Game on!? Nats ahead only 3% in poll shock

October 10, 2008

The latest Roy Morgan poll is a stunner! It puts National’s vote down 7% at 40.5% and Labour’s up 1 point to 37.5%, since the last Morgan poll two weeks ago. (Hat-tip Adam.)

The big winners appear to be the Greens, up to 2.5% to 9%, and ACT, up 2% to 3.5%. NZ First lose a point to 4%, but would still be competitive if this poll is accurate.

And that’s the problem. It’s just one poll. And one poll does not a summer of left-wing joy make. It may very well turn out to be a “rogue.” Then again…

Latest poll (N = 923) taken between September 22–October 5, 2008.

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“That one” wins again — Is McCain toast?

October 8, 2008

McCain really needed to win. He is, as far as presidential polls go, way behind, and people are making up their minds. In fact, they’re already voting in some states. And he didn’t win.

Despite some good moments, he came across on an emotional level as petty and condescending, sometimes rambling and on the verge of incoherence. He referred to Obama at one point as “that one”, a moment that might come to stand in debate history alongside Gore’s sighs, Bush senior’s peek at his watch and Nixon’s five o’clock shadow.

Even the Republican commentators on CNN (and apparently David Brooks as well!) couldn’t bring themselves to argue that McCain won the second debate. As for the first two debates, the polls showed that the undecideds scored it for Team Obama:

The CBS poll of uncommitted voters (n = 516) has Obama winning 40% to 26%. Views of Obama and McCain changed positively: those who thought Obama will “make the right decisions on the economy” rose from 55% to 68%, and for McCain from 41% to 48%. Those who said that Obama “understands voters’ needs” rose from 59% to 80%, and for McCain from 33% to 44%.

CNN’s flash poll has Obama winning 54% to 30%. Importantly, Obama is 22 points ahead (59% to 37%) with these undecideds when they’re asked who would better handle the economy, and 21% ahead (57% to 36%) on who would better handle the financial crisis. Obama also gained a net 8% in favorability, while McCain was unchanged.

Obama was slightly ahead with the CNN sample on who would better handle Iraq (51% to 47%) and slightly behind on who would handle “Terror” (51% to 47%). So McCain’s losing his lead there, but the fact that the economy is overwhelmingly what is concerning voters right now cannot be a consolation.

Oh, and Obama wins the likeability test hands down. On “who was the most likeable” it was 65% for Obama and 28% for McCain.

So here’s where we’re at. The voters are scared out of their wits by the biggest financial meltdown since the 1930s. They’re seriously worried about their jobs, their homes, their health care and a lot more. The fast diminishing pool of undecideds, in particular, don’t seem impressed by character assassination. McCain’s negativism of recent months hasn’t had any traction. Team McCain’s clever strategy? Empty all the sewers on the voting public! Gosh darn, ain’t that the cleverest thing since suspending the campaign to go to Washington and, er, not doing anything useful…?

I’ll have That One, please…

Postscript: Once again, the Fox News text-in poll has a massive victory for McCain, which is kind of comforting. If those who watch Faux News are so one-sidedly Republican, then the Republicans’ chief propaganda outlet is basically just retailing Republican talking points to its own base. Harmless stuff.

The Mad Bomber

October 5, 2008

“How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?”

John McCain, Republican candidate for President, 2008.

McCain’s plane was shot down in 1967 over the city of Hanoi during his 23rd air mission over North Vietnam. It is not clear how many “innocent people” McCain’s bombs killed.

I’d have to agree with Krauthammer on this

October 4, 2008

Obama could still lose, despite the formidable lead he’s building up in electoral votes. His lead in many of states is not huge. And a month’s a long time in politics…

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Palin for President!

