"In contrast to the vitriolic rants you'll find on some political blogging sites, Palmer gives in-depth analysis and commentary." --Dan Cook, The Free Times


On Polling Mirages, Media Avoidance, and the 2000 Election

With the party conventions long behind us, it is easier to take stock of the political landscape in the lull between the conventions and the debates. While both conventions were successful, John McCain clearly got more out of his convention than Barack Obama did because of the favorable media coverage that followed for the next ten days or so. His selection of Sarah Palin has clearly excited Republicans and also presented women with a bit of a dilemma. Media overreach into Palin's family affairs may have made women more sympathetic to Palin at first, but talk about mooseburgers and hockey moms has given way to talk about lipstick, subpoenas, media avoidance, and contradictions between her rhetoric and her record.

It seems that the main effect Sarah Palin has had on the electorate is that it has firmed up the red states and purpled the blue states. This would explain why soft Republican states like Montana, North Dakota, and North Carolina have gone from outside upsets to out of reach for Obama. It would also explain why light blue states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have become true or near tossups. Even solid blue states like New York, New Jersey, and Washington have become increasingly competitive.

This poses a dilemma for John McCain. He could advertise in the Northeast to force Obama to defend reliably Democratic territory, but not even the McCain campaign believes he has a realistic shot at New York or New Jersey. The New York-Philadelphia media markets are prohibitively expensive and both states have large Latino and Black populations, so it doesn't seem to be worth it. And the fact that money spent on ads in Yonkers (New Jersey) is money not being spent in Youngstown (Ohio) should keep any potential political lusting at bay.

These tightening polls resulting from the Palin effect invokes the specter of the 2000 election between George Bush and Al Gore. Earlier this summer, the polls were suggesting a comfortable popular vote victory for Obama because of running up the score in Illinois, California, and New York. But now an increasingly likely scenario is for Obama to eke out narrow victories in the Midwest while getting blown out in the Plains and South. This would suggest that Obama could win the electoral vote while McCain wins the popular vote. Should this happen, there would be outrage from Republicans about the anachronism that is the Electoral College. However, Democrats would rightfully counter that the current president lost the popular vote in 2000. Perhaps this would lead more states to adopt measures automatically throwing their electoral votes to the popular vote winner or an even greater movement to abolish the Electoral College altogether.

It seems that this election has come down to Obama vs. Palin. John McCain and Joe Biden are largely invisible. If McCain's fortunes rest solely on Palin, as his inability to draw large crowds when campaigning solo would suggest, this would seem to advantage Obama because of the debates. Palin only gets one chance to silence her critics and close the sale at the debates; Obama gets three. Of course, one could also argue that Palin only gets one chance to make a fatal mistake, while Obama gets three. However, if Obama makes a mistake in one of the early debates, he will have other chances to recover.

This is where McCain's ignore the media strategy regarding Palin may come back to haunt him. Given Palin's avoidance of the media, the media are shifting their focus from personal narrative (which are advantageous to her) to investigative journalism (which undermines her). While the media uncover evidence of transgressions, hypocrisy, scandals, and untruths, Palin's avoidance of the media is preventing her from addressing these stories directly. The McCain campaign may try to frame this as another media pile-on, but the potency of that argument seems to have faded, especially in light of the renewed focus on the economy and other more substantive issues.

Palin successfully introduced herself to the nation at her acceptance speech two weeks ago at the Republican Convention. But now McCain-Palin's follow-up act seems to be a combination of media avoidance, stretching the truth or outright lying, legal trouble in Alaska, and doubts about her real capacity to serve.

This would suggest that Palin has reached her peak for now, which should be reflected in plateauing or weakening state and national polls over the next few days. The Obama campaign would do well to avoid confronting her directly on the campaign trail and simply let the media do it for them. If Palin is solely responsible for McCain's rise in the polls, one could deduce that as goes Palin, so goes McCain's chances of victory this November.

6 comment(s):

Brett said...

It's disadvantageous to Palin in another way (the McCain-Media-Sequestration Strategy). That one debate is probably going to have an overly large impact on how people nation-wide view her; if she comes off looking terrible, or weak, or dishonest, then it will hammer her reputation and McCain's.

I would expect that if that happened, you'd suddenly start seeing Palin in the media a lot more in an attempt to dullen the impact of the debate.

timothy moriarty said...

Dear Friend:

Are you ready yet for the November 4th Elections? How about your friends, family, and neighbors?

More Americans are expected to vote this year than ever before in history, so don’t be left out! Be sure to ask everyone you know the following questions:

Are you registered to vote? If you moved recently, have you updated your voter registration?
Did you apply for an Absentee Ballot? Do you know your state may not require any reason?
Can you find your local Polling Place? Do you know it may have changed from last time?
The answers to these questions -- and all your voting needs -- can be found at www.StateDemocracy.org

Anthony Palmer said...

Charlie Cook of National Journal seems to agree that the coverage of Palin has shifted and that McCain's problems with the truth are souring his relationship with the media. He says there may be another "momentum change" taking place that is not yet reflected in the polls.

Americaneocon said...

From my afternoon post:

"If the Democrats were looking to rekindle the public's outpouring for Sarah Palin's historic vice-presidential run - or to turn attention away from the turmoil on financial markets - they couldn't have found a better way than to hack into Palin's personal e-mail accounts AND distribute her confidential information online for the world to see.

It turns out that a left-wing subterranean protest group is claiming responsibility for the security breach, and Gawker, the liberal New York gossip blog, has already posted the Palin family's photographs and e-mail addresses online."

I think the media narrative will sort itsefl out this next couple of days.

Brett said...

Although I disapprove of hacking (strongly!), it's somewhat fitting that this happened to Palin, considering that she and her supporters back in Alaska tried to use yahoo e-mail accounts for correspondence in order to get back disclosure and subpoena laws.

Anonymous said...

What do you guys think about this?


-Ana J

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