Saturday, November 01, 2008

Three Days to Change: We Got the Mo

Much as I foretold you, Obama's got the mo back in the daily trackers, and I expect it to grow. The battleground state polls show maybe one surprise: Obama gaining in Ohio but slipping in Florida. The Obama campaign thought it would be the other way around, which in a way is good news, because they felt the battle in Florida would be the ground game--getting out the vote. And that's going well so far. They thought Ohio would require more persuasion, and they seem to be succeeding at that.

Some polls show a smaller lead in PA but nothing that really threatens an Obama victory there. Nevada looks so good that it's become a lean Obama. States that weren't battleground suddenly are: Georgia, North Dakota and...Arizona.

The increasing and quite possibly (shhh, don't say this out loud) fatal problem for McCain is the extent of the early vote. Obama is running away with it, to the tune of a nearly 60-40 split, according to one poll. North Carolina, where Obama holds a small lead, has banked enough votes to maybe make it a safe one. New Mexico, Nevada, and maybe the one that makes this as close to a lock as is possible before the final day of voting: Colorado. Something like 2/3 of the vote may already be in, and a huge number already counted--some 60% of the 2004 total-- Obama is way ahead.

Obama is close to becoming a consensus candidate. On Friday a former Reagan chief of staff endorsed him (saying that McCain picked Palin with one interview, while it takes three interviews to get a job at McDonalds), as did an actual Reagan: Ronald Reagan, Jr. known as Ron. This means that Obama has been endorsed by the next generations of Reagan, Goldwater and Eisenhower. As well as Kennedy, and the principal Gores and Clintons.

All of which means that Obama may have the kind of support he will need to govern in these dangerous times. (He may not, however, get the filibuster-proof 60 Dems in the Senate, pollsters are saying.) On the other hand, if McCain somehow wins, this country is in deep, deep, deep trouble.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Four Days to Change: People Get Ready

Obama's "American Stories" Wednesday night reached some 33.6 million homes--more people watched it than watched the final game of the World Series, or that usually watch network shows at that time. There was alot of praise for the "ad" and only hollow criticism. Given the audience, I still do expect a boost in the tracking polls, which could start to show up Friday.

Thursday's topic was the Undecideds--which way will they go? McCain's pollster tried to make a case that they will go to, guess who, McCain. Others without a vested interested differed on this. Some said that they'll probably split. Some said that given their demographics more may well go to McCain--but there are voters not on the radar of the polls who are likely to go to Obama, so the "unknowns" and the "undecideds" will be a wash.

But then there's the "Bandwagon Effect" that suggests most will go to the candidate perceived to be winning, and that's Obama, at least right now. Yet another statistical analysis gives a 54-46 edge to Obama.

So the unknown remains unknown. Fortunately the Obama campaign is concentrating on what they can do something about--getting people to the polls to vote. That's the really big remaining question. On that score, the McCain campaign may be in very bad shape--according to the Washington Post, they are spending their money on television ads and have to cut back on Get Out the Vote support--which was already likely to be weaker than Obama's.

McCain is gambling on moving voters to him with television, though the best he can do is match the Obama ads. This might mean that if the polls haven't moved much by Monday, McCain is doomed.

Well, he's probably doomed anyway. The McCain-Palin campaign remains a tawdry joke. McCain had to bus in 4,000 school kids in Ohio to create a crowd of 6,000, and his team couldn't even get Joe the Plumber there. Frank Rich commented on Keith that the McCainites can't seem to organize a two car parade. Now the WPost has joined the NY Times in chiding McCain for his "increasingly reckless" attacks.

McCainites were pointing to a couple of polls that showed tightening, but experts like Nate Silver doubted it. In the meantime, the NY Times/CBS poll released Thursday showed Obama holding an 11 point lead, 51-40. McCain is dropping, due in large measure to Palin and the increasing perception that she's not ready to be President--perhaps fed by the many newspaper and other (General Powell) endorsements of Obama that made this point.

As for the contours of the campaign, they're represented by two neighboring states. Arizona, McCain's home state, is now so close that the Obama campaign is reportedly considering making a play. And California, where the Field poll said on Thursday, "Barack Obama is poised to win California by the largest margin of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936."

With the day-to-day of the campaign, the polls, the punditry, as well as the day to day of our lives, there's only a wisp of an idea of how we're going to see this--and above all, feel this--on Tuesday. Election day and election night could be one incredible story. There's this outside chance that it is going to be truly terrible. There is the likely scenario that it won't be quite as one-sided as it now seems that it might. might be just flat out amazing. The black turnout, the youth turnout--both potentially passionate and huge; the crucial Latino turnout, and even the numbers and feeling in less definite could be the Day of Joy we will long remember. I suppose it could be bad luck to think about it, so we aren't. Then again...people, get ready.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Five Days to Change: American Stories

Last night's "American Stories," was dubbed (even by the candidate) Barack Obama's "info-mercial" but it was so much more. It may be the template for the 21st century fireside chat.

