Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Speaking for me only" 

Big Tent Democrat doesn't understand formal logic. In a dramatic, "I-am-the-cyclops-in-the-land-of-the-blind" post from last week, Big Tent writes:

The Problem remains unresolved and a deep concern for November. Discussing that concern is a mortal sin according to the Left blogs. I for one will not play the ostrich. I will consider the problem and ways Obama can solve it.

Atrios writes:

What the Clinton campaign is doing is saying that Obama has electability problems, and using their support from white voters as evidence of that. That's a wee bit problematic, and not just because it doesn't follow logically any more than the other electability arguments such as Obama can't win the election because he can't win the primary in big states.
Why is it problematic? Why does it not follow logically?

Because it doesn't! The conclusion does not logically follow from the premise.

1.) Candidate O has an electability problem in Primary X against Candidate H

2.) Therefore, Candidate O will have an electability problem in General Election Z against candidate M

These require different assumptions about different people in different situations. Political situations, no less.

And even if we pretend that it did follow "logically", it wouldn't necessarily matter in the absurd world of political campaigns. But it helps to understand what a logical argument is before you can understand the limitations of logic.

I keep telling y'all, focus on foreseeable political dynamics, not static polls or demographic numbers. These past few weeks were the low point for the Obama campaign. But every (large) presidential campaign has moments where everyone is convinced that the candidate is doomed. You just pray to hell those moments come as early as possible (and don't return). Conversely, every big time presidential campaign has good moments where seemingly everyone is convinced they will win.

For example, in early 1995 I was at a small social gathering of Republicans and I damn near got laughed out of the room when I said Bill Clinton had a good shot at being re-elected. Sure, they were a biased group, but a lot of people felt that way. Talk to those Goops now, though, and they act like Clinton was obviously the huge favorite all along.

By the way, the latest poll shows McCain beating Hillary and Obama by an identical margin among working class white voters. Perhaps Big Tent Dem will find a way to fit this into his over-arching analysis of THE PROBLEM or THE SOLUTION, but I really could care less.

Eleven months ago, when I was growing very comfortable in my assumption that Obama would be the nominee, I didn't look at polls, I looked the political climate. I looked at media narratives, and how Obama was developing his political "angles" (of attack) against his competitors. I looked at the money he was raising and the strategic depth of his top campaign people. Perhaps most important of all, I looked for solid clues that he was going to run to win-- not run to "hopefully win and if not Vice President is alright with me". That's why I got so excited by that revealing exchange in the December debate: Obama showed that he was not going to run like Edwards. He was in it to win, had a plan to win (Iowa), and accepted the additional risks that occur when you run such a campaign.

Here's a thought about "electability": could some Hillary supporter please explain why Democrats should put their electoral fate in the hands of strategic idiots like Mark Penn rather than winners like David Axelrod? Is there a single bigger reason that Hillary is hopelessly behind in the all-important "delegate math" right now than Mark Penn? Wasn't his strategy the real "PROBLEM"? And yet I never see the Hillary supporters making a case as to why Democrats should trust this guy (or trust a candidate who selected this guy) with their general election prospects (especially since the media narrative bias against Hillary gives her absolutely no room for error, but that's another story dynamic). For the life of me I don't understand what Bill or Hillary see in Penn.

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YRHT Flashback: oyster predicts a two term Obama presidency before he made his celebrated 2004 speech at the Democratic convention in Boston on 7/27/04.

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26 Comments:

Are we supposed to notice how you had him winning in 2020?

But you're right, the relative strength of the organizations is absolutely key here. Governing is a team game. I've yet to see a solid analysis of McCain's strategic team other than mocking the warmongers.

By Anonymous Boyd, at 1:51 PM  

There is no logic or strategy for Team Hillary now. They're desparate to cling to any hope of the nomination. If she's better than Obama at anything at this point, then it's a talking point to trumpet to the media, regardless of logic.

The greater problem for me is that they cherry-pick what is convenient for their argument. Obama does well across the board (And he's not bad with white voters either). The question can obviously be reversed to say "Why is Hillary only beating Obama with white voters"? I'm sure you can ask the same question of McCain, which will be a problem for him in November.

