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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Putting the 'Part' Back in 'Party'

The Democratic party's in disarray. Rent asunder. Cleft in twain. A house divided that cannot stand. Hillary's camp is moving to John McCain and Barack Obama -- once the Democratic wunderkind -- is left with only his cult of personality and black power types. It's doom, I tell you, do-o-o-m!

Or, at least, that's the impression you get from some of the punditry. One of the primary offenders in this media narrative has been cable giant CNN. After Clinton conceded, they beat a poll they'd taken into the ground. The subject was whether or not people wanted a Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton "dream ticket."

"Poll finds majority of Dems want Obama-Clinton ticket" was the headline they ran online and on the crawl beneath their broadcast for days on end, suggesting that the only way Barack could pull things out of a tailspin was to have Clinton come save him.

"Fifty-four percent of registered Democrats questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Friday think Obama should name his rival as his running mate," the story told us. "43 percent disagreed." Of course, with a margin for error of 4.5%, this is almost a statistical tie.

But still, half is a lot, right? Obama has to pick Hillary or his chances are shot all to hell, right?

Wrong. Despite the headline, the piece goes on; "Twenty-four percent of those polled said that even if Obama names someone else as his running mate, Clinton should try to override that decision at the Democratic convention in Denver in August. But 75 percent said that would not be a good idea."

What the poll really shows is that people aren't extremely imaginative. A pollster asks about a VP choice and people just say the first name that pops into their head. For half of the respondents, that first name was "Hillary." It doesn't represent any sort of passionate desire.

Clinton herself drives a nail in the idea that she's using her "leverage" behind the scenes to force Obama's hand -- she's been calling on her delegates, both super and pledged, to vote for Obama at the convention. If she had any leverage to begin with, she's giving it up now.

Likewise, the idea that Obama's struggling with the female vote isn't so much true. McCain's ridiculous efforts to poach Clinton voters are failing.

USA Today:

Are women a big problem for Obama? Maybe not. At least one poll shows rapid recent movement to Obama overall among Democrats, including women.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen says that as of today, based on 3,000 automated telephone surveys over the past three nights, Obama gets support from 52% of the women in his national tracking poll compared with 40% for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. He says that's better than Democrat John Kerry did with women against President Bush in 2004.

The same report kills the "Democrats are in a civil war" narrative that some pundits have been trying to push:

Scott attributes Obama's performance to unification within the Democratic Party over the past few days. "Before last Tuesday, Obama routinely earned around 70% of vote from Democrats," he tells us in an e-mail. "He's up to 81% today. Clearly the party has been coming together."

If we want to get past the pundits -- who, I remind you, all said Clinton was a shoo-in at the start of all this -- we have to do something crazy like look at facts. Remember, the talking head's primary job isn't to inform you, the talking head's primary job is to get you to watch TV. They do this by building suspense where it doesn't exist. They don't want slam dunks, they want nailbiters. So they treat everything like a nailbiter.

Take polls. Election polls at this point are baloney -- almost completely meaningless. The general election has barely begun, there have been no Obama-McCain debates, neither camp has really gotten their media campaigns underway. Current polling shows Obama with a fairly healthy lead, but polls are especially useless at this point in time -- the most recent nominee almost always gets an artificial bump. Polls had some value before this point and they'll have more as time goes on, but we're now in a season when polls are crap.

No, if we want to see how the campaigns are doing, we need to look at some numbers -- numbers that aren't good for John McCain. First and foremost in the indicators is the money race -- and Obama is killing. Despite banning funding from lobbyists and PACs to the Democratic National Committee, Obama has such a clear lead that calling it a "clear lead" doesn't do it justice. Insiders expect Obama to raise $100 million this month , while adding 2.5-3 million new donors to his campaign. Meanwhile, the Republican party and Team McCain are scrambling to find funding. "What worries Republicans most is the demonstrated ability of the Democrats to generate enormous sums, much of it via the Internet at virtually no expense," reports the Boston Globe. "Through the most recent reporting period, Obama's campaign had raised almost $235 million and Clinton's $176 million, compared with McCain's $75 million."

Part of McCain's problem with fundraising is that the GOP's lost a lot of friends since 2004 -- constant revelations of corruption and crime, the endless occupation of Iraq, and completely out of control federal spending have sent a lot of Republicans screaming in the opposite direction. According to Congressional Quarterly, "[O]nly about 5,000 of the 62,800 donors who gave the maximum contribution of $2,000 to Bush — roughly 8 percent — had given to McCain as of April 30." To make matters worse, a lot of Bush donors are giving to Obama. And not just small donors, either. "Among them are Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of the late GOP President Richard Nixon and wife of late GOP President Dwight Eisenhower's grandson; Connie Ballmer, the wife of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer; Ritchie Scaife, the estranged wife of conservative tycoon Richard Mellon Scaife and boxing promoter Don King," we're told in a McClatchy article.

Add to all of this the mood in the country toward Republicans and it spells bad news for John McCain. It's a sure bet that the GOP is going to lose seats this fall and the only real argument is whether that loss will be merely disastrous or catastrophic. While the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has $45 million on hand, it's Republican counterpart has only managed to scrape up $6.7 million. At least one poll is calling 2008 a "wave election" for Democrats and shows 45 GOP seats at risk.

I've been playing with the idea of a "reverse coattails" effect. The coattail effect happens when you have a popular candidate at the top of the ticket and people vote that party on down the ticket. Given just how badly the GOP is expected to do this year, it's not unreasonable to see people going out to vote out the unpopular clown in their district and that effect carrying up the ticket to the party's presidential nominee.

Leaving polls aside and looking at all the other indicators, things don't look awfully good for McCain and the GOP this year. The Republican party's in disarray. Rent asunder. Cleft in twain. A house divided that cannot stand. Bush's camp is moving to Barack Obama and John McCain is left only with the few remaining war fans and corporate power types.

It's doom, I tell you, do-o-o-m!


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