Polling Still Trending in Obama’s Direction

24 10 2008

Now while most political observers fully expect the race to tighten up in the next few days nationally and in certain battleground states, the most recent polling spell nothing but doom for John McCain. Obama has the lead in two different polls in Florida and the same is true of Indiana.  He is also leading in at least one poll in Montana, and continues to lead by double digits in several different Ohio and Pennsylvania polls, and is up by a whopping 22.3 points in Michigan.

Take a look.

Though Nate Silver concedes much of this is good news for the Obama campaign, he cautions Obama supporters against reading too much into the recent polling.

To find good news for McCain, you have to go South — to the deep South — where new polling in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana suggests that those states have yet to become competitive.

As a result of all of this, there is now no perceptible rebound for John McCain; in fact, the race may still be trending toward Obama, although the safer assumption is that it’s flat. Meanwhile, Obama’s electoral position appears as strong as ever. John McCain’s chances of winning the election have dwindled to 3.7%, down from 6.5% yesterday.

Today’s article in the Washington Post on the recent polling summarized the implications of the findings:

What all the polls, battleground and national, point to is that Obama now has multiple routes to 270 electoral votes, the winning number, while McCain has to win virtually everything that is competitive. Pollster.com lists seven tossup states. All were won by President Bush four years ago.

Many analysts have long predicted that the race could stay close until the end but that it could pop open in the final weeks — and if that happened, it would most likely go in Obama’s direction.

(H/T: FiveThirtyEight.com)


Reactions to Criticism of the Powell Endorsement

23 10 2008

Some of the folks at These Bastards had the following to say about conservatives fuming over Powell’s endorsement of Obama:

Immediately Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, George Will, and Dan Billings fired off e-mails and gave interviews alerting the American populace to this chain of events. More intelligent people would have tried to attack Powell’s credibility based on his tenure in the Bush Administration. But to Rush and the like we are in yet another grand year of the glorious freedom experiment in Iraq, so that’s out. So they did the next best thing, kicked open the front door, strode out onto the porch and yelled “The Negroes is congregatin’ and endorsifyin’!” Because I guess Colin Powell and other black figures aren’t allowed to deviate from the standard line of pasty white guys they’ve endorsed since time immemorial.

So, word to the wise black folks. Endorsing a person of the same race is kinda racist, unless you are white. I think it has something to do with the equinox or the Magna Carta. If I understand it correctly, the only way to move race relations forward is for the black community to rally around the old, white guy. For the 44th time in a row. To prove to us you aren’t voting based on race. We promise to return the favor the next time a black guy runs. Honest.

And Morris O’Kelly at the NYT’s Fifth Down had the following reaction:

It wasn’t enough for Colin Powell to have been a professional soldier and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was “irrelevant” that he was once Secretary of State. When it came down to Powell offering his informed, influential and most important, single-minded opinion, the FIRST criticism leveled at him trumpeted race.

Limbaugh didn’t acknowledge his credentials and couldn’t attack his record.

The FIRST criticism leveled at Powell trumpeted race, and Powell’s previous service to America was summarily dismissed. This, despite the fact that Powell had never made any overture to appease or please African-Americans.

Nobody publicly accused Republicans Susan Eisenhower or Christopher Buckley of being “race traitors” when they endorsed Obama, or alleged Joe Lieberman was a race loyalist after switching parties and kowtowing to McCain. So when a respected and reputable black uber-American is first characterized as a race loyalist…it’s at best questionable.

By every Republican measure, Powell (like McCain) had put “country first.”

Others, such as Pat Buchanan, took an even lower road, alleging that other, “more qualified” generals were passed over in favor of Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You know, “affirmative action” at the highest level.

Even after all these years, the credit Powell deserved still escaped him.

