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August 06, 2008

Comments

wow, a thoughtful, complex, nuanced look at information that is right there in front of our eyes.

thank god the MSM doesn't have time for this kind of nonsense. MORE TIRE GAUGES!!!

What is interesting here is to read the linked article. It makes it sound as though Obama is in trouble. But he has a five point lead in a poll with a 3% "margin of error."

That's a huge lead.

Thanks, publius.

When he’s wearing his moderate humorous hat, he can be quite charming (just watch his Daily Show appearances).

This in particular is true in more ways than one. When McCain first came on the Daily Show, back before he became a complete Bush hack, he actually mounted a decent defense of GOP policies and managed to be funny at the same time.

But the last time I saw him on the show, he got really testy trying to toe the party line -- and it actually made him a far less effective advocate for conservatism in general.

The need to placate the base probably meant that tacking to the center was never an available option, but if Obama wins it'll be interesting to see was the postmortem on McCain's candidacy will be. It's clear already that some long-time McCain fans are infuriated at just how much he's been hamstrung by the need to pretend he's someone he's not.

In the real world, Bartlet can't really be Bartlet, I guess. Strategically, I know that the Rove strategy may get him more votes, but personally I much prefer that Obama campaign against McCain '08 than McCain '00.

I made the same point about CNN's article calling Obama's 5 point lead tight and said he had squeaked by McCain. Who makes up that crap?

I think that by now, if we hadn't come to this conclusion already, we can assume that the media really is looking for ways to keep this race close, when there's no reason to believe it is, especially when you look at it on a state-by-state basis.

I should add that I'm much less enthusiastic about McCain's ability to woo his base than you are, publius.

There's been much less kvetching from the anti-McCain camp since the primaries ended than from the pro-Clinton camp, and voters tend to come home in the end. Chalk it up to the GOP lockstep, I guess. See, e.g., George W. Bush circa 2000.

That said, what seems off is that McCain's not playing more heavily to the center -- since I do think that Republican voters will come home in the end, I'd expect him to play to undecideds rather than going negative so early.

So: in that light, I think the theory that McCain's attacking now so that he can play nice later actually makes a lot of sense. He's shoring up his bonafides with those who are paying attention so that he can play the centrist to the late-breaking voters as Election Day approaches.

I think they're doin' it wrong, primarily because this election is higher-profile than '04 and there's only 90 days left to pivot, but my track record predicting elections is not great either. It's still worrisome.

try this thought experiment adam -- imagine if joe lieberman cleaned his act up a bit and tried to be a democrat again. then imagine that a combination of horrible Dem fundamentals and blind luck allowed lieberman to "back into" the nomination.

how excited do you think the base would be? how many "Go Joe" facebook widgets would exist?

That's not a perfect analogy, but it gets you into the ballpark of why mccain's base problem is real. they HATE this guy

Oh, one last thing: McCain's seriously getting old. He is just not as sharp now as he was in 2000 or even 2004.

It appears to me that as his ability to engage his opponents has waned, he's gotten more defensive about people who try to push him around.

That also partially explains why McCain seems to dislike Obama so much now (their relationship when Obama joined the Senate wasn't that bad) -- Obama's a young upstart, just like McCain used to be, and there's really no way McCain '00 would have been outpunched as badly as McCain '08 has been.

That's not a perfect analogy, but it gets you into the ballpark of why mccain's base problem is real. they HATE this guy

Like I said, I don't think McCain has much option. I do think that in hindsight, the assessment will be that forcing him right has just made him much less effective.

I don't think Lieberman has ever seemed to have much problem with duplicity or with being inconsistent. McCain isn't necessarily more principled, but he's not as good a liar.

It's also worth noting that McCain's party is much more disciplined, and that he's got some structural advantages against Obama that Lieberman wouldn't have in the analogous situation. My admittedly biased feeling is that there are a lot of people in the middle who will be uncomfortable voting for a black candidate in the end, even if it's only subconscious, and that (more importantly) there are a lot of people in McCain's base who will be positively motivated by the fear card in a way that wouldn't get the liberal base to the polls if the situation were reversed. McCain doesn't really have to push that angle very hard to make it work.

Another way of putting that is that for Lieberman to rehabilitate himself with the base would require him to adopt a lot of policies that would alienate centrists. McCain has the advantage of being able to use dogwhistles, and he's really started playing that card for all it's worth. Phrased like that I think that the recent strategy makes perfect sense.

The two numbers that should most worry the McCain camp are his age and IQ. The former is rapidly overtaking the latter.

I never understand these analyses of enthusiasm and how people will vote in national polls, given that we elect Presidents via the electoral votes. We don't have elections via national polls. Therefore, who cares what the national polls say? It's like careful analyses of the cape, rather than the charging bull. Or analyses of how popular the candidates are outside the country: it's nice, but completely irrelevant.

It's how the vote moves in contested states that matters, and that's all.

The popular national vote has nothing whatever to do with how we elect Presidents: why care about it in the slightest? Why distract people away from what matters to something that doesn't matter at all?

I don't get it.

I suppose if a pollster asked me whether I am "enthusiastic" about Obama, I would say yes. But I ask myself: what would I mean by that?

As best I can tell, I'd mean that I made up my mind in about, oh, December of 2004 that I would vote for the Democrat in 2008. I'd mean that if the law allowed me to cast an early ballot as of today, I would cast it for Obama without further ado. I'd mean that nothing McCain could say between now and November could persuade me to NOT vote for Obama.

I know for sure I would not mean any of the following: Obama will solve all my problems; Obama will solve all the nation's problems; Obama can do no wrong; or Obama 'shares my values', or 'cares about people like me', or any of that claptrap.

What I want to know is, what do the people Chris Matthews calls 'regular Americans' mean when they profess to be "enthusiastic" about this or that candidate?

-- TP

Why distract people away from what matters to something that doesn't matter at all?

The desires of the citizens of a country regarding how they should be governed don't matter at all?

"The desires of the citizens of a country regarding how they should be governed don't matter at all?"

Not as regards winning and losing, no. As an abstract intellectual issue, with relevance to other issues, sure. But polls on who will vote for which candidate don't give much relevant information on those other issues; if one is interested in them, direct polling on those actual issues would be far more relevant.

But if we're not talking about the actual election, but something else, fine: what is it we're talking about, then?

As an abstract intellectual issue, with relevance to other issues, sure

The desires of the citizens of a country regarding how they should be governed are an abstract intellectual issue?

Etymology fans may recall that 'tendentious' comes from the Latin verb tendere, to stretch.

now_what is either unaware of the existence of the electoral college, deliberately failing to understand what gary farber is saying, or both.

I invite any other possible constructions to be placed upon his remarks.

