Slings and Arrows

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SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 1:59AM

We Got Game

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When the national polls came out after the GOP Convention, it started happening again.

The Democrats began to panic, lose their nerve, second-guess themselves and their candidate.  Obama should hit back harder.  Obama should go on the attack.  Obama should dump his campaign staff.  Obama should get some passion.  Obama should stand on his head and eat cornflakes for breakfast.

The media picked up on the fear and now it’s the top story – how the GOP has successfully caused Obama to “stumble.”

Enough already.

The fact is that bounces happen. Sometimes they are small, sometimes they are big.  In a few cases they are even non-existent.  And there is very little pattern to the relationship between bounce and winning the election.

Yes, the national polls have the race a lot tighter than after the democratic convention.  Take a closer look at the state by state analysis, and the numbers tell quite a different story….

According to the CNN electoral map, most states are polling so that they are in one column or the other.  They categorize states as safe, leaning, or toss-up.  According to their polling and analysis, the states that are safe or leaning for Obama tally up to 243 electoral votes.  The states that are safe or lean for McCain only tally up to 189 electoral votes.  In order to win the election, a candidate must get 270 electoral votes.

There are eight toss-up states: Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada.

It cannot be emphasized enough how much of an advantage Obama actually has on the electoral map right now, even among the “safe” states.  With New York, Illinois, and California nearly a lock for him, that’s 107 electoral votes all but assured.  With 42 more votes from a solid block of northeastern states, Obama has half the electoral votes he needs.  McCain’s block of “safe states” is more numerous, but the states carry fewer votes each – Texas is the biggest prize among them with 34 votes.

Looking at the polls for the toss-up states right now, they are a mixed bag.  Missouri, Nevada, Virginia and Florida currently favor McCain, giving him 56 more electoral votes.  But Obama leads in polls in Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan, giving him 50 votes, enough to put him over the top and assure electoral victory with 293 electoral votes.

In other words, right now, we’re winning.

But it is a game of inches in a close election, which means we cannot afford to get cocky. But neither does it help to panic.  Sure, Palin has provided some momentum to the McCain campaign, but everyone is loved in the beginning when they are shiny and new, and soon after pilloried once the bloom is off the rose.  Anyone here remember Wesley Clark in 2004?  How about Fred Thompson in the GOP primary?  At best, Palin has shored up McCain’s base, but in the long run can she really attract the swing voters that will be necessary to put more swing states into play and change the map?  My guess is no. 

Palin was chosen in part as a distraction, a way to change the subject of the conversation.  And we have bought it, hook, line and sinker.  The cold hard truth is that McCain has to “run the table” with respect to the toss up states to have a chance at winning the election. Here are my thoughts on each of the “toss ups”:

Florida:  I kind of figured that Florida was going to be a problem for Democrats since the primaries.  The turnout for the GOP primary was higher than the turnout for the Democratic primary.  Also, since the senior vote is trending towards McCain, this state, (which is almost always a squeaker) winds up being pretty likely to go Republican in November.

Nevada: There was way more turnout for the GOP primary in January than there was for the Democratic primary, so the fact that this state is in play says something.  Of course, most of the GOP voters went for Romney, with Ron Paul coming in second.  At the end of the day, it will be important for Democrats to turn out the voters in Las Vegas if they want to have a hope of winning.  Right now, the outlook doesn’t seem so good.

Ohio: Struggling with an economy that has been hard hit by the housing crunch and globalization, Ohioans are looking for more than rhetoric this election season.  Add a highly motivated democratic machine that has had some great successes in recent years and Ohio will go democratic this fall.

Colorado: Colorado has been slowly and painstakingly building a Democratic hegemony.  Democratic turnout was higher in the primaries than GOP turnout, and most of the votes went to Romney, not McCain.  This will be a tough fight, but one that can be won.

New Hampshire:  Even though the state handed McCain his first primary victory, New Hampshire is going to be a tough row to hoe for McCain.  It’s not that this won’t be a tough fight, but anti-war sentiment is high in New Hampshire, and the addition of Palin to the ticket is not necessarily persuasive to New Hampshire voters, whose conservatism is less about social issues than fiscal ones.  New Hampshire probably goes blue in the fall.

