Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain picks Palin, Obama gets it done.

Well, the democratic convention has come and gone. I share the view of most pundits; that it went well and will help Obama, but wasn't anything incredible. Hillary was about as gracious as she can be, which isn't real gracious, but still she did offer what the Obama people thought was most necessary to begin unifying the party. I didn't see Bill's speech, but he was apparently on as well.

I do think that the various speeches will cause some Hillary voters to come home. Time and reflection will cause more to come home. Well that I think. I'm pretty damn sure some will immediately come home and that that fact will be reflected in polls released starting Sunday or Monday.

But let's face it. Everyone wants to talk/hear about Palin. WOW, what a shocking pick! McCain USED to have balls, and every now and then he shows that he still does. This is one of those times. He could have made a much much safer pick. He didn't. He reached for the stars. And missed.

I can explain McCain's thinking; this is a strictly political pick. He did NOT pick the man/woman he thought would make the best president (to say the least!) He picked the person he thought would best help him win (not the person who would best help him govern, as he is and will imply). Counter to his image, but as I always say, images are powerful things. Its a cynical pick, really. The basic reasoning is "chicks are dumb, they'll vote for another chick!" Doubtful.

Now to the McCain camp's thinking. The GOP has been trying hard to fan the flames of the Hillary voters bitterly disappointed that she lost. McCain has run ads using Hillary's own words critical of Obama against Obama. One GOP strategist recently said, "if we get Hillary's voters we win, if we don't, we'll lose." The Palin pick demonstrates that the McCain campaign has taken this hugely seriously, and is going all out for the votes of women (and some of the men) who voted for Hillary and are cool at best on Obama. Well I'm a man who voted for Hillary, and trust me, I came home a long time ago!

So let's review: Obama made a safe pick in Biden, a pick that someone who thinks that they are winning and doesn't want to screw it up might make. If you're up 15 points early in the 4th quarter, and its 3rd down and 2, you run the ball. McCain makes a daring, way off the beaten path pick in Palin. More like a flea flicker long pass. That's the action of someone who thinks they are losing. Which makes sense, because despite the very tight polls recently, McCain is losing (though I admit, not by nearly as much as I thought he would be).

In the recent polls, McCain is polling around 10 points better among Republicans than Obama is among democrats. This is surprising to say the least, but is explained by the fact that somewhere between 30-50% of Hillary voters have said in polls they are not voting for Obama. This number was hugely likely to drop significantly before the convention, and is now essentially certain to drop. As more and more Hillary voters come home to Obama, he will pull out to a significant lead. This is because many more people identify as democrats in 2008 than in 2004 (or 2000, or 1996 or many other years). Bush's deep unpopularity, combined with Obama and Clinton's appeal generated huge numbers of new democratic voters in the last 2 years or so. As those new voters who voted for Hillary come home, Obama's numbers improve. Simple.

There are more registered democrats than Republicans in Nevada, and a lot of other states where the GOP has long held a registration edge. Whether a decent chunk of these new voters in fact vote in November, and whether 65% of them vote for Obama, or 85%, is a huge question surrounding the upcoming election. If they vote in small numbers, or 65% for Obama, not much of a help. But if they do show up and vote 85% for Obama, he can't lose.

So some in the GOP, now emphatically including the McCain campaign, feel that they will have to poach more democrats than usual to have any chance of winning. And they're probably right.
Palin thus represents a huge (desperate?) attempt to reach out to moderate democrat women.

And its unlikely to work. McCain's pro life, Palin's pro life. HUGE majorities of Clinton voters in purple (swing) states are pro-choice. Trying to attract large numbers of pro choice Hillary voters with a 72-year old pro lifer and an unknown female pro-lifer does not sound like a winning strategy to me. The abortion issue is now guaranteed to be fairly big in this campaign, and will solidly favor the democrats for two reasons. First, when abortion is a minor issue it favors the GOP, because given the protective umbrella of Roe v. Wade, pro lifers are more intensely interested in the issue (polls have confirmed this for years and years, so please spare the hate comments!) But if abortion becomes a serious issue, that should favor the democrats, because more than 65% of the country does NOT want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. The democrats never make a big issue out of the Supreme Court because they think it is a losing issue for them. They are wrong, and now let's see if Obama does so.

Secondly, in most of the key swing states, being pro choice is a clear positive. In the places where the abortion issue MAY favor the GOP, more conservative places, Obama can do without these states. West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, perhaps Georgia and North Carolina (Obama cleaned up vs. Hillary in these last two). Obama has no shot in West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, and is a long shot in Georgia. North Carolina is more interesting, 15 electoral votes and McCain only up 5. I'm confident that the abortion issue will be a plus for McCain in North Carolina, as well as in all of the above-mentioned states.

Who cares? If this election is close the states that matter are Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Missouri, as well as a pack of smaller ones. I told you that a few months ago, and nothing has changed my mind one iota. Each of these big states are, I think, places where being pro choice is a real asset, except perhaps Missouri, which as I said in an earlier post will be VERY tough for Obama. Virginia is trickier to analyze than Colorado, because its about 1/2 quite conservative and 1/2 somewhat liberal. But Colorado is Western, and has a lot of California transplants. Both factors favor a pro-choice candidate. Colorado has only 9 electoral votes, but is a huge HUGE battleground (think the democrats held their convention there by accident?)

Again, assuming the national vote is very close, within 2 points (which I don't believe will be the case), the 3 KEY states are Ohio, Colorado and Virginia.. I'd rather have Biden than Palin by a lot in the last 2 and by a little in Ohio.

Palin is a remarkable young woman of 44. Former beauty queen, reformer, mother of 5, and wildly popular in her home state (more than I can say for President Gore!) She is hugely attractive. As a Senate candidate. As a vice to a 72 year old cancer survivor, not so much. And she blunts to an extent one of the two best attack lines against Obama; that he's inexperienced and unready. A VP is supposed to be an attack dog, and Sarah Palin will have a HUGE problem attacking Obama for inexperience. Even a fawning media would probably grow a set if she goes down that path. Yeah, she's the number 2, but still.

Like Obama, she's unready for the stage on which she is now performing. Obama has had a year and a half campaign, and he is readier than he was. Being Barack Obama, he's thought long and hard about the issues of the day, national security and otherwise, these last years. I doubt Palin has.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama supposedly to announce his VP tomorrow.

So says the Times.

Since you all want to know who this will be, I'll tell you. I don't know. My best guess is Evan Bayh of Indiana. He's experienced, he's dull, he's safe, he's from a key swing region (the Midwest), and will absolutely definitely help in his (stunning) swing state of Indiana, a traditionally very Red state that polls about even this year.

His father, Birch Bayh, was a Senator from Indiana, and a presidential candidate.

Evan Bayh is very well known and liked in Indiana. The geographically astute will note that Inidiana borders Ohio, a small obscure state that plays little role in American elections. I have no idea, but there is always some neighboring state spillover, particularly when tv markets are shared. I would assume Bayh is also a pretty known commodity in neighboring Ohio. With Ohio's 20 electoral votes the hottest game in town, this is also a factor.

Stay tuned for my reaction to his actual choice, and where the campaign goes from here.