Friday, September 12, 2008

TPH: 90/97

The Political Hoedown
Poll Report & Bounces; "Maverick" Tendencies; Lipstick


First off, thanks to all who have been actively participating in our "issues" discussions (in "Ovary-Slapped" and The Daily Hoe's preview post). Remember that you may know who you're calling a close-minded bigot, so...chill out.

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On to the developing political scene!


We at the Den follow a number of polls to see how things are shaping up nationally and state-by-state. The curious nature of each sort of poll has McCain winning in by popular vote, and Obama winning in the electoral college (though other sites have it slightly reversed, with a slim 2-Electoral vote lead for McPalin). Let's take a brief look at the states, using the parenthetical's numbers

Most are firmly in one camp or the other, with a few true battleground states holding pollsters and pundits rapt. Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Florida and Virginia are the attention-getters for the time being. It could be that a particular ad campaign or debate firms up the numbers one way (Florida, for example, is a virtual certainty for McCain, but post-Dem Convention, Obama got some bounce there, leading to it's flopping between neutral and red), while other states take their place on the fence. Michigan, Pennsylvania and (surprisingly) Washington are all running numbers nearly as close as those mentioned above, with neither candidate sealing the deal as they need to.

Looking at Electoral-Vote.com, one of the best electoral vote tracking sites out there, we can see how tenuous each candidate's hold is on their votes. Granting Florida will stay with McCain (likely), it hashes out to 268 Obama, 270 for McCain - enough for victory, but only 2 ahead. That's Nevada right there, a state firm as jello in the McCain column. Of course, though barely ahead even in the most recent round of state polls, McCain has to seize and maintain the slim margins currently achieved, clinging for dear life, or accept he may lose something small like New Mexico, but still try for a Colorado or better yet, Michigan or Washington (again, it's weird that it's close there).

The likelihood of a large number of states moving from column (D) to (R) or the other way around is well within the statistical bounds, even less than two months out. But my money, and my gut, says Obama will probably eke out ahead.

That's right - despite the amazing resurgence in the polls by McPalin, Joebama will most probably win come that cloudy Tuesday in November. There's too much of that Obamamentum not for him to win.

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But I'm willing to issue a caveat, in form of the national polls.


Here's the story.

That's the Gallup organization's daily tracking poll going back several weeks, ending on 9/11/08. We see how Obama has been on top most of the time, even the rest. Once it became Joebama, he suffered an odd flat response in the polls, erased by his convention performance. Then McPalin emerged like a cracked-out vagrant from an alley and all eyes went to Team Maverick.

The interesting data we're looking at are the last four days: 49 McPalin/44 Joebama; 48 McPalin/42 Joebama; 48 McPalin/44 Joebama.

So for three days, McPalin managed to maintain it's gap against Joebama, five crucial points putting him outside the margin of error. In the face of this, and ignoring state polls, we may say the tide has turned for John McCain and left Barack Obama to face a series of narrow, but just slightly diminishing polls. A lot to glean from just two days, but it supports a growing number of polls conducted by a variety of respected institutions saying McCain is ahead. It's a lead he's holding, and the Obama campaign is sweating bullets.

Of course, with data released today, we see the lead has shrunk a point as some support has returned to Obama. Independents have increased a point or two for Obama, firming up from the "no opinion" category, but not significantly impacting McCain's overall.

What's most impressive are the surrounding polls showing larger gaps, running even, or McCain leads. Few show Obama ahead. Of the nine averaged polls at RealClearPolitics.com (as of 9/11/08), showing McCain with an average 2.3 point lead, six have McCain ahead, two are for Obama by 1 and one is tied. McCain's biggest lead is a 10-point likely vote knockout - 54 to 44 - conducted by USA Today/Gallup. At the worst, he's at 45, his current support level. Obama's highest showing is in the CNN/OpinionResearch poll - 48 - while his lowest is 42, from a FOX News Poll (for those discounting FOX, Gallup has him at 44 for a low) That high is also from the only tied poll left in the average.

I think we can hold the chart above to be a good measure of each candidate's support: Obama ranges from 50 to 44, while McCain spreads out between 49 and 41. Odds based on that are certainly for Obama.

In the Gallup tracking poll that predated the one above, it said it's 48 McCain vs 43 Obama. So the gap was preserved (5 points), but each loses a point to "no opinions." It's those people, as I've said, who are firming up. There was a long-held opinion that the country is broken down 40-40-20/Republican-Democrat-Independent. The logic is, going into a presidential campaign, unless you are a horrible candidate, you have 40% of the vote already; you're just fighting for 10.1% of the remainder.