 Virginia: Bob McBarton already did a great analysis of the traditional dynamics of Virginia, how organizing the southwest counties will be the key to success in Virginia.  However, the increased turnout one can expect from the African American population in Richmond, and the steady growth of democratic margin in Hampton Roads and Fairfax County are inexorably turning Virginia blue.  With the very popular ex-Governor Mark Warner running for Senate on the same ticket, Obama has an even stronger shot of turning Virginia around.

Michigan: With Detroit suffering, economic issues are at the forefront in this state.  Primary turnouts are not particularly helpful in this case, due to the rather specific issues in the Democratic ballot.  This one is tough to call, but I’m going to have to say this one goes to Obama.

Missouri:  If there is one state McCain had in mind when he chose Palin, it was probably Missouri.  With a strong contingent of social conservatives in the rural parts of the state, Obama will have to really motivate the urban centers in St. Louis and Kansas City.  Democrats did manage to beat Republicans in primary turnout, but Missouri will likely go red this fall.

At the end of the day, elections are not won or lost based on a national poll number.  They are won one state, one county, one precinct at a time.  Ultimately, that should be our greatest comfort as Democrats going into the last month and a half of this election.  Obama has twice the campaign staff, and over six million volunteers spread out in offices in all 50 states.  He is running an enviable ground game, with some of the best database techniques and volunteer management anyone’s seen in a long time.  Elections are only won if you get more of your guys to the polls than the other candidate does.  Precinct operations is how that happens.  The big stories on CNN about narrative and personality are significant, but they are not the be all and end all.

The old saw about Democrats is, “when Democrats want to form a firing squad, they make a circle.”  Here is where that needs to end.  Instead of the endless recriminations and armchair quarterbacking, we need to press on with confidence, and go after McCain not because we’re desperate to prove that we can beat him at his own game, that we can sink into the same gutter he occupies, but because we know that we’ve got better policies, a better candidate, and a better future to offer the country.

Keep your eyes on the prize, people.  And watch out who you’re aiming at.

 

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That article on convention bounces is good stuff. I think I agree with your state assessments too. What do you think about Pennsylvania? Seems to be consistently showing Obama.
CNN has officially called it "leaning" Obama. I think that Pennsylvania has some of the same dynamic as Ohio. The rural counties that Obama had trouble with in the primaries are going to have trouble handing the economy over to McCain. Palin tips McCain's hand -- that he's in bed with the social conservatives and really isn't much of a maverick anymore. That's not necessarily going to sell in Pennsylvania, at least I don't think it will.
Thanks for the great analysis Liz.

Are you worried at all about the role that electronic voting could play in a very close election? Specifically, rigged electronic vote-counting? Especially in Ohio?
Ohio has a new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, a democrat who has been highly attuned to voters rights, and has already shown that she is determined to see every vote counted in Ohio. With electronic voting there is always the opportunity for shenaningans, but at least there is someone overseeing the system who will take the action most in line with counting every vote. It's not a guarantee, but it helps.
Hi, Liz,

electoral-vote.com, another poll aggregating site, is worth looking at, too. For some time they had Obama with a big lead, but the state polls of just the last couple of days have McCain up by 2, 270 to 268. (He's given Ohio at this point.) intrade has McCain breaking through 50% in its market over the same couple of days. I agree, it's volatile; I hope things settle down soon to where they should be.
Rob, thanks for the link. I think that the race really boils down to Virginia and Ohio. Most of the other states are going to be pretty hard to shift on the map. Put either of these two in the Obama column and you can call it a day.

Nothing is over yet. But the constant hand-wringing does not create the kind of narrative that helps us win.
But the constant hand-wringing does not create the kind of narrative that helps us win.

I definitely agree.
Florida will go Democrat, not Republican, this time.
Dan Hoyle said...(I was pre-caffeinated when I attempted a href.) Insightful post.
Living in "God's Waiting Room" is very irritating around election time. The utter sense of helplessness as your vote counts for half of what everyone else's does is maddening.

