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21st August 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

Election 2008: Calm Down, People

For some reason, the meme on the intertubes yesterday was “OMG Obama is flailing! OMG! OMG!”  I’m not quite sure why, but several factors appear to be at play:  several new national polls show McCain within the margin of error; growing fears that McCain’s negative ads have had an impact on Obama; and several progressive bloggers — particularly Josh Marshall and friends over at TPM — hit Obama hard today for what they see as his relative passivity.

My response?  Calm down, people.

What follows is a list of the reasons I’m not worried.  This one goes to sixteen.

1,  Too much was made of the “Berlin bounce.” Too many Obama supporters got giddy over something that, a few weeks later, most people have forgotten. The same will be true about the celebrity kerfuffle (more on that in a minute).

2.  The conventions haven’t happened yet.  Despite the fact that some of us have been following this thing for 206 years, most people aren’t paying attention yet.

3.  National polls don’t matter — if they did, Al Gore would be in the last seven months of his presidency.

4.  Although there are reasons to be nervous, Obama is still doing well in a number of states.  Yes, some races are tightening, but that’s to be expected.  The only two I’m worried about at this point are Michigan (and only if Mitt Romney is McCain’s VP and the Kwame Kilpatrick saga gets worse) and Minnesota (where Al Franken is so badly hurt by Coleman’s “use his comedy to destroy him” strategy that he’s dragging Obama down).  To be clear, things aren’t wonderful; they’re not even great.  But they’re not bad, considering everything McCain has thrown in Obama’s direction over the past few weeks. (To be clear, this is all based on my gut feeling; if you want statistical models, go to Nate Silver’s brilliant site.)

5.  I do think that Obama did make one mistake recently:  the timing of his Olympic advertising.  It appears that the majority of his buy was during week two, and his focus is primarily on policy rather than biography.  McCain, meanwhile, appears to have spread out his buy, using week one to run his attack ads and week two for biography.  (If anyone has more than anecdotal evidence that I’m either right or wrong about this, please let me know.) Given the huge interest in Michael Phelps and gymnastics, that may have been a misjudgment.  But I doubt it will have a long-term impact.

6.  Things are more likely to go Obama’s way over the next few weeks, barring a major misstep.  If he picks Biden (or Gore or Clark, for that matter) he’ll get a bump.  If his acceptance speech is up to his usual standard, he’ll get a bump.  Meanwhile, McCain is unlikely to get similar bumps from his VP pick or his speech (unless expectations are so low that he manages not to look bad).  And Rudy Giuliani as the Republican keynoter?  WTF?  Talk about the stench of defeat.  Gee, I wonder if he’ll talk about 9/11?

7.  If McCain picks Ridge, Lieberman, Wittman, or Fiorina, he’ll have an evangelical revolt on his hands.  He may pick up a point or two from the PUMAs, but he’ll lose two to three times that from the Dobson brigade staying home.

8.  Ron Paul could be to 2008 what Pat Buchanan was to 1992.  Bob Barr is going to suck more votes away from McCain than Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney will from Obama.  It probably won’t matter, but that’s what we thought about Nader in 2000.

9.  McCain is starting to make mistakes.  For example, his comments on water rights in Colorado may cost him the state.  Even the mainstream media is starting to notice.

10.  McCain has had a great month, but what really did he get out of it?  That Obama is a celebrity?  If this is the 2008 equivalent of swift-boating, then Obama will be fine.  And some voters were not happy with the attacks.  Obama’s negatives may have gone up, but so did McCain’s.

11. As we get closer to the election, real issues are going to matter more than the nonsense Schmidt and company are regurgitating right now.  Obama’s people understand that, and their targeting of specific ads in specific markets reflects a canny approach to exposing McCain’s weaknesses on the economy.

12.  I live in a battleground state (Virginia).  Now I know that Obama’s people know I’m supporting Obama — after all, I co-managed the NoVa phone bank during the primary (35,000 calls  by over 300 volunteers in 5 days, baybee).  Right now, I’m getting, on average two to three  calls a week asking me to volunteer.  That’s what people mean by Obama having a superior ground game.  It will make a difference in a number of states — just as Bush’s did four years ago.

13.  The debates.  Obama may not be as effective at debating as he is at oratory (and McCain may be better), but unless McCain starts coming up with some actual positions, he’s going to find it hard to talk about Obama’s alleged character defects for two hours.

14.  Sooner or later, someone is going to ask McCain a hard question he can’t answer in a venue he can’t avoid, or someone is going to say something to set him off in a manner that will cause people to question his character.

15.  Yes racism is a factor, but so is anti-racism.  For example, both my parents are Republicans (though my father is a former Democrat).  My mother still thinks Nixon is innocent.  Yet both are voting for Obama.  Why?  In part because they want the chance to make history — and erase the legacy of their generation.

16.  McCain’s decision to work within the existing federal campaign spending limits was a fatal mistake.  Obama will be able to outspend him by huge margins in every way that matters.  Yes, the RNC has an advantage over the DNC, but not enough to even the playing field.  McCain will either have to devote resources to shore up what should have been sure things (and thus not have as much money to spend on other battlegrounds) or find himself with more states in which to compete.  Either way, he loses.

So calm down and keep your eyes on the prize, people.  But that doesn’t mean you should relax.  We have roughly 100 days left.  It’s time to work your rear ends off.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 8:45 am and is filed under media, politics, pop culture, world at home. It is tagged under , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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