Obama's Base Strategy

Yesterday I wrote that I suspected that Barack Obama was losing left-leaning independents by sounding more and more like a Republican, but as I look at the latest Quinnipiac poll, which shows Obama with a 9 point lead, I wonder if I'm missing the point of Obama's strategy here. We're all tempted to look at political maneuvering on a left-right continuum, hence the knee-jerk "move to the center" meme, and now that Obama's reiterating his commitment to ending the war, we're tempted to say, phew, OK, he's not abandoning us. But maybe, just maybe it's not about us (and by "us" I mean "the left.")

Barack Obama built a coalition in the primary based on demographics rather than ideology. Sure he had a virtual monopoly on the progressive activist left but it wasn't because he was running as a liberal, rather he'd coalesced the demographic groups that largely make up the progressive movement: young, educated, upwardly mobile, urban...

So now I look at Quinnipiac's analysis of the results of its poll and it hits me, Obama's strategy isn't about playing to a liberal base versus a conservative base or some mushy middle in between, rather he's more concerned with consolidating the demographic bases he knows he can win this election with, namely women, African-Americans and younger voters. It's notable that Obama is beating John McCain by 9 points nationally without majorities of independents, men or white voters.

With commanding leads among women and young voters and near unanimous support from black voters, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama has a 50 - 41 percent lead over Arizona Sen. John McCain, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll of likely voters released today.

Independent voters split 44 - 44 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Sen. McCain has a slight 47 - 44 percent edge among men voters and a larger 49 - 42 percent lead among white voters.

But black voters back Sen. Obama 94 - 1 percent, while women support him 55 - 36 percent. Obama leads 63 - 31 percent among voters 18 to 34 years old and 48 - 44 percent among voters 35 to 54, while voters over 55 split with 45 percent for McCain and 44 percent for Obama.

Interestingly, Quinnipiac continues to look at its own results through the typical CW prism:

"As is usually the case, the outcome probably will be decided in the middle, among the independent voters, who are evenly split at this point."

This is the same sort of conventional wisdom that causes candidates to feel like they have to run to this so-called "middle" but what the results actually show to me is that independents this year could actually be irrelevant since Obama can win the election in a rout without winning a majority of them.

I'm largely thinking out loud here so I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Is Barack Obama running a post-ideological general election campaign while the rest of us still see it through a left/middle/right lens? When we complain about his "running to the center" are we missing the point entirely or am I simply seeing things through rose-colored glasses (although I've never had a great deal of patience for Obama apologists)?

Tags: 2008 Presidential election, Barack Obama (all tags)

Comments

74 Comments

Yes, Yes, Yes

The left-center-right obsession and "Obama is moving to the middle" hype has been totally driven by the 24 hour cable news cycle, with a little extra help from the McCain campaign's press shop. I have been totally baffled by all the bloggers who fell for the COMPLETE FABRICATION that Obama was somehow shifting on Iraq. There was never any evidence to suggest that aside from the one single word "refine" that he uttered in a press conference. Talk about parsing...

by Hatch 2008-07-15 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, Yes, Yes

Could you please link to all the bloggers who fell for the claim that he was shifting on Iraq?

Thanks.

by david mizner 2008-07-15 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

"Barack Obama built a coalition in the primary based on demographics rather than ideology."

Barack hearts poblano, methinks...

by some other george 2008-07-15 10:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

It's not demographics OR ideology because demographic groups tend to have ideological profiles which grow out of their experiences as groups.

For example, women are poorer than men and live longer. Therefore, it is both in their interest and their ideological view to need and want collective solutions to problems.  

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Considering his ridiculous assertions on FISA I suppose it's understandable though I for one, never said or believed he'd changed his position on Iraq.

So what you're saying is, a pure identity politics election?

by MNPundit 2008-07-15 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

The thing about Independents is that they are not a static category.

Because Republicans are so incredibly unpopular, some people who would have said they leaned Republican now say that they are Independents. And some Independents now say they lean Democratic.

All the movement across these categories is toward the left, so you see more Democrats and, simultaneously, Independents becoming a more conservative group.  And that's a big reason why McCain is doing well among Independents. These are not the Independents of five years ago - as I said, many used to be willing to call themselves Republicans.

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 10:41AM | 0 recs
Right

Lots of independents today are former Republicans, so the group skews to the right somewhat. For Obama to be splitting them evenly with McCain means he's doing extremely well.

by Angry White Democrat 2008-07-15 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Right

Very valid point. I think it will get lost in the sauce however. :-(

by xodus1914 2008-07-15 11:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

[Quinnipiac didnt do any Hispanic/Latino polling :( ]

by alyssa chaos 2008-07-15 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I don't understand this post. You're saying that his recent rightward moves weren't to designed to appeal to the middle but to young voters, blacks, and women? In fact, his shift on gun control is unpopular with blacks, his shift on abortion is unpopular with women, and his shift on FISA is unpopular with young netroots activists. So his recent moves make no sense even if consolidating these groups is his goal. Clearly, he's getting a lot of support from these group despite, not because of, his shuffle to the middle.

by david mizner 2008-07-15 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

He's saying any shifts don't matter because Obama is targeting people based on how they see themselves, not on what policies they support.  So Obama dangles a policy lure in front of an identity group to get their attention, and then focuses on impressing them with his person rather than his policies.  To build on that, I would say that he's run out of low hanging fruit at this point, hence the use of more and more bizarre positions.

by Endymion 2008-07-15 05:21PM | 0 recs
Actually...

