obama kid going to talk to his grandparents about Obama, and winding up talking to 100 retirees who wanted to hear him. Perhaps even more powerfully, there are events like this one leading to marches to the polls to vote in early voting states.

Meanwhile, McCain has announced that tonight's debate won't be a "game-changer," a cliche that will forever be associated with this campaign. If he doesn't come away with an inconceivably major victory, it could be a game ender.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday on the Hate Talk Express

While the rabble was being whipped up by a rabid right party hack before a Palin hate, during a diatribe on Obama, someone in the crowd shouted "Kill him."

From Keith Olbermann's Special Comment: "Obviously, Senator, you haven't heard your own speeches, and Gov. Palin's, and what people shout during them. And you haven't heard your state GOP Chair in Virginia, Jeffrey Frederick, giving talking points to 30 of your field-operatives heading out to canvass voters in Gainesville, Virginia. With a reporter present, telling them to try to forge a connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden to emphasize bombings and terrorism. And you haven't heard those volunteers, your volunteers Sen. McCain, shout back "and he won't salute the flag" and "we don't even know where Sen. Obama was really born."
Sen. McCain, these people are speaking for you!...

You, sir, are responsible for a phalanx of individuals who are shouting fire in a crowded theatre. There are some things to respect and honor about you, Sen. McCain. But on this, you're not only a fraud, Senator but you are tacitly inciting lunatics to violence. If you want to again grand-stand and suspend your campaign here's your big chance. Suspend your campaign now, until you, or somebody else, gets some control over it and it ceases to be a clear and present danger to the peace of this nation."

The McCain campaign was reeling all weekend, with one GOPer talker after another GOPer politician badmouthing and abandoning them. But there are still 21 days to the election. They can make some moves. Unfortunately for them, so can the Obama campaign. And the moves they made on Monday tells you the difference in their strategic thinking.

McCain went for a reboot, a restart of his underdog image. Unfortunately, his basic line--that he's a fighter--and even some of the actual lines (Obama is "measuring the drapes" for the Oval Office) are the latest in a long series of thefts from the Hillary Clinton primary campaign. So what does it say about a campaign that it compulsively steals ideas that have already proven not to work?

Obama on the other hand, who might be tempted to sit on a substantial lead, took the initiative by making several new proposals for an immediate economic "rescue plan for the middle class." The brilliance of this move is in several areas. First, he's telling people what he wants to do, just as they're getting used to the idea that he may well become President. He's zeroed in on ground-level changes, instead of financial institutions. Beyond the public measures he proposed, he also talked about public and private responsibility, about ending the era of living beyond our means. That reassures Independents and Republicans, as well as making sense. He's given people specifics they've asked for, but he's again done it in a larger context, in his call for change. In his themes of we're all in this together, and the importance of this political moment. "Believe in yourselves, believe in each other, and believe in the future."

It is brilliant as well in its timing. It gives Obama something to focus on in the final debate--not with a single surprise proposal, as McCain did, but with an integrated and thought-out plan he introduced in detail. And this initiative may have stolen the initiative from McCain, whose surrogates were loudly announcing all weekend that he would be making new economic proposals on Monday. He didn't, perhaps because his campaign got wind of Obama's intent, although the Obama campaign was typically silent about it much in advance.

Then on Monday McCain's campaign stated that McCain wasn't going to make any new economic proposals--but then suddenly it was announced that McCain was giving a speech on Tuesday with new proposals. So McCain is in the position of reacting, and having his business-friendly tax proposals (as they are rumored to be) contrasted with Obama's emphasis on jobs and Main Street.

With the poll number continuing to get better for Obama, with the Obama campaign outspending and outworking McCain, there is no let up, and Team Obama is continuing to be aggressive. Meanwhile contradictory messages continue to come from what's left of the McCain campaign, including on Wednesday's debate. Some suggest McCain will again stay away from the Ayers stuff that is proving so toxic to his approval numbers, while others promise that McCain will bring it up. McCain has himself raised the stakes and the expectations by promising supporters to "whip [Obama's] you know what."

