The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

CBS Poll

Uncommitteds believe Obama won the debate by a 53-22 margin.

UPDATE: CNN has it Obama 58%, McCain 31%

Live-blogging tonight's debate

I usually spend these debates watching them, while following various live-blogs of them. This time, I'm gonna take a crack at it.

PRE-GAME... All Obama needs to do here is run out the clock, keep it consistent, sound knowledgeable and reassuring, etc. Basically, do exactly what he's done in the first two debates. He will hammer McCain on policy no doubt, but anything he uses against McCain besides that will most likely be in response to whatever McCain brings up. And that's where the drama is.

McCain still needs that "game-changer". He didn't get it in the first debate: repeatedly saying Obama "doesn't understand", followed by repeated instances of Obama responding to questions as if he clearly understood the issues at hand, didn't work. He didn't get it in the second debate: Obama was equally unflappable, and McCain looked conspicuously unpresidential with his "that one" comment. Sooo here? We can look forward to McCain possibly invoking some of the trumped-up Obama bogeymen: Ayers, Rezko, ACORN and, though highly unlikely, Wright. Problem is, three of those four things were thoroughly pored over by reporters during the Primary campaign, and McCain is as closely related to ACORN as Obama is. (watch for McCain to lie that ACORN is about "voter fraud", a serious crime, when the actual issue is "voter registration fraud", a substantially less dire issue)

The reason he's gonna bring up that stuff is, well, Obama/Biden have baited him to do so, and he's a proud, proud man. He might look bad bringing that stuff up. McCain's hope, then, is that the moderator, Bob Schieffer, brings it up for him. Which he might. We'll see...

6:00 Hofstra University. In Hempstead, NY. I used to live on Hempstead Avenue. In Goleta, but it was still Hempstead!

6:02 Please let Schieffer not be such as horrible a stickler for the rules as Brokaw was last week.

6:03 A friendly welcome, with niceties exchanged. How far we've come.

6:05 "Fannie & Freddie Mae". Oops.

6:06 McCain going on about his government-buy-mortgages plan, the one he didn't consult with his advisers about before announcing in the second debate. Please keep talking about it, since nobody likes it.

6:07 McCain did not mention the words "middle class" in his response to the economic-plan question. Obama has jumped on this, good.

6:10 The use of the phrase "small business" in political discourse can include so many things, but the vast, vast majority of small businesses do not fall into the Republican fantasy of what they really are, and thus the vast majority of them won't see their taxes increase under Obama's plan. By the way, if you had "Joe the plumber" in your drinking game, you are probably on the floor by now.

6:18 There's the "across the board spending freeze" again. One of those phrases that sounds good but means nothing. He has identified, in interviews, minor programs he wouldn't cut, so if they're on the bottom end of the priority list of things he wouldn't freeze spending on, it's a meaningless idea.

6:19 Line-item veto? Wasn't that deemed unconstitutional after the Gingrich congress gave it to Clinton?

6:23 Obama is smacking down the $42,000 tax lie. "Even Fox News disputes it."

6:26 Here we go. Hahaha the town hall meetings! He wouldn't have had his campaign say "palled around with terrorists?" if they had more debates?

6:30 Notice that McCain had a chance to talk about Ayers etc, but didn't do it. First chance: wussed out on. See if he tries it again later.

6:33 When given the choice, McCain has chosen to insult some of his own supporters. At a time when his supporters are expecting him to bring up Ayers et al. Whoops!

6:40 And there he goes. That was a lot of bullshit in 4 minutes. I could have watched that new Britney video instead. Nothing big though, nothing but the vague bullet-points of McCain's ads.

6:42 And Mr McCain, as your reward for saying the Ayers stuff (sort of) to Obama's face, you shall now be subjected to 2 minutes of trying to explain why Sarah Palin would make a great President! "A breash of freath air"

6:45 My sense of the Ayers/Acorn/etc exchange is that McCain wanted to say his one or two bits and then get out of it as fast as he could. He seemed uncomfortable.

6:46 If this was a closer race, we would have seen Obama go after McCain's current associations as pertaining to his policy advisers.

6:54 Did I just see an eye-roll? I'm pretty sure I just saw an eye-roll from McCain. On the issue of Colombian free trade, no less!

6:58 The CNN independent voter dials really love Obama's health care answer. They don't like McCain's, especially the women.

7:04 After seriously out-classing McCain on the health care question, Obama gets to watch McCain morph his simple small-business plumber "Joe" into a "rich" man ("congratulations!") to try to defend his taxing of health benefits.

7:07 "Supreme Court nominees based on qualifications". But not for VP nominees, John?