I tend to buy Obama's own assessment of this subject- a great many people (progressives especially) weren't really listening to what he's said in the past.  A lot of the supposed 'moves to the center' are things that anyone who's been paying attention to the things he's said and done for years wouldn't be surprised by.  

I'm especially stunned by the reaction to the faith-based stuff around here.  Obama has spent a lot of time talking about this in the past.  Hell, it's where he started his career.

And some of the stuff (Iraq...) was just stupid MSM/McCain driven crap.

by Whash 2008-07-15 10:47AM | 0 recs
Not to mention his book

Obama's book clearly states his support for faith-based initiatives.  That's not to say I agree with his position -- same with the death penalty -- but he has been consistent.

by Brad G 2008-07-15 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Not to mention his book

Yeah - and just because the freak show media types are braindead and don't know that doesn't mean that the left blogosphere should follow suit.

Of course not all did, but more than they should.

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Obama's FISA vote and his explanation for it are a reversal of his clearly stated position in the primary on an issue of fundamental principle. He has shattered his credibility.

by baschenis 2008-07-15 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Let's see... You have newly registered account and your sole post is anti-Obama concern trolling. I'm guessing this is not a new thing for you?

by noop 2008-07-15 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

I voted for Obama in the Vermont primary. I donated a small amount to his campaign. I talked him up to friends and family, some of whom were pro Hillary. I volunteered (one day) during the primary. I have written pro-Obama posts on other blogs. I am horribly disappointed in Obama. What I said above is simply true and beyond dispute, and I note that you don't dispute it.  I will probably vote for him, but I no longer trust him and will not give money or volunteer again.

by baschenis 2008-07-15 05:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Please sell it somewhere else. I've seen nearly identical claims from the entire population of concern trolls. Obama didn't reverse any clearly stated position; he voted for a compromise bill that he considered imperfect but better than the alternative.

I happen to agree with Obama's position because 30 years is a bit long to go without any clear legal directive on the handling of collection on non U.S. persons from systems located in the U.S. The fact is that there was no explicit provision against it and the Bush administration was quite happy to buck precedent and apply the standard NSA targeting criteria. The new amendment addresses that by providing a framework for such targeting and oversight in its handling. It may not be perfect, but it sure seems better than where we were.

So, you can certainly disagree with Obama's exact position on this. You can argue about the telecom immunity even though the amendment requires IG investigations. Or you can complain about the exact details of the oversight provisions and targeting restrictions. But don't insult my intelligence by claiming that Obama's position was a betrayal. His argument against the Protect America Act and the previous FISA amendment were based on government accountability and fourth amendment protections. He voted for the new bill because he felt it addressed those issues enough to make it a worthwhile compromise. Unless you can cite specific reasons why it doesn't, you're just another concern troll.

by noop 2008-07-16 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Josh Marshall posted the timeline of Obama's reversal on FISA, including this Obama statement from 1/28/08: "I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens - and set an example to the world - that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient."

Obama used the word "compromise" as did you, regarding the bill he voted for. Glen Greenwald has demonstrated that the bill is no compromise. It gives Bush everything he wanted.  

by baschenis 2008-07-16 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

All that Glen Greenwald has done is demonstrate his point of view. His arguments against the amendment implicitly dismiss the role of the IG, misinterpret targeting criteria and title authority, and basically discount any part of the amendment not fitting his interpretation.

Look, if you really want to make an argument for your position, you're going to have to read the amendment and original bill yourself. When you do, you'll see that the targeting of U.S. persons is essentially unchanged from the original bill. The additional oversight and IG review also provides a framework to serve the intended purpose of the telecom civil suits. So, the compromise addresses everything in that quote you cited from Obama. Is the compromise perfect? No, it certainly isn't. But you've still failed to provide any legitimate explanation for why it constitutes betrayal.

by noop 2008-07-17 06:11AM | 0 recs
Personally

Like Gail Collins, I really never understood all the hissy fits liberal bloggers were throwing.  Barack Obama has made very clear he is a pragmatic progressive unwilling to engage in quixotic fights and who is willing to make compromises in order to get his core priorities -- ending the Iraq War, universal health care, and energy independence -- into practical realities.  By understanding the issues of the time, and reserving his political capital for those issues, Barack Obama projects a sense of direction -- one of the main qualities of a good leader and a good President.  Which is why less than two months ago, Barack Obama pulled off one of the greatest upsets in modern American politics.  Barack Obama knows what he is doing.

I never thought Obama changed his position on Iraq very much, if at all.  Time and again Barack Obama has said that we "must be as careful getting out as careless as we were getting in."

As Josh Marshall says, at the end of the day, one candidate believes U.S. presence in Iraq is the solution to U.S. Middle East policy; one candidate believes U.S. presence in Iraq is the problem.  That's why John McCain's "100 years" statement wasn't a gaffe but a clear statement of his policy, and John McCain will base his withdrawal plans, if any, based on this belief.  Barack Obama believes U.S. presence in Iraq is the problem, and will base his withdrawal plans on this core belief.

by Brad G 2008-07-15 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Personally

Great Collins article, thanks for the pointer.

from it

". But if you look at the political fights he's picked throughout his political career, the main theme is not any ideology. It's that he hates stupidity. "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war," he said in 2002 in his big speech against the invasion of Iraq. He did not, you will notice, say he was against unilateral military action or pre-emptive attacks or nation-building. He was antidumb.

