October 31, 2008
The polls continue to show Obama with roughly a five point lead over McCain and with Virginia holding steady in the Dem camp. In any other year, that would be sufficient to call the election for Obama and that could well be the case this year too. Barring a last-minute surge -- or, more important, the Bradley effect in which scores of white voters are essentially not telling pollsters their true feelings for fear of being thought racist -- Obama is close to home free.
October 30, 2008
This morning's Rasmussen tracking poll has Barack Obama back up by 5 (after being at 3) yesterday, while Zogby pegs the race at seven. Even accounting for a last-minute surge for John McCain, that puts Obama in excellent shape as of this morning. In electoral vote terms, he still holds a solid lead in Virginia of almost ten points. If he wins there, McCain needs to sweep Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and perhaps one other state -- short of upsetting the Democrat in Pennsylvania.
So, Obama now remains a 1-5 favorite. Things are looking very good for the Dems.
October 29, 2008
The polls this morning are picking up a shift to John McCain -- the questions, of course, are how much, does it last, and whether, it's, in fact, accurate. All along we've predicted a last-week shift to the GOP -- as voters focused on their "fear of the unknown." But he still has a ways to go to catch-up.
We'll be previewing the race daily in the days before the election. Right now, what's happening is fairly typical -- it happened in 1976 with a last-week shift to Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter, in 1960 with a last-week shift to Richard Nixon over JFK, in 1968 with a last-week shift to Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon and in 2000, when the polls began to shift to Al Gore over George Bush. In two of those four cases, the non-incumbent won; in one he lost, and one ended up essentially tied.
The thing Obama supporters have to fear is whether some voters are still lying to pollsters about their intention to vote for McCain for fear of being called racist. With Gallup putting the lead at 2 and Rasmussen at 3, it's not over yet.
October 21, 2008
Pollster turnout models are over-predicting John McCain's position in Georgia. A review of poll internals strongly suggests that these polls overstate Republican strength and, that they ignore aggregated primary season data. If past is prologue, women and, African-Americans will surpass current turnout projections.
Combining the Republican and Democratic primary data, a total of 1,984,701 Georgians voted in the nominating contests. Using a weighted average, the electorate was divided between men who accounted for 44% (876,901) while women represented 56% (1,107,797).
Should the general election electorate resemble the primary electorate, Polls suggesting a mid-single digit race may overstate McCain's current margin as they over-sample males. SurveyUSA shows that Georgia's men prefer McCain by a 16-point margin while women were evenly split.
For example, SurveyUSA's October 12th survey showing an 8-point margin had a 53 (f)-47 (m) split; Dailykos 10.14 poll showing a 6-point race was based on a sample which was 51(f)-49 (m) and Democracy Corps recent poll reflecting a 2-point poll shows a 53 (f)-47 race.
In 2004, 3,298,790 Georgians cast their votes and, in that year, women represented 55% of voters. Meanwhile, the 2008 primary turnout figures are based on turnout numbers which represent 60% of the 2004 total. In other words, it is a considerable baseline.
African-Americans are also being under-counted. In 2004, African-Americans accounted for 25% of the electorate. Using 2008 exit poll data, they represented 27.5% of the statewide primary electorate. The previously mentioned Democracy Corps and SurveyUSA poll predict an African-American turnout of 26%.
It is hard to believe that black turnout in the general election won't meet that of the primary. This contention is bolstered by recent statistics reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Political Insider out of the State showing that 406,379 new voters registered between January 1st and September 30th. Most importantly, 164,859 (40.5%) of those new registrants are African-American and, blacks have so-far cast 40% of Georgia's early ballots.
Finally, pollsters over-estimated John McCain's tally in his primary.
The Pollster.Com Average showed the Republican primary ending
Mitt at 29.9%;
Huckabee at 26.9%
In reality, it ended
Huckabee 34% (+5.1%)
A key question in these calculations is how energized will the born-again and, evangelicals voters be? They represented 63% of the GOP primary electorate and gave Huckabee 79% of his total statewide support . Has Sarah Palin won over as many evangelicals as Mike Huckabee? Even if she has, it may be insufficient to win.
