Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama Appears to be Consolidating the Lead

After seeing a number of polls move closer recently, including the Zogby single-day polling which had McCain actually leading, the single-day and trend polls today look to be telling a different story.  For the first time, the Gallup extended and traditional polls are indicating a similar margin - twelve points for Senator Obama.  The Gallup traditional was one of the first polls to set tongues wagging when it put Senator McCain within two percent of Obama last week.  Rasmussen continues to have Obama over fifty-one percent and today's Zogby poll, which puts Obama up five plus percent, with most of the other polls which reported trends today showing the race at least five percent apart. 

We have been speculating a great deal about how the late-breaking independent voters would move.  Would they ultimately be comfortable with Senator Obama, or would tax and terror concerns steer them toward the more experienced man?  Of course, we still won't know the answer for three or so days, but the sudden widening of the polls which had been showing a McCain surge may in fact be our early warning that independents are indeed choosing Obama.  In fact, since the Thursday version of Rasmussen, the Wednesday Gallup traditional and the Friday Zogby single-day and Opinion Dynamics polls were released, each subsequent poll has trended down for McCain.  Is November 1 the day the late breakers began to reach their tipping point and found themselves tipping toward Senator Obama?  Time will tell, and certainly many of the underlying possibilities discussed over the past few days in this blog are still possible factors.  But as of today, I don't see any data that suggests anything other than this:  Obama widened his poll lead today.  McCain lost ground.  His brief foray above 45% - which has been nearly a hard ceiling for him - ended with the Zogby single-day results, and in combination with a gentle uptick by Obama the race seems now to be contested in the 5-10% Obama lead range.  That's probably too large a number for McCain to overtake - especially in light of the number of early voters.  All of the interesting possibilities and trends below the candidate preference line are really only interesting if the race is at four percent or less.  Five at the outside.  Upsets have happened even when the leader went into the last weekend with an eight point lead.  But an eight-point lead in 1980 probably translates to a four or five point lead today, with instant information, many more polls and as many as a quarter of voters casting early ballots. 

We'll see what the numbers look like tomorrow, but if I were an accountant tonight, I'd advise McCain to return some of that Red Bull I suggested last night.  Chances are he'll be wanting some warm milk instead.  Stay tuned tomorrow to see if we must remake our impressions yet again! 

Obama's New Attack on Those Who Don't Want Higher Taxes: ‘Selfishness’

From the ABC News blog:

Political Punch

Power, pop, and probings from ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper

October 31, 2008 10:58 AM

On the stump this week, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has pushed back against Sen. John McCain's description of his tax policies.

"The reason that we want to do this, change our tax code, is not because I have anything against the rich," Obama said in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday. "I love rich people! I want all of you to be rich. Go for it. That’s the American dream, that’s the American way, that’s terrific.

"The point is, though, that -- and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class -- it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.

"John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic," Obama continued. "You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness."

It's unclear if this was a nod to the Ayn Rand book "The Virtue of Selfishness," with all that the invocation of Rand implies

It would seem to be, given the themes of Rand's work, what happens when independent achievers are demonized.

Which would fit with this description of those who want to keep their hard-earned tax dollars as "selfish."

Atlas may not be shrugging, but Obama is.

Friday, October 31, 2008

ZOGBY: McCain leads in Single Day Poll 48-47

If you have been watching the polls, there are a group of them that have shown McCain advancing, sometimes within the margin of error.  I have postulated that if the trend continued as it had been over the past week we might begin to see McCain leading in some polls by the weekend. 

Over the three day period ending on Halloween, the Obama lead is unchanged from our report yesterday.  But looking at just the polling responses for one day, today, Senator McCain has actually moved ahead of Senator Obama by one percentage point.  This is within the margin of error but is significant nonetheless simply because it shows McCain with a lead.  I refer you to Obama's rather terse interaction with reporters today and his exhortations with particular vehemence to campaign workers not to let up at all as telling hints about the impression the polls are giving him. 

