Browsing the blog archives for October, 2008.

Daily tracking polls update: “Looking OK now” edition

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Tracking polls update, 31 October

Chart1: Daily tracking polls update, 31 October

Three days ago, I was feeling nervous about a sudden seeming lurch-let towards McCain in the daily tracking polls. This in spite of repeated posts by the experts insisting that there was no actually meaningful tightening going on, it was mostly just a question of statistical artifacts.

By this morning,’s status update did acknowledge that there had been some movement: “If you look at our national trend chart, we definitely show a narrower Obama margin now (5.4% as of this writing) than about a week ago.” Obama’s current national trend estimate, Mark Blumenthal explains, now stands about a point lower than his high of 50.9% a week ago, and McCain’s current estimate is slightly less than two percentage point higher than his low of 42.2% on October 12.

However, there’s still little to worry about, basically, as he points out the obvious to calm our nerves: “[T]ime is short and Obama’s lead still looks daunting. [..] Obama continues to lead on every national poll and yesterdays tracking updates show no decisive shift in either direction.”

Today’s tracking poll numbers certainly help sooth the jitters, as most actually show movement towards Obama (see Chart 1). Over the last two days, the ABC/WaPo, IBD/TIPP and Rasmussen daily trackers all have Obama’s lead back up 1 point, Zogby has it up 2, and the Gallup samples have moved back in Obama’s favour too: the regular voter and expanded likely voter samples both by 2 points and the traditional likely voter sample by no less than 5 (from 3% to 8%).

The result is that the average of all daily tracking polls has Obama’s lead back up by 1 point from +5.6% to +6.6%, after it had fallen by 2.7 points in the previous four days.

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Small Children Give Big Landslide to Obama

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

It’s now official: the children of America have spoken.  In its fourteenth quadrennial presidential poll, the Weekly Reader tabulated the votes of over 125,000 school children, ranging from kindergarteners through the tween set and all the way to high school.  The result: Democrat Barack Obama, with a solid 54.7 percent of the vote, defeated his Republican rival John McCain, who garnered a paltry 42.9 percent.  Despite the fact that most of the participants are ineligible to vote in the real election, the outcome is nevertheless significant.  In twelve of the thirteen previous elections, the Weekly Reader poll has accurately predicted the winner of the general election.  The only exception came in 1992, when the little jerks voted for Bush the Elder rather than Clinton.  It should also be noted that, in 2000, Florida school kids, presumably confused by the ballot, voted overwhelmingly in favor of Pat Buchanan.

Is our children voting?

George W. Bush: "Is our children voting?"

With its its success rate at over 90 percent, the Weekly Reader has been more accurate in its predictions than many major polling organizations, such as Zogby or … well, mostly Zogby.  In fact, Zogby helped to run this year’s Weekly Reader poll, which should naturally make one a bit skeptical of the results.  After all, the poll’s methodology is suspect, it doesn’t reach kids who only have cell phones, and it undercounts home schoolers and dropouts (core constituencies of the Republican Party), .

Nevertheless, there are several reasons to take the poll seriously.  Pundits surmise that the children, who gain most of their political knowledge from their parents, will vote for candidates that reflect their parents’ preferences.  The children, in effect, are stand-ins for their parents, who can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and respond to pollsters who call right in the middle of Deal or No Deal.  So, in other words, if little Johnny votes for Obama, it’s probably because his parents plan to vote for Obama, and if little Suzy votes for McCain, its probably because her parents are abusing her.  Quick, call the cops!

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Why Not Wright?

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

McCain has five days to make up six points in the polls.  He needs a game changer and there is no big event coming, no opportunity to exploit.  So why not go with Reverend Wright?  It’s something some on the Right have been demanding for several weeks now.  Reverend Wright and his you-tube sermons should be a better source of Obama bashing than the often repeated Ayers attacks.  The Ayers charge was always questionable and easily debunked, but Wright and Obama actually had a close and well documented relationship. So why hasn’t McCain or the RNC or some political action group charged in?  My take is that there are three key reasons why the McCain campaign is not going there.

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“Most of his policies are in strict harmony with Socialist principles”

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Andrew Sullivan has a great find:

From an anti-T.R. letter to the editor of the New York Times in 1908:

Moreover, most of the Rooseveltian policies – the arid land reclamation schemes, the National forests, the leasing of coal and mineral rights, the renting of grazing lands, the construction of the Panama Canal by direct employment, the development of water powers under public ownership and control – are in strict harmony with Socialist principles….The faith of our forefathers in the sacred principle of competition as the self-acting force which yielded ideal justice and rendered to every man according to his deserts, has departed as surely as the belief in witchcraft. [Socialists] can’t threaten me worse than Theodore Roosevelt does with his inheritance and income tax schemes and the social workers of New York with their ever-increasing demands on the city budget.

Teddy Roosevelt is McCain’s favorite president.

