Readers Blog: The Cold Hard Truth

A long Sunday, Bad Visions on Cheap Champagne, 1900 words of Hope, Fear, and Desperation.

This morning I woke up without much of the sickly intense pain or nauseous regret that normally comes with large quantities of cheap champagne and Miller swill. I attribute this good fortune to those friends around me who seemed to take much more of the impact than I did, leaving me to scrounge for half-empty glasses near the bar. The event was Eric and Betsy's wedding which went fine - one of those modern marriage ceremonies where the reverend makes quick work of the Word of the Lord, a few short legal statements of intent, a kiss and off we go to the bar. Today the westerly wind blew hard. It threw my front door open twice during my afternoon breakfast and once again just now I can hear it above Bob Dylan down in the National Affairs Desk studio, newsdesk. and armory.

The Desk has been more active recently. The drafting table that normally fills up with cigarette butts and empty bottles from The Lambs' sessions is somewhat clean, the rock and roll refuse replace with copies of various news magazines and books, ripped-up post-its pens, pins, ink jars... The TV is on, though the perfect storm of football and baseball has taken over my usual Simpsons and Family Guy episodes, and no news. The main source of information tonight is the CNN Politicalticker, RCP, and 538, along with Vonnegut's Jailbird and the various news periodicals over on the drafting table.

They only run two articles now: Obama will win, and variations on the theme. Most of the variations take on the form of "Its not over yet" and "long time to go." These are the things John McCain may now be believing himself. Not through any self-delusion or senility, but by the fact he doesn't have anything else at this point. The media is writing the conclusion of this election, enraging McCain supporters and right-wing talk show hosts and prompting Obama to continue the get-out-the-vote pressure. A lot of excuses on polling data are dragged out when the numbers are down this far and you can no longer deal with the depressing thought of losing. The favorite appears to be the hip Bradley Effect, where people lie to pollsters to hide their racism, artificially elevating a non-Caucasian candidate. Unfortunately, many studies have found that after the Bradley Effect was discovered in 1982 by Tom Bradley himself, elections throughout the 80's and 90's showed that racial discrepancies in polling data diminished. If there was a Bradley Effect, it would likely have been present in the primaries, yet Obama often did better than expected.

Other excuses seem to be the "likely voter" model of polling, an esoteric necessary variable applied to polling data. I believe my favorite is the one McCain is currently proposing, which is simply stating that the polls do not accurately show McCain supporters. The details of this argument are "vague" in the sense that they don't exist, and McCain is flatly denying polls. Ah well; it probably works in his favor - no one wants the bad trip of losing the big race with so much deep, personal emotion invested in their candidate and campaign. And lose it bad. Really bad. That sort of thing is too terrible, and you start to see your flanks run and flee from the battlefield to stay home, lay low, and stay quiet for a couple years.

There is a very real possibility that Republicans will not mention the year 2008 ever again after November 4. The Bush years are doomed to history, and very few will admit to their involvement and support of the Dumb and Stupid. Those W04 stickers are hard to scrape off the backs of SUVs. Luckily, most have been sold for suburban scrap in the face of ARM adjustments and the following market collapse.

Even the world series is in trouble. On TV is a still closeup of Longoria's glove full of baseball shoved up Rollin's ass about 2 feet from third base; in the next few frames the ump calls Rollins safe at third. The Rays are Not Pleased, and the Phillies seem grateful for Cheap Thrills.

Hannity on Fox News is running an expose on the top reasons not to vote for Obama. He's telling Obama's life story as a chain from one McCain attack ad and Republican talking point to the next. Each step is concluded with Fox News' patented phrases against Liberal Media. There isn't a clearer example of the purpose of Fox News - to create an exact opposite of the Republicans' own creation of liberal-biased news organizations, to serve as a repeater for campaign attacks. Rarely probing or insightful, always predictable, the likes of Hannity and O'Reilly almost sound satirical if they weren't so horribly serious. Their fear is no longer masked but out there right in the open for all the addicts and believers to share in.

The idea that the liberal media has covered Obama more like a rock star than a politician might seem plausible. Obama is always shown dancing and joking, smiling and talking with all sorts of people, always with such casualness that probably unnerves the severe and serious doom-and-gloom of Karl Rove and those Fox News believers. But then again that's not CNN. That's Obama. His polling is not the effect of the media. His popularity and his personality are the cause of his rock-star image, something that obviously resonates with younger voters and has at least helped energized turnout in historic numbers. The failure of fear-based political tactics of recent Republican elections reminds me of McGovern in 1972 - an election year that seems to have a lot of similar elements, except for the outcome. At some point sooner or later people grow tired of being afraid. The youth only come out in numbers for a candidate that is truly inspiring rather than a golem of the standard party mechanics. Politicians are not loved people. Their popularity numbers always go down. It seems that the recent elections including identifiable third party candidates is evidence of an American desire for a new face on politics. Obama certainly has that face.