It's a shame that the media allows her to drive the debate this way. It's not that Obama hasn't fought back. The thing is there's no story to print if Hillary doesn't appear to have even the remotest of chances. And, given that she's married to the Comeback Kid, I guess there's always that chance as seen through the media perspective.

By Anonymous Imajayhawk, at 1:58 PM  

It's funny. I used to say that I didn't want Hillary to be the nominee because she would bring out a lot of people against her. But when push came to shove for the primary, I also thought that she was more electable than Obama. The reasons why I thought that are spelled out over at LJ4A.

You are correct that the two elections are distinct and that in a vacuum, you cannot just assume that Candidate O will lose states that he needs to win in the General election because he lost those states in the primary.

However, Hillary's strongest argument is the use of polls like this one. In Democratic "stronghold" Massachusetts the poll has Obama ahead by 2%, a statistical tie. 86% of Democrats say they would vote for Hillary. Obama loses 21% of the Democrats, only getting 65%. I have stated for a long time that I fear Obama might not win Mass. One of those reasons is that I have heard Boston can be a bit of a racist town. According to this poll, Hillary gets 62% of the Boston vote while Obama gets 51% of Boston.

A Democrat who is tied in Boston concerns me. What other states that should vote Democrat will vote Republican because of Obama's race.

I would LOVE to live in a country where race wasn't a problem and Obama would be elected based on his merits. However, I cannot just bury my head in the stand and ignore the covert racism that exists in America. And this is not the "Im going to wear a hood and join the Klan" racism. This is the "some of my best friends are black, but I hope my daughter never comes home with a black boyfriend" racism.

Unfortunately, I don't see our country being THAT dynamic.

I also do not have faith that Hillary's wordsmiths will be able to word their argument properly.

Most likely, Obama will be the nominee and I will support him fully. However, the superdelegates better be sure that the candidate they choose is the one who will win.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 2:22 PM  

While the US absolutely has a gi-normous problem with racism, and while Obama will definitely lose some votes because of it, I don't think it's a deal breaker.

Also, voters in Looey-siana, even Nawth Looey-siana, ended up being ok enough with Bobby to give him comfortable pluralities if not outright majorities in certain parishes that, to be honest, I didn't think had it in them.

The real question might be just how much daylight John McCain will manage to put between himself and the twin symbols of the GOP, Bush and Cheney, who are about as popular as H.P.V., as evidenced by yet another heavily Repub district--Mississippi's First--opting for the Democratic candidate this time around.

Now, the media'll be so deep in the tank for McCain that they'll need scuba equipment or gills to breathe, but even then I think the voters are quite fed up with the mix and match of thuggery and incompetence that defines not just Bush, but the entire Republican party. Like Molly Ivins predicted four years ago, Bush has been wired around the neck of the American public for some time now, and the stench is enough to make people think long and hard about continuing it.

By Blogger Michael, at 3:22 PM  

Daniel,

I lived in New England for four years. Barack will kick ass in Massachusetts. You don't have to worry about New England going for Barack. Well, maybe New Hampshire. But Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut will go for Obama in the fall. Mark my words. As will New York and New Jersey.

The battle will be in no particular order:

Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, and perhaps Texas.

Obama will be the nominee, and I'm betting that he will win. I cannot see the country voting for 4 more years of Bush policies.

By Anonymous Ryan, at 3:35 PM  

Excellent post, oyster. In agreement with some of the other comments, the evidence that Obama is unelectable in the general is non-existent. And, in fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary. The GOP made Obama/Pelosi the measure of electability in the special congressional elections in both Louisiana and Mississippi. Their efforts failed. That may not translate into votes being cast for Obama, but what it does indicate is that the DEMOCRAT running, no matter who that Democrat may be, stands a very strong likelihood of being elected. That's why Hillary is so damn hot to stay in the race and try to steal the nomination. She knows that someone with such high negatives and weighty baggage will never have a more favorable environment for being elected.

By Blogger Huck, at 3:51 PM  

"Are we supposed to notice how you had him winning in 2020?"

No. But if you can find someone who predicted Obama in 08 prior to his famous speech, let me know.

By Blogger oyster, at 3:56 PM  

Michael: Jindal still isn't black. And among racists, that can be a big deal. One need not hate all other races to be a racist, just one.

Ryan: I hope you are correct. Are you not the least big concerned at polling data showing Obama in a statistical tie with McCain?

