Friday, October 31, 2008

TPM's 100 Seconds

Don't know how many of you see TPM's daily summaries of the campaign day in 100 seconds but I liked today's a lot so I'm posting it here:

TPM Eats Eagleburger for Lunch

Former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger said yesterday, unequivocally, that Sarah Palin will not be ready on Day One to be President and that, if she learns over time, she might turn out to be adequate at best.

Now TPM posts video from Fox News today where Eagleburger tries to walk this back. It is bizarre as well as pathetic to watch. As TPM points out, "it had something of the feel of one of the Maoist self-criticism sessions or perhaps one of the public apologies during the Moscow show trials." Eagleburger says he "wasn't thinking correctly," he "made a terrible mistake," and he "should have said that within a relatively short period of time, she would also be a foreign policy expert. I said it badly and I'm sorry."

Notwithstanding the creepy nature of the public self-flogging, isn't the admission of this kind of erratic, shoot-from-the-hip, flapping-at-the-gums stupidity exactly what they are accusing Barack Obama of being too inexperienced to avoid?

Thank goodness John McCain will have smart, seasoned foreign policy experts like Larry Eagleburger around him who know how to avoid saying stupid things and who will be able to avoid having to walk them back in some kind of humiliating way.

Here is Eagleburger announcing his shame for the world to see:

Late Polls

A lot of polling out for a Friday. But it isn't just any Friday.

The new ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +8 to Obama +9 and Obama is now at 53%. Marist has a national poll out today that has Obama up by 7 and at 50%.

State polling:

Alaska (R2000) - McCain +19
Colorado (PPP) - Obama +10
Georgia (R2000) - McCain +3
Georgia (Rasmussen) - McCain +5
Mississippi (R2000) - McCain +13
Montana (R2000) - McCain +4
New Hampshire (Rasmussen) - Obama +7
North Carolina (R2000) - Obama +2
North Dakota (R2000) - McCain +1
West Virginia (PPP) - McCain +13

There's a lot of red in this list but who would have believed we would be this close in Georgia, Montana, and North Dakota? The Obama campaign is back up on the air in all these states and we can see why. Georgia, in particular, seems to me like a possibility for a real upset state. The early voting numbers there are showing tremendous African-American turnout. R2000 has a slight Democratic lean so their poll and Rasmussen's poll would seem to be saying about the same thing (McCain up by roughly 5). But, if the likely voter models are wrong in a good way for Obama in any state, Georgia and North Carolina might be the most likely spots.

Failed efforts at vote suppression

Continuing the turnout theme, Talking Points Memo has a very helpful compilation of failed GOP vote suppression activities this cycle. It is really striking to see how ineffective these have been, especially in comparison with similar efforts in recent elections. I think the conclusion that Zachary Roth reaches, that this is due in large part to more Democratic Secretaries of State, is correct. But I also think that the implications of such a finding are yet another sign of the problems with partisan election officials, especially those who are state chairs for presidential campaigns (I'm looking your way, Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell). This isn't a strictly Democrat/Republican issue, either. Some of the actions taken by Ohio's current Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner have made it harder for McCain supporters. The U.S. is one of the few democracies in the world to use partisan election officials. It seems to me past time to adopt the recommendation of the Carter-Baker report on Federal Election Reform and move towards non-partisan election officials through appointment and confirmation by a supermajority of the state legislature. Will it be perfect? Of course not. Will it be better than the current system? Almost certainly.
UPDATE: Oh, and let's not forget the efforts of Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), who is working hard to suppress the Latino vote.

Required Reading

Nate Silver has a piece out this morning looking at how Obama has been building an advantage in early voting. Some (like Rachel Maddow, for instance) have been worried about early voting not going well and about Colorado in particular. This piece provides some statistics to talk those folks down.

Morning Polls

We see some nice movement towards Obama in all the Gallup models today. I prefer the Gallup Likely Voter Model II, which now has Obama up by 9 (it was 7 yesterday) and at 52%. But the truly interesting thing is that we have seen convergence with all three models and, in the "traditional" likely voter model, Obama now leads by 8 (51-43). Among all registered voters, Obama now has an 11-point lead. But it is important to stress how important that move in the "traditional" model is. This model assumes the likely voter pool will look like 2004. Virtually everyone believes the likely voter pool will be better for Obama in some ways though to what extent that is the case is a matter of debate. But, just taking the 2004 voter pool, Obama leads by 8 according to Gallup. That is a deadly, deadly reading for McCain.

The rest of the trackers are basically flat. Rasmussen moves from Obama +5 to Obama +4. Hotline moves from Obama +6 to Obama +7. R2000 moves from Obama +5 to Obama +6.

Some state polls out this morning:

Arizona (R2000) - McCain +1
Indiana (SurveyUSA) - Tied
Louisiana (Loyola) - McCain +3
Michigan (EPIC/MRA) - Obama +12
Michigan (PPP) - Obama +13
Michigan (Strategic Vision) - Obama +13
Minnesota (PPP) - Obama +16
Missouri (Insider Advantage) - McCain +3
New Hampshire (R2000) - Obama +7
New Hampshire (Strategic Vision) - Obama +9
New Hampshire (SurveyUSA) - Obama +11
New Jersey (SurveyUSA) - Obama +10
New Jersey (Fairleigh Dickinson) - Obama +18
New Mexico (PPP) - Obama +17
North Carolina (Insider Advantage) - Tied
Oregon (PPP) - Obama +15
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +10
Pennsylvania (Strategic Vision) - Obama +5

The big, glaring good news for John McCain here is that we have a second poll in two days showing McCain much closer in Pennsylvania than he's been. Yesterday, Mason Dixon had Obama up by 4 and today, Strategic Vision has Obama up by 5. I said yesterday that Mason Dixon has a Republican lean (Nate Silver estimates it at 2-3 points) and Strategic Vision definitely has a Republican lean. The Muhlenberg tracker does have Pennsylvania narrowing a little bit as well but not to the same level. The good news is all these pollsters have Obama leading there. A new poll has McCain up by 3 in Missouri which is a good result for him right now. But SurveyUSA has Obama tied in Indiana. Again, an Obama win in Indiana would allow him to lose all of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida and still win.

All in all, a pretty good day of polling. Obama down by just 1 in Arizona? Dare to dream? Well, add these two data points to the mix. David Plouffe just announced Obama is going up on the air in Arizona and, on Monday (that's the day before the election), John McCain will be campaigning in ... Arizona. Oof.

We do see some movement towards McCain in a couple of key states (Pennsylvania and Missouri) but we're not seeing much movement towards McCain elsewhere and the kind of movement we're seeing so far is too little, too late. He'll have to close more rapidly to win.

Finally, I'd just like to point out something that leaps out at me from this video and that Sean Quinn at discussed after the first debate. John McCain may like to gamble but he would be an awful, awful poker player. He has trouble hiding his anger or frustration. Ben Smith posted this video in which McCain catches himself speculating on Palin's future in the event his ticket might lose. The key word is "Or:"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Late Polls

As mentioned below, the ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +8, Obama is at 52% in the poll, and almost all of his supporters in the poll say they will not change their minds. The new CBS/NYTimes poll has Obama up by 11 nationally, slightly closer than their poll a week ago, which had Obama up by 13.

Some state polling:

Indiana (Rasmussen) - McCain +3
Indiana (R2000) - Tied
Iowa (SurveyUSA) - Obama +15
Kentucky (Rasmussen) - McCain +12
Montana (Rasmussen) - McCain +4
Nevada (R2000) - Obama +5
New Hampshire (Suffolk) - Obama +13
North Carolina (Civitas) - Obama +1
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - Obama +2
South Carolina (SurveyUSA) - McCain +8
Wisconsin (R2000) - Obama +11
Wisconsin (SurveyUSA) - Obama +16

I ask again, why is Obama going to Iowa tomorrow? Rasmussen is pretty conservative in their polling (mainly because they weight by party ID) and putting Obama up by 2 in North Carolina is a REALLY bad result for McCain. McCain's small leads in these polls in Indiana and Montana are also not welcome news for McCain.

It is getting later and later ... and still no real movement towards McCain at the state level that I can discern.

The Internals on Some of These Polls Are ... Worse for McCain

That new national Fox poll that has Obama ahead of McCain by just 3 points is a little ... funny.

Fox had Obama up by 9 a week ago and the conservative blogosphere is going gaga about this poll. Let's crack it open a bit, shall we?

