Thursday, October 16, 2008

So That's Election 2008?

The handwriting is on the wall--all over the wall, if it comes to that--for John McCain and that venom-spewing monster on his undercard whom I won't even dignify this morning with a name: They're going to get clobbered in this election, and they probably know it.

Today's installment of fun facts:

1) McCain's debate performance was the worst yet. The mainstream media was charmed at the prospect of keeping things artificially close, and so they've been spinning the story McCain's way, but this year the persuadable middle isn't quite so receptive to manipulation from the mainstream media. In the various instant polls conducted after the event, notably those by CNN and CBS, the general public saw a completely different event from the one the media analysts wanted them to see, and awarded the victory to Obama by 2:1 margins.

Many web-based colunists are calling attention to a moment about twenty-five minutes in, when McCain attempted the most spectacular feat of Orwellian big-lie doublespeak yet, by endeavoring to blame the negative tone of the contest on Barack Obama. After that, so sayeth those who had access to the opinion dials, the viewing public effectively gave up on John McCain for good. You can manipulate people's opinions in an election, yes--but only if they haven't already been set in concrete. Afterward your efforts only make you look manipulative.

2) Early voting is presaging a coast-to-coast Obama landslide. A recent article on fivethirtyeight.com follows the early returns in five states that voted for Bush in 2004 -- Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Georgia, and finds Barack Obama significantly out-performing his own statewide polling, with respect to those who've already voted. In Georgia in particular, the canary has not just fallen off its perch but has started to decompose into the newspaper on the bottom of the cage: Whereas the Land-of-Lincolner supposedly trails Mr. McCain in the State of Adventure by eleven points, the tally of banked early votes actually favors him by five percent--a difference of plus-sixteen, or about the same as his overall lead in the national track. Moreover, almost twenty percent of the Georgia electorate has already voted--and of those, a historically high percentage are African American.

3) The senior vote is abandoning the Republicans. Despite Obama's relatively gentle push to win-over this demographic, seniors in large numbers are migrating to Team Blue of their own accord, notably because of the recent downside moves in their 401(k) balances. As has been mentioned in previous installments of this column, Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently ducked a question about appearing with McCain--claiming that the business of running the state had to take precedence--and was later seen at Disneyworld during the McCain event in question. It's a tautology, but it bears repeating: Tea, Crankypants cannot win the White House without holding Florida, and right now their prospects of holding Florida are so bleak that a Governor from his own party doesn't want to be seen on the same stage with their candidate.

4) The mainstream media is (last night notwithstanding) pivoting the story. Political comebacks are unlike sports comebacks, in that the audience gets to decide whether they'll be successful or not--and the big assist in that department goes to an electronic press that wanted, for a very long time, to hold this thing artificially close. Now the editorial boards of the major news outlets have recently turned-tail and raced across the spectrum to the "can the Republican Party survive?" extreme, presumably out of fear that they will seem outdated and obsolete, which of course they are. Two pre-debate stories earlier this week have shown this change better than any others: Palin's response to Limbaugh's query about her immediate future ("That's a good question"), and the pre-debate analysis itself ("McCain's Last Stand?").

5) The Obama campaign's air-war is peaking at just the right moment. This morning they released their first post-debate commercial, and it's easily their most effective (and funniest) yet. Team-McCain's response ad this morning is a self-parodying microcosm of their inexplicably inept campaign style. Throw it all out there, including a bizarre pledge to change everything in Washington, and hope that something, somewhere in there, sticks.

Add all of this up and, for the first time in a long time, it's good to be a Democrat.

Still there is much work to be done to ensure that Mr. Obama's win is clean, decisive, and sufficiently gracious. None of us wants a repeat of the off-on-the-wrong-foot circus we had when Clinton & Clinton moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and between then and now the threat of electoral disenfranchisement is as large and pressing as it's ever been in modern history, what with the trailing team using its stump speeches to brand the leading team as socialist, terrorist-sympathizing Muslims who will appoint crooked Chicago precinct bosses in charge of federal departments and legislate defeat in the war on terror.

Already we're seeing the first ominous signs of what surely must be a concerted and nationwide effort to intimidate African-American voters, with the publication of a recent e-mail sent to Republican volunteers in Milwaukee. "I am interested in names of Milwaukee area veterans, policemen, security personnel, firefighters etc.," wrote Jonathan Waclawski, director of the Wisconsin Republican Party's election-day operations. "If you have any connections with such organizations, please pass that information on."

...I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that Mr. Wacalwski isn't looking for firefighters because he expects trash cans to be set ablaze inside inner-city polling places.

On a certain level it would be difficult to blame these folks, since only outright theft can get him the White House, now. Which means it will fall to us--all of us, working our hearts out for Barack Obama and Joe Biden low these many months--to redouble our efforts, not get complacent, and turn out ever vote we can.