Most of the things Obama's taken heat for saying this summer fall into these two familiar patterns -- attempts to find a rational common ground on controversial issues and dumb-avoidance.

On the common-ground front, he's called for giving more federal money to religious groups that run social programs, but only if the services they offer are secular. People can have guns for hunting and protection, but we should crack down on unscrupulous gun sellers. Putting some restrictions on the government's ability to wiretap is better than nothing, even though he would rather have gone further.

Dumb-avoidance would include his opposing the gas-tax holiday, backtracking on the anti-Nafta pandering he did during the primary and acknowledging that if one is planning to go all the way to Iraq to talk to the generals, one should actually pay attention to what the generals say.

Touching both bases are Obama's positions that 1) if people are going to ask him every day why he's not wearing a flag pin, it's easier to just wear the pin, for heaven's sake, and 2) there's nothing to be gained by getting into a fight over whether the death penalty can be imposed on child rapists."

by wrb 2008-07-15 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Personally

Even though I know (and understand why) people hate to have their ideas called 'stupid,' I love the line about how he 'hates stupidity.'

I don't see Obama as being somehow post-ideological. But that's because I'm the type that believes that nearly every action is somehow tied to ideology so that true 'post-ideology' would be impossible.

But I think Obama does have a rare gift in his ability to see past our contemporary, petrified notions of what ideology means and where it puts any one of us on a given spectrum (be it left/right or otherwise).

Take for instance nuclear weapons. Getting rid of nuclear weapons (especially stray, post-Soviet ones, but all, really) should be an issue for conservatives for lots of reasons. But most American conservatives think it shouldn't be because it's not part of the specifically US conservative agenda (makes us look whimpy!). Obama, however, has been able to bridge the left/right divide on this issue not because he necessarily changed his views, or moved rightward, or triangulated, but because he has had the vision to see how his ideas about reigning in nukes could be made palatable to the right without his having to change those views.

This is something that's excited me about him since at least back in December. There have always been a few issues on which I wished he was more liberal (health care, mainly), but the way he thinks about issues has been the most inspiring to me (more than hopechangehope by far, but I love that, too).

When I hear him talking about an issue on which I agree with him, but know that he's doing so in a way that (some) conservatives can also agree with, I don't feel betrayed. I feel inspired that in a few short months we might actually have a president who thinks deeply about issues and discusses them like an adult.

by vadasz 2008-07-15 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Personally

Defending the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law should not be described as a quixotic fight, nor is destroying these core principles at the foundation of democracy something that a pragmatic progressive would do or think it necessary to do in order to achieve worthy goals.

by baschenis 2008-07-15 06:20PM | 0 recs
I think you miss

what is important in this poll:

Bush's approval rating in this poll is 26 positive, 67 negative.  McCain wins among those who approve of Bush by 81-14.  Obama wins among those who disapprove of Bush 68-23.

At 26%, this poll is at the low range of recent polling on Bush's approval (which may acount for the 9% lead), but what the split above suggests is that this election will turn on whether McCain can distance himself enough from Bush.  

If you read Obama's statement on Iraq today, you see his attempt to tie McCain to Bush in every line.  

by fladem 2008-07-15 10:51AM | 0 recs
So, why has his site been scrubbed?
Then:
"When I promise that we are going to bring this war in Iraq to a close in 2009, I want the American people to understand that I opposed this war in 2002, 2003, `04, `05, `06 and `07, so you can have confidence that I will be serious about ending this war."
(Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks At The North Carolina Democrat Party 2008 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, Raleigh, NC, 5/2/08 ) Now:
I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
by usedmeat 2008-07-15 10:53AM | 0 recs
Re: So, why has his site been scrubbed?

Please point to the difference. It is not apparent to me. Was Obama previously saying that he would end the war irresponsibly?

by anoregonreader 2008-07-15 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: So, why has his site been scrubbed?

The quote you bolded, I assume because you think it's damning, says "ending the war".

by Jess81 2008-07-15 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: So, why has his site been scrubbed?

What is the difference between being serious and being responsible?  This could be important, speak up.

by Endymion 2008-07-15 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: So, why has his site been scrubbed?
Unlike a Boy Scout jamboree the military deployment in Iraq can't be packed up in a weekend. You have to neutralize opposing forces so you can fall back to your support base. While there you have to fend off aggressors  while you dismantle that base so there is nothing that can be used against you. Then you have to neutralize the enemy again while you fall back to your main base. You keep repeating this process until your forces are extracted from in country.
Also just as it takes two to fight it takes two to end the fight.
by usedmeat 2008-07-16 04:37AM | 0 recs
I think Obama's goal ...

... at this point is to maximize the probability of winning 270 Electoral College votes.  That's the only thing that decides who becomes President (almost always), and that's his first goal.  He doesn't want to be tied up to any particular state -- the way Al Gore was tied up in FL and John Kerry was tied up in OH.

