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Friday, September 19, 2008

Galluping Past McCain

posted by on September 19 at 13:15 PM


Here we are, at the end of a week of awful economic news, and Barack Obama is now right back up to where he was, Gallup-wise, during the after-glow of the Democratic National Convention.

I repeat what I said yesterday, and add this: Obama seems to be taking the right lesson from these polls, which is to be relentless—keep up the attacks on McCain’s judgment, his “panicked” campaign, and his economic credentials.

Here’s Obama today in Florida:

The polls will tell us more in the coming days, but my guess is that this is the magic bullet Obama’s been looking for. If the debate is about the economy (not race, not gender, not moose-hunting, not POWs), and if Obama can convince enough of the electorate that McCain is a bad economic bet, then it looks like Obama wins. That’s what the swing in this poll seems to indicate, anyway.

It also reminds that the story of Obama’s spectacular rise has, in many ways, been his spectacular luck. Just when things are looking bleak, a political gift falls in his lap. When he was running for state senate in Illinois, it turned out his most threatening Democratic opponent hadn’t gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot. When he ran for U.S. Senate, his Republican opponent had to withdraw because of a divorce records scandal.

Yes, Obama has made a lot of his own luck. I have no doubt he’s made far more than he’s received. But to have the economy go into paroxysms of panic six weeks before the election, and to have your opponent’s first response be to claim the fundamentals of the economy are strong—this kind of thing can only be described as incredible, gift-from-on-high luck.

What Obama does with this luck will be a test of his political skill and, more specifically, a test of his ability to be merciless while at the same time appearing likable and presidential.

RSS icon Comments


I was thinking the same thing, Eli, and I completely agree...except...well, we've got to be wary of the goddamn racists who say "yeah, I'll vote for him!" Then in their private voting booths...

Posted by Leslie N. | September 19, 2008 1:16 PM

If I believed in God, I'd be becoming pretty convinced that He was taking a hand in things.

Posted by Terry | September 19, 2008 1:31 PM

If his positions are in fact "reality based" then in the long term chance would tend to produce results that would make him look smart and prescient. It's perhaps the only political advantage in telling the truth.

But also, I gotta go with the commenter last week who called him a "fucking ninja with ice-water in his veins." He seems remarkably cool under pressure. Perhaps as a consequence of the fact that he is never allowed to appear "angry" for fear of seeming threatening to timid white Americans.

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 19, 2008 1:36 PM

This is tempting fate, Eli. I still haven't seen anything that will solidify his lead over McCain. A brief retrospective on the Keating Five would do the trick, but I don't think they have it in them. It's going to be a nail-biter.

Posted by Dubcek | September 19, 2008 1:41 PM

This isn't just political posturing. Obama's record is actually solid on this point.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | September 19, 2008 1:44 PM

I'm betting that they're sitting on the Keating 5 until October. The commercials are in the can, waiting for a huge Florida rollout.

Posted by Demolator | September 19, 2008 1:49 PM

Did you all hear the person that yelled "hater!" in the first 20 secs of the clip after BO said McCain was blaming him for the failed economic policies. It's pretty hilarious and BO laughs a little.
I completely agree with Dubcek. I do not think this in the bag yet. I also do not think the Obama campaign is trouble. This might be like the dem primaries and come down the wire. Not unexpected considering what BO is up against, the establishment.

Posted by lsk3 | September 19, 2008 1:50 PM

if you look at the last time BHO was at 49% prior to the GOP convention, mccain was at 41, 42, or 43%.

post-palin, BHO is back at 49%, but mccain has increased to 44%.

therefore, palin's choice represents a 1% solidification of GOP support. yep, genius pick.

Posted by max solomon | September 19, 2008 1:51 PM

The economy crashing 6 weeks prior to the election is not as much luck as it is the incompetence of the current administration, Fed, Treasury, etc. That there's going to be a crash has been known for at least a year; these people, rather than mitigating the depth of the crash, have been desperately working for months now to hold it off until January so it's someone else's problem (and perceived by the public as someone else's fault).

They almost made it, too. 4 months shy.

Posted by Cow | September 19, 2008 2:12 PM

okay, i'm bad at math (and political theory) but can someone explain to me how these polls are able to include youth?

do high school seniors, college-aged students, or post-college baristas, secretaries, and bookstore employees get polled? and, if they only have a cellphone and not a landline, how on earth do they get polled? is this a weakness in the polling system that is not reflected in current polls? or do they somehow find a way to get to our age group?

i mean...i know that in order to conduct a poll you need a smaller sample that is analogous to a large sample. so how are they polling the hundreds of thousands of voting-age americans who only have cell phones? can you text in a poll?