Last week, Fox's sample had 44.9% Dems vs. 38.6% GOPs. This week? 42.6% vs. 40.9%. Interesting. That's why some pollsters, like Rasmussen, weight by Party ID. The majority of the "shift" we are observing in Fox's numbers are due to changes in the construction of their sample.

Meanwhile, the new ABC/WP tracker stays steady from yesterday at Obama +8. But that's not the REALLY bad news for McCain. The really bad news is that 94% of Obama supporters say they will "definitely" vote for him and an additional 5% say it is "unlikely" they will change their mind. Since he's at 52%, that makes John McCain's job over the weekend a bit harder. For purposes of comparison, 4% of McCain supporters say there is a "good chance" they will change their minds.

Happy Thursday!

A helpful reminder of why you should vote

Just in case you needed a reminder of why it is important to vote:

Morning Polls

Today's theme will be Mason Dixon, not the line, the pollster. First, a word from our national trackers:

Gallup Likely Voter Model II (which even Republicans admit is probably the more useful measure) holds steady at Obama +7. But Obama moves from up 4 to up 5 even in the traditional likely voter model. Rasmussen expands back from Obama +3 to Obama +5. The movement in this tracker had me (very slightly) concerned yesterday. Obama is back up to 51% in the tracker. Hotline moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6. R2000 moves from Obama +6 to Obama +5. All that adds up to ... probably nothing. Nothing is good. Just like in that Seinfeld episode where George gets a "negative" result on his biopsy and panics initially. Negative is good! There are also two new national polls out this morning. Fox has Obama up by 3. The Economist has Obama up by 7.

At the state level, John McCain is moving all his chips in on ... Mason Dixon. Here are the state polls out this morning:

Arizona (Mason Dixon) - McCain +4
Arizona (CNN/Time) - McCain +7
California (Field) - Obama +22
Colorado (Marist) - Obama +6
Colorado (National Journal) - Obama +4
Florida (National Journal) - Obama +4
Idaho (Harstad) - McCain +23
Indiana (Selzer) - Obama +1
Minnesota (Mason Dixon) - Obama +8
Minnesota (MPR) - Obama +19
Nevada (CNN/Time) - Obama +7
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +24
New Jersey (R2000) - Obama +16
North Carolina (CNN/Time) - Obama +6
North Carolina (National Journal) - Obama +4
Ohio (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Ohio (National Journal) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Mason Dixon) - Obama +4
Pennsylvania (CNN/Time) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +11
South Carolina (NBC) - McCain +11
South Dakota (GQR) - McCain +5
Texas (UT) - McCain +11
Virginia (National Journal) - Obama +4
Virginia (Marist) - Obama +4

Let's start by talking about Mason Dixon. Mason Dixon is not an awful pollster at the state level (see Zogby, John) but they are not the best either and they do seem to have a slight Republican lean (that's just my non-systematic sense - Nate Silver will likely have something more systematic to say later today). I say all this because, if you're John McCain and you're looking at this list of polls (by the way, John McCain spending time on this blog would not be close to his worst decision of the campaign), the Mason Dixon result in Pennsylvania is the really good news that jumps out at you. CNN/Time and Muhlenberg have Obama up by low double-digits this morning. The way things are headed, McCain really has to win in Pennsylvania and this is the closest McCain has been in any publicly-released poll in Pennsylvania since mid-September. At that time, Mason Dixon had McCain behind by just 2. So is Mason Dixon right? I don't think so. But let's say they are. McCain would still be behind by 4 points. That's no small thing. Mason Dixon also has Minnesota (Obama +8) closer than others do including MPR who has Obama up by 19. But, again, let's just say Mason Dixon is the best pollster out there and they are right across the board. If so, John McCain is as likely to lose Arizona as he is to win Pennsylvania. That's not a useful tradeoff. I doubt John McCain will lose Arizona. But I also don't think Barack Obama is going to lose Pennsylvania.

Basically all of the rest of this polling is just awful, awful stuff for McCain. Look at North Carolina. I noted yesterday that, contrary to Bill McInturff's memo, the African-American vote in a state like North Carolina is probably being underestimated. Today, we have two polls showing Obama ahead there. CNN/Time seems to have a slight Democratic lean giving these two polls very similar readings. North Carolina would cancel out a McCain upset in Pennsylvania. So would Ohio. So would Florida. So would Indiana (more on that below). So would Missouri. Believe it or not ... so would Nevada! "Really?" you ask. Yes. Do the math. If Obama wins all the Kerry states except Pennsylvania plus Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, and Virginia (leads in all these states for a long time now), he still wins if he just carries tiny little Nevada and nothing else.

Now, let's talk about that Indiana poll by Ann Selzer. Nate Silver is a big fan of Ann Selzer's work and it is hard to argue with her results in the primaries in states like Iowa and Indiana. One of the things that makes Selzer's polling different than others is that she is anticipating higher youth turnout than most other pollsters. This is part of her polling prior to the Iowa Caucuses was more accurate than others. Young voters did turn out in the numbers she predicted. The same thing happened in the Democratic Primary in Indiana. She now has Obama up by 1 in Indiana. Is she right? Nobody knows for sure but Obama is going to Indiana tomorrow, Biden is there on Saturday, and Indiana is one of the states where Obama's organizing advantage on the ground compared with McCain is HUGE. If I had to bet today, I would be on an Obama win in Indiana ... but I'm not a gambling man.

Overall, this is not a day where we're seeing the narrowing that John McCain needs to see. 5 days to go!!! Breathe in, breathe out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Late Polls

There is nothing in the afternoon update that is good for McCain. The ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +7 to Obama +8. The national Harris poll has Obama up by 6.

A bunch of state polls from CNN/Time and Rasmussen came out this afternoon:

Alaska (Rasmussen) - McCain +16
Colorado (CNN/Time) - Obama +8
Florida (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Georgia (CNN/Time) - McCain +5
Michigan (Rasmussen) - Obama +10
Minnesota (Rasmussen) - Obama +12
Missouri (CNN/Time) - McCain +2
New Mexico (Rasmussen) - Obama +10
Virginia (CNN/Time) - Obama +9

Again, assuming Obama holds Pennsylvania, he just needs to win any one of Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, or Missouri. Colorado and Virginia in particular seem to be longshots for McCain right now.

In sum, the big disconcerting move today has been the Rasmussen tracker. And, while that's not necessarily great news, I am not seeing tightening elsewhere. Not yet anyway.

Trackers and State Polls

My "Morning Polls" post this morning pointed out that, while we are seeing the national trackers narrow a bit, we are not seeing this reflected in state-level polling. Nate Silver makes this same point towards the bottom this post while also pointing out the myth of the "lag" effect and continuing to argue the state polls are at least as, if not more, valid as the national polls as a measure of where the race is trending.

Bill McInturff

In a memo released to reporters, McCain's pollster makes a variety of arguments about how the race is "functionally-tied." Some of this memo is reasonable. But ...

... I direct your attention to his sixth point. Here, McInturff argues that Obama's support among African-Americans is totally factored into the public polls as "most polls" show Obama winning 97-1 or by a similar margin among African-Americans. So, Obama can't expect any more support there and McCain is likely to gain support as the remaining voter pool (non-African-American) is more likely to support McCain. This is utter nonsense for several reasons:

  1. McInturff says, “in most polls,” Obama is winning 97-1 among African-American voters. That just isn’t true. Ben Smith provides evidence to the contrary here. More importantly, the state polls that release internal demographic data very frequently show McCain winning far more of the African-American vote than he is likely to win as McInturff suggests happens in his polling in past campaigns. For instance, look at SurveyUSA’s poll from Monday in Virginia. This poll has Obama ahead by 9 points overall in the state and winning 86-13 among African-Americans. Does McInturff concede that Obama is underperforming in this poll among African-Americans? If so, Obama’s lead should be slightly larger.
  2. Let’s assume away the problems I identify in point #1 and assume McInturff is right that the African-American support Obama is going to get is already factored into the polling results. McInturff says this means that “it will be very difficult for Senator Obama to perform much above his percentage of the vote in a state” because “the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino.” Huh? Barack Obama is winning by 2 to 1 or more among Latino voters in most places and, while he is not winning among white voters, he is not being blown out either. In fact, it is entirely possible that if the only remaining undecided voters are white and Latino voters, Obama could earn a split or even win among these voters. It frankly depends WHICH Latino and white voters are undecided but to assume the vast majority or even the majority of these voters will go to McCain is not an assumption supported by any real evidence.
  3. Finally, McInturff discusses turnout elsewhere in the memo but fails to mention that many of the state-level polls are probably underestimating what is likely to be a record high turnout among African-American voters. So, even if these polls are already accurately factoring in the proportion of African-American voters Obama is likely to win (many of them are not), they may not factor in the higher proportion of the electorate African-American voters are likely to constitute. For instance, in the same Virginia poll by SurveyUSA I mentioned above, African-Americans make up 18% of the electorate in their sample. But African-American voters made up 21% of the electorate in Virginia in 2004 according to exit polls. Similarly, in North Carolina, a SurveyUSA poll a week ago estimated African-Americans would make up 20% of the electorate in the state. But, again, according to exit polls in 2004, African-Americans were 26% of the electorate in the state. Even if the African-American portion of the electorate is simply as high as 2004, Obama still has room to grow in these polls just among African-American voters.