Part of it, I suspect, is the same reason that the drunk looked for his keys under the streetlight. State-by-state polls are more expensive to do for the same level of accuracy (you need 50 different statistically good samples and 50 different likely-voter models), and much more complicated to explain. Describing the results of a state-by-state poll requires a histogram, not just a single number and an error estimate.

And the other part is that the popular vote winner and the electoral vote winner are almost always the same person. A nationally aggregated poll taken in August is almost certainly just as predictive of the electoral winner in November as individual state polls would be.

(you need 50 different statistically good samples and 50 different likely-voter models)

No, you don't. You need half a dozen. Most states are pretty damn predictable. I don't need polling or voter models to know that Massachusetts is going for Obama.

The popular national vote has nothing whatever to do with how we elect Presidents: why care about it in the slightest?

I think the media care very much about it because:

(1) no one wants to admit too loudly that our democracy effectively disenfranchises 90%+ of the citizenry for no apparent reason and

(2) telling 90%+ that their vote doesn't count is a horrible way to keep them glued to the set watching your ads and that's the whole point of this thing (from the media's perspective)


I see (1) as one of those "don't piss in the punchbowl" rules of polite society that everyone knows -- you know, like how no one is ever supposed to talk seriously about impeaching Bush or how we're all supposed to pretend that there is absolutely no problem when wealthy politicians vote for tax cuts that save them vast sums of cash. (2) is probably the real answer though: most media are trying to make money and you can't do that if people aren't watching and people whose vote doesn't count aren't usually inclined to get involved and watch much.

I'd guess that publius cares because he relies on the polling data provided by the media and we're all influenced by their framing of issues to some extent. But only he could say of course.

now_what is either unaware of the existence of the electoral college

I'm aware of its existence.

Tell me, if the electoral college rejects both McCain and Obama in November, and decides on Cheney instead, as it is perfectly free to do, would you consider the variance between the electoral college vote and the national poll numbers to be an abstract intellectual issue?

I am of the opinion that the wishes of the citizens of a country matter, no matter what the method of choosing a government in that country may be.

5% with a 3% error margin ain't nearly big enough. Blog harder, people! If you want to end war and things, you gotta sing LOUD.

I never understand these analyses of enthusiasm and how people will vote in national polls, given that we elect Presidents via the electoral votes. We don't have elections via national polls.

Thou dost object too much.

The point about McCain's enthusiasm gap shouldn't be discounted simply because it wasn't phrased in terms of state poll numbers -- it may be a generalization, but surely that's not a prima facie reason why it's wrong, nor even why the center-or-base dilemma isn't a particularly acute one for McCain. The gap between "this is absolutely 100% true" and "completely irrelevant" has a few shades of gray in it.

I could certainly be more specific about states if it's necessary (Ohio and Florida in particular, I think) -- and I imagine that publius could as well. But given that the problems we're discussing should be amplified in most of the swing states, isn't that a little superfluous?

Dismissing any discussion of McCain's center-or-base problem as "completely irrelevant" simply because it's not specified down to a state level (and really, why stop there? Why not county-by-county?) is seriously overstating the objection, I think. The point would be a valid one even without any poll numbers at all, and the presence of at least somewhat corroborative national polling might not be proof, but it's certainly not something to count against the argument.

You need half a dozen. Most states are pretty damn predictable. I don't need polling or voter models to know that Massachusetts is going for Obama.

Given the level of statistical sophistication that both the public and the media frequently exhibit, who wants to volunteer to make sure that the argumentation for this is correct and that everyone understands it? Or would we be happy with 'Snakenavel county has correctly chosen who will be president every election for the past 40 years, so we will be giving you a constantly updated exit poll and vote tally from the county seat of Bumflock so you can be the first to know who will be the next president!!'

Given the level of statistical sophistication that both the public and the media frequently exhibit...

...we are completely doomed.

"I am of the opinion that the wishes of the citizens of a country matter"

Matter to what?

Turbulence, I agree with your response. I get impatient with breathless media reports and blog posts about national polls on who should be president because it seems to me to be a big con game, in which endless attention is devoted to an issue as meaningless as regards how we elect our president as is who wins American Idol. It seems to me that when bloggers go along with this con game, they're being as guilty of participating in this con as anyone selling the notion that it matters in some way. It's a Big Lie. It's a dog and pony show; it's Wizard of Oz. I'm as interested in who will be President as anyone, and therefore I am interested in how the polls look in the swing states; if anyone wants to talk about that, or about how the Senate races look, or any actually meaningful political political race, cool. And naturally I'm always interested in actual issues.

But discussion of national polling? It has nothing to do with who will win the election, and giving people the notion that it's relevant to that strikes me as misinforming and ill-serving people.

If someone wants to write about the beauty contest, fine, but there's no law saying I can't gripe about it being a distraction from talking about the actual election.

"Dismissing any discussion of McCain's center-or-base problem as 'completely irrelevant'"

That's not what I was talking about at all, and not what I was griping about at all.

Not that my impatient griping will stop anyone from blogging about what they want to blog about, anyway, you know. Nor am I trying to stop anyone. I merely sometimes have fits of impatience. On a blog, in comments. Shocking, and unprecedented, I know.

:-)

But discussion of national polling? It has nothing to do with who will win the election

Is that all that is important? Who wins the election?

I think what the people want is more important than who wins the election.

"Is that all that is important? Who wins the election?"

No.

However, it seems to be the question of the post. I wasn't aware we were discussing All That Is Important. I missed that part of publius' post.

"I think what the people want is more important than who wins the election."

That's nice. I dunno what it has to do with publius's post, but that's fine. Could you quote which part of publius's post you're referring to, please? Or are you chastising me for responding to the post, and not to some other topic you'd like to talk about?

enthusiasm gap: I can’t think of any other year when McCain would have even been the nominee. I think that many progressives never understood just how many Republicans dislike McCain. His position on illegal immigration is a big part of that, as is McCain- Feingold, the gang of 14, and his general maverickness. McCain is to many Republicans what Lieberman is to most of you folks.

One poll you didn’t mention is the “who do you trust more” poll:

John McCain is now trusted more than Barack Obama on nine out of 14 electoral issues tracked by Rasmussen Reports. The latest national telephone surveys find that McCain has the biggest advantage on the war in Iraq, by a 51% to 39% margin.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of these polls is that McCain has expanded his leads on nearly every issue he had previously had the advantage on, while Obama’s leads have diminished over the past two weeks.


I know the burning question is why Obama’s lead isn’t bigger. Maybe the better question is why the Great Maverick is consistently losing to a freshman Senator.