If on Labor Day Barack Obama can get double digit leads in all the Kerry states (which he is doing everywhere but NH, PA, and MI) plus Iowa -- then he only has to win MO, IN, VA, NC, OH, or FL or both CO and NM in order to become the 44th President.  This doesn't even include the dynamics with AK, MT, ND, and NV.

by Brad G 2008-07-15 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: I think Obama's goal ...

And, as far as I see, McCain isn't winning any Kerry states right now.

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: I agree there

It's just Obama wants a large enough lead after Labor Day in all the Kerry states so that he won't have to spend any money in those places in September and October, and can divert all his resources to the Bush states.

by Brad G 2008-07-15 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: I agree there

I don't think that's likely.  Obama clearly wants a Congress that appreciates what he can do for them, and cutting outreach in states at the 51% or even 60% mark is not going to endear him to the local powers-that-be.

by Endymion 2008-07-15 05:26PM | 0 recs
So, when HRC positioned herself

politically it was triangulation. When Obama does it it's a strategy to win EC votes?

by usedmeat 2008-07-16 04:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Right now, I am tending to ignore the polls for any number of reasons (one being my own sanity.)

I think, each poll can be subject to under and over sampling, to the news story of the week, etc.

What I AM paying attention to is how well is Obama winning the news cycle game, when WILL the pundits stop being distracted by non-issues like magazine covers that the campaign has NOTHING to do with, and look at how crummy the McCain campaign is being run compared to the Obama campaign. If they start locking into the meme, it will be a self-fufilling prophecy the McCain camp will never escape from.

The other thing that bouys my confidence is, Obama is going to replicate his winning primary strategy in the primary in the general: His ground game, his get out the vote, he is investing in a bottom-up strategy, and that is NOT at the mercy of pundits, polls, surrogates or day to day gaffes and goodies.

It's method, and execution.  Not only do I trust Obama, I trust AxelRod and the rest of the team.

Obama is allowed to keep on message, do what he needs to do, and they are quietly putting the machine in place UNDER the radar of the media, who loves to fixate on magazing covers and ignore the boring low level stuff.

My friend her at works daughter came home from school and related that her room is taking the rest of the school year off, she is part of a registration-GOTV campaign that Obama is putting in place in battle ground states.

Rachel Maddow has said rightly so, turn-out helps us everyplace, and the bigger the turn-out the more we do well, not only in the Whitehouse race, but down ticket.

Look, he's a black man with a foriegn sounding name, running against a war hero with great reputation as a maverick and an adoring press.

The fact he is leading at all is good news.

 

by WashStateBlue 2008-07-15 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

The ground game is phenomenal and that's where Obama is investing.

Last month McCain ran three times as many ads as Obama. Perhaps that kept things close, but it didn't give him a lead in the national polls or in key states. And ads have a half-life that's increasingly short, given our crowded media environment.

Meanwhile, Obama is hiring just incredible numbers of field organizers -- maybe 300 in Ohio, for instance -- and that money will yield increasingly connected and skilled staff.

Really nice round-up of some of this:http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/07/s hock-and-awe-paid-organizer-version.html
The 'force multiplier effect' should be awesome, particularly since the McCain campaign is so weak on the ground in comparison.

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Yeah, thanks to TiVO/DVR, television advertising will be less effective in this election cycle than it has been since TV became commonplace in American homes. Better to spend on the ground game and on other forms of advertising.

by Angry White Democrat 2008-07-15 11:28AM | 0 recs
Workers

In future cycles, putting "Obama" on your resume won't be a plus, it'll be a requirement.  Even those who have a few doubts about Obama should consider getting their feet wet.

by Endymion 2008-07-15 05:31PM | 0 recs
Buit if he's looking for black/young/women
- - a good point - - why is he saying things that do not appeal to them?
Frankly, he has the black vote sewn up no matter what. So why do anything to mess with women or youth voters?
by kosnomore 2008-07-15 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Buit if he's looking for black/young/women

He isn't. You miss the point of this post. If there was such a problem with the women and youth vote don't you think we would have seen his numbers drop right now?

I am not concerned about Obama at all and no it is not about overconfidence it is about the situation on the ground. There is a reason why Bill Clinton dislikes Barack Obama--he's about to win.

by sweet potato pie 2008-07-15 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I think what he is doing is pretty clear.  It's a RISK AVERSION strategy.  He has realized, as have many others, that he's not really running against McCain, he's running against himself.  If he proves to enough people he is a viable President, he's going to win and there's nothing McCain can do about it.

Look at the issues he has "supposedly" moved to the Center on - FISA, Guns, Death penatly, Campaign Finance, etc. - and look at the issues he hasn't moved on - Iraq, Taxes, Health Care, Oil Drilling.  None of the issues has has moved on are your real bread-and-butter issues that move voters EXCEPT that they appeal to folks who don't want a far-left liberal-type as President.

IMHO, as long as he doesn't come out looking like too much of a flip-flopper.panderer type, then he's going to do well with this strategy.  I also think he probably decided flipping on these issues but not flipping on Iraq, Oil Drilling, etc., allows him to show he is not a radical but he does have principles where he won't change his mind.

Overall, other than fund raising problems, I think he's doing well.  Personally, I think he should not have capitulated on FISA, but I see the overall plan here.

That's my opinion.

by sasatlanta 2008-07-15 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy


I guess it's possible to win an election in an anti-ideological (i.e. political center at ideological center) political atmosphere on things like identity politics.