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 4:22 PM  

DZ: do yourself a favor and eschew polls.

A single head to head poll in April between Obama and McCain will be different than a poll in September (with, say, Barr and Nader) and different than the election results and electoral math in November.

April was Obama's worst month. McCain was blissfully above the fray during April. That's a huge factor.

Polls this far out are only valuable in context, with an eye towards the political dynamics at play. They are a reflection of what has happened-- using them to predict what will happen is not a very advanced political analysis (although it's about as advanced as you'll find on the internet).

By Blogger oyster, at 4:34 PM  

Jindal might not be black, but John McCain is most definitely GOP. I'll defer to your expertise on the nuanced position that some mouth-breathers manage to conjure on the race issue, daniel z., but I'm beginning to think, as evidenced by the recent special elections, that the public might not feel like they have the luxury to play the hate game to the extent the GOP needs them to do so this election cycle. Good.

Another hope is that Obama might show how to win certain states--like Louisiana--without having to resort to the Mudcat Saunders strategery, which is a losing game anyway. We'll see.

By Blogger Michael, at 4:50 PM  

While polls are not the end all and be all of politics, eschewing them would be rather silly.

The question needs to be asked "why does Obama do so poorly in Mass. after being endorsed by both Senators and the Governor and generally being an otherwise good candidate with good ideas".

And I am not saying "Obama will not win Mass. because of this poll". I am not predicting that at all.

I am saying that I am concerned at the fact that McCain is that close in a "Democratic Stronghold".

And while the election in November may happen under different circumstances, the superdelegates making their decision on who to support, have to use the current political landscape. They cannot just "hope" that they made the right choice while eschewing the current polls. To do so would be audacious.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 5:02 PM  

I thought that Mike Huckabee's remarks on MSNBC last night were telling. McCain must identify himself as a maverick, not as a Republican. If he attempts to ride the elephant down Main Street, the critter will be shot out from under him.
Yep, Huckabee said it.
Also, I believe that this year could be a 'reverse coat-tail' year. Local Democrats winning congressional races will bolster the national party, not vice-versa. Look at the 6th District, at Denny Hastert's seat in Illinois, and at the Mississippi seat that was won last night by A Dem. Watch the conservative 4th District in NW Louisiana - my money's on a Democrat, Paul Carmouche, to replace Jim McCrery after 20 years of Republican control of the seat. The district as a whole will probably go to McCain, but Caddo Parish should go Obama.

By Blogger Jim, at 5:06 PM  

Michael: "but I'm beginning to think, as evidenced by the recent special elections, that the public might not feel like they have the luxury to play the hate game to the extent the GOP needs them to do so this election cycle. Good. "

I hope you are right. But even though the GOP tried to bring up a connection to Obama to both Democratic candidates in order to bring out the racist tendencies of the voters in their districts, I don't believe that they themselves were black.

"Another hope is that Obama might show how to win certain states--like Louisiana--without having to resort to the Mudcat Saunders strategery, which is a losing game anyway. We'll see."

I think that the scenario exists for Obama to win Louisiana. It would require massive turnout by the Democratic base along with massive voter disinterest among GOP voters for who is selected as V.P. (since we know McCain couldn't win over Republicans of Louisiana even though Huck didn't campaign here).

And if Obama can take advantage of Republican apathy and bring out the Democrats then he will absolutely do very well. However, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore the problems of racism that exist in our country.

And as to my expertise at dealing with racists, while campaigning for David Gereighty in 2006 we spoke to racists on the northshore who were going to vote for Jindal because they could never vote for a Democrat because Democrats are a bunch of "N****R LOVERS". So yes, voters who hate black people can still vote for other minorities.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 5:09 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Mark, at 5:27 PM  

"While polls are not the end all and be all of politics, eschewing them would be rather silly."

I am dead serious when I say that disregarding polls would be a tremendously helpful first step for anyone wanting to radically improve their political analysis. I can't think of a better thing to do. Pollsters are incredibly useless for a campaign, in my opinion. If/when I run another campaign, I'll not have one. If a strategist doesn't know what moves poll numbers, they're in the wrong business. Exhibit A: Mark Penn, pollster extraordinaire.

"the superdelegates making their decision..."