Not. This race shouldn’t even be close. Yet somehow, it is. Given “the rotten fundamentals for the GOP this year” there should not even be a contest. Yet Obama can barely get outside the margin of error. If you include the “Bradley Effect” many folks here believe in, then he is actually losing in these polls. This election was the Democrat's to lose. A couple of more self-inflicted wounds by Obama, a bad VP pick on his part and/or a good VP pick on McCain’s part, some kind of melt down at your convention, and that’s all she wrote.

"A couple of more self-inflicted wounds by Obama, a bad VP pick on his part and/or a good VP pick on McCain’s part, some kind of melt down at your convention, and that’s all she wrote."

Do I understand you to be blaming Obama for not doing better? "self-inflicted wounds" and all? Or do I misunderstand you?

A couple of more self-inflicted wounds by Obama, a bad VP pick on his part and/or a good VP pick on McCain’s part, some kind of melt down at your convention, and that’s all she wrote.

If the team gives up another touchdown, throws an interception or two, gets sacked in the end zone for safety, and the other team manages a touchdown on the kickoff return, this game could be in the loss column for them....

OCSteve; This race shouldn’t even be close. Yet somehow, it is. Given “the rotten fundamentals for the GOP this year” there should not even be a contest.

That was true in 2004, too. Bush was a disaster-area President who needed to be stopped before things got worse. Yet, thanks to a Rovian negative campaign that convinced so many Republicans that Kerry was an awful choice for President, thanks to a supportive media that laid out a good narrative for Bush's "win", and finally and overridingly thanks to rigged elections that turned Kerry's lead into a loss, Bush got into the White House for another 4 years. You were a sucker in 2004, OCSteve - in fact, as I recall, you were still convinced by the negative Republican campaigning that Kerry was a bad choice last time we argued with it.

Your views on Obama and McCain are useful in that they indicate how sucker-Republicans, easily fooled by negative campaigns and pro-Republican media, perceive them both. True, sucker-Republicans represent a very large constituency - but not enough to win an election. For that, McCain still needs control of the voting machines.

I think that it's a wonder Obama is ahead. McCain is a popular Senator; Obama is relatively unknown, and has moreover got race and a Muslim-sounding name to deal with; and besides, the GOP has got negative campaigns that convince people that even the most stodgy, white-bread candidates, if Democrats, are strange and suspicious and elitist and unAmerican. (Also, unprincipled and flip-floppy.) There are an awful lot of people out there who are already primed to believe that any Democrat is Just Not One Of Us, while any Republican is.

I also think that paying attention to the polls is a mistake at this point, except in the broadest possible way. A lot of people haven't tuned in; moreover, Obama has a couple of advantages that I would not expect to be reflected in the polls yet. For one, his ground operation, which is by all accounts massive, and completely dwarfs McCain's; for another, Obama is a very strategic player: he emphasizes what's needed to actually win, whether or not it bumps him up in the polls at any point before election day.

(Thus, for instance, the trip abroad: My take is that it was designed not for immediate political benefit, but as a set of data points to be banked for later: to neutralize the claim that Obama just couldn't operate on a world stage, preempting a set of future attacks. I think it's noteworthy that since the trip. McCain has had to switch from 'he's too inexperienced' to 'he's a celebrity'. The first is a much stronger line of attack, if it can be made credibly.)

The popular national vote has nothing whatever to do with how we elect Presidents: why care about it in the slightest?

Because there is a strong correlation between winning the popular vote and winning the electoral vote.

Jesurgislac has a point but I'd like to respond to OC steve in another way:

You mean the young, talented, black guy with the name Barack Obama from the party that has been out of power since 2000, that doesn't own the now corrupt DOJ, the FEC, the voting machines, the mass media, that has been pilloried for being the party of fags, n*ggers, and bitches (see, e.g. Perlstein's prophetic article) not to mention hippie commie freaks to a largely ignorant and uncaring electorate isn't *walking away with this election* and so he's a loser?

As SteveM at no more mr nice blog has pointed out the democratic favorite starts out with a manufactured deficit--getting as far and as high as Obama has gotten against the strong head wind of relentless republican demogoguery is itself a sign of what a great candidate he is. But a candidate can only lead when the people are willing to follow. As long as republican dead enders are more wedded to their fantasy fears of a manchurian muslim in the white house than they are able to look their own policy disasters in the face we will be doomed as a country to very close and bitter elections. We can't have an election of policy and ideas, straight up, because the republicans under the control of atwater, rove, et al have spent years simply impugning the motives and the intellect as well as the manhood of the entire party.

As for national polls and whether they "matter" Gary Farber and Publius are both right. They are out there to be discussed and they tell us something about the national mood, but as predictors of the actual election they are more about affecting the national mood to swing the states one way or another than they are honest approximations of it.

Me, I'd ban all polling during the run up to the election. Out as far as five months at the rate we are going. The polls are used to tell a story by the press--a story about who is "winning" and who is "losing" with your neighbors if they vote. But what the people should be choosing on is policy and policy shouldn't change much during an election year. What does a serious citizen care about which of two candidates is more liked, or more trusted, or whatever other guff? If the candidate has a set of policy prescriptions, an ideology, and a bunch of advisors that is all I need to know to choose or reject him. I'd rather the press focused on those issues that wasted time and money telling me that my very impressionable and not too bright aunt sadie has switched her vote, again, because it was raining out and she forgot to take her meds.

aimai

Gary: Do I understand you to be blaming Obama for not doing better? "self-inflicted wounds" and all?

I credit Obama for doing as well as he has done. I never would have believed it. I blame his inexperience and general disconnect from much of the voting public for not avoiding unforced errors – for feeding the VRWC noise machine. I’ll skip the detail though – I swore that off due to popular demand.


Jes: Yet, thanks to a Rovian negative campaign that convinced so many Republicans that Kerry was an awful choice for President…

Er, no. Kerry managed that all by himself. All Rove had to do was sit back and wait for the “Kerryism” of the day.

you were still convinced […] that Kerry was a bad choice last time we argued with it.

I am still convinced. In hindsight I wish he had won, or rather, I wish Bush had been defeated. But he was still an awful candidate.

“pro-Republican media” and “rigged voting machines.”

You write that, but somehow when I read it, it turns into “liberal media” and ACORN. ;)


OTOH – ya’ll could have nominated Edwards. Wouldn’t that have been fun right about now… ;)

Because there is a strong correlation between winning the popular vote and winning the electoral vote.

Exactly. And what Matthew Austern said. Even if you only need state-by-state polls in a half dozen or so states that's still a lot more expensive than a single national poll.

Plus, this provides a convenient shorthand, especially for people who aren't going to dig into the nicteies of the FL poll vs the Ohio poll vs the PA poll, etc.

"I blame his p...] general disconnect from much of the voting public"

I'm entirely unclear what you mean by that. Can you explain a bit? In what way is, say, John McCain, or some other leading politician you might name, more generally connected to much of the voting public? I really have no idea what you mean by this.