But he's not actually exceeding the national 52% liberal/Left+leaners ceiling, or the 48-49% generic Democratic vote.  He just seems to be talking to these groups without talking concrete policy goals, which is where the ideological lines do matter.  As style it seems to rather like a culturally black politician treating all Americans as culturally black constituency.

The trouble with a demographic max-out strategy is the generic problem with demographic max-out strategies.  One, the candidate has to fuzz policy goals to some degree, which confuses and in practice diminishes mandate.  Secondly, there's a lot of activation of people who don't vote for the purposes of winning one election.

The explanation for why these people didn't normally vote tends to be that they're ignorant, that they don't find politics appealing, and/or no one asked them to.  One way of looking at this is that it's people who out of purity or choice or naively held themselves out of political involvement.  The less benign way of looking at it is that these people don't at bottom really agree with the consensus views and desires of the group but don't want to stand in the way.  Either way, the story of demographic max-out votes tends to be massive turnout for one side in one election- and then that unity breaking down postelection, with the newly activated voters not going away and a pretty substantial chunk going over to the opposition.

That's the story of the 'religious' vote for Bush in '04 (the Hispanic portion most flagrantly), and the conservative Democratic vote for Gore in '00.   It's hard not to see likewise happening for a maxing out of young and black voters this year.

My real concern is the mandate, though.  Looks like a post-Republican cleanup, with serious questions about how thorough of a cleanup, and not a whole lot of Democratic agenda.

by killjoy 2008-07-15 11:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I disagree. A lot of voters who would have called themselves independents in 04 now call themselves Democrats, which has made the "independent" pool in polls much more conservative. That's why the two are tied among independents while Obama is leading by 9% overall.

by LeftistAddiction 2008-07-15 11:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

by which I mean that obama and mccain have the same lead among dems and republicans respectively and they are tied among independents. obama's lead comes from the democratic vote entirely. he needs the base.

by LeftistAddiction 2008-07-15 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

If that's the case, this is going to be a landslide because I thought people said Obama was a radical flag burning closet muslim.

If he is tied with more conservative leaning independents and is leading by 9, McCain has no chance.

by sweet potato pie 2008-07-15 11:39AM | 0 recs
Absolutely correct

Thanks for you for you excellent analysis of the situation. I am so tired of all the moving to the center nonsense. It is not about left right and center, and I am delighted that you have made that point so well.

by herodotus 2008-07-15 11:26AM | 0 recs
Yes, I think you're catching on

I think you're right on target, unless you're limiting your argument to young voters, African Americans, etc.  It kills me that Quinnipiac doesn't have any information about voter income, because I have a suspicion that Obama is getting a lot of support from an unlikely source (that is, if we're talking about the Dem side of the aisle): voters who make between $50-75k a year.

The Dems always lose this group.  Clinton lost them twice.  This is the GOP's bread and butter.  And it's just a hunch, but I suspect this is where a lot of the movement from the indie to the Dem column, and from the GOP to the indie column, has occurred (among voters who have college educations, make decent years, and, in previous years voted for the GOP because of the anti-tax line).  Bush in 2004, btw, won this vote by 56/43.

Clinton, similarly, lost voters w/ college educations when he ran against Bush I and Dole (narrowly, but read on).  Bush II won this demo by 52/46.

Let's just go with a hypothesis.  What if the Starbucks voters, it turns out, like Obama?  He's a young guy with a family, ambitious, educated, well-spoken, and has a cosmopolitan background?  When he speaks, often, one of his governing assumptions seems to be that he's addressing people who have this background.  This also gets him into problems, of course.

If something like this is taking place, though, this would create some interesting dynamics.  During the past several elections the Dems and GOP have been warring over the $25-50k vote (many Dems, I think, assume that the GOP has a natural advantage among this more affluent group which makes them difficult to pick off, even though they're approximately the same size).

The Dems run on issues related to economic insecurity.  The GOP runs on social issues which they know will appeal to this less affluent and educated voter.

And if Obama is turning this on its head, well, we're in for an interesting election (or, rather, a more interesting one than what we've already got, because the age split in this race is incredible, as was true during the Dem primaries those under 45 are lining up on one side and those over are going the other way, speaking in generalizations, of course).

Lastly.  If this sort of thing is happening, it's going entirely unnoticed by many pollsters (they're not asking the right questions).  It's totally clear this race is not like the one which occurred in 2000 (where there was no age split within the electorate).  And while perhaps I'm hoping for too much, the question I'm asking is whether Obama could be the first Dem nominee since LBJ to do things like this: win white voters between the ages of 18-39; win voters who have college degrees; win that segment of the electorate which is in the second quartile with respect to income.

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-07-15 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, I think you're catching on

Best analysis ever and I completely agree which is why McCain doesn't have a chance no matter how close  pundits want to make this case so that they get a big bonus at the end of the year.

by sweet potato pie 2008-07-15 11:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, I think you're catching on

It's a bit simpler than that I think.

The 50-75k group of however you want to slice it, used to believe they were rich enough to afford to vote Republican (on taxes, social issues) and that's become manifestly not the case recently.