Then there are the "chads". Oh, the streets of Florida are littered with bloody, bloody chads.
I wish I could share your optimism, Liz.

Looking the the polls one has to ask the question: What is the electorate thinking in still giving serious thought to another Republican administration? Really, why is it so close? This should be a blow-out for the Democratic ticket - especially in Ohio and other swing states in the mid-West most hit by the economic downturn and financial crisis.

The list of reasons it isn't is a long one which I'd rather get into a post of my own later this week. But look at the polls explain why aren't working class voters flooding back to the Democratic party?
Hi Liz:
Thanks for writing this. My husband has said for some time now that Obama was up in the electoral college votes -- all up, that is the only thing that really matters. I have a couple of things to add:

1) Democratic Floridians didn't come out to vote because of that DNC snafu about not counting the votes because of having the primary election too early. A nice little ploy by the Republicans, ostensibly to get a tax reform amendment passed. Yes, it passed, but the our taxes have still gone up across the board as housing values go down.

So, IMHO, Florida has not changed much since 2000. With a hand-picked BushCo replacement as Governor (in spite of his being a nice guy), there could be election tampering if it is close. That would happen on a local level as it always does, and Crist has little control over that even on a good day. It might be a close race if unlike in the primaries, the Democrats think they have a reason to turn out to vote.

2. Ohio is a big problem for Obama. The Demographic is much like the state of Illinois once was for him, and Indiana still is. The northern portion of the state is mostly Democratic, the southern portions SOLIDLY old school Republican. If they only realized that what they knew as Republicanism no longer exists, their minds might be turned. I do not know if there is enough time or money to make that happen if it hasn't sunk in after the past eight years.

Obama won over Illinois voters by shaking hands and meeting them face to face. Evan Bayh will help him in Indiana. Obama will need a LOT of help in Ohio. There are many blue collar workers that SHOULD vote Democratic, but are still confused as to what is in their best interests. I do not understand how that can be their reality, but it is the case.

If Obama had time to do face-to face in Toledo (which is in the north) and the rest of rural Ohio, Obama could gain some ground. I guess we will see if his campaign can get his message out any other way.

I trust you have your finger on the pluse in Virginia. I hope that state can be won as well.

I hold my breath for the shine to wear off the facade of the apple that is Sarah Palin. The wax protective coating is pretty thick on that one, however, and will probably have a shelf life right up to the election. The Democrats (or the media, God willing) need to slice that one open to see what is really under the surface. If astrology is any indicator, she is a poisoned apple from which Americans should not choose to not bite...
Polls really only help if they tell you where you're weak and allow you to focus on it. Problem is, they offer the same info to your opponent. And the worst part is, the weaknesses you're addressing are superficial (in the campaign) not fundamental (changing the way you would govern). I really hate the whole horserace thing.

But the Republicans often get a lot of their mileage in, as you say, getting people to the polls. I've seen analyses that say they don't care at all about abortion--they're just preying on people who do and getting people who are biased to vote Republican to the polls.

I paused for a moment to think if the Democrats had a similar way of scaring their people to the polls. And I had to laugh. Loss of Roe v. Wade is it. And Palin offers that. I wonder if in the end all of this rhetoric won't matter and what will matter is that one stark threat, initiated by the Republicans that will get people out to the polls by scaring them, in the way they had meant to do the other way around. It would be justice of a sort.
When politicians, and people, are way less interested in polls than they are principles, we might actually get us some change in this great nation of ours.
I really hate the whole horserace thing.

Me too. Maybe it's our national obsession with sports and other competitions that encourage the news media and a lot of ordinary people (present company excepted) to focus on the question of "Who's doing a better job in their campaign?" instead of "Who would make a better President?" It's dispiriting.
I disagree. I think we are right to be extremely pessimistic. We're being pummeled and our candidate is not getting much traction in his feeble attempts to fight back. We've got to wrest back control of the narrative and hit McCain and Palin extremely hard. Obama's claim that McCain is willing to lose his integrity to win this election is a pathetic rejoinder.