Er, no. Kerry managed that all by himself. All Rove had to do was sit back and wait for the “Kerryism” of the day.

and because he is a Democrat, every word he said was proof of his inelectability, to Republicans.

Look. The bottom line with me: Hoping that McCain and Republicans in general lose is not nearly the same thing as hoping that Obama and Democrats in general win. Not even close. But that’s my “hope and change” right there in a nutshell.

I recognize the damage done to this country by Republicans (yes that includes me). I understand that McCain and a Republican controlled Congress are not going to clean up the mess. With no other choices, I look to Democrats to do that, to be the grown ups.

So our interests are aligned to that extent. That doesn’t mean that I suddenly embrace general Democratic policies, or that I’m going to wear blinders where the candidate is concerned. If anything, I’m more critical of him because I need him to win, and frankly I see that win slipping away when here is no reason on heaven or earth it should be.

Now I’ll just shut up.

It might help to review the legal standard for relevance: Relevant evidence means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.

So does the outcome of a national poll tend to show that is any more or less probable that a particular candidate will be elected than without the poll? It does. Given the choice between predicting the outcome of an election with no polls and predicting with only national polls, the prediction will be better with national polls.

While national polls are not perfect, that goes to the weight that they should be given, not whether they are relevant at all.

For anyone interested in a state-by-state analysis, you might be want to read what Redstate's Trevino has to say.

FWIW, he thinks McCain is in trouble.

you were still convinced by the negative Republican campaigning that Kerry was a bad choice last time we argued with it.

Your views on Obama and McCain are useful in that they indicate how sucker-Republicans, easily fooled by negative campaigns and pro-Republican media, perceive them both.

You didn't have to be a "sucker-Republican" to be convinced that Kerry was a bad choice: there were tons of Democrats who were convinced that he was a bad candidate (Dkos, Deaniacs) - and I count myself among them. I'll go even further and say that Gore was a bad candidate (the Gore of 2000, mind you). Both were so eager to please everybody and appear as "centrists", that they came across as vague wafflers and opened themselves up to all sorts of legitimate criticism from "the left", never mind the Rovian smear campaign. Obama is doing much better in this regard, but he too has to watch it.

OCSteve: For the record, I very, very much appreciate your various attempts to explain how things look to Republicans and ex-Republicans. (And people: it's always worth stopping and thinking before saying: OhmyGodOCSteve, you are falling for it!! It might be true, but then again, it might not.)

It's really hard to think yourself into the head of someone you aren't, and I'm always really grateful for the help.

For instance, it's really good to know how unenthused Republicans might be for McCain. Imho, not knowing this sort of thing cost us badly in 2004: had we had OCSteve around, we might have known exactly how deep the hatred of Kerry was in parts of the conservative movement, and all those people who thought: aha! a vet! might have reconsidered. (I mean, I always thought that decades-old military service was a bad reason to nominate anyone, but knowing that Kerry was already firmly ensconced in the category of "not real veterans" into which people like Scott Beauchamp get placed before they get savaged by people "sticking up for vets" would have helped a lot.)

And about this: "you were still convinced by the negative Republican campaigning that Kerry was a bad choice last time we argued with it."

I agree with novakant: I thought Kerry was a bad choice when he announced his candidacy. Negative GOP campaigning had nothing to do with it. Decades of living in MA were more than sufficient.

OCSteve: If anything, I’m more critical of him because I need him to win, and frankly I see that win slipping away when here is no reason on heaven or earth it should be.

Again: just as there was no reason on heaven or earth or among US voters that Bush should have got into the White House in 2000 or 2004. US elections are neither fair nor evenly run. The media supports McCain: even Republicans disgusted by Bush and knowing they were too gullible before, are being gullible now.

novakant: You didn't have to be a "sucker-Republican" to be convinced that Kerry was a bad choice

Obama, Kerry, and Gore all strove to appease the right, all three apparently convinced that in order to run for President as a Democratic candidate, you can take the left/liberal vote for granted but you must work to convince the right/conservative voters that you're one of them so they will vote for you.

I think that pattern strongly suggests not that they were all "bad choices", but there is something else fundamentally wrong in US politics. Paul Krugman identifies this as "inside the Beltway" thinking, and makes a convincing case for it: I think that rather than assuming that the Democratic party always picks bad leaders, it might be better to look at why it appears that Democratic party leaders are always bad choices.

It surely can't be blackmail all of the time...

I count myself as a member of the OCSteve fan club, so I agree with hilzoy's observation, but I do see an asymmetry at work that troubles me that I sort of tried to get at with the comment I made here. To put it in terms of this thread, OCS coined 'NAMP' (Not Another McCain Post), and yet seems to demand heightened scrutiny of Obama's every perceived misstep, so I'm trying to get some insight to what drives this. I do think that this is not simply an election thing, but a fundamental asymmetry in viewing certain events and actions.

Is it just me or is OCSteve getting flogged a lot for espousing views he doesn't actually espouse? Happened on the Paris Hilton thread too.

Hilzoy: we might have known exactly how deep the hatred of Kerry was in parts of the conservative movement, and all those people who thought: aha! a vet! might have reconsidered.

For the record, I would have thought deciding not to support Kerry in 2004 because decades ago he spoke up against US atrocities in Vietnam and (to conservatives like OCSteve) that makes him a bad soldier, a traitor to his buddies, a man as deserving of contumely as other similar traitors like Hugh Thompson or Joe Darby, would be exactly as stupid as deciding not to support Bush in 2000 because nearly 30 years ago he deserted from the US military.

Kerry was a hero in the 1970s: Bush was a spoiled kid whose most plausible reason for deserting was that he couldn't have passed a drug test; but that was thirty years ago, and while both could be attacked on that, both had a sufficient list of career accomplishments prior to their campaign for President that rational campaigns would have focussed on those: Bush's investigation for financial fraud during his career as a failed businessman and his involvement with the Service Corporation International scandal during his stint as governor of Texas - and SCI's no-bid contract post-Katrina - are much more telling than the fact that he was a deserter before he was 26: likewise, Kerry's willingness to stand up against atrocities when he was in his 20s no matter who called him a traitor for doing so, does not necessarily mean he had the same backbone principles in his 60s.

and SCI's no-bid contract post-Katrina

...sorry, got distracted. SCI's no-bid contract post-Katrina is how I happened to stumble across Bush's involvement in a corruption scandal while he was running for President, but obviously that no-bid incident couldn't have affected a 2004 campaign.

Obama, Kerry, and Gore all strove to appease the right, all three apparently convinced that in order to run for President as a Democratic candidate, you can take the left/liberal vote for granted but you must work to convince the right/conservative voters that you're one of them so they will vote for you.

look at the numbers. the core liberal base in the US is far too small to carry a national election for anyone. to win, you have to run to the middle, to assure those centrists and weak conservatives that you're not actually Stalin (as your opponent will try to label you).

look at the numbers. the core liberal base in the US is far too small to carry a national election for anyone.

