Wednesday, October 01, 2008

NewsWatch 10.1.08

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Trends and Tremors
Happy October! Feeling better now than you did a month ago? Me too! Obama's poll numbers are skyrocketing in key battleground states and the McCain campaign is sputtering. A month ago, things looked completely different. The sky was falling on Obama's poll numbers and the McCain ticket was running like a brand new Cadillac. Is there a similar causality behind these two trends? Hint: It's all about Sarah, and that's today's trend.

Okay, it's not ALL about Sarah Palin. There's this economy thing that has something to do with it too. But let's remember something that we all reminded ourselves way back when Sarah Palin first broke on the scene: voters knew very little about her. Now, we know a lot more, and it's not pleasant.

I wrote a few days ago that what we knew about Palin was just the tip of the iceberg. Well, now the rest of that information is starting to surface, and it's done a lot of damage to the McCain ship.

Far from being savvy, Palin's interviews with Katie Couric show that she might actually be dangerously ignorant of history and contemporary world issues. As if her strange answers on global warming and which newspapers she reads weren't bad enough, now rumor has it that she couldn't name a supreme court decision other than Roe v. Wade when asked by Couric. Tune in to CBS tonight to find out.

It all culminates in the debate tomorrow. As a talked about on Monday, I think the low expectations game might actually work against her, because one gaffe for her in the spotlight could mean disaster even if she does well for the rest of the debate. Now, she can be far from perfect tomorrow night and do fine, but she has to not say anything really, really stupid, something which has proven difficult for her so far. Interestingly, part of the reason she's done so poorly may be that handlers have had her so under wraps that she just hasn't had enough practice being in the limelight.

Biden, for his part, has had plenty of practice, and notice that the talk of what he must do has subsided since Palin's entrance into the national scene. Sure, he still has to be wary of condescension and his usual gaffes, but the pressure has definitely shifted.

And that brings us full circle to poll numbers, which are rapidly shifting in Obama's favor. He's secured his lead in the northwest and Minnesota, and may even be pulling even or ahead in Florida and Ohio, while making gains in states like Missouri and Virginia. The reason? As Oreo noted earlier, female voters, who are moving back to Obama in droves. We have all learned much more about Palin since this time last month, and female voters in particular do not like what they see.

So as Nate Silver told us way back in September, though Palin started with a bang, she may ultimately be a net negative for John McCain. My, how things have changed.

Republicans Attack Ifill Tower
Today there's another angle to the debate story. Republicans are attacking moderator Gwen Ifill's impartiality because of a book she wrote to be released in January that features Barack Obama. Even though the book was announced months ago, apparently the McCain camp just got the memo, and nevermind the fact that Ifill is one of the most respected journalists in the country.

You see, trivialities like that don't matter to John McCain, man of action! There's a chance to blame the moderator if Palin fails miserably, and darn it if he isn't going to take it! But what if Ifill does end up being pushed out of the debate (unlikely and unpopular at this juncture)? That might actually favor Joe Biden.

Bail me out!
Are you sick of this story yet? Me too, so I'll make it brief. The senate is going to vote on the new and improved bailout package later tonight, and both Obama and McCain are expected to vote for it. Of course, it's not really new and improved because as about a million people on CNBC explained yesterday, the original plan failed not because of the bill itself but because of bad marketing that caused public opinion to turn against it. Today, after a disastrous Monday on Wall Street and more deliberation in congress, the polls are more or less split on what is still being called a bailout, instead of a protection plan, or buy-in plan, or anything that has a better connotation.

Of course, the compromised bill will include few changes from the original plan. The heart of it is still the $700 billion package that Treasurer Paulson originally proposed. The biggest change, besides a renewed sense of urgency, is that Democrats have caved on adding some $100 billion in tax breaks to the plan in the hope of persuading House Republicans. If you think now might not be time for tax breaks given the deficit and the war and now the bailout, you're not alone. But hey, that's what Republicans do, they look out for America. Er, the wealthiest of America. Er...I'll get back to you, Katie?

It was...uh...sarcasm
Just when John McCain didn't need to be cast as an angry, condescending, won't even look at his opponent during a debate kind of guy, he went and said...this (video from Oreo this morning):
"Thank you, but I disagree with your fundamental principal that she doesn't have the experience...You and I just have a fundamental disagreement, and I am so happy the American people seem to be siding with me."

"Really? I haven't detected that in the polls, I haven't detected that among the base...If there's a Georgetown cocktail party person who, quote, calls himself a conservative who doesn't like her, good luck. I don't dismiss him. I think the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval."
Think someone's a little frustrated with the way things are going?

Today's Top Headline
Don't Blame Gwen Ifill If the Veep Debate Sucks
Subhead: What a stupid format


Blame the McCain campaign for the terrible format, says Jack Shafer. Well, one more thing can't hurt them that much.