No such questions were posed of Dr. Henry Kissinger as to whether his support of Senator John McCain was also based in race. Buchanan didn’t accuse Senator McCain of gender affirmative action with the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Joe the Plumber and Taxes

16 10 2008

From Dean Baker:

Much of last night’s presidential debate centered on “Joe the Plumber,” Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber who Barack Obama met while campaigning in Ohio. According to the New York Times, Mr. Wurzelbacher says that he is planning to buy a plumbing business that has profits of between $250,000 and $280,000 a year.

While this income would put Mr. Wurzelbacher above the threshold where he could expect to pay higher taxes under Senator Obama’s tax plan, the increase in his tax bill would be relatively modest. Under Senator Obama’s plan, the tax on income above $250,000 would increase by 3 percentage points from 33 percent to 36 percent. This means that Mr. Wurzelbacher could expect to see his tax bill rise by between $0-$900, assuming that this plumbing business would be his entire taxable income. If he has additional taxable income, then he would see a larger increase in his taxes.

Whoa that sounds really burdensome for someone making $250k or more a year. Interestingly enough, Wurzelbacher is not even in that top 5 percent of the income earners to even be worried about such a hike.

Some are speculating whether or not Wurzelbacher was actually planted by the McCain campaign to portray Obama as a tax and spend liberal.

Here is the exchange between Joe the Plumber and Obama in case any of you missed it.

CBS/NYT Poll: Obama leads McCain 53 to 39 Percent

15 10 2008

Its hard to know how much faith to place in national polls but the 14 point spread reported in the newest CBS/NYT poll should give many observers pause, especially since its largely consistent with how other polls have been trending.

Here is how CBS interpreted the results.

The Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, a 14-point margin. One week ago, prior to the Town Hall debate that uncommitted voters saw as a win for Obama, that margin was just three points.

Among independents who are likely voters – a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign – the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week.

McCain’s campaign strategy may be hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks. The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain’s attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.

I bet McCain is kicking himself for not picking Romney now.

The New Yorker Endorses Obama

14 10 2008

The New Yorker more than made up for its sad attempt at satire this summer with its recent full-throated endorsement of Obama. To date, this has got to be the most forceful and persuasive case for Obama I have seen yet.  The editorial draws contrasts between the Obama-Biden and the McCain-Palin ticket on numerous issues, but the differences on energy and on the courts were the most dramatic and powerful points in the piece.

On energy and global warming, Obama offers a set of forceful proposals. He supports a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050—an enormously ambitious goal, but one that many climate scientists say must be met if atmospheric carbon dioxide is to be kept below disastrous levels. Large emitters, like utilities, would acquire carbon allowances, and those which emit less carbon dioxide than their allotment could sell the resulting credits to those which emit more; over time, the available allowances would decline. Significantly, Obama wants to auction off the allowances; this would provide fifteen billion dollars a year for developing alternative-energy sources and creating job-training programs in green technologies. He also wants to raise federal fuel-economy standards and to require that ten per cent of America’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2012. Taken together, his proposals represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

There was once reason to hope that McCain and Obama would have a sensible debate about energy and climate policy. McCain was one of the first Republicans in the Senate to support federal limits on carbon dioxide, and he has touted his own support for a less ambitious cap-and-trade program as evidence of his independence from the White House. But, as polls showed Americans growing jittery about gasoline prices, McCain apparently found it expedient in this area, too, to shift course. He took a dubious idea—lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling—and placed it at the very center of his campaign. Opening up America’s coastal waters to drilling would have no impact on gasoline prices in the short term, and, even over the long term, the effect, according to a recent analysis by the Department of Energy, would be “insignificant.” Such inconvenient facts, however, are waved away by a campaign that finally found its voice with the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”

On the courts:

The contrast between the candidates is even sharper with respect to the third branch of government. A tense equipoise currently prevails among the Justices of the Supreme Court, where four hard-core conservatives face off against four moderate liberals. Anthony M. Kennedy is the swing vote, determining the outcome of case after case.