That's the interesting thing about this cycle, that it appears to progressives that they are actually large enough to carry the election, which I think accounts for the screams about Obama not being progressive enough. I would like to think that a sea-change has occurred, and the Republican brand is going to go the way of Moxie soda, but I remain doubtful.

That's the interesting thing about this cycle, that it appears to progressives that they are actually large enough to carry the election

i don't have any polls (do you?), but i'm not sure people are actually hungry for progressive government as much as they are simply sick and tired of Republicanism and all that it's brought us.

No polls, but it seems to be a common refrain, but I agree that it is probably the optics rather than the actual situation.

If you include the “Bradley Effect” many folks here believe in, then he is actually losing in these polls.

This recent paper suggests that the Bradley effect is no longer real.

Curt: Is it just me or is OCSteve getting flogged a lot for espousing views he doesn't actually espouse?

OCSteve is a charming, lovely person with a good sense of humour (code for: sometimes he laughs at my jokes).

He's also a bigot who thinks it's OK to kick imams off planes because "flying while Muslim" makes other bigoted passengers nervous: and he asserted a couple of years ago that one reason he detested Kerry was that at the age of 27, Kerry had testified to Congress about US military atrocities in Vietnam: he felt Kerry shouldn't have done that.

I'm not a Muslim, and I'm not a victim of US military atrocities: OCSteve's personal prejudices do not affect me personally. I'm just aware of them. Unpleasant bigots, or people whose bigotry is directed against me personally, are much easier to cope with, in a way, than pleasant charming people whom one never knows when they'll suddenly come out with something that says they think loyalty to the US military overrides any principled belief that torture and murder are bad, or that it's perfectly okay and normal to be Islamophobic. (I think the most telling thing about that past discussion was OCSteve's presumption that I too was Islamophobic enough that I'd have been scared of half a dozen imams on a plane....)

I'm pleased he's smart enough to realize that supporting Bush in 2004, or McCain in 2008, is a bad idea. But no: I cannot forget that he's an Islamophobic bigot who thinks soldiers shouldn't testify about crimes committed against gooks. No matter how nice he is to people in person.

This race shouldn’t even be close. Yet somehow, it is. Given “the rotten fundamentals for the GOP this year” there should not even be a contest.

I don' think that's true at all, a presidential election was always going to be much tighter, as you're asking people to choose between two individuals rather than more abstract concepts. That and the fact that people care more about the president, even though in reality state representatives and federal congress probably have a much greater impact on their daily lives.

...and that said, I probably should just leave this thread and award myself a 24-hour banning from the blog for personal attack on OCSteve.

OT a little, and meta: I'd like to suggest that perhaps characterizing someone as a "sucker" is, if not a violation of posting rules, certainly not the kind of phrasing that might be conducive to persuasive conversation with someone you only know through the Internet.

This isn't the first time I've said as much, though, and look what good it's done.

Oh, and look what I just missed by not Previewing. Classic.

It's how the vote moves in contested states that matters, and that's all.

The popular national vote has nothing whatever to do with how we elect Presidents: why care about it in the slightest? Why distract people away from what matters to something that doesn't matter at all?

I don't get it.

To expand a bit on what was said above, people care because it does matter. You are absolutely correct that we don't decide the Presidential election based upon the national poll. Nevertheless, the national poll is just about the most effective single gauge of who it will turn out.

Sure, the winner of the popular vote could turn out to lose the election. It has even happened. However, it has happened twice in more than fifty elections. Both times it happened, the popular vote win was extremely narrow. In the one instance it happened after the advent of modern polling techniques, the final polls were very close, too.

In theory, someone could rack up a ten point win in the popular vote, and still lose the electoral college. In practice, it won't happen. For the most part, while there are varying levels of support in the different states, they tend to vary together, with an improvement in one state being matched in almost all of the others. In what is not at all a coincidence, all of this variation happens around a mean that is pretty close to an even balance between the parties in the states in aggregate.

The popular vote is an extremely good proxy for electoral college success. So, while it doesn't matter directly, one can still derive a lot of information from looking at it.

Jes: Given your temporary time out, I suppose I won't have to call you on a posting rules violation. Next time, though, if you want to call OCSteve (or any other commenter) a bigot, do it with cites and an argument, not drive-by. (I will relax this rule in the case of the head of the US NationaDon'tWantGoogleabilitySocialist Whatsis comes by again.)

I, too, value OCSteve's perspective. However, it is that perspective that gets him in trouble. What a lot of us both disagree with, and react very poorly to, is the argument that Barack Obama has committed some sort of string of self-inflicted wounds. That's looking at what has happened entirely wrong. Republican lying is not the same thing as a Democratic self-inflicted wound.

It's worth remembering that, as OCSteve points out, there are a lot of people primed to accept the McCain campaign's lies as the truth. This means that it is necessary to step carefully. It does not, though, mean that the lies are, in any way, truthful. It does not mean that the wounds are self-inflicted.

and really, why stop there? Why not county-by-county?

Because electoral votes aren't apportioned on a county level?

The popular vote is an extremely good proxy for electoral college success. So, while it doesn't matter directly, one can still derive a lot of information from looking at it.

That's a good argument except for one thing: human beings are interested in much more than the binary decision of who is most likely to win. In particular, people want to understand how likely various outcomes are and they want to have some model for how small changes impact the overall decision. The popular vote fails horribly on those counts. Look at fivethirtyeight.com: right now, their model says that Obama wins the popular vote by less than 2% but wins the electoral count by more than 10%. Given polling margins of error, I think people might be legitimately concerned about a 2% win, but a 10% win seems much more robust. Pissing off Ohioans about NAFTA or getting a crooked Florida Secretary of State to make voter registration in urban areas harder won't have a visible effect on the popular vote, but either could flip the electoral count.

You can't really gauge the campaigns' competence unless you understand that only a few specific states matter. If you don't get that, the campaigns' behavior will look chaotic and stupid.

You know, if this election were happening anywhere else in the world, the news reports would repeatedly mention that it was a sham election since most votes would have zero effect on the outcome. But of course no one will piss in our national punchbowl by being so blunt.

If you include the “Bradley Effect” many folks here believe in, then he is actually losing in these polls.

Are there really many people here who believe in the Bradley effect? I don't, because it simply doesn't make sense to me that anyone would be too embarrassed to tell a pollster they were voting for McCain.

What I am concerned about is the Republican advantage caused by vote suppression of various sorts (new voter ID laws, misallocation of voting machines, machine breakdowns that cause long lines, purges of voter rolls, etc.). That, not any Bradley effect, is what makes me think the Democrat has to be ahead by more than 5 points in the polls to have a chance of winning the election.