October 2, 2008

This is so funny…

That said, I expect Palin to “win” her debate with Biden, simply by spewing out values-based generalities and looking unphased about it all. [Update:] In view of ak’s comment, I should add that it won’t make any difference at all to the final outcome on Nov 4, which is looking better as every day goes by. Also, some people have even been able to find the poetry in Palin’s stream of consciousness rambling… Seriously. Here’s my favourite:

“On Good and Evil”

It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That’s not a good guy.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

It’s energy & freshness vs experience, says Palin

October 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

“I’m the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he’s got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.”

Sarah Palin, answering Katie Couric’s query in a newly released segment of an interview that her jokes about listening to Biden’s speeches since she was in the second grade — not that she would have been — aren’t an odd thing to say given her own running mate’s age.

Don’t ask me what new ideas she’s talking about, unless it’s this:

Wall Street blues

September 30, 2008

They came so close on Capitol Hill. Ignore the tosh about Pelosi’s pre-vote speech. If that’s all it took to put the Republicans off voting to try to save their financial system from imminent meltdown… Country First, anyone?

Yes, it is all about stopping the financial system imploding and the credit from drying up altogether. We can expect more bank failures now, and not just in the US. If we’re — yes, we’re in this too — lucky, the collapse of credit world-wide won’t precipitate a major recession. And we’ll get a revised version of the failed plan before too long, as Robert Reich suggests. If we’re lucky. (Hat-tip Daily kos.)

If we’re unlucky we get a full-blown depression. But we don’t know about that, because there aren’t a lot of models for a situation this extreme.

It’s not about the fat cats. But for many ordinary people, the idea that the fat cats would benefit was repugnant. (Initially at least. Rasmussen reported today that “Opposition to bailout plan falls dramatically”.) And there being an election in a couple of months, some congresspersons put saving their ass before saving their country.

Hell, who do you think finds the idea of giving money to the rich most objectionable? The liberals, or the people who skew tax-cuts to the super-rich?

Okay, there were the Republican Study Committee conservatives who came up with the idea of insuring the toxic debts (mortgage-backed securities not already insured) and somehow magicking away the cost. The proposal was a one-pager.

At the end of the day, any banking system collapse requires recapitalisation to avoid credit drying up and economic disaster, as the IMF’s study of 124 banking crises and responses shows.

I personally don’t think that buying toxic assets is the best solution, but then, what do you expect from Bush? There are other models, and the best outcome would be for the US legislators to consider some of the others. But quick. And without the spoiler interfering again.

Looking Presidential

September 30, 2008

Presidential

Sen. Barack Obama expressed confidence Monday that lawmakers would come through with a financial rescue package… [telling] voters at a campaign event in Denver, Colorado, that it’s important to “stay calm, because things are never smooth in Congress.””

Not Presidential

“McCain’s campaign accused Democrats of injecting politics into the American economy… “Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain and refused to even say if he supported the final bill. … This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.””

Note that McCain also “phoned it in”, tried to take credit for the congressional deal before it passed failed — such a maverick! –, refused to “even say if he supported the final bill”, and failed miserably as a leader, being unable to convince his own people to support their own President’s proposal.

Update: only hours after trying to pin the blame on Obama for his own side failing to support the bailout deal that he was supposed to have fixed, McCain says:

“Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.

Oh, that’s so presidential.

The subsurface campaign: US & NZ

September 29, 2008

Today’s LA Times carries a piece by Columbia University professor of journalism and sociology Todd Gitlin that provides a vivid and sharply drawn analysis of the symbolic import of the presidential election. Read it!

Gitlin starts from the premise that:

“The true campaign is the deep campaign, the subsurface campaign, which concerns not just what the candidates say but who they are and what they represent — what they symbolize.”