As Tom Shales in the Washington Post wrote: "As political filmmaking, "Barack Obama: American Stories" was an elegant combination of pictures, sounds, voices and music designed not so much to sell America on Barack Obama as to communicate a sensibility. The film conveyed feelings, not facts -- specifically, a simulation of how it would feel to live in an America with Barack Obama in the White House.... It was the easiest thing in the world, watching the skillfully edited hodgepodge put together by his campaign, to picture Obama as president. That's one thing the film was designed to do, especially for the doubters and those scared, "undecided" voters out there."

I'll post responses etc. as they form during the day. I expect Obama's poll numbers to go up after this, and I don't think they're going to stop. Even before the airing, the first tracker of the day shows McCain's gains in that poll reversing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

6 Days to Change: Accumulation

There's a big part of this week that is still the campaign before election day. For that part, the news is that there really isn't any news. The McCain campaign continues to self-destruct. The national tracking polls are relatively flat, while state polls for the most part continue to move towards Obama. It's probably the lack of new news that makes Obamafiles nervous.

So even new good news doesn't cause the joy it might, because it's so much like the old good news. For instance, the Pew poll. It shows an astonishing 52% to 36% lead for Obama among registered voters. Likely voters it's 53-38. Obama's support is relatively stable, but McCain's keeps going down in Pew's polls. However, Obama has increased in voters who say they support him strongly.

The LA Times poll found Obama leading by 9 in Ohio, and 50%-43% in Florida. Those are lights out numbers. Other state polls continue to be strong for Obama. This is good news, but it's old good news. It's been like this for weeks. How much longer can it stay this way?

On the other hand, the fact that it has stayed this way this long is itself news--and very good news. CW says the polls should have tightened already. The Obama campaign tells reporters that it still expects a tighter race---if not in the final polls, then for the election. They don't believe McCain will get only 43%, let alone 38. There's some evidence for this in a few state polls, notably the most recent in PA. But even in those, Obama is still ahead in the high single digits.

And the fact that the race remains stable just six days out is also very good news for the guy who is ahead, and that's Obama.

But there is something else going on: the election that's already in progress. And most of the evidence points to a big advantage for Obama. Though it was interesting that MSNBC used the Hotline number of just a one point advantage for Democrats, others see it differently. Pew found that among the 15% of registered voters who have already voted, Obama leads by 19 points, and among the additional 16% of the electorate that plans to vote early, Obama leads by 56-37.

The Washington Post poll has similar numbers. Among those who have already voted, Obama leads 60% to 39%, and 58-39 by those who intend to vote early. He leads by 6 points by those who say they intend to vote on Nov. 4. Gallup shows a 10 point advantage for Obama in early voting.

Those are polls--official stats vary in what they show from state to state (party, race, etc.) but according to the AP: "Early voting in some swing states also appeared to be in Obama's favor. In North Carolina, for example, the turnout for early voting has been nearly a third higher than in 2004 and the number of Democrats has been close to double that of Republicans. Democratic voters in Florida have numbered about 100,000 more than Republicans, and Democrats hold an edge so far in Colorado."

Nate Silver suggests: "there are three states in which early voting has already exceeded its totals from 2004. These are Georgia, where early voting is already at 180 percent of its 2004 total, Louisiana (169 percent), and North Carolina (129 percent).Hmm ... can anybody think of something that those three states have in common? The African-American population share is the key determinant of early voting behavior. In states where there are a lot of black voters, early voting is way, way up. In states with fewer African-Americans, the rates of early voting are relatively normal."

More information: Registered Democrats have a 20-point advantage in early voting over Republicans in Iowa. In Nevada, Democrats lead 54.4% to 29.1% among early voters. Early voters constituted 59.4% of all voters in 2004; this year, early voting to this point is equivalent to 44% of all 2004 numbers. In Florida, In this critical swing state, early voters already make up 27% of total 2004 numbers (in 2004, early voters constituted 36% of total votes).
Dems outnumber Republicans so far, 44.7% to 40%.
Governor Crist has ordered the early voting polling places to remain open 12 hours a day instead of 8, after weeks of hours-long lines.

At the very least, these are now votes in the bank. (Not the new kind of bank, the old kind of bank you could actually trust. Probably.)

Tonight the Obama 30 minute presentation is on several TV networks at 8 pm. (I'm not sure if MSNBC is airing it at 5 Pacific or not.) It will be interesting to see the effect. I'd be interested to know what the campaign's rationale was for doing this tonight instead of the night before election day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Before his speech in Pittsburgh Monday, Obama accepts a Steelers jersey from Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who has been campaigning for him in PA and Ohio.

