Obama's "Silent Majority" and the Risks of Being "Too Presidential"
by Big Blue, Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 09:44:51 AM EDT
The LA Times takes up the increasingly spreading meme that Obama is "presumptuous" and "arrogant." Talking to world leaders, planning a transition to the White House, putting his campaign logo on the tail of his plane -- just who does this guy think he is?
Fox News host Sean Hannity told viewers last week how "presumptuous" Obama had become. Proof: The candidate told congressional Democrats that the world had been waiting for his hopeful message and that to some he had become a symbol of a "return to our best traditions."
That may not be humble pie, but doesn't even come close to breaking the narcissism barrier. Don't our politicians routinely boast about how essential they are to the republic?
Then came the stunning revelation that Obama had begun planning for a transition to the White House.
Fox News hostess E.D. Hill -- who dubbed Obama's playful knuckle bump with his wife a "terrorist fist jab" -- reminded viewers recently that the Democrat was "not commander in chief just yet, which is why some find his decision to start planning his transition into the White House a bit presumptuous."
Hill wondered whether Obama was "jumping the gun or just covering all the bases?"
Never mind that McCain advisors have acknowledged that they too were planning for a White House transition or the fact that history has rewarded those who looked ahead. Early transition planner Ronald Reagan hit the ground running in 1980. Bill Clinton initially struggled after dawdling on White House preparations in 1992.
Now let's be frank here: there is something rather impressive about the Republicans managing to turn Obama's popularity and his universally acknowledged speaking prowess against him. What's not so impressive; however, is the media falling right in line with GOP talking points. But we need not panic just yet, as over at the Post Howard Kurtz reports that Republican strategists are still dissatisfied with what they see from the McCain campaign:
Republican strategists not affiliated with McCain say his campaign seems to lurch from one tactic to the next and has been largely devoid of new ideas that might draw sustained coverage.
"The McCain campaign's challenge in this Obama environment is to be consistent and drive a daily message for more than two days in a row," says Scott Reed, who managed the 1996 presidential campaign of another septuagenarian senator, Bob Dole. "It's hard, it's frustrating, but it
needs to get done. The surrogates are off message every day. They're all over the place. They need to echo what McCain says."
I don't know that I agree with this. The McCain camp seems to be pretty happy with their new "celebrity" message, and their most recent rounds of attacks have chewed up the lead Obama gained during his trip overseas; the national numbers are statistically tied, and the numbers in the major swing states reflect this. That said, for the time being, I can take comfort in the fact that Republican insiders are harboring the exact same concerns they were two months ago.
Consider this your Monday morning pick me up:
Despite the closeness of the race as it stands now, there are facts of great significance buried in the demographic breakdowns behind the most recent polls numbers. So what's the good news, then? Quite simply the fact that Obama is massively outrunning Kerry's 2004 margins among women, Hispanics, and low wage workers*.
So, let's take a moment to dig into the numbers behind the numbers. Obama leads McCain by a whopping 19 points among women (55-36). This is a demographic that in 2004 favored Kerry by a meager 3 points (51-48), meaning we're looking at a nearly unbelievable 16 point swing in our direction since the last election. That's no small potatoes.
The turnaround among Hispanics is even more impressive. Kerry took that demographic by 9 points in '04, while Obama is trouncing McCain there by a nearly three-to-one margin (66-23). For those keeping score at home that's a net gain of 34 points, which just goes to show how damaging the GOP's scare mongering on the immigration issue has been, and just how ridiculous were the notions that suggested Barack Obama was going to have a problem appealing to Hispanics. Moreover, if the Democrats can pass real immigration reform including a path to citizenship under an Obama administration, then the Republicans can kiss the fastest growing minority in the country goodbye for two or three decades. Between blacks and Hispanics, we're looking at nearly 20 percent of the vote, much of which is already beyond the GOP's reach, while the rest seems to be rapidly escaping their grip.
Even white voters look like they'll under-perform for McCain this November. In 2004, George W. Bush secured this bloc with an impressive 17 point lead, but McCain currently leads here by only 7 points. Once again, unless McCain can manage to nab every undecided among white voters, he's likely to lose ground here as well.
As for the Democrats' most loyal supporters, African Americans, Obama has managed to to increase his margins here as well. Kerry drew the support of 88% of black voters in 2004, while Bush managed to carry on the GOP tradition of wildly under-performing among black by bringing in a paltry 11% of the black vote. And yet, McCain fares far worse among these votes, securing only 1% among that same demographic to Obama's 94% of the vote. Given the margin of error, that effectively means McCain might have zero support in the black community. In addition to this, it's only natural to assume that the black community -- already among the most active participants in politics -- will increase their over-all share of the vote in order to give their support to the first credible black candidate for president.
Finally, in 2004, Kerry took the working class vote -- those making less than $30,000 a year -- by 16 points (58-42), while a recent Washington Post poll has Obama leading McCain among this demographic by a 2-1 margin (58-28). Much of this change can be attributed to the aforementioned gains among Hispanics, and African-Americans, but Obama even manages to secure a 10 point advantage among low wage whites (47-37) -- a demographic in which we were assured Obama would face much difficulty. Unless McCain manages to grab the entire bloc of undecideds among low wage workers, it's probably a reasonable assumption that Obama will also greatly outperform Kerry's numbers in 2004 here as well.
So, while the current polls may provide some hope to McCain supporters, underneath there looks to be significant structural flaws that may prove insurmountable to his campaign as time wears on. I wouldn't expect to see any massive fluctuations until after the Olympics, but judging from the gains Barack Obama has made in nearly every important demographic, it is difficult to imagine that the race will remain this close for much longer. And that is cause to celebrate.
*The links provided in the first two paragraphs are the sources for all other numbers in this post.