Most tellingly, pollsters seriously undershot Obama's performance or, as others have noted, a reverse Bradley effect has taken hold. The Pollster.Com average showed:
His primary results were much stronger:
Obama 67% (+16%)
Clinton 31% (-6%)
Adding Libertarian Bob Barr (who hails from Georgia) into the mix, it now looks probable that the Peach State will be blue on election night.
October 16, 2008
The most compelling reason Obama should be president is that he can do for public and government service what Teach for America did for the cause of urban education. Bluntly: TFA made the cause of urban education cool.
Founder Wendy Kopp achieved this through a very-deliberate, high profile marketing scheme. She set up a recruitment apparatus at the top colleges and universities and went toe-to-toe with McKinsey, Bain and, the other usual suspects. Buzz was created as it was a prize. One could do well by joining TFA as well as doing well by having it on one's resume.
Cool is a very important cultural marker and, one which may matter more than reality itself. Thomas Frank (later author of What's the Matter with Kansas) posited a strong case in The Conquest of Cool that the zeitgeist of the 60's was engineered in advertising firms that propelled corporate America. One can see this thesis advanced in AMC's smash-television success, Mad Men.
Cool is the lubricant that runs American society. Cool reaches deep into the psyche and, reflects our psychological state. The two cardinal sins of American culture are to be thought un-cool or, even worse, old. Consequently, it often embodies [or encapsulates?] the ambitions or anxieties of Americans in their twenties.
Let's use the 1980's 'Greed is good' ethos to serve as an example of cool-in action. According to Daniel Brooks, 1980 marked the first time that college freshman thought being very well off was more important than developing a meaningful philosophy of life. Family Ties Alex P. Keaton (1982-1989) Trading Places (1983), Wall Street (1987) and, Working Girl (1988) were all extensions and variations on the idea that a (wo)man like those now-graduated college freshman just starting out in the world was ultimately made by going to battle with the financial market and, taming it before it tamed you . Cool (often, but not always) trickles up, into the cultural consciousness from youngest to oldest.
Just consider this sentence: If you have a social need, you're with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary, hip, black friend and you're young and you have no social needs, then he's cool. So said one unnamed Hillary Clinton advisor on January 10th to The Guardian. It is certainly untrue and unfair to criticize Obama as a man who coasted on cool, but, that advisor had his finger on our pulse (and America's).
As the Democratic Primary battle raged, millennials were the stealth force at work in shaping the contest. Yes, young turnout was up in Iowa helping to propel Obama to victory and, yes, the young were intrigued. These two minor points miss the major point.
In late January as Super Tuesday I loomed, Hillary Clinton was still the prohibitive favorite. The terrain shook as three prominent female Democratic politicians crossed Hillary Clinton. Why would they go against her? Because their children said so: Missouri's Claire McCaskill credits her 18-year old daughter as being the factor behind her decision to endorse Obama; Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius cited her older sons efforts. Most importantly, Doyenne Caroline Kennedy invoked her children as a pivotal force behind her Obama endorsement that resulted in massive Obama momentum.
What is it about Barack Obama that has Millennials crowing over his coolness?
First, We're noticed. Obama Addresses Our issues. In the third-debate Obama scored when he said: Recently (McCain's) key economic adviser was asked about why he didn't seem to have some specific programs to help young people go to college and the response was, well, you know, we can't give money to every interest group that comes along. I don't think America's youth are interest groups, I think they're our future. And this is an example of where we are going to have to prioritize.
Across three debates, Obama has mentioned college affordability and debt ten times and, he invoked the specter of young-people in national service once. By contrast, McCain mentioned the $10T debt on young people once during the second debate and, a rise in youth obesity during the third debate.
Character runs deeper than authenticity. It also speaks to temperament and worldview.
Second, Obama's Cool Temperament Mirrors Our Own: He may be more liberal on policy, but, his unflappable, quiet, calm demeanor strikes us as the authentic, real deal at a time when our culture is rampant with artifice. Harvard's Institute of Politics survey of 18-24 year-olds found that the second most cited reason to support Obama was his 'character'.
Meanwhile, this was not the 3rd, 4th or 5th, reason provided for supporting Clinton or McCain. McCain's commonly referenced period is the early seventies. For better or worse, Hillary learned thrifty, sharp lessons from her failures which do not dovetail with the millennial ethos
Internally, my generation has been shaped by careerist parents in that fatherly, latchkey way or, in cleaning up that debunked 'supermom' myth of third-wave feminism. We've seen more emotional dysfunction and divorce than any other generation.
