Saturday, September 20, 2008

NewsWatch 9.20.08

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Trends and Tremors
McCain crazed, Obama cool. The issue that will decide this election. Obama started it with his panic comment that I covered yesterday, and I promise you, if today's headlines are any indication, it's going to be a flood.

While McCain panicked this week, blaming different groups of people (often falsely) for the economic crisis and offering a new ridiculous solution every day, Obama rose above the storm and waited for everyone to calm down, telling voters that he understood their pain but that we needed more information to make an informed decision on the economy.

After huddling with his top advisers, he decided to tentatively back the Bush administration's bailouts, adding that it was key not to place the burden on taxpayers. The markets loved the bailouts and rose sharply, and Obama looked like a genius.

This is a rare moment where voters are getting a true glimpse of both candidates' leadership styles, and an even rarer moment in that this glimpse might actually decide the election. When the markets are in shock and everyone's panicking, no one wants to hear McCain's "the fundamentals are strong" optimism or his barrage of plans, because it's essentially selling a band-aid of lies to put over everyone's uncertainty. But no one wants a debbie downer either.

Obama's coolness fits the bill. He's reassuring you, to paraphrase Mad Men, that everything you're doing is okay. That it's okay to be worried, but that we shouldn't panic and lose sight of the realities of the situation.

This is exactly what Obama's been missing since the RNC (it was change/hope): a reason for voters to pick him that's bigger than the issues. Panic vs. Calm. Obama's team can now sell the fear of a McCain panic in the White House against the reassuring calm of Obama. And that's a winning message.

This, that and The Other
Oh man. Yesterday I talked about race re-entering the election as an issue over McCain's Raines ad. I hoped it would basically go away, but today AP/Yahoo released its race poll. The results are not so good for Obama. Essentially, his race could cost him 6 or more points on Election Day.

Now, I don't want to harp on race. Obviously I think it's ridiculous that any candidate should have to run at a multi-point disadvantage from day one. Especially in such an important race, you'd have to think that, I don't know, the economy would trump race. As a student, I can tell you that racism is all but nonexistent on college campuses. I really believe that my generation is more or less colorblind, and that race issues will disappear altogether in the next 20 years. Am I too confident? Maybe, but that's not something to debate right now.

This touches on a bigger issue. Obama is still having trouble relating to on the fence voters. Obama has always said that he knows he's a tough sell for Americans, but voters in key swing states are still having trouble relating to him, because of Republican attempts to paint him as exotic.

Hopefully, what I noted above will help these voters get over their fear of the Other, knowing what an irresponsible choice McCain would be. However, Obama still has work to do to remind voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania that he's an American and a Christian just like them. I think he'll be able to do it, especially if he can paint McCain as a reactionary, but just in case, let's see those margins go to 4 or 5 percent in national polling instead of just 2 or 3.

Joltin' Joe
How about that Joe Biden? As I talked about yesterday, he may be the most underrated VP candidate ever. Now that Palinmania has faded, he's getting the mainstream attention he deserves for doing some great work connecting to swing state voters. I also think Bidenism's - "that's not change, that's more of the same", "literally", "I mean this", I'm not kidding, etc. - could be the next big internet meme (now that the LHC has been temporarily shut down, anyways).

Secure My Social Life!
I may not be correctly interpreting the phrase social security correctly above, but it's back in the headlines given the economic crisis. Today, Obama linked McCain's social security plan to the economic crisis:

"He wants to run health care like they've been running Wall Street. Well, senator, I know some folks on Main Street who aren't going to think that's such a good idea."
Like health care, social security is such a tired issue that it probably isn't going to be a huge issue all by itself, it'll likely becoming tangled up in discussions of the economy as a whole. Expect it to be out of the headlines in time for the first debate. Speaking of which...

Observation One is Inherency (A. The Bush Administration)
The debates are almost upon us. Who's the pressure on? The MSM says Obama, but I don't know. Clearly, he has a lot to accomplish: connect with voters, establish himself as a leader, etc. But as has been the theme of this post, McCain will have to prove that he isn't going to panic in the White House, and that he is, in fact, willing to be a maverick. If Obama can rattle McCain at all in a debate, something that may be more likely given the new open format, I think he'll win (the debate) easily.

Also, the talk of high expectations going into debates has always bugged me, even if it's true. So voters, you're saying that if the guy who you think will do the worst does better than you originally thought, but still not as good as the other guy who you thought would do value the worse guy's performance more? Yeah, that's not convoluted.

Today's Top Headline

McCain feeds America a junk food diet with Palin choice
Seattle Post Intelligencer

Stay healthy, America. Vote Obama-Biden.