Effects of Increased Turnout

June 25, 2008

The Chicago Tribune tinkers with turnout models:

A projection by the Tribune based on the results of the 2004 election shows that a turnout increase of 10 percent among blacks and youths—two groups that have demonstrated considerable excitement over the Obama candidacy—would offer a powerful potential lift to his campaign.

Two states that the Republicans narrowly won last time, Iowa and New Mexico, would switch to the Democratic column. The Republican lead in Ohio would plummet from more than 118,000 votes to fewer than 6,000. A host of Republican states would come into play, while Democratic leads would be substantially cushioned in major blue states that the presumed Republican candidate John McCain has targeted: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

And ten percent, when viewed within the context of the primaries, appears to be a modest estimate:

One indicator of the level of excitement this time: Exit polls from the Democratic primaries in states where such information was available this year indicated turnout among blacks more than doubled from four years earlier, according to an analysis by Bositis.


The McCain Brand’s Stickiness

June 23, 2008

The cardinal rule of politics states that you define yourself before others blemish your blank canvas, and similarly, that you define your opponents before they paint indelible portraits of themselves. Each presidential election, the axiom’s acolytes fire a barrage of accusations at the opposing candidate in an effort to disrupt his budding narrative. This dynamic has resurfaced in the early stages of the Obama-McCain duel, with each side fervently seeking to cast the other as out-of-touch hypocrites touting preposterous policies.

First Read picks up on the race to define, elaborating on a point made by David Broder:

With Obama so unknown still, is it good for him to be ducking town hall meetings and deciding to fund his campaign privately? The more he does things that give the appearance of just another politician, doesn’t that undercut the delicate nature of his fresh face image? It’s the talking point of the weekend by McCain surrogates, and it could be one that’s effective. The Clinton campaign never could make the “he’s just another craven politician” tag stick, because Clinton had the whole pot-kettle problem. But with McCain’s reform image engrained with many voters — even if it’s been dented by some reversals of his own — Obama could see this tactic used against more effectively now than it was during the primary.

Leave aside Obama’s brand issues for now; that’s a subject for future posts.  Instead, consider the strength of the foundation supporting McCain’s reputation.  Is the senator’s reform image entrenched in the electorate’s mind, as First Read indicates?  Or, more likely, is this theory yet another Beltway concoction that crumbles when confronted with the bludgeon of fact?

How did First Read arrive at this assumption?  It sure sounds like speculation, and we’ve seen the success rate of unfounded hypotheses during this election.  Take  the “Democrats are fatally divided” myth, a fallacy that continued to propagate despite contradictory poll data.  Or, pull out from that dusty drawer the Clinton invincibility storyline, which endured numerous blows before detonating post-Iowa.

Someone has already researched the McCain brand’s stickiness – the results were the polar opposite of First Read’s fictional, but still conventional wisdom:

Advisers to Mr. Obama said their research suggested that Mr. McCain, notwithstanding his high profile in American politics for more than a decade, was not well known to many voters.

What a Bounce!

June 20, 2008

Obama opens up a fifteen point lead in the latest Newsweek poll, buoyed by the shifting party sentiments:

55 percent of all voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the party while just 36 percent call themselves Republicans or lean that way.

Yowzers!  Couple this with statistical models granting Obama an average of 343.8 electoral votes, and this election may turn into a landslide.

Stick To Three

June 19, 2008

Yesterday, we outlined the benefits for Obama from more debates: as promised, here are the consequences.

Experience? Really?: We previously wrote that more debates could “elevate the allegedly inexperienced Obama, granting him a level of credibility unlikely to be earned in only two or three face-to-face matchups.” However, delve into the Democratic primaries to find a ready counterexample.

Obama endured a grueling twenty-six debates during the primary season, appearing one-on-one with Hillary for the last six. Despite the abundance of opportunities to convey experience, he always faltered, his fumbling nature paling in comparison to Hillary’s fluency on wonky topics.

Among voters considering experience the most important quality in a candidate, Obama performed the same at the beginning of the primaries as at the end – single-digits. Even after sixteen months of campaigning and twenty-six debates, he did not significantly assuage the inexperience fears. Translate these woes to the general election, and no number of debates will mitigate the inexperience factor.

Suit Up, You’re In: Currently, McCain has to claw for attention, a reflection of the torrential enthusiasm surrounding Democrats and the stupor afflicting Republicans. However, a heavy debate schedule grants the Arizonan plenty of free media exposure, essential for a financially-strapped campaign. Each debate provokes a burst of publicity and provides the venue for McCain to relay his message. With more debates, the Obama campaign lets McCain onto the field when they could keep him half-stuck in the locker room.