McCain cites Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two reliable conservatives, as models for his own prospective appointments. If he means what he says, and if he replaces even one moderate on the current Supreme Court, then Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and states will again be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortion. McCain’s views have hardened on this issue. In 1999, he said he opposed overturning Roe; by 2006, he was saying that its demise “wouldn’t bother me any”; by 2008, he no longer supported adding rape and incest as exceptions to his party’s platform opposing abortion.

But scrapping Roe—which, after all, would leave states as free to permit abortion as to criminalize it—would be just the beginning. Given the ideological agenda that the existing conservative bloc has pursued, it’s safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court. Efforts to expand executive power, which, in recent years, certain Justices have nobly tried to resist, would likely increase. Barriers between church and state would fall; executions would soar; legal checks on corporate power would wither—all with just one new conservative nominee on the Court. And the next President is likely to make three appointments.

Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, voted against confirming not only Roberts and Alito but also several unqualified lower-court nominees. As an Illinois state senator, he won the support of prosecutors and police organizations for new protections against convicting the innocent in capital cases. While McCain voted to continue to deny habeas-corpus rights to detainees, perpetuating the Bush Administration’s regime of state-sponsored extra-legal detention, Obama took the opposite side, pushing to restore the right of all U.S.-held prisoners to a hearing. The judicial future would be safe in his care.

Christopher Hitchens on Sarah Palin

14 10 2008

In a piece where he could barely bring himself to endorse Barack Obama for President, Christoper Hitchens took Gov. Sarah Palin to task with searing wit and unsparing honesty.

The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: “What does he take me for?” Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party’s right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama’s position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.

Damn that last line is a zinger.

Are We Overhyping the Bradley Effect?

13 10 2008

As Obama’s lead in the national and statewide polls swells, inquisitive and perhaps bored pundits are beginning to ask how much of that lead will diminish once certain white voters step into the both. That is to say, how much of Obama’s lead is vulnerable to the so-called Bradley effect, which occurs when white, and perhaps other non-black voters, overstate their support for an African American candidate as respondents in opinion polls.

In a piece entitled “Funny Numbers” The New York Times quotes Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, who warns us “How much we are under-representing people who are intolerant and therefore unlikely to vote for Obama is an open question… I suspect not a great deal, but maybe some. And ‘maybe some’ could be crucial in a tight election.”

Maybe. Just maybe.

Funny, how even as Obama’s lead grows we still need to be alarmist about how he might actually be losing.

Interestingly enough, the piece goes on to make a subtle distinction between what may appear to be manifestations of the Bradley effect and the phenomenon of racial polarized voting. The latter occurs when in a given election whether its for the head of the school board or the presidency people vote for candidates of the same race often in an effort to protect themselves from perceived threats to their own political and social power as people living in racialized communities. This part may be the hardest to capture because of on going on the ground dynamics.

Who knows if some older white people while standing on line to vote will be so annoyed by a group of black college kids wearing one of those bootleg Obama t-shirts and decide to pull the lever for McCain instead?

I suppose we could speculate about such things all day, but one of the benefits of the almost endless Democratic primary contest is the wealth of data we have from numerous head to head match ups between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The data compiled in the table below by the good folks at FiveThirtyEight.com is of polling within the last 2 weeks before that state’s primary as averaged out by pollser.com. A close reading of the data reveals that there is little proof of the Bradley effect harming Obama’s chances against Hillary Clinton. In fact, more times than not, Obama outperformed the polling estimates. This is almost as true in states where he won as it is of states where he lost.

This is not to say that race is not a factor. But it is to suggest that race plays a far more subtle role in voting than the media likes to admit. Regionally, Obama more than outperformed his polling average in the South, which in part is due to a great deal of support from black voters. But he also enjoyed some of his greatest support in overwhelming white states such as Iowa, Oregon and Wisconsin, where he blew away his initial polling averages.  In states with very few black voters racially polarized voting does not seem to have much of an impact, whereas its a different story in more diverse states where black folk approach or exceed their national averages, such as states like Ohio and Texas.

(H/T: FiveThirtyEight.com)