"What I want to know is, what do the people Chris Matthews calls 'regular Americans' mean when they profess to be 'enthusiastic' about this or that candidate."

I enjoy watching Chris Matthews in a train-wreck-waiting-to-happen sort of way.

You never know what will come out of his mouth. He is an equal-opportunity offender. And he is certainly not a blowdried, scripted broadcaster.

That said, I'm not sure any of these inside-the-beltway types would know a "regular American" if one jumped up and bit them on the ass.

They live in their own world and make way too much money to relate to the needs and worries of us little people. This week's edition of TV Guide surprised me: Matthews makes $5 million a year. Bless his heart.

I work at a car dealership that employees about 100 folks and I come in regular contact with half of them, about as "regular" people as you can get. No one here seems "enthusiastic" about Obama or McCain.

In fact, most people considered me "odd" because I had a Hillary Clinton bumper stick on my old truck in the primaries -- political bumper stickers aren't very common, it seems, at mainstream workplaces.

The regular topics of conversation here are, of course, gas prices and concerns over how to pay this or that bill. I've heard Brett Favre's name mentioned countless more times than John McCain's or Barack Obama's the past two weeks -- and I imagine it will stay that way until the debates.

I fear that close elections are becoming more common because of the increasing sophistication of targeting by campaigns and because of the media's commercial interest in making them as close as possible. It may be less uncommon than in the past for the popular-vote winner to lose in the electoral vote.

Re OCSteve at 8:17 AM... ACORN?

ACORN A Classification Of Residential Neighborhoods (CACI International Inc.)
ACORN Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network
ACORN AIDS Community Resource Network
ACORN Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (Virginia)
ACORN Arlington County Online Resource Network (Arlington, VA online library system)
ACORN Arms Control Research Network
ACORN Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
ACORN Automated Correspondence Online Response Network
ACORN Aviation, Construction, Ordnance, Repair, Navy

little help, please...

"Mighty oaks..."

OCSteve, I hope you wilnot shut up. I for one will miss ou badly. This thread would be altogether too much of an echo chambe without you, IMHO.

However I do not think that Obama is losing this race through some major campaign missteps. If he loses, it will be because of a seriousfailing in the electorate and because of the decadence of the corporate media.

I do think that Kerry blew it. he blew it late in the race whn he didn't fight back agains the Swiftboat liars and when he refused to repudiate his vote for the war.

Obama isn't making that sort of mistake. He is up against a lazy ignorant and rightwing-controlled media and a lazy ignorant electorate who are not served will by their mnedia. He's doing very well for a smart competent politician, those qualities being a disadvantge in our society. Especailly if the politician is black.

I'm guessing this is your huckleberry, xanax.

"I think it's noteworthy that since the trip, McCain has had to switch from 'he's too inexperienced' to 'he's a celebrity.'"

Now it's "he's a flip-flopper."

And next week when Obama is on vacation in Hawaii?

I'm not sure McCain knows what line of attack his campaign will choose next.

But his handlers might.

Read
this

Sums up what's wrong w/ modern-day presidential campaigns.

"I think that many progressives never understood just how many Republicans dislike McCain. His position on illegal immigration is a big part of that, as is McCain- Feingold, the gang of 14, and his general maverickness. McCain is to many Republicans what Lieberman is to most of you folks."

I know it is all anecdotal, but I come from a fundamentalist Christian family that voted for Democrats pre-Roe but Republicans ever since. This year 6 out of the 6 of us are seriously sick of Republicans, 5 out of the 6 of us have always detested McCain, and 3 out of the 6 of us actively like Obama, and 2 of the others can't stomach the idea of voting for McCain. I'm not going to claim that 5 out of 6 hating McCain is TYPICAL of Republicans. But you don't need it to be. You just need it to be typical of a largish enough section of Republicans to be electorally significant. And I'm pretty sure it is.

I know counterfactuals are hard and non-dispositive, but imagine a world where Bush still made all the stupid fiscal decisions, and an economic situation which is much the same as now, BUT where the Iraq war went very well and the front-runner Clinton fell to some scandal so that Lieberman emerged as the nominee. He has screwed you over in the past. He is notoriously unpredictable, but he ends up in front because your anti-war candidates don't look so hot.

All Rove had to do was sit back and wait for the “Kerryism” of the day.

Did Kerry invent the Swift Boaters? Did he encourage the media to keep publishing their lies, even after being exposed? Did he encourage the media to drop the whole TANG story in favor of "kerning"? Did he encourage the media to laugh at "Purple Heart Bandages" instead of showing them as the disrespect they were?

I count myself as a member of the OCSteve fan club

As do I, but this misrepresentation irks me.

=========================

there were tons of Democrats who were convinced that he was a bad candidate (Dkos, Deaniacs) - and I count myself among them. I'll go even further and say that Gore was a bad candidate (the Gore of 2000, mind you).

Very much agree. Gore in particular. His acceptance speech made me proud to be a Democrat. But as the campaign went on, his not pushing back on the Rovian lies, and pushing harder on what a LOUSY candidate Bush was made me very discouraged. There's no reason that race should have been close enough for the machines to matter.

==================================

I probably should just leave this thread and award myself a 24-hour banning from the blog for personal attack on OCSteve.

Thanks for the apology.

That's a good argument except for one thing: human beings are interested in much more than the binary decision of who is most likely to win. In particular, people want to understand how likely various outcomes are and they want to have some model for how small changes impact the overall decision. The popular vote fails horribly on those counts. Look at fivethirtyeight.com: right now, their model says that Obama wins the popular vote by less than 2% but wins the electoral count by more than 10%. Given polling margins of error, I think people might be legitimately concerned about a 2% win, but a 10% win seems much more robust. Pissing off Ohioans about NAFTA or getting a crooked Florida Secretary of State to make voter registration in urban areas harder won't have a visible effect on the popular vote, but either could flip the electoral count.

So what? Saying that Obama is likely to win a 10% margin in the electoral college does not porvide any useful information for predicting the likelihood of an Obama win.

There are several components to this. The polling margin is an attempt to estimate not just the margin of a win, but also the likelihood of that win. The statement as to how many electoral votes he is set to win does not do that; you would have to provide an estimate of how likely each of those wins is.

You can do that in a couple of ways. One is to use polling data to try to establish the current margin of each candidate's lead in each state. Another is to use Nate Silver's approach of measuring non-polling data to establish the conditions in each state, and use regressions of past data to estimate the likelihood of a win. Either method is fine, but both are more substantial than what you have said.