Externally, the shocks accompanying September 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have bolstered a strong generational preference in our careers for operating conservatively in our own lives through established channels (as noted by career-writer Penelope Trunk).
He May Not Feel Our Pain, But He Understands
We can relate to his biography. This is the most diverse generation. He was raised by a single-mother; he chose to establish himself through education and, he stuck to his principles choosing the public sector over the private sector.
The inexperience charge leveled at Obama on the campaign trail is often leveled at us in the workplace. We are skeptical of experience as a qualifier and, believe that the way one thinks and approaches problems is of greater importance.
This generation has a strong sense of pragmatism. The baby-boomers asked: Is this fair?
We wonder: Does this work? Obama has often held up his days as a community organizer as a bridge between the distance between the world as-it-is and the world as it ought-to-be.
If Obama listened to the DLC handwringers (or myself) in responding to calls that he be more like Bill Clinton, it is quite likely that such a gimmicky move would have triggered a backlash from this demographic.
Should the cool candidate win, expect many millennials to also redefine public service as cool.
October 14, 2008
This week's analysis.
October 14, 2008
There's a great new book of history out, "The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960's," by two professors at Colby College in Maine -- G. Calvin MacKenzie and Robert Weisbrot. The book was obviously written before the current campaign but its relevance is obvious. MacKenzie's and Weisbrot's compelling thesis is that what really drove the zeitgeist of the 60's wasn't the counterculture but Washington -- namely all the legislative change produced in a flurry by John Kennedy and mostly by Lyndon Johnson.
If they're right -- and it's worth reading the book because they make a compelling case -- then the Obama administration has a chance to create a new era in the nation, not only in politics but in the far more expansive domain of culture. Politics, these professors argue, is our society's most effective agent of change as the culture changes from the top down. Phoenix readers should check it out. As should, by the way, Barack himself.
October 08, 2008
John McCain cannot make an argument to save his life and he thinks like a senator. These attributes, combined with his age, make him the least impressive presidential debater in recent history. Barack Obama ran circles around him last night, making a GOP victory next month that much less likely.
October 06, 2008
The 2008 presidential election, while offering voters the clearest liberal vs. conservative choice since Carter-Reagan in 1980, may also be interpreted as a culture war. Sarah Palin's presence re-introduces the gender issue while adding on a small town vs. big city dynamic. Palin herself represents an internal gender conflict -- the outdoorsy "one-of-the-girls-who's-one-of-the-boys" vs. a more traditional notion of what women candidates should be like. The generational conflict between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the Democratic Party (so ably chronicled by Steven Stark early in the primaries), is now between the 72 years old John McCain and the 47 years old Barack Obama. Racial preferences are found in many Whites backing McCain mostly because of his racial heritage while many persons of color back Obama for the same reason. Pro-choice and pro-gay rights positions are represented by Obama while McCain is firmly against both. Religious righties, because of Palin, now firmly back McCain while Obama has his share of true believers, young idealistic voters who are understandably affected by Barack's lilting rhetoric and call to participate. McCain campaigns on experience while Obama downgrades the value of experience. Obama campaigns on inspiration while McCain seemingly ignores the value of inspiration. The federal bailout bill pits those who championed government intervention against those who either rejected the notion outright or bit the bullet in saying it was necessary even though they were otherwise opposed. We have an Ivy Leaguer (Barack - Columbia University, Harvard Law School) against a service academy grad (Johnny Mac - Annapolis). Additionally, one served with distinction in the armed forces (McCain) while the other did not so serve (Obama). While a few of these distinctive differences may be found in most political campaigns, it's their number and the demographic groups they represent that is surprising. Looks like either the Obama or McCain demographic support groups will surge over the other in gaining public favor, giving their candidate a clearly defined victory on Election Day, November 4.
October 02, 2008
No gaffes for Biden which is good news for Obama. But Palin was far better tonight than McCain was last Friday -- and more than passed tonight's test -- especially given the low expectations. She was trite at times, yes, but in a rather appealing, down to earth way. Tonight is unlikely to change the dynamics of the race since veep choices count for little. But any further furor about the Palin selection will now likely disappear.