When Democratic policies succeed they make voters think they are rich enough to vote Republican.

by MNPundit 2008-07-15 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, I think you're catching on

Rather, FEEL SECURE ENOUGH to vote Republican.

by MNPundit 2008-07-15 12:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, I think you're catching on

I'm not accusing you of anything, or at least I'm not trying to, but do you think Obama is benefiting from middle-class white guilt? or guilt from any arrangement of those components?

by Endymion 2008-07-15 05:36PM | 0 recs
BINGO

But maybe, just maybe it's not about us

I could never understand who, besides Pat Buchanan, thought Obama was the second coming of George McGovern. Perhaps his clear stand on Iraq gave everyone the impression that he was as progressive on everything else.

I was reading a state blog and in response to a diary about his state organization someone wrote "I'm worried that Obama will bring out Republicans who will vote for him but not vote for Democrats downballot". Some people seem to think that outside places like Massachusetts, there are enough Democrats to win without anyone else. And I don't think Obama is running to lose so the rest of the ticket benefits. No, it's not about "us". It's about Democrats, Independents AND REPUBLICANS who are fed up with the direction of this country.

Barack Obama is no longer just a presidemtial candidate. He's bigger now. He's become an American Rorschach Test on which everyone has pinned their hopes, fears and expectations. Give him some room to operate. He's a man stuck with trying to fill the role potential icon.

by RandyMI 2008-07-15 11:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Two things:

1. There are issues that I'm sure will get attention but later in the election cycle. One is Social Security which I'm convinced Obama will hit McCain on in September and October whereby he will then move the numbers in the +60 population, thus affecting a lot of numbers, particularly in the states that skew old. And I think that timing this for the fall makes sense. Pre-Labor Day is the big overseas trip, vp picks, conventions, and the Olympics.

2. This is one of the best discussions on mydd for awhile, although I think they are trending toward greater sophistication.  Frankly, the level of discourse was so disappointing for awhile (along with the numbers of irrational anti-Obama posters) that I was discouraged about reading or commenting on mydd.  Good to see a much better mode.

by politicsmatters 2008-07-15 11:56AM | 0 recs
Speak for yourself :-)

Is Barack Obama running a post-ideological general election campaign while the rest of us still see it through a left/middle/right lens?

Those of us who know Obama, know that he has been, as he himself says, "remarkably consistent" in his positions.  At each point, he always opts for the best available course, without being too concerned about which side of the artificial divides it falls on.  

Similarly, he is not "going for" any ideological bases either -- as he also says, he is concentrating on giving people a reason for why he should win, instead of the traditional focus on how to win.

by DraftChickenHawks 2008-07-15 12:03PM | 0 recs
Ideology versus common sense

What I see when I look at Obama is a candidate not afraid of an ideological litmus test.  And at the end of the day, that puts him in better alignment with the majority of voters than anyone clinging to the poles to define them.

I don't look at his recent statement on abortion, for one example, as more "centrist" but simply more reflective of the majority's tempered view on abortion -- choice until viability then "mental distress" is not a good enough reason.  Walk down any street in America outside of the Bible Belt and I'm betting you would hear exactly the same point of view.

Simple speculation here, but I would even assume this is the predominating view on abortion for the majority of WOMEN who not only seek abortions but bear premature infants and love the products of their challenging pregnancies.  Perhaps unfettered abortion rights are not a "women's issue" but a leftist issue.

All along Obama promised to think outside of the ideological and affiliation boxes, oddly enough, much like McCain in the "Straight Talk" days.  Unfortunately for McCain, he's veering right (something rarely discussed) and finding himself on the wrong side, from a public opinion standpoint, on just about everything.

Sometimes I think progressives weren't really well prepared for just how progressive Obama is -- as in daring to redefine what progressive really means.

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-15 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Todd, always appreciate your ability to write something critical of Obama like yesterday and then come back with something like this. Shows you are a thinking person and not afraid to be wrong sometimes. Thanks for that. I also enjoy this discussion and hope it means a long summer and fall of intelligent and satisfying political discourse.

in re the specifics of the discussion, I would like to think that Obama is as clever as you make him out to be with your analysis. I do also wonder whether some of these positions will help or hurt with his demographic base. But I sure would love to see him win without having to "win" the independent vote.

by wasder 2008-07-15 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Obama got tagged as a liberal by a conservative right wing magazine that listed his as one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.  MSM never analyzed that claim (it included his vote for election finance reform as a liberal position) but simply repeated the label.

I was puzzled about it during the primaries because I had read his book and the policy papers on his website and knew that it was not an accurate depiction of his position.

In reading Audacity of Hope, I found a lot of positions I admired, some that I was not comfortable with and a couple I totally disagreed with.  But regardless of what conclusion he reached, I did like the care he took to explain to the reader how and why he arrived at it.  Can't ask for a lot more from a politician.

by Susan from 29 2008-07-15 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I sure have yet to hear Obama say something along the lines of
"I don't know what I think about this because I don't remember how I voted.  I'm going to check on how I voted to remember what I think about this, and then get back with you because I don't know enough right now to have an opinion."

Whenever McCain makes one of those statements (once a week?) the waves of confidence in his reasoning just wash over me.  

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-15 12:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I caught a hilarious quote from the McCain camp regarding Obama's boots-on-the-ground strategy:

When you feel like you have to put that many people in the state to cover it, means you think you're in trouble and you have to have a surge.

They just can't keep their feet out of their mouths.

by Jess81 2008-07-15 12:47PM | 0 recs
sshhh!

just let him keep thinking that way.