McInturff is a smart and good pollster. But this particular point he is making is simply not supported by the data. Beware of the campaign that sends the internal pollster out to explain why things are not as the public polls seem. They usually are as the public polls say.

Morning Polls

There are some signs for worry this morning (for those who enjoy this Democratic pasttime) as the national trackers do continue to narrow. The good news is Gallup has NOT narrowed today. The Likely Voter Model II (which is the model I trust the most) remains at Obama +7 and has Obama at 51%. The "traditional" model moves from Obama +2 to Obama +3. And their registered voters model moves from Obama +7 to Obama +9. For those seeking to worry, the Rasmussen tracker in particular is worrisome as it moves from Obama +5 to Obama +3 and it is a tracker I have a lot of respect for. The lead dropped by 3 the day before. The good news is that Obama is still at 50%. The Hotline poll moves from Obama +8 to Obama +7. R2000 moves from Obama +7 to Obama +6 but Obama is still at 50% in that tracker as well. One thing to remember about all this is that we have (hoped against but) expected the national horserace numbers to narrow a bit. Followers of Nate Silver's site, for instance, know that the popular vote percentage he tracks (and which is reported over to the right) is a "projected" popular vote number. His model builds in an expected 1-2 points of narrowing before Election Day. We may simply be seeing that take hold now.

On the other hand, the election is really determined at the state level and, even more specifically, in the battlegrounds. And it is hard to find real signs of a narrowing race in the state-level polling. I'm not making this up. Take a look:

Colorado (AP/GfK) - Obama +9
Florida (AP/GfK) - Obama +2
Florida (Quinnipiac) - Obama +2
Nevada (AP/GfK) - Obama +12
New Hampshire (AP/GfK) - Obama +18
North Carolina (AP/GfK) - Obama +2
Ohio (AP/GfK) - Obama +7
Ohio (Marist) - Obama +3
Ohio (Quinnipiac) - Obama +9
Pennsylvania (AP/GfK) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (F&M) - Obama +13
Pennsylvania (Marist) - Obama +14
Pennsylvania (Quinnipiac) - Obama +12
Virginia (AP/GfK) - Obama +7
Washington (Strategic Vision) - Obama +12
Washington (SurveyUSA) - Obama +17

Let's start by reminding ourselves of the kind of needle that John McCain needs to thread. John Kerry won 252 electoral votes in 2004. Will Obama lose any of those states? The McCain campaign is arguing they think they can pull off upsets in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. The polling above
suggests otherwise. Dipping into states Bush won in 2004, Obama has strong leads in both Iowa and New Mexico. That puts Obama at 264 electoral votes. That means Obama would then need to win any ONE state out of the group of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, or Virginia. In addition, if Obama were to win in just Nevada, it would throw the election into the House of Representatives.

The polling above combined with polling from the last couple of days shows Obama with big leads in Colorado and Virginia and smaller leads in Nevada, Ohio, and Florida (Obama's lead in Florida appears to have narrowed by a couple of points but he still leads) and probably about tied in Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina. Again, Obama needs just ONE of these states IF he holds onto Pennsylvania.

The various pollsters above are a mixed bag in my view. I don't think too much of the AP/GfK poll but Quinnipiac is very good. Regardless, we're not seeing a lot of variation. With the exception of Ohio, we don't really see any disagreement at all and even the worst reading in Ohio has Obama ahead. SurveyUSA (the gold standard in state polling to me) had Obama up by 4 in Ohio yesterday.

One negative point to make: Obama is visiting Iowa on Friday. I have no idea why he's doing this. He did cancel an Iowa event a week ago when he went to visit his ailing grandmother so maybe this is a makeup event but I'd say we should be doing makeups after the election. Maybe Obama's internal polls are closer than the publicly-released polls? I don't know but I don't think this is good news either way. On the other hand, any day when you see a candidate's pollster on television all over the place trying to explain why the race is "functionally tied," that's not a good sign for that candidate. Bill McInturff (McCain's pollster) is a good pollster but the logic he's using to explain why the race is "functionally tied" is worthy of a master contortionist (more on that in a post to come momentarily).

Bottom line: Is the race narrowing at the national level? It appears so. Is McCain closing the gap in the critical states he needs? I see almost no evidence of that.

6 days to go: Breathe in, breathe out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Afternoon Polls

The ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +7. The new Ipsos/McClatchy national poll has Obama up by 6, down from an 8-point lead last week.

A few state polls out late today:

Arizona (Cronkite/Eight) - McCain +2
Arkansas (Rasmussen) - McCain +10
Florida (LATimes) - Obama +7
Indiana (Howey-Gauge) - McCain +2
Louisiana (SE Louisiana U.) - McCain +12
Maine (Market Decisions) - Obama +21
Mississippi (Rasmussen) - McCain +8
Nevada (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +25
Ohio (LATimes) - Obama +9
Pennsylvania (Rasmussen) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +12
Virginia (Roanoke) - Obama +9

The narrowing in the Rasmussen poll in Pennsylvania would be a concern if it weren't for the fact that they still have Obama at 53% there. The Muhlenberg tracker in Pennsylvania has Obama up by 12 but also has him at 53%.

As I said this morning, Obama has a lead in Nevada and that is deadly news for McCain. Even though it is a small state, it is crucial to his narrow path to 270 and, additionally, it is a state where we have seen very high early voter turnout and new Democratic registrations. The news from Mississippi is also bad for McCain. McCain will surely win the state but, if it is this close in Mississippi, the race is closer in Georgia (we saw a poll this morning from Georgia that had it very close), Obama probably leads by a little in North Carolina, and he probably leads by a good amount in Virginia ... maybe right about where Roanoke College has it. Current polls bear out all this view of these states in relation to one another.

Is Obama really up by 25 in New Hampshire? No, not even close. But there isn't a lot of good news to be found in that poll for John McCain either. My sense is that Obama probably leads in New Hampshire by right around 10 points.

Then there's the LATimes polls in Ohio and Florida. Oof. Question: Does Rick Davis deliver that kind of news to the candidate or do they find some intern they're planning to fire anyway to do it? "Hey Jimmy, come on in here. Let's have a heart to heart about your future ..."

Turnout, Voter Fraud, and Voter IDs

With the leak yesterday regarding the Department of Justice investigation into ACORN's registration efforts in various battleground states, there is a continued attempt to keep the voter fraud canard alive. Those following carefully know that there has been a deliberate effort to conflate voter registration fraud with fraud at the polling place. The two are quite distinct and only one of the two directly threatens the integrity of the voting process. When you have a system where you pay people to gather registrations, their incentives are going to be to register as many people as possible, regardless of whether they are accurate or false. There is, however, no evidence that these falsely registered people actually show up to vote. Careful examinations of instances of alleged voter fraud at the polling place, including the Brennan Center's report last year, show that none can be substantiated and most are a function of clerical error.

Nonetheless, the claims of voter fraud have already had an impact on the electoral landscape. There are now 24 states that require ID from voters at the polls, including Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, and Colorado. These requirements were adopted in response to concerns about voter fraud at the polling place, even in the absence of such fraud occuring. Of course, it is no mistake that those least likely to have government-issued ID are the poor, racial minorities, and the very elderly. Increasing the costs of voting for those populations means lower turnout. In April of this year, the Supreme Court upheld these laws even in the admitted absence of evidence of voter fraud, because such laws help to reassure voters about the integrity of the electoral system (although note Stephen Ansolabehere's work establishing that voters show no change in level of confidence in states with voter ID laws). The burdens imposed were incidental, according to the majority opinion. As political scientists know, though, even "incidental" burdens on voting can reduce turnout.