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome this time. The Republicans are adhering to the playbook they have used faithfully since 1988. The Democrats are comforting themselves with their moral superiority, just as they did in 1988, 2000 and 2004. At this rate, we're going to lose an election that any Democrat should easily win.
Ape, from your mouth to God's ears.

Stacey, you may have a point about the racial dynamic, but I really do believe that the folks who are racist enough to not vote Obama because of race are likely hard-line conservative base people.

Jodi, I try not to think about Chads -- they give me hives.

Columbo, anything you or I could say on why millions of Americans vote Republican against our self interest was probably already said in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" They parrot the "God, guns and gays mantra," throw in a little good old fashioned "They're not like you and me - they're liberals" and you have people who suddenly vote Republican, even tho the GOP couldn't care less about them. Mudcat Sanders (who ran Warner's campaign in VA) had an excellent response in his book "Foxes in the Henhouse."

Lisa, thanks for the insight on Florida. I think Florida will be close but will ultimately go GOP, even with the shenanigans in the primary masking Dem turnout. I think a lot of states have the "upstate-downstate" phenomenon these days. Virginia, New York, Illinois, Georgia, all have a species of it. Obama did reach out to downstate Illinois voters, but what really won it for him is that the Chicagoland area turned out for him like crazy.

Kent, yes, wedge issues have been effective for motivating a lot of the GOP base, but get out the vote has an element of raw science and mechanics to it, that Obama has mastered. Bush had that kind of a machine in Ohio, which is why he did so solidly there in 2004. Never underestimate a good GOTV operation. It makes a hell of a difference on election day.

Mikel, not that I don't agree with you, but when it comes to politics, I am a pragmatist. To be able to change things, you have to win first. Cart, get behind the horse please.
Amy, whining about the narritive does not "wrest control" of the narrative back -- it feeds the narrative even more. We in the blogosphere are not helping things when we whine. Maya Angelou is famous for saying "whining not only makes you ugly, it lets a bully know there's a victim in the neighborhood."
Well, I'd say the Democrats need to be "cautiously concerned" about the race, but I wouldn't panic yet. One thing that the Replicans keep overlooking is the tool we're using right this instant - a tool Obama's campaign is successfully using, one that had the groundwork laid by another Democrat (whom I won't mention, since I didn't really care for him that much), one that greatly appeals to the masses I've called Generation Text. That's a lot of votes. :-D

I hold my breath for the shine to wear off the facade of the apple that is Sarah Palin. The wax protective coating is pretty thick on that one, however, and will probably have a shelf life right up to the election.
Ah, but all they have to do is get her talking, Lisa - the heat from her ignorant replies will melt that wax so fast it won't be funny.
Liz Emrich:

"Amy, whining about the narritive does not "wrest control" of the narrative back -- it feeds the narrative even more."

With all due respect, this is just the kind of comment that leads us to lose. I have no ability to influence Obama's strategy. I can only comment on the deficiencies and hope that someone fixes them. Calling it whining, and insisting that we will win simply by being loyal makes no sense at all; implying that those who are not praising the candidate's tactics are not loyal is just shooting the messenger and ignoring the message.
Great analysis, Liz. I'm curious about your feelings concerning the electoral college. Living in Arizona and surrounded by McCain heads, my vote gets washed away even though I WILL vote Obama come November. I just find it very frustrating.

I don't think I've ever been worried about an election as much as I am about this one. In fact, I know I haven't. I'm not hand-wringing and I'm trying very hard not to whine but I very much want to slap some sense into people, including some of my own relations.

Let the firing squad form a straight line.
We're about to head into a period of erosion of McCain's numbers. The only question is how quickly, and to what extent, they erode.

All the shrieking in the world about the "East Coast Media" can't stop the tidal wave of negative coverage that has followed in the wake of Palin's rollout. This coincides with a new phase of the Obama campaign to be more aggressive on the attack.

