The Wrong Target

Watching John McCain's increasingly flailing and negative ad campaigns in recent weeks, it's been difficult for many -- myself included -- to figure out exactly what he and his advisors have been trying to get at. Looking across the ads, there has been no unifying message save for the fact that Barack Obama is bad (and even that doesn't always shine through -- calling him popular and running footage of people cheering for him doesn't necessarily make for the strongest attack), and there hasn't been much of anything positive said about McCain's own efforts or platform.

But the more I have thought about it, the more it seems to me that McCain's efforts do have a unifying quality to them, even if a misguided one: Influencing those inside the Beltway. These ads aren't directed at Missouri or Ohio or Pennsylvania, or voters in the other key states who will help decide the outcome of this election. Instead, they are directed at the political establishment, and the establishment media in DC, in particular.

Don't get me wrong, every successful campaign has a strategy for handling the media and spends a significant amount of time, effort and even money to try to cajole the media to relay the message the campaign wants to get out. But I don't think I have ever seen a campaign so exclusively focused on the media. It is as if the McCain campaign is being run not to win over the hearts and minds of the American public but rather to affect the views of the talking heads on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. As one high-level Republican Party operative said to Chris Cillizza about the latest McCain ad, which quizzically and quixotically tries to turn Obama into Paris Hilton, "It seems like they are talking to the press pack, not voters."

Part of this likely stems from the fact that McCain views, or at least viewed, the media as his base. But I think it goes beyond that. The McCain campaign is a creature of Washington, DC. It is chock full of lobbyists. McCain himself has been in Washington for more than 25 years. And even the fact that the campaign is physically located in DC has an effect. Markos has written at length on this issue, and I'd recommend you taking a look at what he has to say in full, but in short, running a DC-based campaign leads to a bubble mentality, less loyal staffers, and a reinforcement of the notion that a candidate is too DC at a time when Washington is less popular than it has been for years and even decades.

In short, the McCain campaign increasingly looks like a one by the Beltway, in the Beltway, of the Beltway, and for the Beltway -- and I can't see how that makes it more likely that he is going to be able to connect with the average voter.

Update [2008-7-31 7:33:56 by Jonathan Singer]: Color The Politico impressed. The strategy must really be working now...

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100 Days

Ben Smith reminds us just how close we are to election day: 100 days. Let's get to it. What will you be doing between now and November 4 to ensure that Barack Obama wins and is joined by a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and an even more robust majority in the House? What will you be doing to help out in the down-ballot contests in your area, be they for the state legislature or county commission, or key initiatives? How many doors will you knock on and how many calls will you make? This election brings a great opportunity for change -- but only with real grassroots action. So what will you do in the next 100 days?

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More Evidence of Obama's Great Strength Among Hispanics

There has been a bit of attention paid to the latest Research 2000 nationwide poll showing Barack Obama leading John McCain by a 51 percent to 39 percent margin, which isn't too far off from Gallup's newest numbers showing Obama up by an all-time high of 49 percent to 40 percent across the country.

But a set of numbers from the R2K poll stood out to me even more than the topline results: The spread among Hispanic voters. According to the latest survey, which was in the field Friday through Sunday and consisted of interviews with 1,100 likely voters nationwide, Obama's lead among this community is 65 percent to 24 percent.

If these numbers seem quite high, though nevertheless believable, that's about right; polling this summer has consistently shown Obama holding a major lead among Hispanic voters, one that will make it extremely difficult for McCain to pull out a victory this fall. It is true that the margin of error on this subsample is likely high -- perhaps as much as plus or minus 9 or 10 percentage points. However, these numbers are in line with other recent surveys. A Pew Poll out last week showed Obama's lead among Hispanics to be 66 percent to 22 percent, or almost exactly the same as the spread found in the R2K poll. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from June showed Obama's lead to be a similarly large 62 percent to 28 percent margin, and Gallup polling over the course of the month of May showed Obama in the lead 62 percent to 29 percent. In short, these numbers appear to be in the right ballpark.

What does this all mean? With McCain in the low- to mid-20s among Hispanic voters -- more than a dozen points weaker than George W. Bush ran in 2004, and even half a dozen points behind where the House GOP ran in 2006 -- all of the sudden McCain is in the position where he needs to pull in over 60 percent of the White vote in Southwestern states in which Republicans do win the White vote, but not generally so overwhelmingly. Even McCain's home state of Arizona becomes a challenge with numbers like these. It evokes a question I pointed to nearly a year ago: How will the GOP replace Hispanic votes? At least for now, I see no convincing evidence that those on high in the McCain campaign -- which, I might add, was supposed to have been uniquely strong within the Hispanic community but clearly is not -- or the Republican National Committee have begun to figure out an answer to that question.