Wednesday is the last time McCain may have the attention of a large TV audience, assuming people are still going to watch. If he loses this debate, there is no strategery in the world that can help him. And even if he wins, or some external events shake things up, it may only make his defeat a little closer.

But it's also no time for complacency for the Obama campaign--which seems to know that very well--or for supporters. It may still get even uglier (somebody in the McCain campaign says they are saving the really good stuff for the last two weeks) and other campaigns--apparently including Kerry's--thought they had it in the bag but did not. Whatever nervousness we may naturally have, however, the Obama campaign is earning our confidence. They really did that on Monday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday on the Hate Talk Express

QUESTION: The chair of the Republican Party in Virginia has said, quote, in Time magazine, "both Barack Obama and Osama Bin Laden have friends that have bombed the Pentagon. That is scary." Is that appropriate for a state party chair to be saying?

MCCAIN: "I have to look at the context of his remarks.

I have always repudiated any comments that have been made that were inappropriate about Senator Obama. The fact is that William Ayers was a terrorist and bomber and unrepentant. I don't care about that. But Senator Obama ought be the candid and truthful about his relationship with Mr. Ayers in whose living room Senator Obama launched his campaign and Senator Obama said he was just a guy in the neighborhood."
What Election Are They Covering?

Dangling at the top of Daily Kos on Sunday was the latest Research 2000 daily tracking poll on the presidential race, showing: Obama 53% McCain 40%. Once again, it's not just the 13 point margin, it's the 3 points over 50%. It's McCain below 41%.

And at one point under that number, the Kos himself noted how the major media are doing their best to ignore what the numbers are saying. He referenced Chris Bowers showing that according to the Washington Post, Every state in which McCain has a lead, even if it's just 2.2%, is a "leaning Republican". Every state in which Obama has the lead, even if it's over 10 percent, is a "battleground". Bowers quotes 5 respected electoral projections, all of which have Obama winning handily--but not the major networks or newspapers. His conclusion: Maybe they are afraid of being accused of pro-Obama bias (probably). Maybe they are just biased toward McCain (possibly). Maybe they just suck at electoral forecasting (definitely). Maybe they are invested in a close campaign (absolutely)."

Maybe that's why they paid so little attention to the finding of VP candidate Palin's abuse of power as Gov. of Alaska, which is against Alaska law, voted unanimously out of a committee comprised of 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. And about which Palin was permitted to lie repeatedly.

But the numbers are getting relentless. According to the latest Public Policy Polling survey in Colorado, "The numbers paint a picture that shows it nearly impossible for McCain to win the state at this point." And what one numbers person after another says--which is pretty much what a lot of Republicans are also saying--is that while it is not absolutely impossible for McCain to is most unlikely. The only time since modern polling started that a presidential candidate was behind by 8 points this late, and came back to win, was Reagan in 1980, who was the change candidate in a change year. What seems to be happening then is that the change candidate this year has made the sale a couple of weeks earlier than Reagan did.

And now the Washington Post/ABC News poll is out with that same astonishing 53% for Obama, to 43% for McCain.

Here's another number from Sunday (that Reagan didn't have): Obama got 15 newspaper endorsements, and McCain got none. "In three weeks, Americans will be called upon to make an exceptional judgment worthy of the times. The forces of history appear to invite boldness and the Post-Gazette believes they should be heeded by voting for the only authentic, fresh agent of change in this race, Barack Obama." --said the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Among the other endorsements: the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Asheville NC Citizen Times, and the Tennessean.

We're apparently going to hear a new number soon: a record-breaking month of September for the Obama campaign in donations and probably in the number of donors.

How about the numbers on the McCain-Palin attacks? Apart from the thorough debunking of the Ayers assertions in their campaign ad, public polls show that the attacks aren't working for McCain-Palin--instead the attacks are working against them. The Obama campaign has its own private polls that show the blowback on McCain-Palin is even worse, with their unfavorability ratings shooting above 50%.

The ugliness may be taking on a life of its own--which is what many people fear--but at least the pedigree of the hate-mongers is being exposed. Republicans who have been swimming with their heads above the slime for years are now drowning in it, with nobody to save them but racists, anti-Semites, hate-filled fundamentalists, secessionist nutjobs and exploitable morons.