What does this mean for this election? As a barrier to victory for Obama, probably very little. Obama's leads in the states that he needs to win are sizeable enough that the influence of these kinds of laws are unlikely to be decisive. However, they can influence the kind of victory that Obama has. I don't buy into the notion that a "mandate" is necessary or even means anything substantive, but I do think that redrawing the map of American politics could matter. Obama wins in the south and the Mountain West can change the perception of the acceptability of Democratic policies. And it is on the margin, in close red states, that voter ID laws may have an impact. It is unfortunately too late to change them in this election cycle, but hopefully the issue will be revisited in coming years.

Oh, and thanks to Larry for working to deny me tenure by getting me to post on his blog rather than doing my research.

What a Break

Some of you know that I have been worried about Obama's half-hour commercial backing up the World Series and making some voters in Pennsylvania and Florida angry as a result (I worry about a lot of stuff). Well, we caught a break on this one.

MLB just announced they will not complete Game 5 tonight due to rain and the game will resume on Wednesday night after Obama is done with his commercial (they are pushing the start time back by 17 minutes). Because they'll be resuming the game in the 6th inning, that should leave plenty of time to do the commercial and get the game done before east coasters have to go to sleep.

Bud Selig must be in the tank for Obama.

Morning Polls

We have seen a couple of key trackers narrow in the last couple of days but we have seen no movement towards McCain whatsoever at the state level.

The Gallup tracker narrows considerably today with the Likely Voter Model II moving from Obama +10 to Obama +7. The "traditional" model is now down to a 2-point Obama lead. Rasmussen holds steady at Obama +5. Hotline holds steady at Obama +8. R2000 moves from Obama +8 to Obama +7. Obama remains at 50% or above in all the trackers. Finally, Pew has a new national poll out. Their poll had Obama up by 14 last week. They have Obama up by 15 this week. Remember that Pew is one of the few pollsters who supplements their interviews with cell-phone only voters which (by Brian Schaffner's rough calculations) probably adds about 4% to Obama's margin in their poll. ARG has a new national poll out that has Obama up by 5 and at 50%.

Just a few state polls out this morning:

Colorado (Insider Advantage) - Obama +8
Georgia (Insider Advantage) - McCain +1
Indiana (R2000) - Obama +1
Montana (Mason Dixon) - McCain +4
Nevada (Suffolk) - Obama +10 (not a typo)
New Hampshire (Mason Dixon) - Obama +11
New Jersey (Strategic Vision) - Obama +15
North Carolina (Mason Dixon) - Tied
Ohio (SurveyUSA) - Obama +4
Pennsylvania (Insider Advantage) - Obama +9
Wisconsin (Strategic Vision) - Obama +9

There is nothing good here for McCain. Well ... he IS holding on in Montana (barely) so far! So he's got that going for him. We have seen several polls out in Ohio recently showing this kind of lead for Obama but seeing it from SurveyUSA is more comfort. Obama retains solid leads in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Wisconsin. And Indiana appears to be a tossup factoring in R2000's slight Democratic lean. The Nevada poll is also a really big deal. Nobody has shown a lead this big but, even if we assume it is off by 5 points, Obama winning Nevada is TERRIBLE news for McCain. Why? The "Pennsylvania Gamble" requires that McCain hold onto Nevada believe it or not. I said yesterday that the Arizona polls showing that state close were important because they mean Obama is winning in Nevada ... and I was right.

By the way, one other point about early voting. ABC/WP tracker says that, of those who have already voted, Obama is winning by 20 points. Pew says that, of those who have already voted, Obama is winning by 19 points. So, Obama is locking in votes with his lead right now. McCain needs to win on Election Day by a bit just to get to a tie nationally. That's not impossible, but it is not helpful to McCain either.

Also, a top McCain advisor was quoted by Politico's Mike Allen as saying that Sarah Palin is a "whack job." It is a technical term.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Stepping on the Gas

I watched this on television this morning and had the same reaction as Andrew Sullivan, who posted this video. It is "powerful" stuff.

Can McCain Win?


Is it likely? No.

Why? McCain would need to crush among undecided voters and, as Brian Schaffner points out, that is not likely.

How would we know if McCain is closing the gap? Nate Silver offers one good metric. But we don't seem to be seeing it just yet.

Late Polls

The ABC/WP trackers holds steady at Obama +7.

Some new state polling:

Arizona (NAU) - McCain +8
California (Rasmussen) - Obama +27 (not a typo)
Colorado (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Florida (Suffolk) - Obama +5
Florida (Datamar) - Obama +5
Florida (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
New York (Siena) - Obama +31
North Carolina (PPP) - Obama +1
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - McCain +1
Missouri (Rasmussen) - Obama +1
Ohio (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Oklahoma (TvPoll) - McCain +27
Oregon (SurveyUSA) - Obama +19
Pennsylvania (Temple) - Obama +9
Virginia (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Washington (Washington Poll) - Obama +21

PPP had Obama up by 7 in North Carolina a week ago so (combined with the Rasmussen result) the race appears to have narrowed there. Being close in Missouri and North Carolina is just not where John McCain needed to be. Pennsylvania is just not looking all that close. McCain kinda needs Florida and having two polls showing the same Obama lead there is just brutal for him. Obama seems to have a lead in Ohio too.

Oh, and Ted Stevens was just found guilty. Oof.

More Required Reading on the Bradley Effect

Bill Greener has a new piece out in arguing that we saw a significant Bradley Effect in several statewide races for Governor and Senator in 2006 ...

... and Nate Silver points out why Greener's piece is complete nonsense.

Enough said.

Morning Polls

The national trackers are not all on the same page. The Gallup Likely Voter Model II moves from Obama +9 to Obama +10 and Obama is now at 53% in this model. The "traditional" model holds steady at Obama +5. Rasmussen drops from Obama +8 to Obama +5 though Obama's number only drops from 52% to 51%. The write-up from Rasmussen does not explain the significant overnight change so we'll have to wait and see if there is real movement going on in their poll or not (it is possible this movement is the result of a strong Thursday night sample for Obama moving out of the tracker). R2000 moves from Obama +11 to Obama +8 and the overnight sample had Obama up by just 5. The Hotline poll holds steady at Obama +8.

At the state level, we have a few polls that do not show any real movement towards McCain:

Arizona (Rasmussen) - McCain +5
Connecticut (Hartford Courant) - Obama +25
Iowa (Marist) - Obama +10
Mississippi (University of S. Alabama) - McCain +13
Missouri (SurveyUSA) - Tied
New Hampshire (Marist) - Obama +5
Virginia (Washington Post) - Obama +8
Virginia (SurveyUSA) - Obama +9
Virginia (VCU) - Obama +11

Zogby has a bunch of polls out today which I don't post because I don't have any faith in what Zogby is doing. But there are not many major surprises among his polls this time around and the most interesting thing about his series of state polls is that all 8 of the states Zogby chose to poll are states Bush won in 2004, underscoring the point that this election is (until now at least) being played on red turf. Among the polls above, there are no real surprises or movement towards McCain. The Marist poll in New Hampshire is a little closer than others have it but still a lead for Obama. The Marist poll in Iowa has Obama ahead by 10. I guess McCain succeeded in shaving Obama's lead from 13 to 10 by visiting the state. Nice one! Missouri is about where we figured it is. Obama holds a solid lead in Virginia in three different polls of the state and Mississippi and Connecticut are not close.

Now, let me say something about that Arizona Rasmussen poll because it is of more than passing interest. We saw two polls in Arizona yesterday with similar narrow margins for McCain though those polls had a greater number of undecideds. I have much more faith in this Rasmussen poll which shows a very slightly larger margin for McCain and fewer undecideds and shows McCain at 51%. Still, this is really bad news for McCain. Why? What does a 5-point lead in his home state tell you about the other three battleground states nearby (Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada)? By all measures, Hispanic voters have moved heavily towards Barack Obama (Obama leads by 24 points among Hispanics in Arizona, according to Rasmussen, and by more in other western states) and tiny Nevada is actually quite critical to McCain's math. The McCain campaign seems to be moving all its chips in gambling on an upset in Pennsylvania (while still holding onto Ohio and Florida). But let's just say McCain wins Pennsylvania (and Ohio and Florida). If he loses Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia, he still loses. A 5-point lead for McCain in Arizona tells me McCain is behind in Nevada and that is the one where McCain has the best chance for an upset.

8 days to go!!! Breathe in, breathe out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Some Afternoon Polls

The ABC/WP tracker narrows again from Obama +9 to Obama +7.