For all the sturm und drang over Palin, McCain got a completely average bump from his convention, and the party that holds the final convention historically has the more sustained effect on the polls. Also historically true is the inevitable erosion of that effect.

Barring some dramatic, unforeseen development, we are looking at the peak of McCain's numbers, and even those numbers are not decisively in his favor.

Cooler heads.
Amy, my comment is not a function of loyalty, or of approval of the Obama campaign. It is an acknowledgement of the fact that everything must be made useful if we are to win this.

In politics, its basic wisdom from the field that the two biggest wastes of time are talking to your friends and talking to your enemies. Because at the end of the day, you don't need to convince the former of anything, and the latter will never be swayed by what you say. Talking to the Obama campaign via your blog is the least productive thing I can think of. If you really want the Obama campaign to know your thoughts, send them a private email or call your local HQ.

If you really want to "wrest control" of the narrative away from the McCain campaign, having a meta-conversation about narrative doesn't do it. Make a new narrative and use your blog to promote it. Stop whining about what isn't being done, get your shoulder to the wheel and use what you've got to do it yourself.

Unless, of course, what you really want is to be able to grouse at people that "you told them so" when we lose....some people want to be right more than they want to win an election.
Thanks a lot for writing this, Liz. This poll-mania happens every damn time -- I can't understand why, after the last two nail-biters, people stop looking at the national polls (particularly the daily tracker) because they're so utterly useless. They set narratives into motion that have not relation to the Electoral College at all.
Bill, I think you've got a valuable point, but it's still an open question how effective internet organizing really is as opposed to its real-life counterpart. Thankfully, Obama is good at both.

And I think you are right about Palin. Get her off her script and people will start to lose confidence in her.

p-f, the electoral college has its strengths and its weaknesses. If the Presidency was a straight-line popular vote, you might not see candidates take as detailed positions on issues as they do. Because they have to win idividual states, they can and do focus on issues of importance to different states, which in a country as geographically and culturally diverse as this one is not a bad thing. That said, anytime you can win a popular vote and lose an election, you have to think twice about whether your system is truly "democratic" or not. We've always been a republic, and it has served us well. I'm not sure a balls out democracy would really serve our nation as well, but I'm open to the other side of that coin.

Chris, I think you may be right about that. McCain has spent 26 years courting the media, and now he has turned on them, demonizing them. And you don't ever want to start an argument with a guy who buys ink by the barrel. And the lies have gotten so blatant that I think even the media is finally shocked by it. So yeah, I think McCain is in for a rough couple of news cycles.
Liz Emerich:

"Stop whining about what isn't being done, get your shoulder to the wheel and use what you've got to do it yourself."

You have literally no idea what I have or have not done to contribute to Obama's campaign, so you can't possibly be criticizing my efforts to help him win. Instead, you are criticizing my unwillingness to delude myself that our support is enough. At this rate, we are definitely going to lose.
thanks, Kerry....

I get frustrated with the focus on national polls, too.
Ah, but all they have to do is get her talking, Lisa - the heat from her ignorant replies will melt that wax so fast it won't be funny.

Yes, I think you are very correct there, Bill! :)
Amy, I am sorry. I didn't mean for that to come off as personally as it did. I am solely responding to your belief that somehow your blog can be used as a tool to advise the Obama campaign. Of course there are plenty of other things that people can and have done to help the campaign, and that's not my point. I'm just saying giving advice via a blog is pointless, and actually does more harm than good in the "narrative wars."
Amy, come over here. Liz, you too.

Okay, now. Shake hands. Go ahead. I know you both mean well. Now, shake hands and let's move on.

Seriously, Liz I understand your point of view. You have to stay positive and motivated and keep the climate as such in order to inspire your side to win this election.

But I can't help but share Amy's concerns. I've just posted on this. The media is covering personalities and horse race handicapping and allowing the right wing to dictate the (very limited and inane) parameters of the coverage. And it is identical to the circumstances under which Democrats have lost presidential elections in the past since 1988. It is, indeed, the exact same playbook at work. And when it was effective in those past elections (when Democrats kept ignoring it over and over again and each time saying, "this time it's different.)...well, it's hard to say that this time will be different.