7:08 Whoa, some mega cognitive dissonance there from McCain. His line about support of Roe V Wade being a disqualifier will make its way into an Obama ad.

7:12 Watching the pundits' and the independents' reactions to McCain's abortion attacks in real time is an interesting window into the alternate reality in which cable news personalities seem to live. Also, McCain had essentially nothing to say to Obama's Lily Ledbetter answer. Just a throwaway line of unpresidential snark.

7:16 Obama: "Just say no to cavalier sexual behavior". Cough cough Bristol cough cough.

7:22 Obama just played the "The Greatest Love Of All" card. (:

7:26 Yes, it was an eye-roll!

7:27 Hey closing statements! Last chance!

McCain: Serve serve serve record etc.

Obama: Middle class sacrifice work for you etc.

Nice joke from Bill Bennett just now: "Not since the Nixon years have we hears so much about plumbers".

RECAP: McCain had a nice start, but lost the last 60 minutes. Particularly on health care, abortion, education, and pretty much everything after his brief (and quickly aborted) Ayers exchange. As Nate puts it in the 538 liveblog: "Congratulations, President Obama".

Thursday, October 09, 2008

And the winner is...

...Ayers web ad!?!?


Obama to Charlie Gibson yesterday:
Well, I am surprised that, you know, we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days that he wasn't willing to say it to my face.

But I guess we've got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that -- that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.
Somehow, I don't think a web ad helps out McCain very much.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Uh oh

The Troopergate report will be released on Friday.

The McCain campaign will be "making news in the morning" tomorrow.

Ruh roh! Incoming distraction stunt!

Our options are:

-Some big economic proposal. (This is my guess. It's the only thing he might do that would make his former allies in the media re-swoon.)

-Some change in his tax plan (Akin to Bob Dole's "I'm giving you money!" ploy in '96)

-A one-term pledge. (Not likely. That would be akin to telling voters that he wants Caribou Barbie to be president in no more than 4 years.)

-"Barack Obama was a card-carrying member of ___________." (I kinda doubt this. At this point I don't think the McCain people want the big smears coming straight from the candidate himself. All their Ayers insinuating has only helped Obama in recent days.)

-An endorsement. (Powell? Not likely. Bloomberg? Dunno. There just aren't that many high-profile undecided political figures out there right now.)

-Cabinet announcements. (He'd have to include a center-left person who wasn't Holy Joe.)

-The Bristol-Levi wedding date announcement. (Please let this be the one, hahaha)

-That Michelle Obama "whitey" video? Ha.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

VP Debate review, a couple days late

I think the biggest news on VP debate day, at least pertaining to the race, was the story that the McCain campaign was pulling out of Michigan. That story broke on Thursday morning, hours before Palin and Biden squared off. The McCain campaign seemingly concluded that no matter what positive effect came out of that night's debate, Michigan -- a swing state for the last several election cycles -- was out of reach.

Michigan: epicenter of the "Reagan Democrats".

Michigan: where there was supposed to be a large population of white middle-class suburbanites who weren't warming to Obama that quickly.

Michigan: where Obama was supposed to have a disadvantage because of the controversy during the Democratic primary season when the state's delegates were not initially seated in full.

Michigan: supposedly a test-ground to measure the extent of the so-called "Bradley Effect".

All gone, off McCain's radar. So what does this mean? It means the McCain campaign knows that public opinion has turned irrevocably against Sarah Palin, and even the most capable debate performance possible from her wasn't going to change that.

And it hasn't.

At best, the debate was an absolute wash.

Palin: If there was a list of things she had to do to stay afloat, she did all of those, and came across as not a rambling flub-machine. Unfortunately for her, though, she came off as a robotic slogan-machine, retreating to stale McCain/GOP talking points on every single question, regardless of what questions were being asked. "I'm not going to answer your question, I'm going to talk to the American people." But Sarah, this is a debate, the whole point is to answer the questions you're given. And they weren't exactly curveballs (Gwen Ifill kept her questions very simple and straightforward). She reveals herself (haha) as a decent 2nd-tier McCain surrogate, but did nothing to improve her ticket's chances with undecided voters. Of course, there's always Rich Lowry of National Review, whose take on her performance reeks of KY. Ew. But to quote Homer Simpson, "[She] card read good!"

Biden: All he needed to do was not make any major gaffes, and not say anything that could be misconstrued as bullying or sexist regarding his debate opponent. Check and check. One of the things Biden noticed was that Palin was not departing from her scripted talking points during the debate, so he could go after McCain with relative impunity.

Key moment of the debate: Biden chokes up a bit when talking about his son and the tragedy that hit his family, and Palin doesn't acknowledge this at all.