Some state polls:

Arizona (Zimmerman) - McCain +2
Ohio (U. of Akron) - Obama +4
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +13
West Virginia (R2000) - McCain +6

This is the second poll in Arizona today - a state that had not been polled recently or much at all - and it is further bad news for McCain. Is it really this close in McCain's home state? I've never heard of either of the pollsters who did these polls but they sure do agree with one another. The West Virginia result is about where other pollsters have it when you figure in R2000's slight Democratic lean. The Muhlenberg tracker in Pennsylvania moves another point in Obama's direction. At what point will the public polls in Pennsylvania begin to reflect the private polls McCain must have that justify going all in on Pennsylvania? Just asking.

What in the World???

Nice catch by Ben Smith here. Take a look at this video and watch the woman behind McCain on the right part of the screen who looks like Sarah Palin. She not only looks the part, she seems to thank McCain for his kind words ... about Sarah Palin ... who she is not.


Obama in Colorado

Obama had over 100,000 turn out in Colorado today.

McCain had several thousand supporters show up in Iowa. I don't know why.

Anchorage Daily News

The Anchorage Daily News endorsement struck me as an interesting statement of how far the narrative of the campaign has gone from where John McCain wanted it. The sub-headline of the endorsement says "[Blank]'s rise captivates us but nation needs a steady hand." If I asked you three months ago to fill in the blank, you would have reflexively said that the blank is Obama and the paper is endorsing John McCain as a steady hand.

But that isn't what they said. The blank is Palin and the "steady hand" the ADN refers to is Obama. When Obama is winning the "steady hand" argument among so many voters, what is there left for McCain to do?

He has to make you afraid of Obama. And that's what he'll try to do for the last 9 days.

Morning Polls

Some internal movement in the Gallup tracker this morning. The Likely Voter II Model (which is the one I tend to trust most) moves from Obama +8 to Obama +9. But the Likely Voter I Model narrows from Obama +7 to Obama +5. Obama does remain at 50% or above in all the Gallup models though. This could mean the two candidates are simply consolidating their bases and Obama's base is less of a traditional voting group. Rasmussen holds steady at Obama +8 and is at 52% for the fourth straight day in that poll. Rasmussen also has McCain's unfavorable rating up to 49%. Hotline moves from Obama +7 to Obama +8. R2000 moves from Obama +12 to Obama +11 and they had Obama up by just 9 in the overnight sample.

Some state polls out this morning:

Arizona (Myers Group) - McCain +4
Georgia (Mason Dixon) - McCain +6
Iowa (Mason Dixon) - Obama +11
Missouri (Mason Dixon) - McCain +1
New Hampshire (UNH) - Obama +15
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +12
Virginia (PPP) - Obama +9
Wisconsin (Rasmussen) - Obama +7

This is how bad it is for John McCain. The best news in this group for him is the Missouri poll showing him winning by 1. Mason Dixon has a slight Republican lead and, combined with yesterday's poll from R2000 (they have a slight Democratic lean) that showed Obama up by 1, it is clear Missouri is a tossup right now. There is no path to victory for McCain where he does not win Missouri. So he has to hold that state. The Iowa poll from Mason Dixon (again, they have a slight Republican lean) once again begs the question I've been asking for 24 hours. What in the world is John McCain doing in Iowa today?

There are several polls here that are really bad news for McCain. New Hampshire is one blue state the McCain campaign had hoped to pick off. It doesn't look likely. I've never heard of the pollster who conducted the poll in Arizona but that is a disastrous result for McCain if it is an accurate reading. The Virginia poll from PPP is also disastrous news for McCain if it is accurate. The only way McCain can afford to lose Virginia is if he wins Pennsylvania. And the Muhlenberg tracker in Pennsylvania does not show the gap narrowing there (actually, Obama gained a point today).

9 days to go!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Some Afternoon Polls

The ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +9.

Just a few state polls:

Arkansas (R2000) - McCain +11
Illinois (R2000) - Obama +24
Iowa (R2000) - Obama +15
Kentucky (R2000) - McCain +16
Minnesota (St. Cloud) - Obama +6
Missouri (R2000) - Obama +1
New Jersey (Marist) - Obama +17
New York (Marist) - Obama +24
South Dakota (R2000) - McCain +9
Tennessee (R2000) - McCain +16

Not a lot of states that are close here. The St. Cloud poll seems like moderately good news for McCain but others don't have Minnesota that close. The R2000 poll in Missouri is also good news for McCain as they have a slight Democratic lean from what I can tell.

But I say again: What in the world is McCain going to Iowa for?

Is McCain Trying to Lose?

Nate Silver has a good piece in the NYPost outlining how he would advise John McCain with 10 days to go (this assumes, of course, that Nate retains full use of his mental capacities but has just turned to the dark side).

Among his recommendations, Nate suggests that McCain abandon some states like Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that are clearly lost and are not worthy of the expenditure of scarce resources like candidate visits and media buys. This recommendation is based on lots of polling data, like this Iowa poll that came out today showing McCain behind in Iowa by 15 points.

Iowa, in particular, has never really been a good state for McCain. Obama practically jump-started his campaign there with his performance in the Iowa Caucuses, he was very well-organized in the state in order to pull that off, and he's only become better organized since then. Finally, as Nate points out, McCain's stance on ethanol is deadly stuff in Iowa.

So, what's the McCain campaign to do? Sarah Palin visits Iowa today and John McCain will be there tomorrow. Brilliant.

Powell, George Wallace, and the Dangers of Right-Wing Extremism

I was struck by so many things during Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, but one part that really stood out to me was his discussion of the increasing "narrowness" of the McCain campaign -- the real ugliness we've seen at their events, as the more extreme elements of the Republican base are sensing more and more that their days are numbered (at least for the time being).

It's perhaps unfair to say that McCain and Palin themselves think these ugly, racist, McCarthyist
things, but I don't think it's a very big leap between that stuff, and what they actually are saying on the campaign trail ("pals around w/ terrorists," etc). To deny that the dots are connected here between the death rattle of The Republican Party and this stuff would, I think, be pretty disingenuous.

Sadly, this seems to be all they believe they have left to say -- which is exactly what happened to George Wallace. He didn't have a "choice" either (if he wanted to win at all costs) -- and so ultimately Congressman Lewis' comparison was far more apt than people realize. McCain is very much like George Wallace was (before he recanted/redeemed himself, of course). I hope that one day he will look back at his campaign and feel ashamed at some level -- just like Wallace did. 

The idea that these kinds of things are still shouted openly, and that politicians even fan these flames, or take no meaningful steps to tamp them, is deeply troubling. I am reminded also of the terrible things said about Rabin at Benyamin Netanyahu's campaign rallies during the Israeli elections in 1995. Also desperate to win at all costs, Netanyahu and The Likud Party did nothing to quell the repeated shouts of "traitor, murderer," etc. Rabin was assassinated on November 4th, 1995. Netanhayu defeated Shimon Peres (Rabin's successor) narrowly in the 1996 elections.

These Colors Don't Run

Alright, I'll admit it, the music associated w/ the McCain campaign (and the Republican Party) just rocks so much more than anything Obama's got, no question about it:

Here's a washed-up Hank Williams, Jr. at a recent Sarah Palin rally, and my personal favorite -- Huck "jammin'" on the bass with Aaron Tippin -- to Drill Here...Drill Now, on his new show on Fox.

I would LOVE to see some coverage of this in the European media, is all I can say...

Closing Argument

Simple, clear, well-done:

Morning Polls

Saturdays are slow polling days. It is kind of like when those Mercury capsules would go into communications blackout and we would have to wait to see if the astronauts were okay. But we do have some trackers and some state polling to go over and the trackers have more interesting news internally than they usually do.

Obama expands his lead in the Gallup Likely Voter Model II to 8 points. But the really interesting thing here is that all three of Gallup's models are starting to converge. Obama is up by 7 in their Likely Voter Model I and he is up by 9 among registered voters. The meaning of these numbers converging is that there is less and less disagreement among them on what the makeup of the likely voter pool is and that is REALLY bad news for John McCain. At least before, he could find hope in the idea that a turnout similar to 2004 would make the race closer. Now it is not so close. Meanwhile, Rasmussen continues to tick upwards for Obama and he now has an 8-point lead there. That is a big deal because Rasmussen weights by party ID so their numbers are a little bit conservative (less sensitive) by definition. This matches Obama's largest lead in the Rasmussen tracker all year and he is at 52%. More importantly, 48% of voters say they are "certain" to vote for Obama while just 40% of voters say they are "certain" to vote for McCain. Hotline holds steady at Obama +7. R2000 holds steady at Obama +12. Finally, lest you think R2000 is just some outlier, Newsweek's national poll came out last night and they had Obama up by 12 as well. Several national polls (CBS/NYTimes, Pew, and NBC/WSJ) have shown this kind of margin recently.