Earlier today, Dick Morris was heard to say that he doesn't believe there are many undecided voters left at all.  Instead, he said, there are a number of voters who are not sold, or perhaps don't like Obama as a candidate, and will end up voting for McCain but simply don't want to tell anyone.  If you think about the twenty or so percent of people who might vote for Bush if he were eligible for a third term, how vocal are they about their support?  It does seem to have some ring of truth that these are stealth supporters.  And in places where supporting McCain is viewed as supporting Bush, I can see some people choosing to 'go with the flow' with pollsters but voting privately as they really feel.  Add to that the possibility of some level of Bradley effect - where people don't want to appear racist - and perhaps some of the poll results can be explained.  On the other hand, internal numbers show McCain making huge gains with blue collar families, white Catholics and even among the 21-30 age group.  Obama's lead has shrunk in half among independents since last week.  So, there are many possible causes for the McCain surge in the polls - assuming you're not just reading the New York Times poll and discounting the 90% of polls that show the race getting closer.

The way I see it, the underlying numbers show a close race getting closer.  The candidate preference numbers show a close race - whether it is a five point lead for Obama or even a 1 point McCain advantage.  The murkiness of several drivers of voter opinion in this particular election make reading the tea leaves more difficult than usual, but there is no doubt in my mind right now that the one thing we can tell from the leaves we see is that the race is very close - closer than many will allow themselves to believe.  Close enough that one candidate can't stop mentioning the polls and one can't stop telling supporters that the polls don't matter but work hard and don't let up.  For me, this is perhaps the most telling clue to what the polls are really predicting: the way the two candidates are talking about them. 

Poll Volatility and Undecided Voters: More Uncommitted Voters than Usual?

Why is there so much disparity between the polls this year?  Some have sought to explain it with methodology, and I believe that to be a big part of the reason.  What else could be driving as much as ten points difference from one poll to another?  There has been some discussion between various pollsters that the financial crisis may have delayed many people in making a firm choice in the race for president.  The proportion of undecided voters has remained fairly steady over the past few weeks, yet the numbers for each candidate has moved up and down by fairly large numbers.  Some have said that there is a larger pool than normal of voters that are leaning and express a preference, but are not firmly committed to a candidate.    In this scenario, perhaps seven or eight percent of voters will reach their conclusion over the weekend and Monday.  If this means that as many as six percent will decide over the weekend, and possibly two or three percent of each candidate's supporters may re-evaluate their choice, then the curve of potential outcomes can include a McCain victory as well as a ten point Obama win.

Race Widens in Obama's Favor?

The race for President has been tightening according to several polls including Mason Dixon, IBD, Opinion Dynamics and especially the Gallup Traditional poll.  This morning's reports, however, seem to suggest that Senator Barack Obama may be seeing some breathing room opening between himself and Senator McCain.  Several of the polls that had the candidates between three and four points have moved to five and six point gaps, with the Gallup Traditional now an eight point lead for Obama.  Though the local polls in a number of the most contested states show McCain leading or tied, this new move by Obama may not yet be reflected in them. 

Though all of the aspects of the race discussed in previous posts may be factors (and there is no way to know how much of a factor any or all of them may be), the likelihood that any or a combination of them could produce an upset win for McCain will reduce dramatically if the polls widen from four or five percent.  This is especially true in terms of early voting, as the nearly thirty percent of voters who will vote prior to November 4 reduce the likelihood of a late change of mind among independents.  Below is the trend line from Gallup Traditional.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

MIT scientists baffled by global warming theory, contradicts scientific data

from Trendwatch

By Rick C. Hodgin

Thursday, October 30, 2008 09:55

Boston (MA) - Scientists at MIT have recorded a nearly simultaneous world-wide increase in methane levels. This is the first increase in ten years, and what baffles science is that this data contradicts theories stating man is the primary source of increase for this greenhouse gas. It takes about one full year for gases generated in the highly industrial northern hemisphere to cycle through and reach the southern hemisphere. However, since all worldwide levels rose simultaneously throughout the same year, it is now believed this may be part of a natural cycle in mother nature - and not the direct result of man's contributions.
Methane - powerful greenhouse gas
The two lead authors of a paper published in this week's Geophysical Review Letters, Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn, the TEPCO Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, state that as a result of the increase, several million tons of new methane is present in the atmosphere.
Methane accounts for roughly one-fifth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, though its effect is 25x greater than that of carbon dioxide. Its impact on global warming comes from the reflection of the sun's light back to the Earth (like a greenhouse). Methane is typically broken down in the atmosphere by the free radical hydroxyl (OH), a naturally occuring process. This atmospheric cleanser has been shown to adjust itself up and down periodically, and is believed to account for the lack of increases in methane levels in Earth's atmosphere over the past ten years despite notable simultaneous increases by man.  Continue reading article here

