Thursday, October 09, 2008

NewsWatch 10.9.08

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Trends and Tremors
Good Yontef to those of you who are/were atoning and remembering today. To be honest, it's been a fairly slow news day. Fortunately I'm covering an election, which means I can always lead with the day's polls. Once again, they're good for Obama, who is back at 50% in the DemConWatch aggregate.

This is significant because we're starting to get into polling that incorporates McCain's most recent jabs, including his desperate attempts to link Barack Obama to 60s radical William Ayers. Essentially, these polls tell us the attacks aren't working. Why not? Our next topic...

No Page to Turn
The reason McCain's attacks aren't working is because the economy is still issue number one. No surprises there, but why haven't McCain's attempts to "turn the page" been effective? The latest analysis suggests that the page simply can't be turned. Indeed, US markets plummeted again today despite European gains overnight, essentially assuring that the economy will stay in the news until the next debate, the domestic one, next Wednesday. McCain plans to go after Obama for real on Wednesday, and these polls tell us it won't be enough.

But McCain's advisers aren't stupid - they know that they need to both deflate Obama's lead and assure voters that their candidate can lead on the economy. To take those steps they are trying, as the WaPo article suggests, to completely rebrand Obama as dangerous, different and dishonest, and hope it spills over to the economy:

To make Ayers stick, it has to be part of a broader attack on Obama's judgment, candor and truthfulness. It may be part of the answer when trying to determine how McCain can come back but it is not the only answer.
The reason this won't work is because, as I talked about yesterday, it is another derivative argument. Indeed, Obama has already accused McCain's mortgage plan of being too risky, and the candidate himself of being erratic and uncertain, while promising to look out for taxpayers himself. Essentially, Obama beat McCain to the two arguments he needs to stay in the race. McCain needs to introduce something entirely new or wait for an external, game-changing event if he is to stay competitive.

Never Fear, Underdog is Here (Again)!
That new approach is certainly not McCain re-claiming underdog status. His wife also complained that Obama was unfairly attacking her poor underdog husband, while simultaneously accusing Obama of putting her sons in danger by voting against that one troop funding bill without a timetable, the same one John McCain voted against with a time table. Is that your foot I see in your mouth, Cindy?

But I digress. Point is, the "we're the underdogs, poor us" tactic worked in the primaries because the stakes were lower and conservatives weren't happy with any of their candidates. As a result, they gave McCain another shot and the rest is history. And the strategy may very well help conservative chest-beaters regain some confidence before the election. But it's not going to help with undecided voters, who know that there is a very specific reason he is the underdog now, when he wasn't just a few weeks ago. And as I noted above, the economy is not going away.

Fine, lets talk Bradley Effect. I bring it up because it's in the news after David Gergen talked about it on CNN's post-debate coverage and my cousin told me today that she was nervous that Obama's good polling wouldn't stand up on election day.

First of all, I want to differentiate between Bradley and the recent Stanford Race Study, which is where people get this 6% number. The Stanford study does not look at the Bradley effect, it looks at why Obama doesn't have a bigger lead in the polls.

The Bradley Effect, named after the losing 1982 California gubernatorial candidate Tom Bradley, is where voters tell pollsters they're voting for a black candidate, when in fact they do not at the polls for whatever reason. First and foremost, there is no consensus that this effect actually existed in 1982. Rather, it was a combination of late-breaking factors that sunk Tom Bradley.

But more reassuringly, there is no evidence that it exists today given polling during the primaries. And even if it did exist, it would be small enough that Obama should easily overcome it. Moreover, there may even be a reverse Bradley Effect where African American voters turn out in disproportionate numbers and some Americans who are unwilling to admit to their peers that they would vote for a black man end up pulling the trigger for him in the privacy of the voting booth.

So there. Concerns be gone, end of discussion. Point any of your worried friends or concern trolls to this post and make them read all the articles I've linked to.

If You Vote for Obama Today, You'll Not Only Get a Good President, You'll Also Get A Better Future for Our Country, Absolutely Free!
Have you heard? Obama is buying huge half-hour blocks of ad time for October 29 on major national broadcast networks. This is a bold move given recent tradition of Presidential candidates only airing local ads, and something John McCain will be hard-pressed to match given his choice to opt for public financing.

So what does Obama have planned, and will anyone be able to watch a 30-minute campaign infomercial, even Obama's, without gnawing off a limb? No one knows for sure, but my guess is that it will be used to combat any October surprises, should they crop up, and/or to speak to Americans directly about the economy. I don't expect attacks, as that will likely be viewed as spending money just to bully John McCain. But hey, what do I know? Tune in at 8 P.M. on October 29 on CBS and NBC (so far) to find out.