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-15 12:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

I think that some of his GOP strategists fed him that nonsense. And why not? They've got a damn good racket going with the media industry and they took a long time to develop it. If it turns out that they can't rely on it, they're screwed.

by vcalzone 2008-07-15 01:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

They also depend alot on Diebold etal.

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-15 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Scary, isn't it?

If they can't win on the policies, they will try to win on the perceptions.

If they can't win on the perceptions, they will simply program the votes.

by Susan from 29 2008-07-15 01:37PM | 0 recs
Exactly why it's all about the ground game

A stronger ground game means more volunteers, not just more persuaded voters.  It means more poll watchers, more eyes and ears in the neigbohoods looking for voter fraud, more absentee ballots.

I'll put my money on turn-out over advertising any day.  

by grassrootsorganizer 2008-07-15 01:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Todd,

I'm glad you're starting to see this.  Obama has two entrenched personal traits that drive a lot of this:  pragmatism and empathy.  He doesn't think much in terms of ideology and where he lines up on this simplistic spectrum we like to pull out so much.  He just wants to improve the lives of Americans.

So you're onto something big, but you'll have to do some reading to get the full picture of where Obama is coming from.

By any chance are you bringing this up because you read Al Giordano this morning?

Yet if we look at the Obama message from a year ago through to the present, most of the matters that many have framed as a move or a change in stances merely involve the reiterations of things the nominee has been saying all along - about faith-based initiatives, about the responsibilities of fatherhood, about getting out of Iraq "as carefully as we were careless going in," and especially about process: the openly stated shift from a politics of permanent partisan confrontation to one of reaching out to adversaries and, gasp, even forging compromises. All these things were basic to the Obama message before the Democratic primaries and caucuses began - and had so much to do with why he won the Iowa caucuses and most of the contests that followed - and all of those things have remained unchanged.
http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefiel d/if

Read Audacity and read some of Obama's speeches and articles to get his direct words.  It's all there.  (Yup, turns out the folks recommending a read of Audacity of Hope weren't just pumping BS but were trying to direct others to Obama's own direct take on ideology, faith, politics and all we talk about at mydd.)

by Satya 2008-07-15 12:57PM | 0 recs
Anybody who has paid attention

e.g. read Obama's books, or listened during the primary, should not be surprised that he's taking positions that are not in idealogical alignment with the left.

Obama is a progressive centrist.  No liberal lion this.

As with my support of Howard Dean in 2004, I support Obama as much for our differences, as for the issues upon which we seem to agree.

He will not be a president just for the left.  He will be a president for ALL Americans.

by lojasmo 2008-07-15 01:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

"He will not be a president just for the left.  He will be a president for ALL Americans."

The point is, at the end of 8 years of Obama leadership, he will have started to pull this country back to the left.

It would hardly matter HOW far to the left he really was himself, because it took Nixon, Reagan, Ginrich and the rest decades to pull the US to the right as far as it is now.

It would be quite an accomplishment to pull us back to somewhere near the middle IMO, or where the middle USED to be.

We have been dragged SO FAR to the right, that Democrats of today look to the right of Rockefeller Republicans when I started really paying attention to this intercine war called politics.

We can't even mention the facts about how hugely bloated the military complex is, when the warning shot was given by Dwight D., probably the last moderate Republican ever.

We can't mention how ridiculously unfair the death penality is, how rich white men hardly ever get executed, but if you're poor and black, well, good luck getting justice.

Tax fairness? If we even mention it, they say "class warfare" and we duck our heads.

We are so frightened of the term liberal, we shun the word, and use progressive.

For goodness sake, Anthony Kennedy is a considered a moderate on the USSC!

That would make Thurgood Marshall somewhere between Mao and Lenin.

Yes, I hated the FISA vote, and Faith-based Initiatives make me twitch like I'm in a patch of prickly stickers.

But, let the man get elected, PLEASE, THEN if he doesn't do what we want as liberals, call him on it.

Let him clean house at Justice, the FDA, the EPA, it make take YEARS to clean out the imbeddded rot that Cheney and Rove injected in there.

Your choice instead is McCain, more Federalist Society judges, and guys like Phil Gramm setting economic policy.

Moving the middle would be such a jerk to the left, most of the country will have whiplash at the end of Obama term one.

by WashStateBlue 2008-07-15 02:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Your post reminded me of Papa Bush's comments about the L word.  Ever since then I have proudly described myself as a lifetime, left wing, liberal.  Of course, like most, my political views can't be summarized in a single word.  And I have noticed the substitution of progressive for liberal.

If we have stopped describing ourselves as liberals, have we let the real terrorists win?

I've also wondered why Obama or anyone else would want to take on the job of trying to clean up the devastation that Bush & Co has wreaked on our institutions.  But I sure am glad he does.

by Susan from 29 2008-07-15 03:02PM | 0 recs
The Rain in Spain

By George! he's got it! By George! he's got it.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-07-15 02:59PM | 0 recs
Obama needs to show he is a man of principle.

There are major, though not fatal, problems with Obama recent stands (voting for FISA and not filibustering as promised, advocating the death penalty for child rapists, promoting Bush's faith-based department, etc.).