Mason Dixon Poll: Pennsylvania and Ohio Tied

After trailing by as many as fifteen points in Pennsylvania two weeks ago, Senator John McCain has pulled even with Barack Obama, according to a new Mason Dixon poll.  A similar trend is occurring in Ohio where the Dixon poll shows McCain with a lead of one percent just two weeks removed from a double digit deficit.  Dixon has Florida at 1 percent for McCain, Indiana at 5 percent for McCain, Missouri for McCain by one percent, Virginia with a two percent Obama lead.  Virtually every state McCain MUST win to have any chance to win the electoral college has moved within the margin of error, according to news reports of Dixon polling. 

The change in this race over the past two or three weeks is really amazing.  The finish should be fascinating.  When McCain says he plans to be up all night November 4th, I am beginning to think he needs to stock up on Red Bull.

Presidential Race Continues to Narrow

Major polls updated today continue to show the lead of Senator Barack Obama shrinking, with Rasmussen, IBD and Opinion Dynamics all showing the lead at just three percent.  Gallup traditional, Zogby and Ipsos all have the race at five percent for Obama.

Opinion Dynamics Poll:

Obama has lost two-thirds of his lead over McCain in just the last week in the poll released today, at Obama 47 McCain 44 (3%) .

Among the key issues underlying the top line voter choice percentages there are some interesting items:

  • In the area of trust on economy, Senator McCain has cut Obama's lead in half, from 15% to 8% (Rasmussen shows McCain actually leading Obama this week in this category by 48-47%).
  • “Who would respond better to being “tested” by foreign governments or terrorists in the first six months of his presidency?" -  McCain 52-39 (this includes independents 53-37%) McCain is also viewed as better at managing the war on terror (+14%) and Iraq (+7%).
  • Both candidates are holding support by voters who identify themselves as Democrat or Republican, and both groups still showing greater motivation to vote, as evidenced by willingness to wait "as long as it takes" to vote.
  • Recent movement shows Obama losing almost 50% of the independent voter support he enjoyed last week (he still leads by 5% in this group, down from 9.5% last week).
  • McCain has picked up dramatic support from blue collar and white Catholic voters as well – Obama lead McCain by 11% among white Catholics last week; this week they split the group evenly - 46% apiece.
  • Almost all voters -- 78 percent -- think McCain has the right experience to be president. That number includes a 64 percent majority of Democrats. Significantly fewer voters -- 49 percent -- think Obama has the right experience for the Oval Office (48 percent say he doesn't).
  • An interesting question asked: "If you had to make the toughest decision of your life, would you rather get advice from":  Obama 43% (unchanged) McCain 44% (up ten percent from last week).  This is the first time McCain has lead in this category since the Republican convention.
  • In the battle to ‘claim the middle ground in the election', McCain is viewed as slightly more moderate than Obama – 43% say Obama’s policies are “too liberal”, 38% say McCain is “too conservative”. This may partially account for McCain’s gains among independents this past week.

All of these items indicate that the race continues to get closer, though as the earlier post (Is a McCain Electoral Path Still Possible?) below indicates, it will still take a perfect storm for McCain to win enough votes in the electoral college.  It appears that the Obama campaign is playing rope-a-dope, hoping that the lead holds.  I think it is probably a smart percentage play, avoiding the potential big mistake, because the list of states McCain must win is so long. 

PS-Notice that Senator Biden is nowhere to be seen the last few days?  He apparently has a cold and isn't up to interviews...if I were playing the rope-a-dope strategy he wouldn't be my first pick.  It just isn't his style.

AP FACT CHECK: Obama Ad Avoids Budget Realities

The Associated Press takes a look at the details in Obama's prime-time ad


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial Wednesday night about the costs of his programs and the crushing budget pressures he would face in office.