This idea will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. What makes this contest intriguing, says Gitlin, is that the current campaign pitches a candidate who fits a tried and true mythical stereotype — the grizzled, plain-spoken, straight-shooting John Wayne-type — against someone who mixes up the stereotypes twenty-first century style, and can’t be pinned down. Gitlin’s conclusion is spot on. This is the underlying contest:

“So that’s the clash. McCain, the known quantity, the maverick turned lawman, fiery when called on to fight, an icon of the old known American story of standing tall, holding firm, protecting God’s country against the stealthy foe. Obama is the new kid on the block, the immigrant’s child, the recruit, fervent but still preternaturally calm, embodying some complicated future that we haven’t yet mapped, let alone experienced. He is impure — the walking, talking melting pot in person. In his person, the next America is still taking shape.”

“The warrior turned lawman confronts the community organizer turned law professor. The sheriff (who married the heiress) wrestles with the outsider who rode into town and made a place for himself. No wonder this race is thrilling and tense. America is struggling to fasten a name on its soul.”

This seems a fair description. By contrast, while New Zealanders’ shared identity continues to evolve, the process is much less conflicted than stateside (Orewa 1 and the Maori Party notwithstanding). Instead, New Zealanders seem to be pondering whether to stick with the modest (and fair) achievements of the past nine years, or venture just a little more aggressively into the world.

Like Obama, Clark embodies an oddly contradictory amalgam; no nonsense, no-frills, presbyterian farmer’s daughter and Vietnam protester, policy nerd and steely tough political operator. In many ways this mix gelled with what the country was looking for in 1999, after 15 years of neo-liberal attacks on kiwi decency, fairness and social cohesion, not to mention the bumbling incompetence of Jenny Shipley’s ill-fated administration.

Key’s narrative is much more straight-forward and appealing, in a traditional way. State House kiwi boy makes good in tough, competitive New York. Like Clark, this narrative also embodies competence — hence Labour’s attempts to define the election as about trust, as in 2005 — but is more contemporary.

National have utilised this more future-oriented symbolism to an extent, but much less so than I anticipated. Perhaps that’s because they feel less need. Plant the seeds of anxiety — outward migration, wage gaps with Australia — and let the narratives do the work.

Obama wins debate

September 27, 2008

Well, yeah, I would say that. Both campaigns are claiming victory too. So why do I say Obama won?

It’s not as simple as who was on the offensive most, as some (generally Republican) commentators think. McCain was on the offensive more, and Obama missed some opportunities to push substantive points. Often, however, the lasting effect comes from the almost subliminal — subliminable if you’re the President — messages picked up by the watchers from the body language and general demeanour of the debaters.

There is evidence that voters perceived Obama as winning. In a CNN poll of more than 500 US voters (4.5% margin of error), a large majority (51% to 38%) of Americans say Obama was the victor (“Who did the best job in the debate?”). He was also considered better able to handle the economy (58% to 37%) and Iraq (52% to 47%).

Further, a CBS poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 40% thought Obama won, 22% thought McCain and 38% thought it a tie. Of thoseĀ  uncommitted voters polled, 46% said their opinion of Obama got better tonight, and 32% said their opinion of McCain got better. Like the CNN poll, 68% voters thought Obama would make the right decision about the economy, to 41% for McCain. But 48% thought Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq to 56% for McCain.

If this judgement holds up in the other polls (and given the margins I can’t see why it shouldn’t) then this is a major victory for Obama. Those who thought it a fairly even contest may be influenced by the poll findings and the overall judgement come out in Obama’s favour.

At another level it’s a clear victory for Obama. He is ahead in the polls and arguably only needed to put up a good showing and avoid gaffes. But his major hurdle in this election is the lingering doubts some democrats and independents have about his readiness. He looked presidential. Very presidential. Best of all, he held his own with an experienced adversary who was playing on his own turf — foreign affairs.

Readiness was the main line of Republican attack, and it failed. Miserably. McCain even managed to anagonise the unaligned “independent” voters in one focus group by being so patronising.

Remember, debates have only a very small immediate effect, unless there is a major “sound-bite” blunder. Neither candidate blundered. but McCain needed to win, gave it all he had, and Obama walked away looking presidential. Something he needs to do.

Updates:

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