The main problem is that Obama does not look like a man of principle, rather a triangulator (which was the basic problem the net roots had with the Clintons). If he is perceived widely as one without principles, he could lose this election.  Remember, most Americans did not agree with Reagan's policies in 1984, but voted for him overwhelmingly, to a great extent because they admired how he fought for his beliefs.

Another problem is that it is insulting to the net roots supporters to say you were not listening when he was running in the primary.  At least he should have explained why these stances were necessary and exceptions.  A great deal of his online donations comes from the net roots and if he continues triangulating and being dismissive, his sources of funding could be materially diminished.

From a common sense view point, why should he flip flop on issues which do not affect single issue voters (e.g. gun control)?  Would he have lost many solely because he voted against FISA?  I don't think so.

Obama must realize that his support isn't unconditional, so he cannot take them for granted.  Also he cannot appear to be a flip flopper which could negatively affect moderate voters of all registrations.

by edonyoung 2008-07-15 08:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Base Strategy

Great read!

by spacemanspiff 2008-07-15 11:13PM | 0 recs
How is an Independent defined?
Lots of independents today are former Republicans, so the group skews to the right somewhat.

I go the other way. Just turning 64 and tired of wasting my time pretending Dems are progressive enough for me to support them anymore as a party to donate, volunteer as a precinct captain (18 2-year cycles). I've worked to change the party from inside long enough. This animal doesn't want to change, so I'll change.

It doesn't mean anything except to me personally but I just left the Democratic Party and registered as an Independent ("decline to state") because Dems are too corporatized and run scared on "soft on terror" meme etc. Obama and Dems folded on FISA and even misrepresented what was in the bill. It's unfortunate the FISA vote was in election year but Dems could have postponed the bill and didn't. Even if FISA was bound to lose, Dems didn't collect into a strong caucus and FIGHT for the Constitution to show American voters what matters (Constitution and rule of law are not "left/right/center" issues in my book). If not now, when? (Hillel).

I want a non-corrupted Dem Party (when I look at Steny Hoyer or Jay Rockefeller who whored themselves on FISA, I want to throw up). I don't want to join Green Party (been there, done that, consensus action too slow). I doubt I'll vote for Nader (but might); he's a bit too nuts for me although he's right on a lot of things. Barr is no option and I would never vote for McCain.

As a self-defined term with no formal party definition, to me "Independent" is not "conservative" or "former Republican." I define myself as a "Progressive Independent" and consider Bernie Sanders (VT-I) my party leader (spiritually).

I'd like to multiply myself many-fold. Obama people say people like me have "nowhere else to go." But if there were enough of us, he and other Dems would have to come after us, as we keep ourselves warm down-ticket and in state/local election, like Greens, only Blue, to keep our political wits sharp. We're not just voters, we're organizers and activists. I might vote for Sen O or might not and will examine each down-ticket Dem one by one for non-corruption, non-dissembling and highest degrees of spine, experience and wisdom I can find. Biden's another fairly good example, as is Boxer. I know I'm whistling into the wind but I have nothing to lose. I have influence over my large family and a lot of friends and professional associates. Nearly every person young and old I tell about what I've done slaps their head and says, in so many words, "Why don't I do that!" So far, the wind is whistling with me.

by bluejane 2008-07-16 01:33AM | 0 recs
Re: How is an Independent defined?
Juat as I finished my comment aboive, I read Naomi Klein's interview with Amy Goodman (from Tues, July 15) wherein Naomi gets to the heart of Todd's questions about Obama's base from the independent angle I'm coming from (Naomi says it better, of course):

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, on Iraq, Obama does not have a plan to end the occupation; he has a plan to downsize the occupation slowly. He's been clear that he wants to keep the Green Zone intact. You've covered this extensively on the show. And that means, as Jeremy Scahill has made clear, that means that they have to keep Blackwater in Iraq.

So, I think that the point of this is not just to bash Obama. The point I've been trying to make is that Obama needs more than super fans. He needs pressure from his base, because he has all the energy of the anti-war movement and the anti-war infrastructure. I mean, you've got groups like MoveOn that really built their infrastructure out of the huge anger and desire for change around Iraq, and now the infrastructure of the anti-war movement largely is going to support Obama, but there aren't clear demands being made of him to deserve that support. (emphasis mine)

Then Naomi mentions Nader, one of those insights Nader is right about (IMO):

NAOMI KLEIN: . . . This is part of the problem of this two-party system. And, you know, I saw Ralph Nader recently, and he said, "You know, progressives and liberals don't know how to play poker. There has to be somewhere to go." And, you know, I think that's part of it. But I don't think it's just about third parties. It's also about having independent movements that provide conditional support to candidates and not this sort of blank check, rock star, we'll support you no matter what.

That last part makes a lot of sense to me. To make independent pressure bigger and more effective on the left, so we impact the candidate's policies and are not lost in a "movement." This means constructive criticism which has not been tolerated well by the Blogger Boyz who adore Obama so.

Finally, Naomi says:

NAOMI KLEIN: . . . I think Obama needs to hear a much more conditional, much more critical, much more demanding kind of support from his base, because his base is far to the left of the types of policies that we're seeing and that we're talking about here, whether it's the mortgage crisis, whether it's NAFTA, or whether it's Iraq.

The whole interview is worth reading (link above). She holds Obama's feet to the fire in the most constructive analysis I've read recently.

by bluejane 2008-07-16 03:54AM | 0 recs

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