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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I gather the mantra at last night's Republican convention was "change." I can understand trying to glom onto the American public's desire not to continue the Bush administration. But I'm not sure attempting to steal Obama's brand makes sense. Especially on a night when George Bush, the man a large majority of Americans would like to get rid of, is there via satellite to validate your candidate.

McCain has a brand problem. It is going to be hard to brand him as the change candidate. They are trying to call him a "maverick" but he doesn't look like one, and his voting record doesn't look very maverick-y. Sarah Palin definitely helps. But if you're voting for whoever will be more likely to change Washington, you're going to go with the black guy from the opposition party.

They've gone about as far as they can go with the "war hero" thing, too. I'm not sure the pubic is in the mood for a war hero. They're sick of war. "War hero" is awful close to "war monger."

That's why Sarah Palin is such a problematic pick. When you're a veteran Senator up against a 40-year-old junior Senator with a very short record, why wouldn't you do everything to reinforce the idea that you're Mr. Experience? I would try to thread the needle by saying, "Change is good, but change isn't easy. The other guy can promise big changes, but I'll be able to make change actually happen. Remember what happened when Hillary Clinton tried to change health care? Disaster. I'll take Washington as far as it can go -- and I won't crash the car trying to go farther."

I think I would have gone in the other direction -- picked someone else equally experienced, and not young. Then pound Obama for his lack of experience and his willingness to promise the Moon.

Picking an inexperienced Governor with a raft of personal and political baggage suggests, unfortunately, that Mr. Experience may not have learned that much from his experience -- he is not wise, he's impulsive.

The McCain campaign seems to my partisan perspective to be flailing. They keep trying one attack after another, while Obama keeps hammering away at a single attack that can be summed up in a word: McBush. Polls suggest the majority of Americans think McCain will be more of the same; that will be hard to shrug off.

On the other hand, I am continually shocked that Obama hasn't opened up a bigger lead. I think American politics has become extraordinarily partisan -- it is extremely hard for people who voted for Bush to vote Obama, just as the reverse is true. I think Obama and McCain are fighting over maybe 10% of the vote. In that context, Obama's current 8% lead is huge. After all, even a 3% lead in the popular vote all but guarantees a win.

I won't be watching the Republican convention, except whatever snippets Jon Stewart plays. But I'll be interested to read about their branding strategy over the rest of the week.

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10 Comments:

I am continually shocked that Obama hasn't opened up a bigger lead.

You only get a big lead when the other guy is despised(Mondale). While McCain is not the most popular guy in the world he's still liked and respected.


I think I would have gone in the other direction -- picked someone else equally experienced, and not young. Then pound Obama for his lack of experience and his willingness to promise the Moon.


Hillary tried that. It didn't work. McCain's been trying that, it hasn't been working. Everyone who thinks Obama is not experienced enough has already made their decision to vote for McCain.

The problem is you're a liberal, so you don't see the real reason that McCain picked Palin. She gets conservatives, from social to libertarian, excited for the ticket. He made 10 million dollars this weekend.

People think Karl Rove was an evil genius for figuring out that negative ads work, but that's just a consequence of what he really discovered. The truth is that middle of the road voters have already made their minds up about both McCain and Obama and it's near impossible to change them. The winner of a tight election is the guy who gets the base out there. That's why Obama beat Hillary, people were just more excited to come out and vote for him.

Palin is McCain's chance to get the base excited, now if he gets them a little fearful of Obama he can have a great turnout. Obama's turnout largely depends on whether he can buck the trend and get the youth vote out and sustain his momentum.

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 2:35 PM  

Hillary partly lost the experience argument with Obama because she isn't that experienced. Eight years as First Lady doesn't cut it. Also, no one thought Hillary was going to win an election based on experience against McCain.

McCain has actual in-depth experience; that would make a strong brand for him. I think if he had stuck with it, he might have made inroads. It doesn't speak well for his campaign that they keep changing brands.

I know Sarah Palin mobilizes the base. (I may be a liberal but I'm also a storyteller.) The problem is that the base is smaller this year than in 2004 and 2000. Dem registration is up, Rep registration is down. It was pretty close in 2004 (60,000 votes in Ohio), and we all know about 2000. I think this year a polarizing choice gets McC a minority. There just aren't enough right wing voters to turn out; and when you pick Sarah Palin you give up any chance at the Hillary voters. (And light a fire under Hillary herself, which is probably not a good tactic.)