The problem with your assertion that it doesn't help to piss off Ohioans in order to win votes in non-competitive states is that it is non-responsive to what I said. There isn't much evidence that this is what happens. Different states tend to vary in their support for each party's candidates in the same way. They may fluctuate around different means, but the fluctuations are highly correlated. In general, winning more votes in Ohio or Florida means that you are also winning more votes in New York and Oklahoma.

That's why national polls are perfectly good proxies for state-by-state polls. The major problem with the argument that we need to look at the individual swing states isn't that it's more expensive to generate a large enough sample in each one; that's a minor, and easily fixable problem. The major issue is that the polls in each state aren't independent events. If a particular organizations polls are wrong, it is probable that they are all wrong in the same direction. So, they don't provide better information than a national poll.

If the assertion that state-by-state polls are the only useful way to look at the election were correct, then there would be much lower correlation between popular vote wins and electoral college wins than we see. There would be cases where a substantial popular vote winner loses in the electoral college. We have no such examples in our history. In practice, the national polls are very accurate predictors of actual winners. There's no reason not to cite them, even though that isn't how the election is actually decided.

Now, I would prefer to get more state-by-state polls. In a purely horse race, conversational perspective, they make the discussion more complex and aesthetically more interesting. It adds fun. It doesn't add accuracy.

I'm not OCSteve, but if he's not surely talking about ACORN "Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now," I'll eat my ASCII.

I imagine he finds this sort of thing credible and alarming.

As we all know, ACORN has swung many elections, and thus resulted in the consistent election of socialist politicians, and the massive leftist government we suffer under, so what's not to be quite alarmed and distressed about?

:-)

OCSteve:

Your Edwards comments -- are you referring to the Enquirer story?

Because I looked into that, and it amounts to -- at the moment -- complete rumor mongering in the face of a great deal of counter evidence.

(A photo grainer than the usual Bigfoot of a man holding a baby does NOT really match up to another (married!) man admitting the child his his. Especially once you sort out that the 'Edwards comparison shot' -- blue shirt -- was shot on a different day entirely).

How much can we count on summertime polling? Just wait till the students start getting polled. In 30 days this election gonna look very different.

It wouldn't surprise me to find that at some point after McCain names his VP pick, he will end up withdrawing "for health reasons" and his VP will take over for the November run.

McCain's only job right now seems to be to destroy Obama in a murder-suicide mission. I don't see how his current strategy can drive Obama down to a level that doesn't sink McCain even further. He's currently acting as no less than a suicide bomber.

I suspect the GOP has something else up their sleeves.

Not. This race shouldn’t even be close. Yet somehow, it is. Given “the rotten fundamentals for the GOP this year” there should not even be a contest.

Here I read Steve as saying that given the Republican Party's contemptible job of governing the country over the last 8 years and given the lousy field of candidates the Republican Party ran this year, it is astounding that the American people aren't removing Republicans from every elective office above of the level of dogcatcher and warming up the tar and feathers. I share his surprise. As to why Americans will continue to vote for Republicans in spite of their "rotten fundamentals," well, I'm sure Steve can speak to that better than I can.

Speaking of self-inflicted wounds, is a backlash against the McCain points scheme beginning to brew? John Hawkins of Right Wing News is not at all happy to find out that his site is on the McCain campaign's spam list.

Apparently McCain really does hate teh blogs.

(Also on the spam list: InstaPundit, which, as Joyner points out, "hasn’t had comments in six years or so".)

Speaking of self-inflicted wounds, is a backlash against the McCain points scheme beginning to brew? John Hawkins of Right Wing News is not at all happy to find out that his site is on the McCain campaign's [email protected] list.

Apparently McCain really does hate teh blogs.

(Also on the [email protected] list: InstaPundit, which, as Joyner points out, "hasn’t had comments in six years or so".)

Mattbastard,

Do you really think McCain knows what a blog is?

"McCain's only job right now seems to be to destroy Obama in a murder-suicide mission. I don't see how his current strategy can drive Obama down to a level that doesn't sink McCain even further."

I don't see why this is particularly more true of this race than of Bush vs. Kerry. Bush was more popular with his base than McCain, but I don't see how that makes any significant difference to your claim. Where's the suicide part?

The murder/suicide part only comes in if you thihnk, as that poster did, that McCain will be dropping out before or right after the election. I actually have thought that for quite some time, not because I don't think McCain wants it enough, or because I think McCain is fronting for a vast right wing conspiracy that is using him as a stalking horse. That plot is too arcane for anything but a storyline like the guy who is put in to choose the vp nominates himself for the slot and then rules behind the scenes for eight years while leaving an infant prince sucking his thumb in public--oh, wait, that already happened. I guess my point is that I think there is a non negligible chance that McCain kicks the bucket or simply is too aged and unwell to manage even the ceremonial duties associated with the presidency and that the job of running the country under a McCain presidency devolves very rapidly onto the VP, a person so utterly unimportant and unimpressive and unpopular that at this point there is no prohibitive favorite *even for true beliver republicans* or a cabal of advisors. I think there is a negligible chance that McCain chooses a VP and then withdraws to spend more time with his trophy family because I think McCain has too much ego to have broken the trail for another guy.

aimai

He knows enough about them to hate "the bloggers".

(Besides, I hear McCain has a plan to help compensate for his technological ignorance.)

Whew, aimai, McCain's VP choice is awfully important due to his age and health and overall crankiness but all that?

I, too, value OCSteve's perspective. However, it is that perspective that gets him in trouble. What a lot of us both disagree with, and react very poorly to, is the argument that Barack Obama has committed some sort of string of self-inflicted wounds.

I agree. Not to pile on the latest edition of "What's The Matter With OCSteve?" ;) but he is making the mistake of assuming that the GOP supporters are arguing in good faith and they would gladly give Obama a fair hearing and see the light if it wern't for all the "self-inflicted" injuries like argula or flag pins or tire pressure.

OCS, I love ya but you have to realize that the GOP will always trumpet some statement, however innocous or true, as some damnable lie or giving aid and comfort to our enemies or blaming america first. It's been going on for the last 30 years, it's all they know. At this point, with GOP failures so manifestly obvious, many of us no longer give two craps about saving willfully stupid voters from themselves.

"Also on the [email protected] list: InstaPundit"

I made fun of this here the first time this came up here.

"Do you really think McCain knows what a blog is?"

Sure. Does he know how to find one himself, or comment? No. But what it is? Sure. I don't see any reason to believe they're lying about how he gets summaries that include reports on what some blogs are saying, and what his campaign is putting out to them.

it is astounding that the American people aren't removing Republicans from every elective office above of the level of dogcatcher and warming up the tar and feathers. I share his surprise.

