Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NewsWatch 9.17.08

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Welcome to NewsWatch
Welcome to a new daily segment on DemConWatch. My name is Gabe Stein, and I spend most of my free time reading articles about the election - a lot of articles. I recently started calculating the number, and it's scary: I generally go through 50 to 100 articles per day. Yeah, I'm a total junkie, but in order to put the obsession to good use, I decided to volunteer to contribute to DemConWatch for the next seven weeks.

What you'll see from me is a daily dose of the top campaign stories from each news cycle, culled from hundreds of sources. While I can't promise to never miss a story, I'll try not to miss many, and more importantly, I'll intelligently synthesize the information by working to identify emerging common narratives in the otherwise unconnected mass of material. There's a theory that if you flood your mind with enough information, you're able to step back from the fray and find bigger trends you would have otherwise missed. Let's see if that works.

Of course, I invite you to provide your own analysis and point out anything I may have missed. So without further adieu:

Trends and Tremors
McCain's team has been masterfully manipulating language from the early days of the primary season, when McCain tried to counter Hillary by increasing his use of the phrase "Lady Liberty." Now, we're seeing an increased use of fear and protectionist rhetoric when McCain talks about the economy. Aside from the well-publicized "strong fundamentals" gaffe, most of McCain's economic message is grim. He blames "greed and corruption" on Wall St., his latest ad says that we're in a "crisis," and his stump speech talks about "tough, tough times." It's clear to me that McCain is systematically trying to liken the current economic struggles to a war, which plays into McCain's war hero strength. Only McCain can protect you, his new ad proclaims:

"I won't tolerate a system that puts you and your family at risk...I'll keep them safe."
It's Still the Economy
The big news is the bailout of AIG, and McCain is again blaming Regulatory Agencies. But is he for or against the bailout? And why, if he knows who to blame, does McCain think we need a commission to study what went wrong? Maybe we need a commission to study McCain's stance on the economy.

The mixed message probably isn't helping him connect to middle class voters worried about the economy, and the fact that he can't run a modern business isn't going to sway any voters into his camp either. Speaking of which, Fiorina's comment is getting a ton of MSM play. As a result, the McCain campaign is burying the former CEO for the near future. Just when we were getting to know her! I wouldn't fault HP for an 'I told you so' moment here.

McCain's committed a lot of gaffes this week, and the economy could be the opening Obama needs. He's is certainly trying to capitalize on the McCain mistakes: 77% of last week's Obama ads were negative, and Joe Biden's fiery new stump speech is getting good reviews in the blogosphere and MSM.

On the campaign trail in Elko, Nevada today, Obama jabbed at McCain with a great line criticizing the his reversal on the severity of the current crisis:
"now he tells us that he’s the one who will take on the ol’ boy network. The ol’ boy network? In the McCain campaign, that’s called a staff meeting."
Hello, 527
Let me make a prediction. The big story this weekend: 527s. They're message testing in crucial battleground states, and given that this is already the dirtiest campaign in history, is it bound to get any nicer? Expect to wake up to the smell of fresh negativity this Saturday.

Don't Panic?
Is Obama panicking because of his inability to connect to middle class service centers and Catholics? Is Michael Gerson, former Bush speechwriter, really a Vogon? Er...

And what is the middle class, anyways?

No Excuses
A comment on an article I read a few days ago about the ongoing Michigan voter caging story (I'm still trying to find the link to the specific article) said that Dems would just use Republican vote manipulation (and maybe outright fraud if you believe the Ohio 2004 theories) as an excuse for why they lost the election. Well, not anymore. Obama is taking caging seriously, filing a class-action lawsuit against the Republican effort to challenge Michigan voters with foreclosed houses. Maybe the Obama camp should try to publicize this a little more to combat McCain's increasing populism? It's a potentially damning narrative and tailor-made for battleground TV audiences: Republicans actively and obviously disenfranchising working-class voters suffering from the effects of the bad economy. Could the Republicans possibly look more evil?

Razing Funds
The increasingly violent and negative tenor of the campaign is taking a toll on both candidate's resources this month. That's why Obama raised $9, no, $11 million from Hollywood last night at a fundraiser headlined by Barbara Streisand, who today warned John McCain on her blog that women won't be swayed just because he picked Palin. Will Obama's August be followed by another record-smashing month in September? He'll need to average $3 million per day to reach the target of $200 million for the rest of the campaign.

We hear a lot about Palin's effect on GOP fundraising, but what about Democrats pressed into donating against her? The AP article mentions that Obama raised $10 million after her candidacy was announced, and today's Reuters/Zogby poll talks about the reverse Palin affect, and has Obama +2 in a Thursday-Saturday measure.

Speaking of funds, isn't Clinton-turned-McCain supporter and mega-rich bundler Lynn Forester de Rothschild accusing Obama of being 'elitist' a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Saying, in essence, "I don't mind raising money from elitists and donating bundles of Royal cash, but goodness that Obama just strikes me the wrong way" shouldn't get a lot of traction with voters, right?

The Poll Results You Won't Hear About
We know the bounce is gone, but what you're not hearing about is the data on McCain's favorability in recent days. The latest Ipsos (main poll tied at 45 for each candidate) has 71% of Republicans saying they will 'definitely' vote for McCain, down from 77% last week. Some of those voters have shifted to the 'probably' category, which was up 3 points to 16%, but the rest went to 'could change mind' (12% from 10% last week). The bounce is over, but there are signs that it might even be swinging back the other way.

In the same poll, Obama's 'definitely' numbers held even at 80%, while 1% shifted from 'could change mind' (now at 7%) to 'probably' (up to 13%).

Meanwhile, in Washington...
The House passed an offshore drilling bill that Republicans are calling a partisan ploy disguised as effective compromise. Speaking of partisanship and being unwilling to compromise, did Republicans really try to adjourn twice before the drilling vote? Really?

But the big questions is, will it effect the election? I doubt it - the MSM isn't giving it a lot of play and the bill probably won't even be passed before the next recess.