A Pennsylvania Registration Landmark

May 30, 2008

Democrats now compose more than fifty percent of all registered voters in Pennsylvania, according to the latest data released by state election officials.  Consequently, if the party unites and turns out the base, color the Keystone State blue.

A full breakdown of the registration numbers after the jump.

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The Pitfalls of McCain’s Experience Argument

May 22, 2008

The Democratic primaries witnessed a fundamental question of change versus experience. The electorate could be neatly sliced into those two categories, with each bloc overwhelmingly supporting one candidate. Hillary regularly pulled over ninety percent of voters deeming experience the most desired quality in a candidate; in other words, she essentially maxed out among “experience” voters. To then bolster her numbers, Hillary was forced to either gain ground among “change” voters or shift people’s top priority to experience. Neither happened. Hillary failed to crack the conundrum, which ultimately toppled the campaign.

Translate Hillary’s enigma to the general election. McCain will run a reincarnation of her strength and experience campaign (with outside groups serving up the unpatriotic salsa). Thus, he will likely near or surpass Hillary’s numbers among “experience” voters. But as the primaries revealed, a candidate cannot build a winning coalition solely through the backing of “experience” voters. To broaden his support, McCain holds the same two options that fatally vexed the Clintons.

Consider the first option: improving his standing among “change” voters, a herculean task when tied to an unpopular president and party. McCain has publicly broken from the administration on several issues, hoping his departures from Bush orthodoxy will produce a newsreel of Sister Souljah moments. However, his maverick aura fades on the two crucial issues, Iraq and the economy. This lethal duo is driving the electorate’s disaffection with Republicans, yet McCain firmly adheres to party doctrine on matters of guns and butter.  The Democrats hope to amplify this conformity by tying McCain and Bush in an inextricable knot. 

The other option calls for persuading voters to emphasize experience over change. Bluntly, this requires fear-mongering, a tactic the Republicans have exercised successfully in the past. However, Obama appears as an effective messenger to combat these panic-based ploys. In the appeasement spat this past week, Obama forcefully declared:

They aren’t telling you the truth. They are trying to fool you and scare you because they can’t win a foreign policy debate on the merits. But it’s not going to work. Not this time, not this year.

The aggressive push-back reframes the issue: casting the Republicans as policy-deficient while branding their playbook old politics. The former seizes upon the overwhelming majority (82% of the public) that believes the country is on the wrong track, while the latter fits into Obama’s central campaign theme. Also, repeated use of fear-mongering has blunted its effectiveness, evidenced by the Republicans’ slipping national security advantage since 2006.

Herein lies McCain’s challenge ahead.  A burning desire for change presently exists, and Obama fulfills that want.  McCain, slapped with an “R”, cannot significantly encroach into Obama’s territory.  The appetite for experience exists, but needs to be whetted further for McCain to have a chance at winning.  McCain must run a campaign of convincing, one emphasizing the need for experience.  His campaign’s success hinges on this message’s persuasiveness.   

Bush’s Gift

May 17, 2008

On Thursday, Bush assailed Obama for his plan to meet with dictators, comparing the policy to appeasement during WWII. The fallout illustrates precisely why the Democrats will unite for the general election, regardless of how the nomination imbroglio concludes.

Take a look at the breadth of the Democratic establishment rushing to defend Obama in the wake of Bush’s verbal assault. The list includes neutral bystanders such as Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Rahm Emanuel, while even Hillary (!) chimed in with support. A party always unites in the face of an external foe, especially one almost universally despised. If Bush continues to involve himself, the Democrats (and many independents) will constantly revive their fervent anti-Republican sentiment. If Bush doesn’t stop spouting off, the election will turn into a referendum on the past eight years – spelling certain doom for McCain.

Where Did Edwards Supporters Go?

May 14, 2008

The Gallup tracking poll reveals that a clear majority of Edwards supporters flocked to Obama after their candidate’s departure from the race:


Edwards Endorsement: Deft Strategy

May 14, 2008

Tonight’s political maneuvering represents yet another tactical victory for the Obama campaign.  Now, the story is no longer Hillary’s forty-one point blowout in West Virginia, but Obama reclaiming his momentum with a major endorsement.

Edwards decided to endorse recently, but before last night, indicated by his speechwriter’s Facebook status yesterday morning – “writing a speech.”  Then the Obama campaign held the endorsement in its back pocket, putting it on the table the day after West Virginia.  Hillary is going on all the major news networks tonight to try to capitalize on her victory, but the Edwards endorsement will clearly overshadow that.  Again, it’s a brilliant strategic move by the Obama forces.  There had been speculation that Obama would release his April fundraising numbers to stifle a momentary Clinton surge.  Instead of money, it’s one of the biggest endorsements left.

How Divided Are the Dems?

May 14, 2008

The Obama campaign released a memo today, both pre-spinning tonight’s blowout and attempting to dispel a series of myths. The chief canard:

MYTH 1: The Primary has left Democrats divided.

FACT: Democrats are united behind Barack Obama, even more so than Republicans are united behind McCain

May 12 Washington Post poll shows that Obama wins 81% of Democrats in a matchup against John McCain.

Indeed, more Republicans crossover to vote for Obama (15%) than do Democrats for McCain (13%).

Tonight’s exit polls revealed deep rifts in the Democratic party, at least in the mainly white, less educated, and relatively poor West Virginia.  However, some are erroneously extrapolating these divisions to the general election.

For the past four presidential elections, the Democrat defection rate has been about ten or eleven percent. According to recent polls, with Obama as the nominee, the Democratic crossover to McCain ranges from eleven to fifteen percent. And, this is in the midst of a heated primary. The number of party deserters will only fall from here, and it’s already at a good level relative to history.

Working Class Whites & More

May 13, 2008

ABC News sifts through the polling data, turning up this nugget:

It’s fair for the Obama camp to point out that he doesn’t do significantly worse against McCain among working-class whites than Clinton does, and that he does better with their upscale counterparts. And Obama’s numbers are nothing like John Kerry’s and Al Gore’s; they lost working-class whites to George W. Bush by 24 points and 17 points, respectively.

The media has a myopic focus on a single demographic, namely working-class whites, to the expense of a holistic approach. Elections represent a sum of different demographics, not just one isolated bloc. While Obama slightly underperforms in one population segment, he counterbalances that with a strong performance in another. It is critical to view the breakdown of the entire electorate.