My First And Last Directly U.S. Election-Related Comment -

My First And Last Directly U.S. Election-Related Comment


Last night I went into two stores and in both of them, the clerks were talking to each other about the U.S. election. That’s all anybody can think about, including me.

I admit that for various reasons, I really don’t want McCain to win (which is different from wanting Obama to win; I’m still not all that impressed by him, and haven’t been ever since his deservedly-infamous CYA vote on an important issue). But that’s nothing new. What I wanted to note, before getting back to the entertaining stuff, is that the coverage of the election has been irritating because it presumes that the election is sewn up, when it clearly is not. This post from last week, from a guy who’s been supporting Obama for President for years, gives a good explanation of what’s going on: while Obama is more likely to win than McCain, his overall national lead is not all that big, and is getting smaller as the election approaches. (This always happens, but in 1996, Clinton’s lead in the daily polls was much bigger than Obama’s, meaning that when the “tightening” arrived, it still wasn’t close.) State polling usually catches up with national polling eventually, so if the national polls shrink further, it’s not inconceivable that McCain could squeak out victories in enough of the states that Bush won in 2004*. That’s hard, of course, which is why Obama is more likely to win than McCain — but it’s not impossible. A good comparison for this election is 1976, Gerald Ford vs. Jimmy Carter; all the fundamentals favoured the Democrats that year, but the election wound up being quite close. Carter won, just as Obama will likely win, but the outcome was in doubt right up until the end.

Also, in the modern media environment, polls can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the 24-hour news cycle, there just isn’t enough real news to fill the campaign coverage (especially since the candidates make the same speeches over and over), so polls, and speculation on what they mean, take up a lot of the coverage. A “McCain pulls closer” or (if a poll comes out showing that) “McCain pulls ahead” narrative would be very helpful to him at this point, if only because it would reduce the risk that undecided voters would decide to break toward the person they think is the sure winner.

It’s not news that TV news coverage relies too heavily on prognostication, polling, etc. It’s an unavoidable part of campaign coverage; you’re covering something that hasn’t happened yet, so what can you do but predict? But the coverage seems to be creating a note of certainty that worries me. Not because I don’t want McCain to win, though I don’t (but if he does, the coverage will be a minor influence on that one way or the other), but because if the race winds up being very close, the anger and recriminations could be like 2000 only worse.

And that said, I will try to suck it in, stop watching polls and go back to watching the only kind of TV that tells us the truth — procedurals, sitcoms, soap operas, game shows, reality TV and possibly (but not always) Quincy, M.E.

*The best counter-argument to this, of course, is that McCain doesn’t actually seem to be acting like he expects to hold onto the Bush 2004 states, and is instead trying to win Pennsylvania, where he’s way behind. So he sure seems to be acting like he’s Gerald Ford circa 1976. But the point is, he’s certainly not Mondale circa 1984 either or Bob Dole circa 1996, either; it’s closer than that.

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My First And Last Directly U.S. Election-Related Comment

  1. Even if the polls showed a dead heat, I think Obama’s massive resource investment in (and enthusiasm of) a ground organization will lock him the victory.

    $600M in funds raised allows you to a buy a lot of “get out the vote” ability.

  2. Interesting…so what were the two stores you went into?

  3. The only thing that holds my interest is the possible impact of a Bradley Effect. I expect there to be one but only minimal. But it truly is a madhouse down there so I’m prepared to be proven wrong – either way.

  4. “the coverage of the election has been irritating because it presumes that the election is sewn up”

    Agree with this 100%. The msm have done all the could to drag Obama across the finish line and now they are impatient for the pay-off. I wonder if the msm will ever to go back to its traditional role of reporting or will they continue to be in the tank for Obama over the next four years.

    However, Obama’s head is so far up his own arse he plays tonsil hockey with himself, maybe msm are just parroting mood of Obama campaign.

  5. When you have an obviously superior candidate who is also a frontrunner with a lot more ad $ behind him, you have to figure ‘what’s holding back the undecideds?’ If they aren’t voting for Obama yet, it’s unlikely they’ll change their minds yet. if the undecideds vote at all, i expect they will go to McCain by a wide margin.

  6. Yeah, really, damn that mainstream media for calling out McCain on his lies, his deceptions and his incompetence. How *dare* they point out that McCain’s VP candidate is less qualified for that office than a horse that stomps once for yes and twice for no!

    No offense Weinman, but you obviously haven’t followed this election closely enough. The race is not “tightening” – what’s happening is that McCain is making up some ground in non-battleground states. Good for him – instead of losing California by 25 points, he’s now being projected to lose it by 20.

    I don’t think people realize what a crushing defeat for the Republicans this will be. This is the bill for 8 years of Bushism and Roveism coming due. We’re in for the political beating of a lifetime – Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, North Carolina, Nevada, Montana – all going blue, a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, an increased majority in the House, and a GOP relegated to years of backbiting and self destruction in the wilderness, much like the British Tories after 1997.

    How sweet things are going to be on Tuesday.