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Massive early voting … the wonder, the worry, the role of race

Politics, Presidential Elections, US culture, US Elections, US Politics

WSB TV down in Georgia reports a story that’s at once heartwarming and horrifying: Clayton County voters on Monday, the first day of advance voting, stood in line for 12 hours to vote. Twelve hours!

While the polls officially closed at 7 p.m. Monday night [..], the line to vote at the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale didn’t clear up until 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Clayton County voter Patricia Lewis finally voted in Riverdale after standing in line to vote for six hours. “I vote in every election and I couldn’t pass this one up. I think about my dad, about the struggles he went through and for me to vote again is just amazing,” Lewis. [..]

For much of the day, Clayton County voters stood in line for eight to nine hours to cast their ballots.

Channel 2 talked to one poll worker who worked an 18 hour shift. She still didn’t complain about the problems. She said she was just glad to see so many people interested in voting. “It makes me feel good,” said election worker Beatrice Lyons. “They can just come and stay all night and I’ll be right here.”

Lyons said she saw some people arrive at 1 p.m. Monday and they didn’t vote until 12:45 a.m. Tuesday.

Voting is fun! (Image used under CC license)

Voting is fun! (Image used under CC license)

Now those are moving stories, but once again I am just the foreigner with his mouth agape: how is this possible? I mean, I’m familiar enough with the election day reports to know that it’s fairly common for people in certain states and regions to have to wait in line for hours to vote – many hours sometimes. What’s the deal here – you’re the wealthiest country in the world, and you can’t set up enough polling stations to avoid making voters stand in line for hours on end to exercise their democratic rights?

The political salience of the story, meanwhile, is of course that this is not election day. Election day isn’t for another day. This is advance voting, and already people are standing in line for hours. What massive turnout is taking shape?

Daniel Nichanian at Campaign Diaries (where I got the above link from too) had some stunning numbers yesterday:

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Educating the Next Generation of voters

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Obama Wins Scholastic News Election Poll

Obama Wins Scholastic News Election Poll

I never paid much attention to it before, but with four children in school it’s hard to miss: Presidential elections are when we train the next generation to vote.  My children are all about the election.  They’re bringing home worksheets on the parties, discussing the candidates with their classmates and holding mock elections.  They’re asking lots of questions and they are looking to me for answers at the dinner table.  They watch all those advertisements on TV in the evenings.  “Is that true?”  “Why would he say something like that?”  I’ve debated tax policy with my high schooler and he’s debated it with his friends.  When I ordered my Obama yard sign, they anxiously waited for it to come in.  “Is it here yet?”  “The election is coming!”  When it arrived, everyone went to plant it in the yard.  My kindergartener proudly placed an Obama magnet on my wife’s car.  (No bumper stickers allowed there.)  Last night, the yard sign was stolen from my quiet suburban yard after being there less than a week while my neighbors’ McCain signs sat unmolested.  How do I explain that?  Time to get out the poster boards and crayons because my children want to be involved in this election and our yard is going to have a sign!


Daily tracking polls update: the nervous edition

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Is John McCain’s evil masterplan working?

I’m a bit confused about what masterplan, evil or otherwise, McCain would be implementing right now – I mean, ginning up a red scare about Obama the Socialist, really? But it wouldnt be the first time that a tack I considered wholly idiotic seems to work with American voters. (They sometimes work with Dutch voters too, for that matter – though probably not the red-baiting one.)

Either way, the daily tracking polls are showing some tightening of the race. Could be statistical noise, could be real. The movement would probably not be enough to decide the race either way, but still, the lowest estimates of Obama’s lead are getting disconcertingly close to zero:

  • Gallup has Obama’s lead down 3 points today, both in its expanded likely voter model (from 10% to 7%) and its traditional model (from 5% to a perilous 2%);
  • Rasmussen has Obama’s lead down 3 points in two days, from 8% to 5%;
  • Research 2000 has Obama’s lead down 4 points in two days, from 11% to 7%;
  • Zogby has Obama’s lead down a point today to just 4%, after it already fell from 10% to 5% the day before yesterday.
  • The IBD/TIPP poll is stubbornly stuck at a modest 3-4% Obama lead since the 22nd.

All in all, Obama’s average lead in the daily tracking polls has fallen from 8.3% three days ago to 6.0% tonight.

Chart 1: All daily tracking polls

Chart 1: All daily tracking polls

It should be said that there is one non-tracking poll that paints a seriously different picture. A Pew poll out today is showing a delirious 15-point lead for Obama among likely voters, with McCain down at just 38%. John Judis flagged that one (using the poll’s even more favourable numbers for registered voters) to tell us to “start popping the corks”.

The balance is evened out again, however, by the GWU Battleground tracking poll (which I dont include in the graphs because it’s not a daily tracking poll), which has Obama’s lead unchanged at just 3%. So count me in with his colleague Noam Scheiber, who is “still sweating” it.