Puh-leeze. Except for maybe a handful, they've already "decided" long ago... perhaps a small fraction allowed circumstances to decide it for them. Please note: Deciding and announcing one's "decision" are two different things.

By Blogger oyster, at 5:28 PM  

Logicmonger.

By Anonymous joejoejoe, at 7:34 PM  

Great post.

This made me very happy to see, also.

Maybe Edwards agrees with you, too. Or he's securing a veep seat, tho' he claims he doesn't want it, like last time.

By Blogger droudy, at 7:56 PM  

Daniel Z. asks "why does Obama do so poorly in Mass. after being endorsed by both Senators and the Governor and generally being an otherwise good candidate with good ideas?"

Daniel, I live in Boston. The reason in part is that Sens. Kerry and Kennedy and Gov. Patrick do not control the get-out-the-vote machines. These guys who do are lesser-known but influential pols, along with many key unions, the overwhelming majority of whom endorsed Hillary early on. Add to that the strong feminist vote that exists in this state, and that answers why the Kerry and Kennedy endorsements didn't help him much.

You are right that there are many more racists in Mass despite its reputation as a progressive paradise. However, the racist vote will not be decisive nor will it block Obama from blowing out McCain in Mass. Just two years ago we overwhelmingly elected a black man governor after four consecutive terms of moderate Republican governors.

In the general, no matter what any poll says now, BOB will coast over McCain on the strength of the union, machine and pro-choice vote. No pro-life politician has a prayer to win state-wide in Mass in this day and age. Remember, even Mit Romney had to run as a pro-choicer to become governor. So, don't worry about it.

Oyster, I can't match your ability to predict, but I do like to brag that as early as December 2006 I picked Obama to win the presidency over Romney. I was wrong about Romney b/c I underestimated the Huckabee factor. But for Huckabee, I believe Romney would have won over McCain. I still believe that Obama will win the general, but not by as wide of a margin had he been fortunate enough to run against a wing nut like Romney. In the end, this country is on the wrong track. Obama didn't put us on that track. Republicans did. And anyone who thinks that this war, the economy and inflation will be any better in November should place bets on the Saints winning the next five Super Bowls.

By Anonymous bigshot, at 8:45 PM  

Oyster: For fear of getting too off topic I will keep this part brief. My experience tells me that without polling data, you get no attention from the media. And the better the polling data shows you doing in the race, the more attention the media will give you. And the media ignoring you is pretty much the kiss of death. It is commercialized politics at its worst. And until that changes, you better have a poll.

But that is not why we are talking polling. We are talking polling because it is a snapshot of the current political picture. The most recent snapshot of Mass has McCain being competitive in Mass. And regardless of the faith that we would all like to have in the Massachusetts Democrat to "do the right thing" come November, I am unwilling to put my faith in that when the current numbers are telling me otherwise.

bigshot tells us that there is a strong union and feminist movement in Mass that got behind Hillary earlier and that led to her success. Now, what do we know about the current snapshot of Hillary voters. Well, current polling data shows that 28% of her voters will vote McCain if Obama is the nominee. And yes, I understand that Clinton would likely work to help mend that fence a little after the primaries are over. But the massachusetts polling data shows that the other polling data is about right at this point in time.

And on the "deciding" issue, well, several superdelegates have changed their minds recently. Most (if not all) have gone to Obama. But at the end of the day, many of them could change their mind if given the right argument. And that argument would have to be a convincing one.... but it can be made.

The point is this. The only thing I have faith in when it comes to the Democratic Party is their ability to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Look at Kerry in 2004 if you want proof of that on a national scale.

I wish I had yours and bigshots faith, I really did. I wish I could just swallow my doubts and say that there are too little racists in this nation to make an impact in this election. But the thought of having another 4 years (or 100) of Bush strategery frightens me and demands that we leave nothing to chance and we make sure that the party makes the absolute 100% right choice on who is the candidate more likely to win in the fall.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 10:07 PM  

Oyster, he wouldn't have had the chance to make that famous speech if he weren't a rising star. Not that you don't have some right to brag, you do. But the Obama shocked everybody by coming out of the blue meme is one of the myths of this campaign. Bob Somerby has given examples of Hardball panelists discussing how long it would take Obama to overtake Clinton in Spring of 2007. I didn't post it that the time, but I did dig through old emails and found that I thought somebody would knock off Clinton and Obama was the most likely bet. I'm not bragging about something I didn't say publicly, because I didn't pull it out of the air. The idea was already out there for political junkies.