That's about a thousand words right there, and I haven't yet gotten to any state numbers or Sarah Palin "going rogue" - another connection to 1972's selection of Eagleton for VP. Palin represents the standard Bush-Republican candidate. She is perfectly traditional, conservative, and Christian on all the standard GOP points. Whether this actually connects to the necessary centrist-right voters is very much in question. The idea was that McCain would handle them, while Palin secured the Base. This is not working for them the way they had planned. The question is whether that is due to McCain not connecting to the middle class and centrists early on, or due to Palin's painfully inept answers on a wide variety of foreign policy and economic questions that's disheartened and divided the base. Karl Rove via Fox News is blaming liberal media with the coverage of Biden as proof. The problem is that Biden is not all that media friendly and largely stays out of major news stories. He doesn't represent anything new compared to Obama, his political style is very smart, standard and understated. He brings a great amount of experience and solidity to the Obama ticket. These are not newsworthy on a week-to-week and day-to-day basis with so much else to spend time on. When he is in the media in more than a mention, it is nearly always due to a gaffe McCain and the RNC have focused an attack on.

Sarah Palin is the exact opposite of Biden. The McCain advisor who described her as "going rogue" on the campaign accurately called her a "diva." There's a serious amount of sexism associated with that particular description, yet it probably connect to most Americans' view of the photogenic, feisty Palin - watch her skit on SNL. She is quite newsworthy on a day-to-day basis, as her message is almost always contrasting McCain's message the previous day. According to the story, she's out there on the campaign trail with her own talking points, bypassing campaign staffers to tackle reporters head-on. The speculation is that she's now campaigning for 2012, not for McCain VP position, which I don't think is the reason for rogue status, but I would not doubt is something on her mind. This is politics, and a serious amount of ambition is required to operate on a national level. The fact that she's not connecting with The Base is either because of her inexperience or because the Base is no longer what or where we think it is.

For the next couple days, the national polls will tighten some, and OH and FL will struggle wihin a couple of points for each candidate. With a week left, every hour brings a desperate McCain campaign closer to the brink. That means every hour he's not in PA, he's losing PA... OH, FL, and now abandoning Mi's 17 EVs seems like a serious tactical error. He's looking at Colorado's 9 EVs now, but his deficit there is no better than 6 points; the trends have Obama up since 9/11, while McCain has remained fairly stagnant. VA is another nightmare scenario for McCain with 13 EVs and Obama no less than 6 points ahead on average. VA shares similar trend lines with CO: McCain has faltered there since 9/14, only recently bottoming out at 44-46% according to RCP/538. This is leaving McCain with nowhere to run except the hard places that pay big. And that is PA: OH, FL, and VA victories will leave him 12 EVs short of the presidency. His only other options are taking both CO and NM, which seems to be his current tactic. These places are far from OH and FL which are not safe places for McCain, and he's going to need to be there to convince whomever is left in this last week. NM is never safe. In 2004, Bush took it by 1.4 points, in 2000 Gore won with 0.1 points. Neither election cycle had Obama's operation nor poll strength going into the final week. And CO seems to be as far from McCain's reach as PA. If McCain wins in an upset, it will be west PA Republicans that delivers it, many people will lose their shirts to a few very lucky bastards on intrade, and we'll all be in for another 4 years of the Lambs and more rejection and depression within the Democratic party... at least for those that remain part of the system, and many will desert their posts and flee the awful realities of a frightened conservative nation. Terrible, bleak visions now, the heart beats a little faster and my fingertips sweat, the shakes have to be kept at bay. Almost done... 

Politics is a vicious addiction and those who deal with it without bias have poisoned their souls and sold off the blood in their hearts for more dope. No more rest until Tuesday. I made a deal with a demon back in 2004 when I decided I wasn't done with politics until we got revenge for Kerry/FL, and four more years of dumb fear and war. The only comforting thing now is the fact that I pass 8 or 9 Obama/Biden lawn signs on my short commute to work 4 miles away. The lone McCain/Plain sign that was up last week has been replaced by a GMAC/For Sale sign.

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