For an overall picture of all national polls, check out …

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Strategery, Democrat Style

Politics, US Elections, US Politics

In the first presidential debate, Sen. John McCain accused Sen. Barack Obama of not understanding the difference between a strategy and a tactic. If I had to guess, I’d say that McCain’s eyes have been opened as to the extent of Obama’s understanding. As he thrashes about in the spider web laid by the fifty state strategy (hollering out “we’ve got ’em right where we want ’em”) McCain must, somewhere deep in side, be acknowledging to himself that Obama is better at this strategy thing than he is.

Make no mistake, McCain is a gifted politician and he has guts. He pulled his own primary campaign out of the mud of mismanagement with nothing but shoe leather. But he’s no match for someone who, a year and a half or more ago, came up with a really good plan and stuck with it. There’s just nothing quite like getting it right the first time.

Of course, it is still possible that Obama can lose this election, but if he does it won’t be because of how his campaign was run. Obama’s execution of the previously attempted fifty state strategy is not his accomplishment alone, of course. Aside from his campaign staff, he has Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton to thank for its success.

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Notes From A Battleground State: Crumbslide?

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Politics

The Busken bakery in Ohio has been conducting a “cookie poll” since 1984. They sell cookies festooned with the image of the candidates, and keep a tally of the sales. They’ve called the winner every single time — within 4 percentage points of the final tally!

So how’s it look for Obama?

(Note, the McCain cookie is frowning here — because he’s losing by a 2-1 margin! — but the one for sale is smiling.)

That’s as of Tuesday, October 28th at 10:40 AM. Click here to keep tabs.

Brian Busken, VP of marketing, says, “We’ve never seen a spread like this before in the numbers. I don’t know if there’s going to be a crumbslide or not. … We may still predict the winner, but probably by way too many cookies.”


The Irresistible Allure of Iowa

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

What is it about the Hawkeye State that keeps drawing the McCain-Palin campaign back again and again? Is it the state’s renowned culinary delicacies? The tantalizing aroma of industrial pig farms? The seemingly limitless expanses of nothing? Maybe it’s all of the above, because it can’t be because John McCain has the faintest chance of beating Barack Obama when Iowans go to the polls on November 4.

that pretty much sums it up

Iowa, pigs, and corn: that pretty much sums it up

McCain was in Iowa on Sunday. When Tom Brokaw of Meet the Press mentioned that he was trailing Obama by 11 points in the latest Iowa poll, McCain, speaking by satellite from Waterloo, remarked: “Those polls have consistently shown me much further behind than we actually are.” That, in fact, has been something of the conventional wisdom regarding McCain’s baffling attraction to Iowa. His internal polls must show a tighter race, the pundits all pundicize, otherwise his appearances in the state, especially at this late stage of the contest, make absolutely no sense.

And indeed, on the surface, there isn’t much logic in the McCain campaign’s Iowa visits. A brief rundown of the GOP candidates’ appearances since the Republican convention reinforces that view:

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WaPo/ABC Poll: the difference between white voters in the South and elsewhere

Politics, Presidential Elections, US culture, US Elections, US Politics

This bit of polling analysis caught my attention: Obama does well among whites, very, very well indeed. But with one glaring exception: the South. The Southern exception is alive and well:

Obama is outperforming any Democrat back to Jimmy Carter among white voters, getting 45 percent to McCain’s 52 percent. But in the South, it is a very different story. Obama fares worse among Southern whites than any Democrat since George McGovern in 1972.

My electoral map of how whites voted in 2004 already showed that when you single out white voters, it’s not Wyoming and Utah that are the most Republican states, it’s Mississippi, Alabama and South-Carolina. The latest ABC/WaPo poll suggests that even as whites across the country have been remarkably receptive to Obama’s message, those in the South are still very hostile:

Whites in the East and West tilt narrowly toward Obama (he’s up 8 and 7 points, respectively), and the two run about evenly among those in the Midwest. By contrast, Southern whites break more than 2 to 1 for McCain, 65 percent to 32 percent.

That stark divide is not simply a partisan difference. While white Democrats outside the South give Obama margins of 80 points or more, he leads by a more modest 65 points among white Southern Democrats. The Democrat is up 55 points among liberal whites in the region, far under his performance among those voters elsewhere, where he is up by 79 points.

Southern white independents are also far more likely than politically independent whites in other regions to support McCain: They break 62 to 33 percent in his favor. White independents in the West favor Obama by a similarly wide margin, 63 to 34 percent. White political independents in the East and Midwest divide much more evenly.

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Fun with Newspaper Endorsements

Media / journalism, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Electoral Map if Newspapers Voted

Electoral Map if Newspapers Voted

Just about everyone discounts the value of newspaper endorsements for Presidential candidates.  The candidates get so much new coverage and scutiny that no one needs a push at the eleventh hour to help them decide how to vote.  Still, endorsements get a lot of coverage if only because they infuriate one group and allow another to bask in the glow of righteousness knowing their paper sees their wisdom.  The good folks at Editor and Publisher have been keeping a running tally of the endorsements this year and while they might not provide a lot of insight into the election, they are great fun to look at. 

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