Obama's...vow to save money by "eliminating programs that don't work" masks his failure throughout the campaign to specify what those programs are -- beyond the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

A sampling of what voters heard in the ad, and what he didn't tell them:

THE SPIN: "That's why my health care plan includes improving information technology, requires coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions and lowers health care costs for the typical family by $2,500 a year."

THE FACTS: His plan does not lower premiums by $2,500, or any set amount. Obama hopes that by spending $50 billion over five years on electronic medical records and by improving access to proven disease management programs, among other steps, consumers will end up saving money. He uses an optimistic analysis to suggest cost reductions in national health care spending could amount to the equivalent of $2,500 for a family of four. Many economists are skeptical those savings can be achieved, but even if they are, it's not a certainty that every dollar would be passed on to consumers in the form of lower premiums.

THE SPIN: "I also believe every American has a right to affordable health care."

THE FACTS: That belief should not be confused with a guarantee of health coverage for all. He makes no such promise. Obama hinted as much in the ad when he said about the problem of the uninsured: "I want to start doing something about it." He would mandate coverage for children but not adults. His program is aimed at making insurance more affordable by offering the choice of government-subsidized coverage similar to that in a plan for federal employees and other steps, including requiring larger employers to share costs of insuring workers.

THE SPIN: "I've offered spending cuts above and beyond their cost."

THE FACTS: Independent analysts say both Obama and Republican John McCain would deepen the deficit. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates Obama's policy proposals would add a net $428 billion to the deficit over four years -- and that analysis accepts the savings he claims from spending cuts. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, whose other findings have been quoted approvingly by the Obama campaign, says: "Both John McCain and Barack Obama have proposed tax plans that would substantially increase the national debt over the next 10 years." The analysis goes on to say: "Neither candidate's plan would significantly increase economic growth unless offset by spending cuts or tax increases that the campaigns have not specified."

THE SPIN: "Here's what I'll do. Cut taxes for every working family making less than $200,000 a year. Give businesses a tax credit for every new employee that they hire right here in the U.S. over the next two years and eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. Help homeowners who are making a good faith effort to pay their mortgages, by freezing foreclosures for 90 days. And just like after 9-11, we'll provide low-cost loans to help small businesses pay their workers and keep their doors open. "

THE FACTS: His proposals -- the tax cuts, the low-cost loans, the $15 billion a year he promises for alternative energy, and more -- cost money, and the country could be facing a record $1 trillion deficit next year. Indeed, Obama recently acknowledged -- although not in his commercial -- that: "The next president will have to scale back his agenda and some of his proposals."

Is A McCain Electoral Path Still Possible (Updated)?

This is the map as it stands now, shows Barack Obama with a heavy margin in the electoral college.  To win, McCain must capture all current toss-up states (MT, ND, MO, GA and FL) as well as Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  McCain trails in all but MT and ND at this time, though he has gained ground significantly over the past two weeks and in Missouri, Georgia and North Carolina may be leading by week end.

    Obama/Biden 311

    McCain/Palin 142

    259 Solid    52 Leaning

    127 Solid     15 Leaning

                                     (85 Toss Up)

cuurent elecoral1

This map shows the scenario described above.  It requires McCain to capture all six states where the race is within 2-3%  currently, as well as capturing Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana, where the polls show him trailing by 4-8%.  However, if the trends of the past two weeks were to continue it would put the toss-ups into McCain likely tally and Missouri, Ohio and Indiana within one to two percent.  Theses thin margins could be sufficient if the late undecided voters break unusually heavily for McCain, and if any of the possible drag factors we've discussed previously materialize. 

Obama/Biden 264                      McCain/Palin 274

mccain path1

This is the only path I can still envision as having a real chance to occur, and even then everything must go McCain's way.  Still, it is more likely than I would have thought just judging by the number of states that will have to change hands.  Why?  For this to happen, no reversal is required - all that is required is for the current trend in these states over the last two weeks to continue, in combination with any one additional Obama drag effects we've discussed here. 

Oh, is that all?  It is a long shot (though maybe not quite so long as it appears at first glance) indeed, but if it does happen, or nearly so, we may be waiting until Wednesday or even Thursday to call the race. 

