Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

Analyzing the 2010 Midterm Elections – the Pennsylvania Senate Election

This is a part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections. This post will analyze the Pennsylvania Senate election, in which Republican Pat Toomey won a narrow victory over Democrat Joe Sestak in a Democratic-leaning state.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Pennsylvania’s Political Structure

This map, modified from the New York Times website, provides a very useful visualization of the election. Democratic strength in Pennsylvania is very concentrated. The black vote helps Democrats win Philadelphia (by an enormous margin) and Pittsburgh (by a lesser one). Working-class whites in places like Erie, Scranton (which is the blue dot at the top-right corner of the map), and southwest Pennsylvania also generally vote Democratic. Or they used to, at any rate. Finally, wealthy whites in the suburbs of Philadelphia and the LeHigh Valley are also voting increasingly Democratic.

Republicans, on the other hand, generally win everywhere else. They are dominant in rural, conservative central Pennsylvania and the exurbs of the Philadelphia metropolis.

A strong Democrat will win all the areas of the Democratic base and then expand to win areas of the Republican coalition. Here is President Barack Obama, for instance:

Mr. Obama doesn’t just win the Democratic base, he does quite strongly in the exurbs of Philadelphia. Notice how much better he does in the Republican stronghold of Lancaster County (the biggest red circle in the first map) than Mr. Sestak does.

A strong Republican candidate, on the other hand, will win all the areas of the Republican base and then expand to win areas of the Democratic coalition. Republican Governor Tom Corbett, for instance, actually won Allegheny County, which Pittsburgh is located in.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey didn’t do so well. He won the Republican parts of Pennsylvania, but lost the Democratic parts of Pennsylvania. In normal elections, when this happens the result looks something like this:

This is the 2004 presidential election, in which Senator John Kerry barely won Pennsylvania. He did this without making any gains into Republican Pennsylvania. The Democratic parts of Pennsylvania just barely outnumber the Republican parts of Pennsylvania, which is why Pennsylvania is a Democratic-leaning state.

In 2010, however, Mr. Toomey – riding on a strong Republican wave – was able to overwhelm the Democratic parts of Pennsylvania. Mr. Toomey was able to squeeze enough blood out of the Republican exurbs and rural counties to win.

This is a fascinating result because it doesn’t happen that often. More often the result looks like 2004. The 2010 Pennsylvania Senate election thus constitutes a model of a Republican overwhelming Philadelphia and Pittsburgh without making many gains into Democratic territory.

Comparisons

Let’s compare Mr. Toomey’s performance with Mr. Obama’s performance:

As this image shows, there was a very uniform shift rightwards from 2008 to 2010; almost every county moved Republican by double-digits.

There are some interesting subtleties here. The Republican exurbs of Philadelphia, where Mr. Obama did so well, snapped back very strongly rightwards. On the other hand, Mr. Sestak actually did better in parts of southwest Pennsylvania – a Republican-trending region which was particularly uninspired by Mr. Obama.

There is an economic dimension to this. Republican Pat Toomey ran a campaign based on themes, such as free trade, which appealed more to well-off voters. Democrat Joe Sestak, on the other hand, ran a campaign based on more populist themes. We thus see Mr. Toomey doing particularly well in the rich parts of Pennsylvania, such as the LeHigh Valley or Lancaster County. Conversely, he actually did a bit worse than Senator John McCain in the poorest parts of the state: the Appalachian southwest and the city of Philadelphia.

Conclusions

Throughout the entire campaign, Democratic candidate Joe Sestak polled considerably behind Republican Pat Toomey. It was only at the end that he started catching up, as Pennsylvania’s Democratic nature asserted itself. However, Mr. Sestak couldn’t quite make it all the way; the Republican wave in 2010 was just too strong.

All in all, these results were very “normal.” This is in the sense that both candidates built very normal coalitions; neither did well in places Republicans or Democrats don’t usually do well in. The state itself shifted fairly uniformly from 2008. No one place behaved like an outlier (unlike the case with other states).

The 2010 Senate election thus constitutes a perfect example of just what a narrow Republican victory in Pennsylvania looks like.

--Inoljt

 

Why Don’t Hmong-Americans Vote Republican?

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Perhaps no group in America has suffered more from Communism than the Hmong community.

The CIA first recruited the Hmong, impoverished tribes living in the hills of Southeast Asia, to help fight the Communists in Vietnam and Laos. When the Communists won in Vietnam and then Laos, the Hmong were persecuted and sent to camps for their anti-communist role. Eventually many found their way as refugees to the United States. They faced opposition from the Clinton administration, but strong support from Republicans enabled most to come to America as immigrants.

How do the Hmong vote?

It’s not always easy to pick out the voting patterns of smaller communities, like the Hmong. One has to take account of many confounding factors, ranging from participation rates to the voting patterns of other communities.

Nevertheless, it seems pretty clear that the Hmong vote Democratic.

There are several lines of evidence behind this statement. Firstly, Hmong elected officials – individuals such as former Minnesota State Representative Cy Thao and former Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua – belong to the Democratic Party. Secondly, Democratic candidates tend to attend official Hmong events. For instance, only Democratic candidate Al Franken attended this Hmong townhall meeting; Republican candidate Norm Coleman was invited but declined the invitation.

Finally, polls indicate that the Hmong vote Democratic. This poll found that 57% of Hmong identify as Democrats, while a mere 4% identify as Republicans. Done before the 2008 presidential election, it also showed Democrat Barack Obama gaining 65% of the Hmong vote, to Republican John McCain’s 4% support.

Those are some pretty stunning numbers. Even if the poll is badly flawed, or has a very leftward bias, it seems safe to say that the Hmong are a strong Democratic constituency.

There is a good reason for this; the Hmong community is quite poor. Indeed, 30.2% of Hmong-Americans receive public assistance income, more than triple the rate amongst Americans overall. Democratic economic policies tend to favor the poor more, and this is a strong draw for the Hmong.

But it’s still quite shocking that the draw of the Democratic Party’s economic policies is so strong as to produce a 57-4 registration advantage among the Hmong. One would think that the Republican Party would do better. After all, Republican lobbying is the reason why many Hmong are today in America, instead of refugee camps in Thailand.

Moreover, the Democratic Party is closer ideologically to the Communist Party which the Hmong fought for decades. This is why Cubans and Vietnamese-Americans, also refugees from Commmunist persecution, vote Republican. And the Hmong have certainly suffered from Communism; Democratic Hmong politicians Cy Thao and Mee Moua both had families who came from Thailand refugee camps.

The ultimate irony is that the very economic policies which put the Democratic Party closer on the ideological spectrum to the Communist Party are the reason why the Hmong vote Democratic.

 

 

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