A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Presidential Power Rankings, Part IV

 Before I begin, I am entertaining the idea of doing a real time running diary on this blog on election night, a la Bill Simmons. Its a massive undertaking, and I feel uniquely ill-suited (temperamentally and intellectually) for such a task. Still, I feel owe it to future generations and it might be fun.

That being said, with two months left to go, here we stand....................................................

1. Barack Obama/Joe Biden 

2. John McCain/Sarah Palin

If I'm not mistaken, Neill a few months ago predicted the GOP will win by five points. The national polls in the wake of the Republican Convention have started to consistently show a statistical dead heat (some are even showing McCain pulling ahead). Yet after looking at the latest batch of state polls, I remain unconvinced that he can overtake Obama. The clear trend that seems to be emerging, even post-Palin, is that Obama will hold onto all of the John Kerry states from 2004. Realistically, only two of those states even seem close at this point (Michigan and Pennsylvania), and I have not seen a single fucking poll that shows McCain overtaking him in either state. With even a little bit of work, money and appearances, Obama should be able to pick up all 252 of Kerry's votes, while expending not that much in the way of energy or resources.  

On the other hand, McCain has to defend way more Bush states than he would feel comfortable with. Even if we give him Ohio and Florida (no sure thing, especially with polls in Ohio going back and forth the last three weeks), McCain is going to lose Iowa for sure. He will lose New Mexico for sure. The Dems are heavily targeting Colorado and Virginia, and polls show that Obama has had a slight lead in the former for at least the last month or so. Virginia's polls are all within the margin for error.  The election info from 2006 shows that both states are trending Democratic in recent years.

I have seen multiple polls in the last two days info that suggests Nevada is in play. McCain is defending way too much. Even with the Convention bounce, he has still not made any significant inroads into Obama's states and has to expend time and resources to protect his own turf. There is no doubt that McCain has had a good montha and a half. The new aggressive "Celebrity," attack ads, coupled with the Palin pick has energized his base and put more swing voters in play than I am comfortable with. But unless I start to see polls in Michigan and Pennsylvania that show  McCain gaining significant ground, I still would rather be in Obama's position.   

Even with McCain's recent resurgence, and a reawakening of the Conservative base, Obama's field organization is quite strong in at least 20 states. While new voter registration isn't neccessarily a great indicator of much, it does hearten me to know that new Dem voter registration has easily outpaced GOP voter registration in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia. I still cling to the belief (perhaps naively) that black turnout will explode, and I have also seen data where Obama is outpolling McCain amongst Hispanics by almost 3 to 1.
Yes, blue collar workers are still a problem, and I am not stupid enough to think that sending Joe Biden to Scranton and Detroit is going to completely alleviate that potential calamity. But I do think that if Obama stays on message (relatively simple narrative of change vs more of the same, tie McCain to Bush, ect) he will have a shot with these people. 

I am worried about the Silent Majority, the Nixon coalition, and the secretly racist white voter who tells pollters they will vote for Obama but will secretly vote for McCain. I am worried about vindictive former Clinton supporters, and I stress that nobody at this point really knows anything, BUT given Obama's electoral map position, I would much rather be him than McCain, even now. Democrats are prone to reflexive panicking during Presidential elections, and I am no exception. I am angry and mystified that with 80% of the country saying we're on a wrong track that the election is so close. 

But when I calm down I realize that no matter what the surrounding conditions, it is always going to be fucking hard to elect a Democrat. Always always ALWAYS. The Republicans are just a lot better at framing a national narrative. They are a lot better at going after your kneecaps. They do a much better job at putting their opposition permanently on the defensive. 
Take away Ross Perot's 19% in 1992, and Bush Sr. makes that a nail biter, despite the fucking shitty economy.

My favorite example is 1976. Barely two years post Watergate. The atmosphere for Republicans was fucking TOXIC. Nixon was loathed by even swing voters, and not a mention of his name was made at their convention in Kansas City. Republicans had absorbed a drubbing at the Congressional elections in '74 and were synonymous with Spiro Agnew, HR Haldeman, Gordon Liddy, and scandal. The Dems were running a squeaky clean southerner pledging to restore honesty and transparency to government, and was running against someone (Ford) who was reviled for pardoning Nixon, and was a pretty rotten candidate in his own right (falling down the stairs of Marine One, even declaring in a debate with Carter that "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be in a Ford Administration"). Yet in an atmosphere even more blatantly hostile to Republicans than the current one, Carter only won by 2 percent and 50 or so electoral votes. No way should it have been that close. But the Republicans know how to win national elections, and this being a fundamentally center right country, it takes quite a bit in terms of organization, message, strength and environment to elect a Dem. Even though I get fucking nervous from time to time, I remmeber 1976, and I also remember that Obama;s organization is simply superior, on par with what Karl Rove was able to formulate in 2000 and 2004. David Plouffe and David Axelrod have done a fantastic job of understanding what's needed, targeting key areas, mobilizing volunteers, and framing a message. I feel like if you can take down the Clinton machine you can do just about anything.

I know that there are a ton of ways this could get screwed up in the next two months. Whether its in a debate, or someone makes a gaffe on the campaign trail, or McCain is able to frame an anti-Obama narrative that inflicts lasting damage. The national polls look bad. But I would still much rather be in our position than theirs. 

Am I crazy?


Blogger neill said...

I was arguing this a few weeks ago with a friend of mine whose dissertation is on ethnic mobilization in American elections. I was arguing that between the pains that Obama has taken to distance himself from stereotypical reactionary black politics, and the fact that McCain is by far the most rational person that the GOP could have come up with, that it might be possible that the closet racist vote has already declared for McCain. Essentially, the availability of two plausible alternatives might mean that voters are able to reveal their preferences more readily to interviewers and surveyors this time around. If that's true, then it's possible that Obama could squeak this one out.

If it's not true -- and my friend thought it wasn't, and she's probably right -- then McCain has a built-in 4-7 point swing that's not going to be revealed until Nov. 4. It's not a question of reassembling the Nixon coalition as much as it is a (seemingly) immutable result of American politics.

8:24 PM


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