Opportunity Cost: Spending time preparing for and attending debates prevents Obama from campaigning, whether through mega-rallies or round tables spotlighting a specific issue.  And as the primaries indicated, when Obama’s team blankets a region, the candidate’s poll numbers skyrocket.  Witness Texas and Pennsylvania, where the campaign slashed twenty point deficits in half.

Also consider the cost of switching mediums.  Obama performs better at rallies than at debates, while McCain excels in town-hall settings compared to formal speech environments.  With more debates, McCain has more opportunities in a favorable environment.

Yes, More Debates!

June 17, 2008

The McCain and Obama campaigns have initiated discussions over the debate schedule, with each side desiring more than the customary three. McCain is furiously pitching ten town-hall meetings, while Obama wants somewhere between three and ten in a mix of formats. We plunge into this debate over debates, presenting the benefits for Obama today.

Experience: More debates elevate the allegedly inexperienced Obama, granting him a level of credibility unlikely to be earned in only two or three face-to-face meetings. If the Illinois senator consistently displays a dexterity of the issues, matching or even surpassing McCain’s, he could partially erase the inexperience smudge on his record.

Gaffe-Gate: The more debates, the higher the probability that McCain will commit an embarrassing gaffe. In town-hall settings this year, the senator has blundered numerous times: saying troops were down to pre-surge levels, implying America waged the Iraq war for oil, and calling Putin the president of Germany. Now picture one of these muffs occurring, followed by Obama gently correcting McCain. The moment would instantly be entrenched in YouTube lore and could carry the same magnitude as Ford’s Soviet Union bungle.

Personality: Obama radiated a calm and collected nature in the last few Democratic debates, while McCain occasionally dipped into snideness and sarcasm during the Republican face-offs. Essentially, Obama appeared presidential and McCain did not. More airtime would solidify the contrast in public personality, lending Obama an air of gravitas essential against a grizzled war veteran.

Arguments for the opposing side are coming soon.

Yet Another Beltway Myth

June 17, 2008

Frank Rich takes a trebuchet to the “Democrats are divided” myth, exposing reams of data debunking the Beltway falsehood:

Yet the myth of Democratic disarray is so pervasive that when “NBC Nightly News” and The Wall Street Journal presented their new poll results last week (Obama, 47 percent; McCain, 41 percent) they ignored their own survey’s findings to stick to the clichéd script. Both news organizations (and NBC’s sibling, MSNBC) dwelled darkly on Mr. Obama’s “problems with two key groups” (as NBC put it): white men, where he is behind 20 percentage points to Mr. McCain, and white suburban women, where he is behind 6 points.

Since that poll gives Mr. Obama not just a 19-point lead among all women but also a 7-point lead among white women, a 6-point deficit in one sliver of the female pie is hardly a heart-stopper. Nor is Mr. Obama’s showing among white men shocking news. No Democratic presidential candidate, including Bill Clinton, has won a majority of that declining demographic since 1964. Mr. Kerry lost white men by 25 points, and Mr. Gore did by 24 points (even as he won the popular vote).

Read the rest of this entry »

Congressional Artifice

June 10, 2008

In 2004, Republicans used their control of Congress to embarrass Kerry into a series of missed votes. The Massachusetts senator would frequently trek to the Capitol for a scheduled vote, only to discover that the vote had been postponed. Kerry’s legislative record, or lack of one, became a centerpiece for Republican attack fodder. Democrats should pursue a similar strategy during this election cycle.

McCain, a longtime advocate for climate change initiatives, recently missed a vote on a landmark emissions regulation bill in order to hold a private fundraiser. The issue passed without much attention, as Obama was considering skipping the vote as well. Neither senator has an exemplary attendance record with each one racking up hundreds of missed votes while on the campaign trail.

However, the Democrats could schedule a series of votes designed to force McCain to choose between two options: appealing to independents or satisfying the queasy conservative base. Schedule a vote on McCain’s original immigration bill, a piece of legislation he now opposes, and stamp him as a flip-flopper. Bring up a campaign finance reform vote, both reigniting McCain’s past sparks with the base and broadcasting his reversal on the issue. These attacks also penetrate the McCain brand itself, stripping away the straight talk facade and revealing the Flipflop Transit.

Combine these votes with those of the utmost importance and schedule them successively on the same day.  That way, Obama could easily attend the daily session, while McCain would grope in vain for an excuse to shirk his senatorial duties.

If Congressional Democrats pursue this strategy, they will help to continue a streak stretching back to the nation’s founding: no sitting minority senator has ever won the presidency.