Posted by bridget | September 19, 2008 2:23 PM

#10 - if you go to gallup they give a breakdown of how the polls are conducted - "at least" a thousand people each day, with sampling of both land lines and cell phones.

to my knowledge, they only poll registered voters who have voted in at least one previous election, so the polls are probably overlooking a lot of young, first-time voters. but they're not missing cell phone-only users.

Posted by brandon | September 19, 2008 2:37 PM

Sarah Palin can see an ATM from her office. Therefore she's qualified to fix the financial system. Vote Palin-McCain!

Posted by Gurldoggie | September 19, 2008 2:38 PM

@11 thanks. i'm still really skeptical that they have enough cell phone numbers to reach that population but i guess they are reaching people who voted before and didn't change their number

Posted by bridget | September 19, 2008 2:44 PM
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

still, gallup (and other polling orgs, and political news outlets) benefit greatly if the survey methodology makes it look like a neck-and-neck race.

Posted by jrrrl | September 19, 2008 2:45 PM

@11: Perhaps, but I wonder about this because I get several calls from pollsters a day right now (forwarded from a land line) and, thanks to the magic of caller ID, I almost never answer them. Many land-line owners don't have caller I.D. enabled, but to my knowledge all cells feature some form of caller I.D. This means cell-phone respondents are a self-selecting group, i.e. people who know when they pick up that it's a pollster on the other end.

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 19, 2008 2:48 PM

i want to see a line graph for gallup's happiness surveys. happiness in america is at a 2008 low!

Posted by jrrrl | September 19, 2008 2:48 PM

I've kind of been wondering about the accuracy of the polls as well. It seems like for every thing you can think about on one side (a larger youth turnout, which may or may not be adequately reflected in polls), there is something on the other side (the white folks who say they will vote Obama, but may change). And so, I do think this one is going to be a nail-biter, unless something big happens at the debates. I'm really looking forward to the VP debates (Biden against Palin, yeah!). But I'm glad to see the Obama-Biden camp finally get their shit together post-Palin. A week ago, I was really ready to give up, since it seemed like they were unsure what to do, who to attack, and how. This week, whether it's the economy or not, there is a focus and discipline that has totally blown me away. If they keep this up, it's still going to be close, but I think they can pull it out. And I say this as a fairly cynical African American, ready to believe the worst not only of the Republicans, but this country in general. (Of course, how long Obama lives after inauguration day is another matter -- oh shit, there goes my cynicism again.)

Posted by bookworm | September 19, 2008 2:58 PM

Fortune favors the prepared, dahling.

Posted by Gitai | September 19, 2008 3:13 PM

The national poling numbers don't really matter. Look at the Battleground states:

McCain is up in Ohio, tied in Penn and Minnesota, and Michigan. If McCain wins Ohio, this race is over.

The national numbers don't really matter except to cause the Dems to say that the election was stolen after they invariably lose.

Posted by Will | September 19, 2008 3:13 PM

I'm glad to see that Obama is getting back his lead, but I'm really pretty freaked that it is an unprecedented economic implosion that is helping him. Why couldn't it have been something benign that would help him get elected, like someone having an affair or taking a bribe? Why couldn't it have been something that didn't put my life savings or my home at risk?

Posted by Lark Hawk | September 19, 2008 3:14 PM

Polling companies are well aware of cell phone users. They know cell phone users are harder to contact. They know the breakdown percentages of cellphone-only users by age group.

Since cellphone users are harder to contact, they are weighted more heavily than land-line responders, by the same ratio of users by age group. Assuming their sample size is large enough, this weighting algorithm compensates for the lack of actual cellphone respondents.

Is this perfect? No. But the polling companies do try to obtain an accurate poll, and they are trying to take cellphone-only users into account in their data.

Polling companies derive no benefit from a tight poll; they derive benefit from an accurate poll. The absolute worse thing they can do is provide inaccurate polling. If they have a history of inaccurate polls, they go out of business. If they predict Obama will win, and McCain wins instead (or vice versa), then their credibility is shot. Their entire credibility is based on predicting the right outcome. They have every incentive to get it right, and they are doing their best to do so.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | September 19, 2008 3:17 PM

The only hope for America and Israel is to stand strong against presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama's father was a Muslim. Saudi Arabians are hoping for a victory by Obama. Obama supports the PLO and is known to have funneled money to Professor Rashid Khalidi, a known terrorist sympathizer, and Obama's campaign received $33,500 in illegal contributions from Palestinians in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Bush is the most pro-Israel president we have ever had. America needs to stand strong with Israel by supporting John McCain now. The Stranger has gone against conventional Seattle wisdom and been pro-war. Many in the Seattle Jewish community appreciate what Bush has done for Israel, and will demonstrate that support by voting against the terrorist sympathizer Obama.