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NRSC Planning on an Obama Victory

Well this is kind of funny. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is trying to stave of a situation in which there are 60 Democratic Senators in the 111th Congress, has a fundraising program I'm just noticing but that has apparently been around for a while called Two Seats. Presumably, the effort is one that at least has the veneer of seeking a road to 51 seats, and thus a majority. (You can watch a video about the program here.)

But if you think about this for a moment, you realize the implicit assumption in the program: The GOP will need 51 seats to be in the majority only if Barack Obama is President. With a Republican in the White House, and thus the GOP controlling the Vice Presidency, a 50-50 split in the United States Senate would mean Republican control over the chamber. This was the exact situation we saw in early 2001, after the Democrats picked up enough seats to force a 50-50 split in the Senate, but as a result of Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote the chamber was in Republican hands, with Trent Lott as Majority Leader and Republicans serving as chairmen of all committees. Indeed, it would have been the case during the current Congress if someone like Jon Tester or Jim Webb had ended up a few thousand votes short rather than ahead and the Democrats had only picked up five rather than six seats.

Nice.

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Obama Crushing McCain Among Hispanic Voters

Remember how George W. Bush was going to reshape the electorate by bringing Hispanic voters into the Republican Party, and how John McCain was going to continue the Bush legacy in this regard? Remember how the fact that Hillary Clinton bested Barack Obama among Hispanics during the Democratic primaries augured poorly for Obama's chances among the demographic during the general? Well apparently it's just not the case.

Hispanic registered voters support Democrat Barack Obama for president over Republican John McCain by 66% to 23%, according to a nationwide survey of 2,015 Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, from June 9 through July 13, 2008.

[...]

Obama is rated favorably by 76% of Latino registered voters, making him much more popular among that voting group than McCain (44% favorable) and President Bush (27% favorable). Hillary Clinton's ratings among Latino registered voters are 73% favorable and 24% unfavorable; Obama's are 76% favorable and 17% unfavorable.

Also, more than three-quarters of Latinos who reported that they voted for Clinton in the primaries now say they are inclined to vote for Obama in the fall election, while just 8% say they are inclined to vote for McCain. That means that Obama is doing better among Hispanics who supported Clinton than he is among non-Hispanic white Clinton supporters, 70% of whom now say they have transferred their allegiance to Obama while 18% say they plan to vote for McCain, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

This is a remarkably poor performance for McCain, one that seriously threatens his ability to win this fall. In 2004, George W. Bush received at least 40 percent (.pdf), and perhaps even as much as 44 percent, of the Hispanic vote. Even in 2006, when the Republicans (particularly in the House) were running a strongly anti-immigrant campaign, the GOP still pulled in about 30 percent of the Hispanic vote. But John McCain, a candidate assumed at the outset of this race to have particular strength among Hispanics? McCain has roughly half the support of George W. Bush among Hispanic voters and even a quarter less support within the community than Republicans received in 2006.

And in case you don't think these numbers matter, think again. Just look at McCain's home state of Arizona -- where McCain has been forced to campaign. If McCain were only able to manage 22 percent of the Hispanic vote in Arizona, just doing the math he'd have to pull in about 63 percent of the White, Asian-American and "other" vote in the state to reach the 50 percent marker (Jon Kyl received about 55 percent of the White vote in his 10-point reelection victory in 2006, for reference). Even if McCain only needed to hit the 48 percentage point mark to win because of third party participation, he would still need to get over 60 percent of the non-Hispanic and non-African-American vote in order to hit such a plurality. Let's say that mark is just 45 percent. McCain would still need to get 56.4 percent of the White/Asian-American/"other" vote -- again, above Kyl's performance in 2006.

This is just one state, Arizona, a state that McCain should win. Now extrapolate these numbers across the country, particularly in other states with large Hispanic voting blocs, and you see McCain's immense problem. If the 22 percent mark were to hold in a state like Texas, and Obama were to receive a respectable though not shockingly high 90 percent of the African-American vote, McCain would need to pull in close to 60 percent of the remaining vote to earn a majority of the overall vote. Even if McCain were just shooting for a 48 percent plurality, he'd still need 57 percent of the vote outside of the Hispanic and African-American communities.

I'm just playing with numbers based on the 2006 exit polling, and you can shift the turnout in one direction or the other, or the percentage share of the African-American vote received by Obama up or down. Nevertheless, it's fairly clear that McCain would have difficulty earning 200 electoral votes, let alone 270, were he to receive just 22 percent of the Hispanic vote this year.

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