  7. Personally knowing a lot of traditionally GOP supporters — I think you are going to see a type of reverse Bradley effect — or more like a “1990 Bob Rae” effect. Voters who would never think of, and who will never admit to voting for, a leftist anti-gun, pro-abortion, wealth re-distributor will actually in the solitude of the voting booth, vote for him and then never speak of it. Looking at the record of the GOP (congressional and Pres), a lot of GOPer’s will believe (falsely I think) that it can’t get much worse. If anything, Obama will win by much bigger margin than polls will suggest the day before.

  8. Oh…and I forgot to include”terrorist-coddling” amongst the descriptors in my previous post…

  9. The Onion has a hilarious video clip on its ONN War for the Whitehouse “program.” Shows Obama getting practical expereince by interning with Spain’s president, making “actual executive decisions” and getting tepid endorsements from Spanish cabinet ministers who have trouble remembering which intern Obama is.

    Then they have a two reporter debrief, ending with a question: “What about Senator McCain, is he going to be seeking the same kind of executive experience ..?”

    Answer: “No Senator McCain is old so he is already qualified to be president.”

  10. To get a “Bob Rae effect” people would have to vote Nader or Ron Paul.

  11. I’m glad this will be your last US election related comment because you obviously don’t have a clue. It is SIX days before the US election. Obama is planning a $2 million rally in Grant Park in Chicago for election day evening. Please check it out. You don’t plan something like this unless the election is in the bag, aye?

  12. I see you all have not lost your fight :

    GOOD! Because we have a lot to do. You! (the American people) are going to have to take back control of your elected government at every level, and set your government back on the right path of service to you, and the greater good of the World.

    Barack Obama and the democrats are your best hope of doing that now. Tell your family, friends, and everyone you know to support them as best they can. Because the Bush McCain vote fraud, vote cheating, vote buying, vote manipulation machine is already hard at work to cheat you again. And we all know what a disaster that has been the past 8 years of Bush McCain.

    Barack Obama and the democrats will need all the power you can give them at every level of government (Federal, State, County, and local City elected governments). Obama and the democrats will have an enormous mess to fix for the American people, and the rest of the World. A mess caused by the corrupt Bush McCain administration.

    You see, starting back in 2000, and before 911, it was mostly the Republican governors, Republican legislatures, and county elected Republican officials that conspired with the corrupt Bush McCain administration to raise college, and university tuitions by the fastest, and highest rate increases in American history. Some state tuitions went up by as much as a WHOPPING! 30% in one year.

    The reason the Bush McCain administration did this was to force struggling working class kids into the military to pay for the sudden jump in tuition. Which was forced on them by the corrupt Bush McCain administration, and their corrupt Republican Governors, and republican controlled state legislatures.

    See, Bush McCain had plans to get us into all these immoral, foolish, criminal, and unnecessary wars from the start. So they could use these wars to seize power, and later to get reelected. But, for their evil plan to work they needed more volunteer soldiers struggling to pay for an education whose blood they could spill to help them seize more power. Remember Bush McCain’s “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!” theatrics.

    The exploitation, and lost lives of these finest Americans is despicable, disgusting, immoral, corrupt and criminal. And it makes me SICK, and ANGRY!

    You will have to vote for Obama, and the democrats in overwhelming numbers to overcome the Bush McCain vote fraud machine. Vote early if you can. Then help your fellow Americans cast their votes now, and on through election day. Vote for Obama, and the democrats like your life, and the lives of your loved ones depends on it. Because it does. You will not survive 4 more years of “Let Them Eat Cake” Bush McCain, and their republican allies.

    Just look at the mess we have now.

    You can fix this mess with your votes for Obama, and the democrats. And REMEMBER, no matter which of us may stumble or fall, the rest of you must continue to surge forward for Barack Obama, and the democrats, and for your-selves most of all. The children, and the World are counting on us.

    It’s in your hands now. And I know you will get it done.

    God bless all of you.


  13. Your reasoning is not without merit, but far more detailed analyses at a range of websites have convinced me it is indeed all over. A good summary of the forces that might be in play is here:

    That page includes the likelihood that McCain’s vote is being underestimated, but still concludes Obama will be in the order of 375 electoral college votes to McCain’s 163. In modern elections, absent some dramatic game-changing event, polls just don’t get it wrong enough for McCain to bridge that difference.

    This reminds me a lot of the 2007 election here in Australia where incumbent PM John Howard (a close international ally of Bush’s, and very tied up with much of the same baggage) was against a younger, relatively unknown, but appealing candidate in Kevin Rudd (though Rudd lacks the superstar appeal Obama has). Howard, like the Republicans, had a history of sneaking home, so when poll after poll showed he was doomed commentators refused to believe it and came up with various theories about how the election would be narrower than polling showed. Yet come along election day he lost exactly as the polls predicted. I think the same will happen here.

  14. Interesting view on the polls.
    Sadly it is all we have got before we start voting! I have found a widget that that is objective and that uses the results from a wide veriery of pollsters. I believe that this provides the result “closest” to the “truth”.
    I think you might like it:-)

    … and its easy to put on your blog and fits in your sidebar!

    Make a difference, keep on voting