Tuesday, October 07, 2008

NewsWatch 10.7.08

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at http://www.DemocraticConventionWatch.com

Hi again, and sorry I haven't been keeping up with the promise to give you a NewsWatch every single day. It's a lot tougher than I realized, and I have the utmost respect for all of the other contributors on this blog who manage to do it day in, day out. But the campaign season rolls on, and so...

Trends and Tremors
It's less then a month to the election, so every poll result starts to mean more and more, and it's good news for Obama. He currently leads by large margins in national polls and is starting to creep ahead in Ohio and Virginia, and he's even making it close in Indiana. Minnesota for McCain? Forget about it. Fox/Rasmussen has him ahead in Colorado, Missouri, and Florida as well. And those are yesterday's results.

True, yesterday's CBS poll showed a tightened 47-43% national race and attributed it to McCain's new negativity and Palin's performance in the VP debate, but given Obama's gains in state polling, I think we can consider it an outlier. Perhaps more important than the actual result at this stage, the poll showed a huge enthusiasm gap, something I touched on a few weeks ago. Obama leads McCain by 20 points in how enthusiastic voters are about his candidacy, and that's a fact that will manifest itself as soon as early voting opens in states and on election day, when a greater number of fired up Obama supporters line up while depressed McCain followers can't find a reason to go to the polls.

Today's polls show the trends continuing, with Obama close or gaining in Indiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Nevada. Obama continues to poll over the 50% threshold in the DemConWatch aggregate.

So the question becomes, what can John McCain do to increase enthusiasm? The answer, our next topic...

Negative Nancy
Yup, there's no way to vamp up enthusiasm for yourself by...attacking your opponent? If that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. The problem with McCain's new strategy is that his sagging poll numbers aren't a result of Obama's personality, but rather tied to McCain's image of being unprepared to lead on the economy.

Turning even more negative and personal isn't going to help, especially when your campaign has already been branded as disgracefully dishonest. It's gotten to such a point that the MSM has already jumped on McCain and Palin for the Ayers stretch and disgraceful "palling around with terrorist" comments.

But it gets worse for McCain. Looking at the dynamics of the election, it's clear that both bases have been solidified, and that independents, the ones who are now flocking to Obama over economic concerns, will decide this election. Unfortunately for McCain, independents are less likely to respond to such brutal attacks, especially because everyone knows that McCain started it. In a normal year, McCain's tactics might work. In an anti-establishment election, however, McCain just can't afford to alienate any more voters, which is what he risks doing by continuing this strategy.

Obama, meanwhile, is playing smart by following McCain's lead but keeping it on the economic turf by harping on Keating. Because McCain specifically started the new wave of attacks in an attempt to "turn the page" on the economy, Obama can both criticize McCain's unwillingness to engage him on the economy and attack without taking the blame.

Moreover, while McCain's role in Keating is well known, it's a new issue for the media in the frame of this election. Hillary Clinton already brought up Ayers, Wright, etc. during the primary season, so none of what McCain is pushing is new info for voters or the media. On their own, attacks can take a while to set in, but old info this late in an election? It's not going to be enough.

Tonight on the Network

This article from U.S. News and World Report compares tonight's debate to the movie Network, which I think is an interesting comparison. McCain definitely needs to win, and may need a "mad as hell" moment to change the headlines and get back in this race. Even FOX admits that McCain needs a knock out performance tonight to reverse his sliding campaign.

But the biggest question of all isn't what McCain will try to do, but what he will use to do it. Will he bring his new negativity to the debate? If so, Obama will be ready to fight back. Hold on to your hats, it's going to be a fascinating evening.

No Need to Hagel

Lilibet Hagel, wife of Obama friend and GOP Senator Chuck Hagel, endorsed Obama this morning alongside Susan Eisenhower, daughter of President Eisenhower. No word yet on whether Chuck plans to make an endorsement.