Posted by Josh | September 19, 2008 3:27 PM


Indeed, I'm old enough to remember an outfit called "Zogby." They were all that and a bag of chips for a while, but they kept getting it wrong, and now?

Posted by elenchos | September 19, 2008 3:27 PM

knock knock.

I apologize, but my OCD requires that I do that.

Posted by D. | September 19, 2008 3:40 PM

Who's there?

I'm down with OCD.

Posted by E. | September 19, 2008 3:49 PM


The odd thing about Zogby is that he has these crazy poll results all campaign season and then the very last poll usually snaps into reality 2-3 days before the election.

And then all those post-election wrap-ups of pollster accuracy use that final poll instead of all the crazy shit before hand and he gets rated well.

Posted by whatwhat | September 19, 2008 3:49 PM

Why yes it's nice to see others espouse what I've been saying.

"If the debate is about the economy (not race, not gender, not moose-hunting, not POWs)" -- ayup, focus on the economy, as I'
ve been saying for weeks, and in particular, drop the anti Palin shit -- not cuz it ain't correct but cuz it weren't working, duh.

"if Obama can convince enough of the electorate that McCain is a bad economic bet," yes on the right track here, but add this:

Obama needs to tell "enouhg of the electorate" (code words for my Archie Bunkers, and Dogpatchers and WalMart Moms) that he, OBama is a postivie economic bet--

"then it looks like Obama wins."

Right. And if he doesn't do that, he loses.

"That’s what the swing in this poll seems to indicate, anyway."

Ayup. But too bad it is taking an economic meltdown to get us all off Palin and onto economics.

"It also reminds that the story of Obama’s spectacular rise has, in many ways, been his spectacular luck. Just when things are looking bleak, a political gift falls in his lap."

Right. Like a quasi-1932 style economic disaster. How lucky we are. This view sort of proves what some of us have been saying: he's not all that. Yes he won, yes he was against the war, kudos etc., but no he's not vastly more electable. In fact, it looks like it's taking a complete economic meltdown just to get him elected. PRetty much any Democrat in his position as nominee would be benefitting from this.

I hope he not only gets elected and if we have this crisis it not only produces lots and lots of Dems in office but that they all use it to forever brand the GOP as disasters for the aveerage middle American family and further that they use it as a great big teaching moment to get the Archie Bunkers and dogpatchers to realize if we are going to be hit up for like $5000 EACH taxpayer for this massive bad-loans bailout, it's ahem not too much of a stretch to have nationalized medicine as well as total nationalized guidance of the economy via redistributionist tax policy and focused massive public dolars in infrastructure, green jobs and r and d.

You know, the way China and Singapore do things. Sweden. Japan. And so on.

Unity y'all and remember ITE,S--

Posted by PC | September 19, 2008 3:54 PM

I might be confusing OCD with my obsessive compulsion to be superstitious.

Posted by D. | September 19, 2008 3:56 PM

Please be careful. Associating Obama gains with economic trouble starts to look an awful lot like cheerleading for economic collapse. That's not cool.

It's also a form of putting all your eggs in one basket. Remember a couple of months ago when oil was $150 a barrel and people were saying gas was going to $10 soon? If the economy rights itself, which is what economies tend to do, and indicators are good in November, a PAIN=GAIN strategy for Obama is going to really hurt him.

Posted by Fnarf | September 19, 2008 4:01 PM


PC, is that the same or different than what you were hoping when you were saying Obama was a Muslim and Michelle Obama hated white people? Do you know that Obama can still lose because of those lies? And have you given up lying?

Posted by elenchos | September 19, 2008 4:02 PM

All's I know is, if McCain wins this election then the system is truly broken beyond repair. If we can't throw out a gov't this destructive and this deceitful, then what the fuck good is democracy anyway?

Posted by Gurldoggie | September 19, 2008 4:02 PM

It's true that Obama has benefited from a lot of spectacular luck, but his victory over Hillary in the primary seems to have been won on good strategy and campaign management. Where was the luck factor then?

Posted by east coaster | September 19, 2008 9:20 PM

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