On a broader front, conservatives opinion-makers are gearing-up to vilify Mr. Obama as a flatly unacceptable President even before he actually becomes President--with radio talk show hosts pressing the most obvious buttons to set minds against the man before he can exercise any of what should have been a decisive mandate. And yes, the fact that there are still people who would vilify a President for seeking more oversight of the financial markets is a commentary on our national consciousness far more disheartening than anything Limbaugh or Ingrham have actually said. But the fact that they're doing it means that Mr. Obama and company will have to be doubly-vigilant to the risk of getting things off to a slow start next January.

The good news on this score is that there seems to be some significant movement in the wider audience, and it doesn't seem to be favorable to more of the same fire-fanning nonsense from the right. The Bill Ayers stuff already hasn't worked, and the socialist stuff doesn't seem to have much traction with folks who might soon be willing to try a little socialism, even if that's what Mr. Obama actually wanted.

As for the tired Republican saw about self-empowerment, it seems that an Obama victory would afford just the sort of social validation to all those Horatio Algier stories we keep hearing from Republicans in lieu of support for legitimate public assistance. If the recipients of this assistance can watch the evening news every night and see six minutes' worth of coverage of the single -greatest living example of a Horatio Algier story in modern history, shouldn't we expect just the sorts of increased initiative and self-motivation from those recipients, that Republicans have been telling us should fix the problem? And if the answer is yes, then might some of us in the rank-and-file experiment with trying this pitch on our persuadable friends in the anti-assistance wing of our own social sets? And what of tone--should we act as if we might still lose by one vote, or as if an Obama Presidency is something we can start looking forward to?

Ironically, it would seem that one of the most productive things that Democrats can do right now to help their candidate, is to exude confidence. Typically this is supposed to be deadly to an election campaign because of its capacity to remove urgency from fellow Democrats who are on the fence about voting, but this time around that doesn't seem to apply--precisely because there don't seem to be any Democrats who are on the fence about voting. Instead, by expressing satisfaction with the accuracy and stability of the current batch of polling data, we on the left have the chance to set up a national expectation so imbalnaced in Mr. Obama's favor that efforts by the extreme right-wing to rob the public of its voice will no longer be tolerated. Moreover, higher levels of confidence on our side would also seem likely to discourage voters on the other side--people who, let's face it, probably have quite a bit to be discouraged about, anyway.

Team Blue must of course secure their GOTV effort in real, tangible results at the polls (though there would seem at this point to be little doubt on this score), and the contest must afford us no major surprises to continue on its current trajectory, but with each passing hour the wiggle-room for McCain and Palin to wrest this contest from them without fraud diminishes geometrically. Already there are poll analyses describing McCain's task as that of winning every remaining undecided voter, every soft Obama supporter, and even a few strong Obama supporters, without also setting his own base on fire by praising pro-choice Justices on the Supreme Court (like he did last night). Not gonna happen, folks.

Which leaves that surprise. But here the news media are really, genuinely missing a chance to provide meaningful analysis, and here the charge of laziness is no excuse: The old saying in political news coverage--the one you are sure to hear a thousand times between now and November 4th, that "a week is forever in politics"--isn't explicitly accurate; it turns out to make a huge difference when that week is. During the summer months, the old saw is probably true, but in the waning days of an election the public tends to "lock in" their choice, requiring larger and larger external stimuli to change their minds. No candidate in the history of tracking polls has ever closed the margin McCain now faces, in the time he now has.

If that's an unpleasant reality for the McCain/Palin ticket, the rest of us surely do ourselves no favors by describing the race as still imminently changeable. Because, let's face it on this glorious Thursday morning-in-America: this race isn't still imminently changeable. Probably hasn't been for a while, now.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida

6 comments:

Doug said...

Dave, have you seen this little gem?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlrf32JI708

Worth watching... several times.

The Key Grip said...

Just enough room for a voice-over to set it up at the beginning and an "I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message" at the end.

Priceless.

Calvin and Hobbes said...

Yikes. While I've seen that piece of video before, the one Obama released this morning essentially does the same thing, though with slightly less pride on McCain's part.

I agree with some pundits that this was McCain's best debate yet, but his performance comes too late in the game. Just as it's impossible to execute a character assassination against someone for whom people have already made up their minds, you can't suddenly say what you're about and expect people to buy it when it hasn't been what you were about previously. I.e., you've established yourself in peoples' minds and nothing you say/do is going to change that short of some heroic act of saving a drowning baby.

On a completely separate note, a coworker just informed me (not verified) that Joe the Plumber isn't even registered to vote and since voter registration in Ohio is closed, he can't. Oops.

Calvin and Hobbes said...

Here's the citation for the Joe the Plumber comment - courtesy of Ben Smith at Politico.

Doug said...

HOLY COW. So much for McCain's peeps using this guy in a tv spot.

The Key Grip said...

Has everyone seen the photos of McCain after the debate last night, sticking out his tongue? I'll try to post later this afternoon....