Now, we're into 45-45-10, as the country has polarized over the last two decades. Fewer voters are undecided. Look at the running avg. at RCP: 47.4 McPalin vs 45.1 Joebama. 7.5% undecided or with another candidate. Figure 6% factoring in third-party votes. The future of the country is in very few hands.

Joebama's campaign says "Wait until next week, and especially after the debates. Let the air clear after the RNC." Team McPalin just can't stop cheering to listen.

***

So what's in a word? "Maverick." It brings to mind a number of things: James Garner, old western TV show, Mel Gibson, 90s western movie, one who bucks the trend, McCain. Looking at FactCheck.org, I rounded up some numbers (and they got them from Congressional Quarterly).

According to Joebama, McCain is anything but a maverick, voting "with" President Bush 90% of the time (actually, voting with Republicans that much). Meaning, I'd assume, voting on those initiatives which had his support. So 10% of the time, he bucks the trend, crosses the aisle and lives up to his nickname.

Of note, he has several key pieces of legislation that were co-written with Democrats to his name. Those are major points for him.

McPalin has been quieter about Obama being a maverick or daring to use that word in relation to him. They instead stick with his lingo, agent of change (I can't help but think "Agent of C.H.A.N.G.E., some old adventure serial spy organization). Is he an agent of change, they ask. According to the same people, Congressional Quarterly, Obama voted with Bush roughly 40% of the time, but with his fellow Democrats 97% of the time. So 3% of the time, he votes against the party line.

He has no major legislation to his name.

Analysis? It depends on who you talk to.

Obama supporters would say it proves 1) Obama can be bi-partisan, voting with Bush, 2) supports his party's platform of progressive/liberal politics instead of the Republican line and 3) McCain is in lock-step with Bush and the Republican party.

McCain supporters would say it proves 1) Obama is no agent of change, voting a party line rather than principle, 2) McCain has voted on ideology and not with party identity more (and for longer, if we drill down through Bush's full two terms) and 3) there is a greater probability that he will put the (R) aside for (USA).

What I get from it is, and from looking deeper at the numbers, is that Obama hasn't been in the Senate long enough to really establish a solid voting record. What he has is very pro-Democrat, and he doesn't show a great tendency to associate with Republican legislation. McCain, on the other hand, only voted with his party 77% of the time in 2005 and 67% in 2001, proving that - if not always - he can quite easily stand on principle and ideology, and not party doctrine.

But he has two decades in the Senate. Obama hasn't finished one term yet.

***

By now you've heard about the Obama lipstick flap ("You can put lipstick on a pig...but it's still a pig." - in reference to McCain trying to gussy-up his campaign with Palin). A few words on it that I shared with an ardent Obama supporter:


I won't get into deceptive or manipulative politics. As long as all campaigns have 30-second negative ads, there will be deceptive politics. As long as candidates opt for quick, media-friendly soundbites during speeches instead of boring - but necessary - policy statements, there will be deceptive politics. But not all deception is malicious, and some is downright humorous in political races. You have to have a thick skin about you.

For example, Barack made a verbal gaffe when he used the Palin/female keyword "lipstick." We argued that she doesn't own the word, nor do women, but that's for us to agree on, not reality. In reality, lipstick is worn by women, but that's ok and not the issue. The problem Obama has is that he used a word associated (key word, again) with another major opposition candidate, who unfortunately was also a woman. I agree he is not in the wrong, just in error. He should've had the foresight to realize the "pit-bull with lipstick" quote was pretty popular and not going away and would be associated with his follow-up comment. "Lipstick" is an uncommon word in politics, though it won't be again. He made a gaffe. The McCain reaction was a deceptive ad, a quick thing that was meant to more irk you guys than win major votes. And it worked. Point McPalin. Joebama needs to step up now and ignore the remark, as it is a non-issue.

Because this campaign is about the issues, right?


It was a key word associated with Palin, and will be until after election day. Obama should've known better. He's paying the price for trying to be cute. The phrase isn't invalid, and the sentiment can certainly be expressed about McCain and his tax policies or campaign or whatever. But not in that way.

***

Remember to tell a friend. We're trying to get exponential growth here, people.

C'mon - it's cheaper than gas!


-Hooper

2 comments:

Wonder Woman said...

I love when people who have no idea about polls and statistics give opinions based on polls and statistics.

Let's take the Gallup poll, for example. Participants sign up for it, they also only poll about 1500 people in the country and then project those percentages onto the entire voting population.

Statistics in general, is not an exact science. There's always a chance you'll be wrong. I can "prove" just about anything using statistics, but it wouldn't stand up to reasonable doubt.

The Den of Mystery said...

Well 73% of all people could've told you that.

-Hooper