Impact on polls: Like I said, probably a wash. On to New Hampshire this Tuesday!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Workity work work

VP debate recap Friday during the day most likely, been too busy with work this week to blog much, er, at all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One last link

Nate Silver: Why voters thought Obama won tonight.

-Obama talked to the voters, McCain talked to the pundits.
-Obama 'won' on the issues that matter most to the voters (namely the economy).
-Obama closed the readiness and leadership gaps.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Two of the bigger CW-molders from Time, Joe Klein and Mark Halperin, give the debate to Obama.

First Debate Wrap-up

First of all, let's all agree that Jim Lehrer did an admirable job as moderator, mostly in a less-is-more fashion. He'd ask a question, then he'd let the candidates pretty much have at it, without butting in with warnings about time limits and so on. My lone complaint, though, was his Russert-ian question about what plans the two candidates would cut back on because of the giant banking bailout. Both candidates believe that all their respective plans are important, and neither was going to admit to making a real commitment to not pursuing something they've claimed to be a high priority to them for months/years, no matter how many times Lehrer pressed the question (4 times). McCain wildly proposed a "spending freeze" gimmick (a dumb idea), while Obama steered clear of the bait altogether.

All the talk on the network wrap-ups as to who "won" the debate, on "points" or whatever (boxing metaphors abound), is somewhat misplaced. The main issue here is with expectations, particularly for Obama. He has the "change" mantle, and people want to vote for him, but his big assignment for tonight's debate -- the foreign policy debate -- was to come across as a credible leader on international issues. Someone who spoke with demonstrable knowledge and expertise on the issues of the world (as opposed to, say, mentioning his home state's proximity to Russia). To do this, he didn't have to 'beat' McCain on what's supposed to be the old man's issue; he merely had to hang with him. And nobody who watched that debate could conceivably argue that Obama didn't do that tonight. In other words, Obama passed that "commander in chief test" Hillary put forth all those months ago during the primary campaign.

This was the night McCain was supposed to have a decisive victory, and that simply didn't happen. It doesn't matter if Obama won by a little or McCain won by a little. The only result that would have helped McCain would have been a clear win, or a mega gaffe on Obama's part, and neither of those things happened.

I didn't recall any one comment on Obama's part that was hissy-fit-caliber for the right wing echo chamber. I recall the first of the Bush-Kerry debates in 2004; the general consensus was that Kerry won handily that night, but the right-wing media seized on an abstract comment of Kerry's about how America's actions need to pass "the global test", interpreting it literally as some sort of international veto on the American military. I didn't hear anything from Obama's responses tonight that could be isolated like that. Certainly the McCain surrogates I saw on TV after the debate couldn't come up with anything.

Except for a stupid video montage of Obama expressing agreement with McCain at various points in the debate, but that's not really anything of importance, given that it was a deliberate disarming rhetorical tactic on Barack's part.

(Rachel Maddow, just now, made a good catch on MSNBC: McCain, in an almost throwaway manner -- "sure" -- said that yes, he would vote for the Wall Street bailout)

One superficial, but revealing discussion coming up... For those of you who watched the debate on a channel that kept the two candidates on a split-screen -- NBC did this for most of the debate -- you probably saw what I saw. McCain was, for lack of better words, rude and churlish. A variety of pundits noticed that McCain never once looked at Obama through the entire debate. His awkward and disrespectful smirk returned, sometimes coupled with a snicker. Let me put it this way: If Chris Matthews has to ask about McCain, "Do you think he was too troll-like tonight?", that pretty much seals the deal, doesn't it? I think McCain's posture gave us a preview of what we'll soon be seeing on Saturday Night Live.

And McCain's repeated talking-point-driven mantra that Obama "doesn't understand" and is "naive" is one of those things that falls apart when the very next thing an uncommitted voter sees is Obama explaining his position on a foreign policy issues in detail, with clear command of the facts and a full recognition of the stakes at hand.

Tonight's polls...

CNN: Obama wins on all fronts

CBS: Obama wins among undecideds

MediaCurves: Obama wins debate 61-39

No link, but longtime GOP pollster Frank Luntz's focus group on FoxNews leaned Obama as well.

But again, he didn't need to win this debate, he just needed to hold is own, and he did that and then some.

LATE THOUGHT: I wonder if the GOP's concerted attempt to ridicule Obama for not being able to talk without a teleprompter might have been the wrong tactic to employ.

Thought of the day

If McCain does indeed give in and get his butt to Mississippi tonight for the debate, when I think he'll do, then this whole drama was about something else, too:

Lowering the expectations for his debate performance to a level somewhere between Earth's mantle and outer core.

UPDATE (10:45): Debate back on!