Yes. Kerry, the polls are close. The polls were close in each of those previous losses too. Polls were never close in Republican losses. Both of Clinton's wins were evidenced in the polls. So, it seems, history tells you that Dems lose the close ones.
Nothing is over yet. But the constant hand-wringing does not create the kind of narrative that helps us win.

You're absolutely right, Liz. (I have to remind myself of this all the time--DON'T get hung up on Polls and don't panic.) Thank you for writing this article. I feel infinitely better after reading it. We HAVE to win, this time. I'm not impressed by EITHER McCain or Palin. The thought of them in charge of our nation is too horrible to be borne.

Obama/Biden '08 All the Way!!
Columbo, I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned that it's not sewn up yet. I won't be happy until I am absolutely sure we've won.

But to use the overworked athletic analogy, great "clutch players" do not worry that they will lose, they redouble their efforts to play their hardest and tilt the game in their favor. The player on the free throw line in a tied up game with seconds left on the clock does not tell himself, "don't miss" while he's standing on the line. He doesn't even see the guys standing along the edge of the key. He sees nothing but the ball going in the hole.
I'm coming to your analysis late, Liz, but I'm glad I found it. Your comment, "With electronic voting there is always the opportunity for shenaningans", has me concerned. I'm surprised we haven't heard more about the dangers of electronic voting this time around. Maybe I'm more paranoid than most, but the damage unverifiable machines STILL represent should not be underestimated. I think we need a landslide in some parts of the country to overcome the danger of the machines. Do others share my concern?
Yes procopius, I certainly do share your concerns, especially in a close race where the manipulation will not be as obvious. It is unacceptable to me that these machines do not print a paper receipt- two copies, one for me and one for the back-up paper ballot box.
I hope to God you are right. Chuck Todd on Meet the Press this a.m. saw a changing landscape...and it wasn't favoring obama.
I think one other point to consider is the general lack of polling among cell-phone only households. That's one in five adults per Harris Interactive (http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=890). People who dont have landlines tend to be younger (and also Obama supporters).

Who knows what the impact of those potential voters will turn out to be, particularly in the tossup states. But i'm guessing it could be close to the margin of error or more. So, the map could be bluer than it is right now, without anyone quantifying it.
bd, I am not sure that the cell phone voters are as much of a factor here as people might think. I do know that the polling houses have been trying to factor these voters in. I am always suspicious of the notion that somehow there are all these "hidden voters" that simply don't get counted in polls who will win the election for Obama. Youth voters have a poor turnout history, and while I pray you're right and I'm wrong about this, I'm not holding my breath thinking that the cell phone generation is going to save this election.
good post, Liz, good comments Chris and Columbo. I'd like to see the Obama camp get more aggressive about driving the media focus.
Liz:

My wife and I just got back from two days of mist and wind and rain in the NH boonies handing out literature for the divine O., attempting to register the unregistered (another story) and answering questions if people had any -- few did. But what struck me was not the general lack of communication with or from these potential voters -- if I were to guess from body language, it's probably 50/50 up there -- it was the state of mind of our cohort.

The others in our in our group all seemed to about our daughter's age (grad school), highly intelligent and articulate. But both starting out and back in the local HQ, the mood seemed subdued, if not somber. The conversations were serious: about strategy, why do we seem passive, are we still on our original message etc. No one was throwing in the towel, we all went to work to win, but the electricity (that I personally had felt hearing Obama speak at a Deval Patrick rally and seen on TV so often) seemed manifestly absent.