At the state level, we do have just a few polls:

Ohio (U. of Cincinnati) - Obama +3
Colorado (CBS4) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +11

No good news for McCain here. Little to no movement in Pennsylvania and a nice lead in Colorado. The Obama lead in Ohio in the Univ. of Cincinnati poll is smaller than some other pollsters show but my sense is this reading is about right.

The best news for McCain is that this will be a light polling day. Seriously, that helps. These poll numbers showing Obama with a lead surely take a toll on his volunteers and staff as they get demoralized thinking it is a losing cause. A day's respite from the stream of bad news might do them some good. So ... they've got that going for them.

By the way, some have asked me about likely voter models, why Obama seems to do worse in some than others, etc. Nate Silver had a good piece on this recently. Now, Mark Blumenthal of has a more detailed response to Nate's piece that is an absolute must-read if you're interested in such things.

Finally, in case you missed it, President Bush endorsed John McCain recently:

Friday, October 24, 2008

10 More Days ...

... and Larry David is very frightened ... but not as frightened as Richard Lewis.

Makes you wonder how John Zogby can justify his finding that McCain is ahead among Jewish voters. He can't. He's wrong. Obama is winning about 75% of Jewish voters and he's winning about 99% of Jewish comedians (Jackie Mason is supporting McCain - no joke).

Joe The Lieberman Says ...

From Taegan Goddard:

"Thank God she's not going to have to be president from day one."

-- Sen. Joe Lieberman, quoted by the Stamford Advocate, when asked if Gov. Sarah Palin is ready to be president. He went on to say, "McCain's going to be alive and well."

Morning Polls

On a Friday morning, we get some mixed readings on the direction of the race.

Gallup Likely Voter Model II moves from Obama +6 to Obama +7. Rasmussen holds steady at Obama +7. Hotline moves from Obama +5 to Obama +7 and hits 50% in that poll for the first time in a while. R2000 moves from Obama +10 to Obama +12 on the strength of a +14 overnight sample. ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +11 to Obama +9 but he remains at 53% in that poll. Democracy Corps has a national poll out that puts Obama ahead by 9 (he was ahead in this poll by 4 just a week ago). The Economist has a national poll out showing Obama up by 8.

At the state level, we have some mixed results:

New Hampshire (Rasmussen) - Obama +4
Iowa (Rasmussen) - Obama +8
Massachusetts (Suffolk) - Obama +19
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - McCain +2
North Carolina (Winthrop) - Obama +1
Virginia (Winthrop) - Obama +1
South Carolina (Winthrop) - McCain +20
Georgia (Insider Advantage) - Obama +1
Georgia (Strategic Vision) - McCain +6
Ohio (Insider Advantage) - Obama +10
Ohio (PPP) - Obama +7
Ohio (Strategic Vision) - McCain +3
Florida (Insider Advantage) - Obama +1
Florida (Strategic Vision) - McCain +2
Pennsylvania (Strategic Vision) - Obama +7
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +12
Kentucky (R2000) - McCain +16
Alabama (AEA) - McCain +20
Oregon (Riley) - Obama +14
Michigan (EPIC/MRA) - Obama +14

Here we have a lot of state polls by a lot of the pollsters that I trust a bit less and some of the inconsistency shows in these numbers. Take the Winthrop numbers for example. They have the exact same result in Virginia and North Carolina. Whatever the actual numbers really are, it is pretty clear Obama will do relatively better in Virginia by 5-7 points than he does in North Carolina in the end. Or take Insider Advantage. They show Obama up by 1 in Florida AND Obama up by 1 in Georgia. Those states are also not right relative to one another. Then there is Strategic Vision. Their numbers seem reasonable relative to one another but all of their polls are at least 5 points worse for Obama than other pollsters. One other data point of note is that Insider Advantage has Obama up by 10 in Ohio. PPP has Obama up by 7 there and that is the fifth reading from Ohio that has Obama up between 7 and 14 there. I am still skeptical until I see Rasmussen or SurveyUSA produce a number anywhere in this vicinity. But we'll see. Rasmussen does have three polls out today that each have better news for McCain. In North Carolina, they have McCain up by 2. That feels like it is in the right neighborhood even if it is a little worse for Obama than I would expect right now. In New Hampshire, they have Obama up by just 4 and in Iowa, they have Obama up by just 8. Both those numbers are off their highs but Obama should still win these states.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Homestretch

The closing argument is taking shape and it is a study in message discipline:

Que Bueno

Barack Obama habla espanol:

He had me at "hola!"

Late Polls

McCain supporters should skip to the next post. There is no good news for you here.

CBS/NYTimes has their new national poll out and they have Obama ahead by 13 points. Suddenly, that Pew Poll from yesterday (Obama +14) doesn't look wild. The ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +11. Some more state polls have come out late today as well:

Minnesota (Rasmussen) - Obama +15
Washington (Rasmussen) - Obama +11
Georgia (Rasmussen) - McCain +5
Pennsylvania (SurveyUSA) - Obama +12
Kansas (SurveyUSA) - McCain +12
Indiana (SurveyUSA) - Obama +4
Louisiana (Rasmussen) - McCain +16
Florida (St. Pete Times) - Obama +7
West Virginia (Orion) - McCain +5
Montana (Montana St. Univ.) - Obama +4
Maine (CInsights) - Obama +21
Arkansas (U. of Ark.) - McCain +15

The Minnesota Rasmussen poll suddenly makes this morning's poll from Big 10 Battleground look a little more credible. The SurveyUSA poll in Indiana makes the Big 10 Battleground poll there look a little more credible. SurveyUSA confirms what everyone else (including the Big 10 Battleground poll) is saying there. The Florida poll from St. Pete looks a lot like the Quinnipiac poll and the Montana poll is just an extra problem the McCain campaign did not need right now. Oh, by the way, McCain is now going to need to spend more money in West Virginia and Georgia.

Bottom line: EVERYTHING is moving the wrong way for John McCain at this moment ... except for John McCain's brother Joe, who is stuck in traffic.

Opie, Andy, Richie, and the Fonz ...

... all endorse Obama ... in case Colin Powell wasn't enough for you.

Caution: You must be over 35 years old to understand this video.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Chuck Todd 1.0

Alright I'll admit it, I miss the "Primary" Chuck Todd just a little bit -- he's still the man (of course), but back then he had a slight shyness, and that "did I get all the mustard off my shirt, Guys?" look, which I could definitely relate to.

My favorite all-time was his "Mr. Spock" moment -- i.e. the night of the TX/OH primaries. While the commentators were going on and on (and on) about the "Comeback," he was staring into the computer screen, when the camera shifts to him. He looks up, raises his eyebrow, and is like "Ah no. 9 delegates."

Then there was a 10-second (rather awkward) pause, and the commentators were like, "Sooo anyway, back to our regularly scheduled amazing comeback -- bought to you by Proctor and Gamble, Frito Lay, etc..."

And this nugget of pure gold was sent to me by my friend Cindy Price.

Nate Silver: Are the Kids "Groovin' on J-Mac?"

Nate Silver takes the TIPP tracker to task for its finding today that Obama is ahead by just 1 point nationally. In the internals, he finds that TIPP has McCain leading among 18-24 year-olds by 52 points begging the question "Who knew the kids were groovin' on J-Mac these days?" Positively brilliant.

Being the math whiz he is, Nate calculates the odds of TIPP finding a sub-sample of about 100 18-24 year-olds who prefer McCain by such a margin and finds them to be about (he rounds up slightly) 55 billion to 1. The other explanation is that there is something wrong with their sampling or weighting. But the odds of that are only 99.99999999% ... seriously.

Morning Polls

This morning features a wide array of polls that make you look, rub your eyes, look again, and then say, "I need to get some coffee." Let's start with the national trackers that are less "wild."

The Gallup Likely Voter Model II goes from Obama +8 to Obama +6 but it appears the drop is more the result of a good night from 4 days ago dropping out than things going bad last night. Rasmussen moves from Obama +6 to Obama +7. It is notable that Rasmussen has Obama doing better than Gallup because Rasmussen weights by party ID and is the more stable (or we might say, less sensitive) of the two. Hotline holds steady at Obama +5. R2000 holds steady at Obama +10.

