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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Excellent Article by John Heilmann On McCain and the Low Road Express


Highly recommended by Josh Marshall.

I want to quibble. Heilman writes

Measured against the generic Democratic ballot, Obama continues to underperform dramatically. And since shifting to a more harshly negative posture, McCain has gained ground on Obama in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to recent Quinnipiac swing-state polls.

OK quick pop quiz, when was the last time an actual Democratic candidate outperformed generic Democrat ? All my life, more Americans have identified with the Democrats than the Republicans, yet the Republicans have won most Presidential elections.

Still worse is cherry picking polls. I thought we were past that (the blogosphere certainly is). There are so many polls that you can find one shifting in either direction. Consider Florida where Heilmann claims McCain has gained ground. Here is the Pollster graph showing Obama surpassing McCain. Heilman's claim about Florida is based entirely on the statistically insignificant decline in Obama's lead from 4% to 2% from mid June to late July. This, the only Quinnipiac poll since the smears began is above the pollster trend line (Obama by 0.4%). Ohio a 2% lead compared to the trend line of 2.6% (and McCain ahead by 10% in a Rasmussen on 7/21). Penn latest Q poll Obama up by 7% compared to trend line of 8.1%. So this is averaging below the trend line by less than 0.034 % per state. Come on.

On the other hand the Gallup and Rasmussen daily tracking polls showed a statistically significant bounce for Obama followed by a statistically significant return to a virtual tie. That is evidence that the negative ads are working. But why bother with valid evidence which is available when an absurd argument can be made.

The rule seems to be that a clearly invalid interpretation of polls which fits a narrative is perfectly OK.

Actually, I'm not so convinced by the article as a whole. Heilmann is convinced that Obama should go negative against McCain. His only hope is that McCain is too decent to do the full swift boat. He should notice how many former McCain fans in the press have declared that they don't know the many anymore. It is very possible that if McCain doesn't flinch and Obama doesn't go negative the media narrative may be that McCain is desperately flailing, dishonest, bitter and has abandoned his honor and integrity, because of his ambition. Attacking can work, but staying above the fray as everyone else attacks is much better. I think the huge contrast between McCain's lying nastiness and Obama's calm might be useful to Obama.

At least it's worth a try.

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