And at least one young man (apparently a veteran of previous campaigns -- at least one -- and maybe even a community organizer :-)) expressed the opinion, with most nodding in assent, that the national polls -- the popularity vote -- create the energy to drive the campaign at this local level, the Big Mo -- the kid was quite colorful. So while the Electoral College is the actual "decidater",
there might in fact be a feedback loop here from the nationals to the state-by-state that we cannot totally ignore.
I want to believe you with all my heart. But my research comes up with a different conclusion. The polling site, 538.com, has shown an extreme trend away from Obama and has went from a projected 60% Obama victory to a 56% projection to McCain in the last 10 days. The site now has McCain projected to win 290 electorates to 240 which is an almost opposite result from two weeks ago. More frightening is that the Congressional and Senate races are showing movement toward Republicans. I fear that we are looking at perhaps the most historical election upset results in modern history. I am one of the handringers who believe that Obama's passive, classy responses to the sleaze thrown at him is admirable and fine with me but is viewed by most voters as weak. He had better fight and fight hard or this will be over by the early voting that takes place October 15th. The Republican formula has always worked in the past, why won't it this time. This is a street fight and Obama is getting mugged.
I don't know. That sounds like a really difficult way to eat cornflakes unless he wore a bib. He would be totally working against gravity.
Plus, Hollywood is going to work in an election year. I just went to Burn After Reading and saw previews for W an Oliver Stone movie about Bush, I assume will be unflattering, and Frost and Nixon, to regurtitate Watergate in time for the vote. Of course these days there are so many corps with a vested interest in keeping the war afloat its harder to predict in previous years.
Excellent article. Thanks for cheering me up.
Gaddam! This is the stuff! Thank you for this peice. I am at one with each and every phrase. 1. as I understand it the posters aren't polling cleanly. Instead the questioning has very pointedly been aimed at locking people into their instantaneous, convention bounce, candidate du jour response, a phony result. And 2. that they have been highly playing out the statistics among certain demographics:Among aging white males with military service... for example, and then extrapolating that to the genl. populace. 3. As for the armchair campaign staff, right again. We happen to have a candidate who has A Whole Hell of a Lot of Game. And more than Kerry and a whole lot more than Gore, Mr Obama seems to have his hand on the pulse of America and more than enough saavy charismatic leadership to pull this thing off. Now we need to get behind him, have faith, keep up the good fight, stay righteous because, as you astutley put it, we have the best candidate and the best future to offer America. Stay tuned to catch my pending post about how citizens like us take it on the road and help in the places where help is needed most: The swing States. There is a new site caleed ObamaTravel which will help raise the funds and make the arrangements for those of us eager to pound the pavement where it might count. I am working on it. Let me get back to it now. Thanks again for this very useful analysis. Good work.
Canem, you do have a point about enthusiasm. Everyone loves a winner, wants to be with a winner, and when your candidate has a hard couple of news cycles, you can get discouraged. But politics, I mean real politics, the canvassing, the phone banking, the GOTV, is not about emotion, nor should it be. This is where guts comes from.

Jim, I think they do make special spoons for upside-down cornflake eating. I'm sure if Obama needed one his bodyman would be happy to get it for him.

Meredith, make no mistake, I do have concerns. I just realize that a blogging can either feed the current narrative or work to change it. I have no illusions that this is sewn up yet. You are right to keep working.
Great analysis Liz. I am glad your post was an Editor's Pick. It needs to be read by all. I am from NC and thought we had a chance here. I still do because we have a pretty close Senate race. As you said, it's GOTV and I think NC Democrats are going to have an unexpected high turnout. I will drop you a note if I see some local/state polling that bears this out, although I'm sure your sources are just as good.
Liz:
Excuse me!? After two days pounding the pavement up in NH, do I need to be lectured, no, hectored, by you about guts? Cheerleading is one thing, but this seems to me a mite excessive.

Unlike Amy, who was reticent, I will tell you that I worked for Bobby in '68, then McCarthy, then Humphrey, and every damn Democratic candidate since at the local and state level. Since you seem to have got "Canem" is Dog, you probably also know "Croceum" is Yellow.

If you re-read my post, you will note there was no mention of the current news cycle, I didn't hear much about Palin. These smart, articulate kids were more concerned about message, strategy,
cohesiveness, assertiveness (or lack thereof) at the top before going out in miserable weather and knocking down doors. It's not their guts I would worry about, it's the guts (and brains) of Axelrod
et al that may be in question here.