Now, on to the state polls where we'll see the really wild stuff and let me just preface this by saying I don't have much regard for the Big 10 Battleground polls (they had some very wacky numbers in September) but I do have a high regard for Quinnipiac. Nate Silver provides his take of these polls here:

Texas (Rasmussen) - McCain +10
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +10
Pennsylvania (Quinnipiac) - Obama +13
Pennsylvania (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +11
Pennsylvania (National Journal) - Obama +10
Ohio (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +12
Ohio (Quinnipiac) - Obama +14
Florida (Quinnipiac) - Obama +5
Michigan (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +22
Minnesota (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +19
Minnesota (National Journal) - Obama +10
Wisconsin (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +13
Wisconsin (National Journal) - Obama +13
Iowa (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +13
Indiana (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +10
Illinois (Big 10 Battleground) - Obama +29
California (PPIC) - Obama +23

Okay. Let's start by pointing to some of the polls that strike us as a little less wild. The PPIC poll in California seems eminently reasonable to me. In 2004, John Kerry won in California by 9 points and the national polls are clearly about 10 points further in the Democrats direction right now. So, if California follows the nation, that puts the state about where this PPIC poll has it. The Texas poll from Rasmussen seems eminently reasonable as well.

The Pennsylvania numbers for both the Big 10 Battleground and the Quinnipiac polls seem to be about in line with other publicly-released polls including the Muhlenberg tracker and the National Journal poll out this morning. The Quinnipiac number in Florida seems a little bit better for Obama than where it seems the race is there right now but Nate Silver's numbers show Quinnipiac as having a 1-2 point Democratic lean anyway so if you shave a couple of points off that poll, it is not far off. I suspect Florida is about tied right now. Finally, the Big 10 Battleground numbers in Iowa and Wisconsin could be about right. I think Iowa is going to go for Obama, I think McCain is pulling out of Iowa in terms of media and I think Iowans know it. So I think Obama's lead in that state could easily be stretching to low double-digits like this. The same is true of Wisconsin. McCain appears to be pulling out of the state and this poll is not out of line with others in the state including the National Journal poll out this morning.

Now, in looking at the rest of these numbers, it is hard to pick out which is the most counterintuitive. I just don't think any of the rest of these numbers is absolutely correct but I'll discuss them in order from those I think are closest to being correct to those I think are the most off:

We start in Minnesota. Obama clearly leads in Minnesota and I think he probably leads by double digits. But 19? The argument for this being possible is that it seems McCain is pulling out of Minnesota too and I think there is every likelihood that the bonehead comments of Michele Bachmann in her race against Elwyn Tinklenberg (my favorite pastor in Minnesota's 6th congressional district) did not go over well statewide. I think she is now losing and it is possible it moved the statewide numbers to this kind of edge for Obama. I doubt it is quite this large but it is possible National Journal has Obama's lead at 10 and that seems plausible to me.

Next is Illinois. Nobody thinks Illinois will be close. It wouldn't be anyway but you add the home-state senator into the mix and it will be a blowout. 29 points? I think that's probably a bit high. But John Kerry won the state by 11 in 2004 so a margin above 20 points would not surprise anyone.

Next is Michigan. Obama clearly leads. He almost certainly leads by well into the double digits. But 22? Perhaps people there are still angry about how McCain so publicly pulled out of the state. Or maybe they're just angry. 22 seems high to me.

Next is Indiana. Big 10 Battleground has Obama up by 10 points. PPP had a poll out a few days ago with a much bigger sample size that had Obama up by 2. With PPP's slight Democratic lean, it seemed the race in Indiana was legitimately a tossup. Further evidence of a close race (or even a slight Obama lead) is the fact that McCain just made a significant ad buy in the state. But McCain wouldn't make a buy like that if he was down by 10 in the state. I think Obama may have moved into a slight lead there but not double digits.

Finally, there is Ohio. Big 10 Battleground has Obama up by 12. The thing that makes this hard to dismiss out of hand is that Quinnipiac has a poll out this morning showing Obama up by 14. What??? Quinnipiac is a good pollster though they have a slight Democratic lean. There are no other Ohio polls in this neighborhood. CNN/Time put an Ohio poll out yesterday showing Obama up by 4 but I thought THEY had a slight Democratic lean. If these polls are accurate, the race is just plain over. I don't think these polls are accurate.

Whatever we make of these polls, there isn't any bad news for Obama here. There are just 12 days to go and this is clearly NOT a sign that McCain is closing in but he is holding onto the lead in Texas ... so he's got that going for him.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Arnold Thinks ...

... Palin is not ready yet. But he does think she'll be ready by Inauguration Day.

Will they send her someplace special to train?

Chuck Todd Not Feelin' It

I have not yet seen the interview Brian Williams did with McCain and Palin but Chuck Todd was definitely not getting a good vibe from the two of them. As a numbers guy, Chuck is not the type to wax poetic or anything but something about the scene struck him as just not right:

I'm Voting For "That One"

A new ad aimed at older Jewish voters asks them to vote for hope and to vote for "that one." The group has a website up just like the Great Schlep.

Please send to those you think maybe swayed by this (ie, send to Florida) ASAP.

Late Polls

A number of late polls today. Almost all are good news. The ABC/WP tracker moves from Obama +10 to Obama +11 and Obama is up to 54% in that one. AP/GfK has a national poll out that has Obama up by 5 among registered voters but just 1 among likely voters. This is one of those overly tight likely voter screens Nate Silver was talking about in his post.

At the state level, we've got a bunch of new polls this afternoon:

North Carolina (WSOC-TV) - Obama +2
North Carolina (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Ohio (CNN/Time) - Obama +4
Virginia (CNN/Time) - Obama +10
Wisconsin (R2000) - Obama +11
Nevada (CNN/Time) - Obama +5
Kentucky (Rasmussen) - McCain +8
Tennessee (Rasmussen) - McCain +12
South Dakota (Argus Leader) - McCain +7
West Virginia (CNN/Time) - McCain +9

CNN/Time polls have seemed to have a slight Obama lean I think but these numbers are still good. Slight leads in North Carolina and Nevada, good lead in Virginia. Nothing but bad news for McCain here. That single-digit lead in Kentucky is a bit shocking and, while it is certainly bad news for McCain, it is even worse news for Mitch McConnell. If the Obama campaign decides to spend a little money there and build on their GOTV effort there (which they certainly have the resources to do), it could cost McConnell his Senate seat.

More Required Reading on Likely Voter Screens

Nate Silver has a good piece on likely voter screens and which ones seem to be silly. Good stuff.

His explanation outlines why I generally rely (as he does) on the Gallup Likely Voter Model II instead of their "Traditional" model. It is hard to argue with the logic as Nate Silver lays it out but there is a part of me that thinks he is even understating the problem with these voter screens. You have massive numbers of new registered voters in most states, all of whom are thrown out of some of these likely voter models. Additionally, there are some voters who might even be thrown out of an "Expanded" model like Gallup's Model II if they don't currently know where their polling place is but they are planning to vote regardless. As you may know, some people procrastinate but still get things done by the deadline. I don't know anybody like that but I've heard of it.

Required Reading on the Bradley Effect

Nate Silver has a piece in Newsweek on it. The takeaway point is what I said in a post a couple of weeks ago. It just isn't a factor in this election.

Morning Polls

13 days to go and the bottom line is this: Whatever tightening McCain got in the last couple of weeks has been disappearing in the last few days. Gallup (Likely Voter Model II) moves from Obama +10 to Obama +8. But Rasmussen bounces back from Obama +4 to Obama +6. I estimate an 83% likelihood that Nate Silver will use the phrase "regression to the mean" to describe this in his polling update today. Hotline moves from Obama +6 to Obama +5. R2000 moves from Obama +8 to Obama +10 and, for the first time in about a week, has one of those overnight samples (Obama +12) we had been seeing almost every night for a few weeks. Fox News has a national poll out that has Obama up by 9 points. Relative to their poll almost two weeks ago, that is a net gain of 3 points for Obama. Where is all this tightening everyone is talking about?

A bunch of state polls are out this morning:

Virginia (Mason Dixon) - Obama +2
Florida (Mason Dixon) - McCain +1
Maine (SurveyUSA) - Obama +15
Maine (Pan Atlantic SMS) - Obama +12
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +11
Alaska (Ivan Moore) - McCain +11
Washington (Elway) - Obama +19
Wisconsin (WPR) - Obama +13

The best number in this group for McCain is the Virginia number. But, there are two things about that number that are deceptive. First, Mason Dixon has a slight GOP lean this cycle. Second, and most important, Mason Dixon had McCain ahead by 3 points in Virginia two weeks ago. So, as a relative matter, this poll suggests Obama has improved his position by 5 points in the last couple of weeks there. In Florida, Mason Dixon has McCain up by 1 and that is an improvement for him in this poll from 2 weeks ago (Obama was up by 2 then).