And, frankly, I doubt anyone wins the ground game against Obama.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:51 PM  

Re the polls and any pre-election vote quotes:

I read a great article the other day about how Pew research can only call landlines and it's illegal to call cell phones (unless the number generation is completely random) for these kinds of polls. I'm going to give Pew the benefit of the doubt that it's also legal to call someone on a cell phone if that person asks.

In general, people who use cell phones and don't have landlines vs people with landlines and no cell phones shows an age divide. Younger people are more likely to have just their cell phone while older people are more likely to have just a land line.

Without making any generalizations more than I have just made (supposedly based on factual statistics), the sample for the polls becomes possibly non-representative of the American people since people with just cell phones could be excluded legally, and only representative of a group of American people, those with landlines.

So, in conclusion, the numbers you have for the number or percentage of Americans voting for one candidate over the other could be off base (which wouldn't be your fault, since these polling organizations are supposed to know what they're doing). Then again, look at 2004, when exit polls before the election ended had Kerry practically winning the election.

Just something to throw in there, since you had some percentages from an assumed poll on Americans voting for which candidate.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 3:20 PM  

I read a quote about the speech Obama gave that I think is valid here. Paraphrasing, it asked whether the speech would influence the 100 thousand in Ohio that will decide the election. Meaning probably not.

Whether Palin with unite the right is not really the point. Not in this day and age. In an election as tight as this one is so far, the whole election will be decided by one of the swing states, like Ohio or Florida etc. The conservatives are most likely going to vote for McCain regardless, but it's the middle ground that both need to appeal to. Bush won not because he had all the republican vote, but because his regular guy image appealed to a lot of the undecided voters. That's why he won the swing states. It's not like Utah was going to vote Democrat.

Basically, does Pailn appeal to the undecideds? Personally, I don't think so, but you can never tell, especially nowadays.

By Blogger Tim W., at 4:34 PM  

McCain is less a war hero than he is a POW-survivor..Sorry, this is crucial and distinctive..If the Republicans have fumbled, then kicked the ball around is in their failure to present McCain as the "toughest" candidate(which by far--he is), and why that matters for our future and it's problems..

I like Obama and some of his message, but he's weak..Our enemies perceive him as weak--and he wants to approach every situation as "why can't we just work together?", or 'ain't I a great guy, I reached out to you--trust me, you'll love us again!"..

Obama will extend and secure victory, only when he show's strength and runs someone off the road in a ruthless and decisive manner..He can start with his reverend..

By Blogger TwoGuysInAGarage, at 6:05 PM  

This is a post about political theater, not talking points, but since you bring it up.

Obama is not weak. He said he would increase forces in Afghanistan. He said he would go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan if the Pakistan government refused to. He does advocate diplomacy, but backed up with force, as any sensible person would.

I agree that he needs to SHOW a little more passion and anger and toughness, as a matter of political theater, rather than his policies, which are fairly warlike. He comes off as a bit cool and cerebral, and that is a fault in an election.

As for Obama's former reverend, he repudiated him in no uncertain terms during the primary.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:17 PM  

In terms of polling:
A black candidate will tend to poll higher in pre election polls than on election day. Why? People often say one thing and do another; this is especially true when it comes to race. It's a sad reality that we all harbor some form of racial bias. When polled voters will often say they are voting for the black candidate but come election day tick the box for the white guy.

Obama's 8 point lead may not be enough to counter this racial bias, it can often skew a poll 10 to 12 points in favor of the black candidate.

By Blogger George, at 6:43 PM  

Being `tough' isn't necessarily a good thing. Bush was tough, and nearly drove the country into the ground. Being tough for the sake of being tough can be catastrophic. It got the US into a financially and moral draining war. And if Bush had his druthers, my guess is that it would get them into another one next door.

Anyway, I think it's interesting that Obama picked a VP that is almost his opposite. Biden is very experienced, pragmatic, not flashy, comes across as more a nuts and bolts-type guy, and is white.

McCain nearly did the same. Palin gets the press talking, is young, and a woman. The problem is they both seem to be loose canons, which, I'm guessing, won't work in their favour.

By Blogger Tim W., at 6:53 PM  

The so-called "Bradley effect" only applies to exit polls. Regular polling throughout the primary season did not show a consistent difference between what people told pollsters and how they voted for Obama or not.

What the polls also don't show is Obama's superb ground game. They are masters of GOTV.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 8:13 PM  

My apologies Alex--I'll keep it to the political theatre..

Big mistake by the Republicans not to pursue the POW-survivor tact..How many POW-survivors have the accomplishment record of McCain?..That's a story with teeth..

It's a lot different from the songs of autumn that we'll be hearing between now and Nov...

By Blogger TwoGuysInAGarage, at 9:29 PM  

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