Attempting to finesse the elections sitting in a back room working Electoral College math is one thing, but as friend Peter Falk says we tend to lose the close ones (just ask Hubert.)
The phrasing is mangled -- the second para would have perhaps been clearer had I put it as: "worked for every Democratic Presidential candidate since, at the local and state level.

I'm gutsy and enthusiastic but I'd have to be Superdog to work for every Democratic candidate, without the above Caveat :-).

WOOF
Canem, I wasn't trying to lecture you about guts. What I am saying is that it is guts to keep going out there even when you aren't so sure anymore. I was less than clear on that. Apparently after midnight my ability to be clear about things goes to shit.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN NEEDS TO CHANGE

Focusing on the Electoral College is foolish.

Focusing on ideas, plans, and issues is the key.

Unfortunately, Obama is waging a vacuous campaign, arguing that people should vote for him because he represents "change" although he is doing a horrible job specifying what he means by change.

Obama has the 48 percent of people who always vote Democratic and/or are absolutely fed up with Republican incompetence. It should be easy to get the final 2 to 3 percent, but he won't if he continues to campaign vacuously ala Kerry and Gore.

Undecided voters need a reason to vote FOR a candidate. Obama should give them three to five concise reasons and POUND these reasons again and again. Ex.--Better health care, a fairer tax system, get Bin Laden, a balanced budget, tougher national security measures.

Focusing on nasty ads because McCain's ads are nasty is stupid. In fact, it's what McCain wants Obama to do. I fail to understand why people can't see that. The more the campaign is NOT about issues, the better it is for McCain.

As for the Electoral College analysis, frankly it's losers who keep saying that "national polls don't matter." National polls DO matter. They go hand in hand with the Electoral College 95 percent of the time. They didn't in 2000 only because the GOP cheated in Florida by throwing tens of thousands of voters off the rolls.

Since the GOP convention ended, the following states have moved in McCain's direction according to Real Clear Politics -- Minnesota, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, and Pennsylvania. NONE have moved toward Obama.

During the same timeframe, the following states have moved toward McCain in the Rasmussen ratings -- Montana, North Dakota, Alaska, Missouri, and New Mexico. NONE have moved toward Obama.

ALMOST ALL of the above states are battleground states that Obama has been competing in. And do you really want to win an election with a minority of votes? That is anti-democratic and hypocritical given the Dems' stand in 2000.

I don't know if I would use the word "panic" to describe the feeling that Democrats should have. However, I would say it is URGENT that Obama formulate a positive campaign focused on issues and ideas rather than arrogantly thinking that his superior money, organization, and enthusiasm will pay off. In the primaries, his vacuous strategy gave him a 50.5 to 49.5 win among a very liberal electorate.

If he retains his current strategy, he WILL lose. And he will DESERVE to lose.

Shalom,
ZWrite
(accepted to Camp Obama training session last week; didn't go because of Chicago-area flood; imagine how someone who is anti-Obama feels about his campaign)
This was a good analysis, as well.

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/09/media-has-been-thrown-off-its-game.html
Ah, crap! I did a big analysis for you, but it got dumped when I tried to post it. Anyway, thanks for such a great post and all the work you put into it.

I see daily poll results, and the electoral compilation from today is just as murky as ever. Here it is:

Latest Poll Per State: Obama 281 electoral votes, McCain 257
Poll of Polls (my favorite): Obama 270, McCain 265
Survey USA: Obama 179, McCain 249
Rasmussen Reports: Obama 258, McCain 236
Quinnipiac: Obama 131, McCain 51
Research 2000: Obama 42, McCain 95
Zogby: Obama 335, McCain 131
National Average: Obama 45.4%, McCain 43.5%
Weighted Nat'l Avg: Obama 44.7%, McCain 45.8%

What do I take from all this? Magic 8-Ball says "Ask again later."

Sigh...
Thanks. Polls go up, polls go down.

Life is nicer when our side is ahead, but it's not wise to panic when we go down.

That's why every copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is embossed with those two words: "Don't Panic."