The Pennsylvania tracker (Muhlenberg) moves from Obama +10 to Obama +11 overnight so that is good news for Obama in a state the McCain campaign seems to be moving a lot of its chips into. The two polls in Maine show Obama with a bigger lead than he had a couple of weeks ago and that is only important in the sense that McCain had hoped to pick up an electoral vote in the second congressional district there and that looks unlikely now. Finally, just as an "oh, by the way" comment, the Ivan Moore poll in Alaska has narrowed considerably in the last 2 weeks (from McCain +17 to Obama +11). I think McCain may need to drop that "Palin is the most popular Governor in America" tagline from his stump speech pretty soon.

Sarah Palin Asks ...

... "You've got to ask yourself: Why was Sen. Hillary Clinton not even vetted by the Obama campaign?"

- Sarah Palin at a rally in Henderson, NV on Tuesday

More Important Question: "Why was Gov. Sarah Palin not even vetted by the McCain campaign?"

Next issue.

Tinklenberg Rising

For those of you following the blossoming career of Elwyn Tinklenberg (the dude challenging Michele Bachmann in Minnesota), he has now raised nearly $1 million since Bachmann imploded on national television on Friday and he's up on the air with the ad you see below. CQ has downgraded Bachmann's chances of holding onto the seat even though it is a district that Bush won by 15 points in 2004. Not too shabby of an ad:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Morning" Polls

I put "morning" in those sarcastic air quotes because I am not posting this in the morning and some of these polls have come out late today. Regardless, here it is - a massive data dump all at once.

The overall takeaway here is that I to see the continued narrowing that Nate Silver says he sees (though he hasn't posted his take on today's data yet). The race did narrow last week but, since Saturday or so, things seem very stable to me and Obama never really dropped below the 50% threshold in the trackers I consider most useful (Rasmussen and Gallup). The lead is smaller than it was a week ago but not by much and I am not seeing continued movement in McCain's direction.

At the national level, this was a good morning for Obama in the trackers. Gallup Likely Voter II Model goes from Obama +9 to Obama +10. Rasmussen holds steady at Obama +4 but he's still at 50% there. Hotline moves from Obama +5 to Obama +6 and R2000, which had narrowed considerably, holds steady at Obama +8 though his overnight sample last night was his best in about 5 days. The ABC/WP tracker holds steady at Obama +9. Meanwhile, Pew has a national poll out that puts Obama up by 14 (not a typo) and NBC/WSJ has a national poll out that puts Obama up by 10 (in fact, the numbers in this poll are EXACTLY the same as the Gallup tracker - 52-42 for Obama over McCain). Ipsos has Obama up by 8 nationally.

The state polling out this afternoon looks like this:

Colorado (Insider Advantage) - Obama +5
West Virginia (Rasmussen) - McCain +9
South Carolina (Rasmussen) - McCain +11
North Carolina (Insider Advantage) - Obama +1
North Carolina (SurveyUSA) - Tied
North Carolina (Civitas) - Obama +3
Indiana (PPP) - Obama +2
Kentucky (SurveyUSA) - McCain +13
Oklahoma (SurveyUSA) - McCain +24
Oklahoma ( - McCain +31
Wyoming (SurveyUSA) - McCain +21
Wyoming (Mason Dixon) - McCain +26
Florida (PPP) - Obama +1
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +10
New Jersey (Quinnipiac) - Obama +23
New Jersey (Monmouth) - Obama +17
Illinois (Chicago Tribune) - Obama +24
Nevada (Insider Advantage) - Tied
Vermont (Macro) - Obama +22

So, what are we to make of all this? We could start to digest all this by picking out the state poll with the single best piece of news for each side. The PPP poll in Indiana is very good news for Obama. It is another red state that is in play and PPP actually has him in the lead. Now, I defy you to find a single piece of good news in all this from the McCain campaign's perspective. I guess you could say it is good news he's tied (according to SurveyUSA only but they are good) in North Carolina. But, if you had told John McCain 2 years ago that "the good news is you're tied in North Carolina with 2 weeks to go!" he might have decided against running. That's really bad "good" news.

A different way to look at all these numbers is to try to determine a trend. It does seem that McCain has narrowed the gap in many key battleground states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. But take another long look. How many states on that list above are states John Kerry won in 2004? Vermont, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. That's it. And Obama's lead is at least 10 points in all four. Now, according to John King of CNN yesterday, the McCain campaign is planning to break through and pull an upset in Pennsylvania and, indeed, McCain himself was campaigning in Pennsylvania today. Take a look at the RCP log of Pennsylvania polls. There, you'll find that John McCain has not led in ANY publicly-released poll since April. In October, John McCain has not been closer than 8 points behind in any publicly-released poll. Maybe he has secret numbers that look better, but I doubt it.

Update: I take it all back. John McCain is sure to win Pennsylvania with soaring oratory like this:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Late Polls

A bunch of late state polls came out today along with three late national polls. Democracy Corps has Obama up by 5 nationally in line with CNN's national poll earlier today. The Economist has Obama up by 6. ABC/WP has Obama up by 9 nationally, basically unchanged from the 10-point lead the same poll gave him 9 days ago. But, believe it or not, that's not the REALLY bad news for McCain in this poll. Obama remains at 53% in this poll. The significance of this is that McCain cannot rely on winning undecideds to win the election. He needs to convert some of the "soft" Obama supporters ... and there are not many of those. We know this by looking at the enthusiasm gap. 64% of Obama voters said they are "very enthusiastic" about voting for him while just 40% of McCain voters said the same of their candidate. To put this in historical perspective, in 2004, 55% of Bush voters were "very enthusiastic" about their choice while 46% of Kerry voters said the same of their candidate. In 2000, the numbers were 44/41 for Bush/Gore respectively.

Here are the state polls from this afternoon:

Ohio (Rasmussen) - McCain +2
Florida (Rasmussen) - McCain +1
North Carolina (Rasmussen) - Obama +3
Colorado (Rasmussen) - Obama +5
Missouri (Rasmussen) - Obama +5
Virginia (SurveyUSA) - Obama +6
Wisconsin (SurveyUSA) - Obama +8
Pennsylvania (Susquehanna) - Obama +8
Oregon (Grove) - Obama +13
Georgia (Democracy Corps) - McCain +2
Pennsylvania (Muhlenberg) - Obama +12

What to make of all this? If it weren't for the Missouri number, I would say the Rasmussen polls strike me as leaning a little towards the GOP as a group. These polls are certainly on the low side of all polls for Obama support but let's assume they're all real. If they are, game over. Obama really only needs to win any one of the 5 states Rasmussen polled here. So pick your poison. The Virginia number from SurveyUSA is good ... but a peek at the internals make it look even better. SurveyUSA estimates African-Americans will make up 19% of voters in Virginia. But African-Americans made up 21% of voters in the 2004 election. Why would they be a smaller portion of the electorate in 2008? Also, SurveyUSA has Obama winning 85% of African-American voters but John Kerry won 87% of African-American voters in 2004. I suspect Obama will outperform Kerry on both these numbers. So, all this means the Rasmussen number (Obama +10) in Virginia is looking pretty accurate to me right now. The Georgia number from Democracy is outright deadly for McCain as well. Here's how the shorthand works: Take Virginia, make it a little less Democratic and you've got North Carolina. Take North Carolina and make it a little less Democratic and you've got Georgia. So Obama down 2 in GA is consistent with Obama up 3-5 in NC and that's consistent with Obama up 6-10 in Virginia. My point is all these numbers from different pollsters are scary, scary consistent from this perspective and that's really, really bad news for McCain.

Nate Silver sees all this just a tiny bit less positively than I do (he sees a bit more of a drift back to McCain in the last week or so). Meanwhile, John King reports that "senior McCain officials" have all but written off Iowa, New Mexico, AND Colorado. So how does McCain get to 270 without those three states that all voted for Bush in 2004? John King from CNN says McCain is planning for a comeback in Pennsylvania. Make sense? No. I don't get it either.

Race and Late Deciders

Brian Schaffner has a great piece up on looking at the question of late deciders and race. For those interested in questions like the Bradley Effect and issues of race and polling, I highly recommend taking a look at this piece. The short version is that Brian looks at Harold Ford's unsuccessful Senate bid in Tennessee and looks at late deciders to see if they broke against Ford. In other words, did late deciders just ultimately decide they couldn't be for an African-American candidate? His answer is no. If anything, Ford did a little better among late deciders than early deciders and he did not underperform the final polls.