Whoever wins, I have a cigar ready to celebrate the end of the campaign and the lies, distortions, name-calling and neighbor tension that has seemed to overtop the levies of civil society in especially large waves this year.  If you don't see what I mean, refer to the Washington race for Governor.  One candidate has all but claimed the other supports child molesters, and the other has likened his opponent to a smelly diaper.  Really. 


As of this morning, you'll see that Karl Rove has updated his version of the electoral map including the latest poll split in each state. 

Rove 1030081 

The Obama campaign is keeping its' polling close to the vest - presumably because the race is getting closer and therefore they wish to get attention off the poll trends.  It makes sense from his standpoint, though I always chuckle when I hear surrogates and the candidate saying that polls are meaningless, or that they don't pay attention to polls, when that campaign has spent more than $22 million on polling in this election cycle.  I usually try to spend a little less than that on meaningless things that I ignore...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Truly Great Church Sign

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McCain Chief Pollster: Too Close to Call

If you are interested in why the McCain campaign believes the race for President is tightening dramatically in the last week, read this blog entry:

Several of the trends we've discussed here are also included in the memo, and some very interesting additional details related to overpolling and late-breaking voters are discussed.

The Gallup likely voters poll has the race at two points, and McCain has significantly broken the 45% barrier that has been his high water mark for much of the campaign.  Rasmussen has the race at three points this morning, with Zogby and IBD both at four.

Still, what must be said about all of this tightening is that McCain will have to win Ohio, and hold at least five other toss-up states.  He still has to run the table, and so unless the trend toward a tighter race is very dramatic (say seven or eight points, like with Carter/Reagan), and very broad (affecting all the battleground states) then it is a very unlikely outcome for McCain to win the electoral college.    Still, it is a very interesting race far later than history, an epically unpopular president, an excellent-campaigning Democratic opponent, a bad economy and an oddly put-together Republican ticket would have lead me to believe two months ago. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ask an Unwelcome Question, Get Boycotted

WTVF television in Orlando ran a scheduled interview with Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden.  In the interview, the anchor asked Biden a question about the recent comment by Barack Obama that seemed to indicate that he wanted to tax higher incomes and 'spread the wealth around'.  Having read Karl Marx, I admit, that the same quote that the anchor used in asking her question popped into my mind at the time I heard Obama's remark: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The Obama-Biden campaign immediately canceled an interview the station was planning to do with Jill Biden: "There's nothing wrong with tough questions, but reporters have the very important job of sharing the truth with the public -- not misleading the American people with false information. Senator Biden handled the interview well; however, the anchor was completely unprofessional. Senator Biden's wife is not running for elected office, and there are many other stations in the Orlando television market that would gladly conduct a respectful and factual interview with her." "This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election."

Now I can understand why it is politically inconvenient to have Marxism introduced into a campaign, and the polls have reflected some impact to the Obama campaign since the comment concerning spreading the wealth around was made.  But in looking at the two statements, I just simply cannot see the difference between:

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" and "I think when you spread the wealth around, it is good for everybody." 

(Note: I imagine that at whatever level you set the bar and begin taking wealth from some and spreading it around to others there may be some mumbling about the "good for everyone" part of this comment).

Is there a big difference in those two quotes that I am not seeing?  Marx advocated more comprehensive redistribution of wealth (essentially leveling out wealth across the population), but the idea certainly seems to be compatible with Marx's views.  You could surely see that Biden was incensed, indignant and angry to be asked about Marxist leanings (though the idea that the remark was essentially reflective of a socialist point of view), and I can understand not wanting to have his campaign labeled as socialist or Marxist.  But I truly don't see why asking this question was 'completely unprofessional'.  There are people all over the country debating whether Obama's comment reflects a real desire to be a modern day Robin Hood, socialism, etc., but when an anchor mentions it to the candidate?  Bam! No soup for you! 

I wonder if this is a hint about how the Obama White House might handle 'the wrong kind' of questions from the press in the future? 

Oh, and one more thing that occurred to me when I saw Biden's response:  he was way too upset to be asked a question he despised.  The image that popped into my head was of a former president, angry as hell at a reporter who had the temerity to question him: "I did not have sex with that woman - Miss Lewinksy". 

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.