Anyway, despite my concerns that the primary tactics revealed by the Amaya Smith memo will make the GE more difficult for Obama and my disgust with some of the attacks on Clinton, I never had any second thoughts about my primary vote for Obama, I really didn't, until last Friday. Despite the "thank you sir, may I have another?" expressions that I've seen on some liberal blogs, I find this disturbing.

By Blogger bayoustjohndavid, at 10:32 PM  

Not trying to be contrary with the prediction part of the last comment, but the "Clinton blew an overwhelming advantage" criticism gets repeated so often with such glee and gusto that it turns my stomach, even though I'm not a Clinton fan. Thought I take the opportunity to set the record straight, even though that wasn't your point. It wasn't rocket science, everybody, who gave it much thought, knew that it would be hard to predict how Clinton's institutional support would play out against anti-Clinton feelings and the desire to find a candidate without the Clinton baggage. But it's so much fun to laugh at how Clinton blew it. Hell, Donna "take away all the delegates" brazile was writing pro-Obama articles in 2004.

By Blogger bayoustjohndavid, at 6:53 AM  

No, bsj, you identify several of the foreseeable political dynamics I was talking about. My prediction (shared by many others) was based in part on these things. The "Clinton blew an overwhelming advantage" criticism is based on stupid analysis on early polls, just the sort of thing I'm railing against.

However, the Clinton strategy was based on this-- early polls showing big advantages-- and Mark Penn ignored these political dynamics. He led his candidate and campaign to believe that they had an overwhelming advantage when, as you rightly point out, they didn't. Obama DID shock the hell out of the Hillary campaign. He did "come out of the blue", in a sense, because he ran a bona fide campaign to win the Presidency (not just compete for it) with a beautiful internet fundraising machine and a winning delegate strategy. The Hillary campaign decided to largely ignore him and simply appear "inevitable" until it was too late and they were supremely "evitable". That same shortsightedness and bad analysis could rear its head again in the GE, if Hillary was the nominee. Yet, you never hear Hillary supporters/apologists talking about this as "THE PROBLEM" .

By Blogger oyster, at 9:33 AM  

As far as DZ's contention that "without polling data, you get no attention from the media."

That's just false. Polls will be taken in any large race, and the media will report the results and write the articles. Smaller local races rarely have polls and get media attention without them. Over the years, I've gotten plenty of print and tv media attention for candidates without the use of internal polls which in my experience either depress the morale of a campaign or make the campaign overconfident.

I don't mean for the tone here to be pedantic, but this is an issue that gets me going, because in the past a shortsighted, expensive pollster arrives from the mountaintop in the middle of the campaign, and delivers a presentation of static "results" and "analysis", and by the end of it, half the campaign wants to fundamentally alter the original strategy and plan, and starts telling the candidate to do (stupid) things to better appeal to certain demographics.

I realize many more experienced politicos than I would disagree, but I'm of the opinion that internal polls, on average, are a net negative for a campaign. They far more often hurt than help.

By Blogger oyster, at 9:54 AM  

"That's just false. Polls will be taken in any large race"

You didn't say that you would only become involved in a large race.

I am just speaking from my experience when I spoke to several people in the media about getting more coverage for the races I was involved in and their response was "unless you have polling data showing a more competitive race, we will not be doing any more stories". Instead of embracing their duty to inform the public, they instead sought to kiss the hindquarters of the presumptive winner of the race, perhaps because they did not want to risk losing access.

But hey, next time I decide to run for something, I will have to buy you dinner and pick your brain. If you have experience getting attention without polling data, then I am more than willing to listen to your experience.

By Anonymous Daniel Z., at 1:25 PM  

"I decide to run for something, I will have to buy you dinner and pick your brain"

Anytime!

By Blogger oyster, at 2:28 PM  

I am so pleased to see you using logic and the rest of you applauding his use of it. I can't wait to see how quickly and easily you all abandon it when it suits your own politics to do so.

Something to look forward to.

By Anonymous el stevo, at 1:46 PM