Some of them--it looks like many of them--are trying frantically to get out of the scum pool before it's too late. McCain is losing GOPer leadership support, notably now in Florida, which he absolutely must win. Notes the Independent: "Senior members of the Republican party are in open mutiny against John McCain's presidential campaign, after a disastrous period which has seen Barack Obama solidify his lead in the opinion polls."

Democrats on the other hand are getting as close to Obama as they can, and talking openly of a 100 seat advantage in the House and a filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate, though neither of those are yet as likely as an electoral college win for Obama.

The Obama campaign knows the numbers, but they know--and have always known--the numbers that count are the voted that are counted. So the ground game is amping up, Obama is campaigning in early voting states, even as the ads increase every week. And the campaign is reportedly going to announce today some voter protection initiatives to make sure registered voters get to vote, and their votes get counted.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I thought I was beyond shock, but the complete news blackout on the official conclusion of the Alaska legislature that Gov. Sarah Palin has unlawfully abused her power is simply mind-boggling. What would be happening if the shoe were on the other foot is the subject of this diary at Kos, which is also the source of this illustration.
Two Fears and Three Pretty Big Embraces

John McCain may have tried to dial back the rhetoric yesterday, but the controversy over it continued, and is likely to be part of the Sunday talk show dialogue. For the fear that McCain and Palin have whipped up, and the fear and hate demonstrated at their rallies, has touched off public talk about another fear: of violence directed as supporters of Obama, and most specifically against Obama himself.

Rep. John Lewis was the most noted voice on the subject Saturday, prompting denials from McCain and partial agreement from the Obama campaign, which doesn't believe that race is otherwise going to be much of a factor in the actual election. While Lewis raised the historical spector of a church bombing and George Wallace's rhetoric, in his Sunday column Frank Rich sticks with the history of the McCain-Palin campaign and where it might be leading. He chronicles the escalating rhetoric, from the Republican convention through last week, culminating in just how the Bill Ayers association was played: "That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist. Obama is being branded as a potential killer and an accessory to past attempts at murder. “Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family” was how a McCain press release last week packaged the remembrance of a Weather Underground incident from 1970 — when Obama was 8."

Update: Here's another narrative on this subject by Time's Michael Scherer, who predicts "This election is going to end ugly."

It all clearly plays into the "he's a Muslin" Barack Hussein Obama mantras, which are often rationalizations for racism and hate. All of this is not exactly coming as news to African Americans whose names aren't John Lewis. It was fear for Obama's life that caused a lot to hang back from supporting him, along with their skepticism that a black man could ever be elected. Now that the primaries and the polls have produced some hope about the latter, the former is still on their minds.

For instance, at the very start of a Philadelphia Inquirer story about Obama's four campaign appearances in largely black areas of Philadelphia on Saturday: Helen Henderson, 82 years old and African American, sat in the sunshine at 52d and Locust Streets yesterday, waiting for Barack Obama to arrive. She said she felt excited, honored and blessed. "I never thought I'd live to see a black man in the White House," said the retired nurse, who lives in University City. "I sent him a small contribution in the mail. I owe it to him because he's taking a chance for us. I pray for him."

But Obama had big crowds everywhere he went in Philadelphia Saturday, while Sarah Palin (also in Philly) was getting loudly booed at a Flyers hockey game.
So just as there is conviction in the Obama campaign that in the end it will all turn out well, there is hope as well as fear in those with historical consciousness. The Inquirer story ends with another point of view: " At Vernon Park, David Wilcots, 46, an environmental engineer, contemplated the prospect of an Obama victory, which he and other African Americans now believe is a probability. On the one hand, Wilcots said, the venom expressed by the crowds at Republican rallies last week makes him fear for Obama's safety. On the other, he marvels at what might transpire on Nov. 4. "It wouldn't resolve everything in race relations, but it would mean we'd reached a milestone in this country thought to be impossible a few short years ago," he said. "America would be embracing as president a black person, a person of mixed-race background, and a person one generation removed from Africa. Those are three pretty big embraces."