Monday, October 27, 2008

7 Days to Change: The Longest Week

The national tracking polls showed slight movement, but in both directions. Nate Silvers sez sensibly: "If the state polls aren't showing movement toward McCain, then it is probably the case that any perceived movement in the national polls is sampling noise. If anything, in fact, the state polls are showing movement toward Obama on balance, not just in battleground states like Virginia, but also in non-battlegrounds as diverse as New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona."

And in the state polls, Al G. notes: "Among states where a candidate has, in the aggregate, fifty percent or more of the vote, Obama counts with 282 Electoral College votes to just 128 for McCain."

If anyone in the Obama campaign is taking the election for granted, they needed to look no further than the candidate. After speaking to a capacity crowd at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, he headed over to Carson Street on the South Side to campaign hq and made some phone calls himself, which he's been doing the past few days before or after other events. (And yeah, I'm enthralled again with imagining all this in places I spent a lot of time when I lived in western PA, like Carson Street. Not the Arena, though. That's new.)

After Pittsburgh, Obama goes to Chester in eastern PA tomorrow--a nice bit of counter-programming as McCain and Palin make a last concerted try for the Commonwealth. So far, no traction is apparent.

The news Monday was pretty grim for McCain and Republicans. Lots of talk about the warfare within the campaign--RNC vs. McCain vs. Palin--and then the Senator Stevens of Alaska verdict: guilty of seven counts, so the senior GOPer in the Senate is now officially a felon. And the Dems look to be closer to the grail of governance goal of 60 seats.

There are concerns about vote suppression in places like Georgia, a stupid ballot in North Carolina, and some nervousness about sparse early voting in Ohio. And of course, concern about too much early voting--if it doesn't represent new voters then it doesn't mean anything, except, of coure, votes. Democrats naturally must find things to worry about--but it is probably true that if Obama wins North Carolina and Florida, and does well in Georgia, it will be despite losing thousands of ballots to screwups and voter suppression.

McCain and Palin continue to play small ball with sloganish attacks, while Obama gradually returns to his inclusive rationale. As Paul Krugman suggests, "As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign."

At this point it seems that everything that can be said has been said, so I suppose it's all about saying it to the right people, and making sure voters don't assume it's so over they don't have to bother to vote. This is a danger, with an electorate that voted twice for GW, anything is possible. But there's also a sense that people really want to make a statement with their vote--a personal one, an historic one... If we can just get through the next week.
8 Days to Change: Final Arguments

Chuck Todd, the numbers guy at NBC, has been cautious about this election--until recently. His startling impressions of tension and discouragement within the McCain campaign last week have since been verified by full-blown viral stories, with a McCain aide referring to Palin as a "diva." But it's his recent observations about the numbers that are the most remarkable.

For the first time, NBC shows that adding up Obama's likely and "leans" gives him more than enough for an electoral win. But Todd points out something even more devastating. Because of Obama's strength in the West, he conceivably could lose Florida AND Ohio AND Pennsylvania, and still win the election.

Most polls show Obama slightly to moderately ahead in Florida and Ohio, and ahead by double digits in PA, with nothing yet in the daily polls to indicate any trend away from him. But that's not all that Todd said.

I heard Todd observe that early voting numbers, especially in the South, suggest to him that African American turnout may eventually be between 98% and 100%. He notes that Georgia is now in play, and there are other states where no polling has been done recently that could also be moving towards Obama.

Now polls show the race is very close in Arizona, McCain's home state. (My source in Sedona, where McCain has one of his homes--apparently the one he lives in most of the time--says there is Obama enthusiasm there, too.) And it's not just states but areas, such as Florida's Gulf Coast, a GOPer stronghold which may be trending Obama.

Not to jinx it or anything, but unless McCain can find something that resonates in the final week, we could be looking at an epic victory.

There are cautionary voices. Todd's counterpart at CNN, Bill Schneider, points out that in some states (like PA) and some national polls, Obama is only a point or so higher, or dead even, with what John Kerry got in 04. It's just that McCain is 7 points or so lower than GW. But while this may be true in PA, for instance, it doesn't account for red states that Obama could win. Obama is also likely to get more votes than Kerry did in red states he still doesn't win, and pile up the popular vote that way as well.

After crowds totalling 150,000 in Colorado Sunday, Obama makes what his campaign bills as his "final argument" in Pittsburgh, PA and Canton, Ohio on Monday. Tuesday Obama is in PA, at Chester. I can't wait for the photos from the Burgh. Some consolation for the Steelers loss Sunday.