Doesn't surprise me a bit. Our political culture is very tribal - issues serve the purpose of identifying the tribes and giving them clubs to beat each other with, but when push come to shove it is less about policy** and more about giving the people on "the other side" a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

We are a nation divided. The 1861-1865 conflict never really ended, it went from being a conventional military conflict to an insurgency, and is now fought mostly with words and ballots rather than guns and bullets, but the fighting continues. Do not underestimate the amount of unreasoning emotion and blind hatred of "the other" which lies beneath the surface.

**note: this is not to imply that there are no policy differences between the two major parties, or that it is impossible to choose between them given the pros and cons of the policies they advocate for. Far from it. Instead, I'm saying that our tribal politics will continue unabated in ferocity regardless of how close or how far apart the parties are on policy, and regardless of whether one or the other party is clearly superior on the merits. Offhand I'd guess that roughly 80% of so of the American electorate is immovable with regard to partisan voting patterns and will vote for the candidate on their side no matter what the circumstances.

LJ: To put it in terms of this thread, OCS coined 'NAMP' (Not Another McCain Post), and yet seems to demand heightened scrutiny of Obama's every perceived misstep

I’m not in the position to demand much. ;) But there is very little criticism of Obama here. Beyond FISA, if all you read was this blog (and skipped my whining) you would think he was the perfect candidate. If I have concerns about something he’s done and wish to discuss it, it’s left to me to start that conversation. I don’t require heightened scrutiny – I would like to see some scrutiny. I’d love to see hilzoy or publius put up a serious critique of Obama - or you, or anyone else who is a strong supporter. I’d find it interesting to see if you identify some of the same missteps, or if the missteps that seem glaring to me just never hit your radar.


Jes: Don’t feel you need to ban yourself on my account. But why would you ever waste your time responding to such an awful bigot as myself? You even spent the time to track down years old comments. Certainly you’ve got something better to do or someone less icky you can converse with… I notice that you didn’t actually retract anything you said, so I have to assume that what you wrote is your current opinion. So why do you bother?

OT. But because Slarti was so kind to reply at 12:04. Just where the hell did that huckleberry come from anyway?

OCSteve: the thing is, I think he's a really good candidate. -- Here it matters, though, that my basic assumption is that I'm hiring someone for a job, and I should therefore look at that person's organizational skills, positions, and overall judgment on issues. I have a really hard time getting interested in the outrage du jour, when it doesn't actually concern those things, and when it isn't just dishonest.

That means that I'm not normally good at catching missteps, and wouldn't be even if I had your understanding of his more conservative audience.

As I wrote, I hated, hated, hated his FISA vote. Most of the other stuff (on policy) that people have gotten exercised over seems to me to fall into the category of imaginary stuff (e.g., his alleged reversal on Iraq, his 'flip-flop' on capital punishments for child rapists, where it turned out that he had held the same position all along, etc., his supposed reversal on offshore drilling, where best I can tell he just said that he'd be open to it if needed to get other stuff he cares about more -- there I think: duh, would anyone not accept, say, a cap and trade package plus serious funding for clean energy, just because they had to allow some more offshore drilling?), or minor (e.g., the strategic petroleum reserve).

Tactically, in his place I would have hammered McCain a lot harder on Social Security and the economy. On the other hand, I've been impressed with Obama, tactically, and I have never been that impressed with me, so I'm a bit reluctant to judge. I definitely would not have done the seal thing; I don't think there was any way to either visit or not visit the troops in Germany without the GOP making some big outrage about it; generally, I think he's been quite good. Plus, the reports of his field organization are pretty stunning.

Generally, I still think he's the best candidate I can remember. Probably the best of my lifetime. I don't agree with him on everything -- ethanol, clean coal, some bits of his health care plan, opposing gay marriage -- but the disagreements are a lot smaller than I normally expect, and I think his judgment on the issues, especially foreign policy, is really good.

To get all that and the kind of serious political talent that he has, and an ability to run a large organization really, really well, and more sheer intelligence than any candidate I can remember -- it doesn't leave me feeling very critical. Except when I think of FISA.

OCSteve, that's a fair point, but I'm struggling to find the line between that and concern trolling. Ironically, it seems like some mirror version of neutrality requires an equal number of X, so if McCain makes a gaffe, we have to elevate something Obama does to the level of a gaffe. I mean, watching the TPM video, I wonder how it would be possible to find even one equivalent from Obama.

I do appreciate you starting conversations but I'm wondering where you draw the line between bringing these points up and concern trolling. And where you think the line is between 'this is a problem I think Obama has' and 'I don't have a problem with this, but I think other Republicans will'

lj: there are some equivalents (57 states...) -- but since it's otherwise completely clear that Obama has no cognitive problems, and since there aren't that many, it's easy to chalk them up to the completely normal stuff that happens when you spend all day every day talking to people. (Unless you happen to write for RedState, in which case OMG!! Obama doesn't know how many states there are!!)

Just where the hell did that huckleberry come from anyway?

Curse you for finding me a whole new time-sink! [grin]

Most of the other stuff (on policy) that people have gotten exercised over seems to me to fall into the category of imaginary stuff (e.g., his alleged reversal on Iraq (...)

I think this is a good time to point out the problems I have with the Obama coverage at ObWi (similar things could be said about Matt Yglesias). I share some of OCs doubts, even though I'm questioning the candidate from "the left" rather than the right, or maybe just from a skeptical European perspective.

When you call his alleged reversal on Iraq imaginary, you're trying to debunk a right-wing talking point. I'm not really interested in right-wing talking points or debunking them, so it matters little to me if Obama has had the same position he currently holds on Iraq a year ago or not. What does matter to me is what Obama will do about Iraq and I think it's vastly preferable to pin him down on this issue now, rather than just vote him into office and see what happens. And when Obama speaks about a residual force of up to 50.000 designed to protect bases and conduct counter-terrorism strikes, that is not an imaginary concern. His currently stated policy would allow Obama to prolong the occupation of Iraq forever. He might just pull out a couple of thousand combat troops and replenish those forces with contractors and his residual force.

And I find it rather ironic that this is not really discussed at all here, but rather ignored or dismissed out of hand, because when we talked about the same subject a year or two ago, the vast majority was very vehemently and uncompromisingly proposing a complete withdrawal. I understand to a certain extent the unwillingness to scrutinize the plans of the favoured candidate, but in matters as important as this I think people should be able to break out of the partisan framing and discuss the proposed policies in a rational and disinterested fashion. I don't really know what Obama will do and I'm not even saying that a residual force might not be needed for a couple of more years - but I want the candidate to be clear about this matter and currently he is not, but rather he's leaving all the options on the table. Since I don't think that simply trusting politicians to do the right thing is a good approach to politics, I find this state of affairs very unsatisfactory.

Just where the hell did that huckleberry come from anyway?

It's a Val Kilmer/Doc Holliday thing.

Yeah, I was tempted to just say "Thanks, Doc."

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