What is the Argument for Why McCain Will Win?

InTrade currently has the candidates roughly tied. As of this writing, McCain is at around 49 and falling, while Obama is at around 51 and rising. Still, that’s basically a tie. The question is, where do we go from here?


The arguments for why Obama will ultimately win this have been explored ad nauseum over the last several months in a variety of contexts. They are straightforward: Parties rarely win third terms, President Bush is unpopular, Obama is charismatic (while McCain is not), the country is ready for change (which McCain does not embody), and Obama’s cash and ground game advantages will translate into a massive surge in Democratic support on election day, which will improve Democratic performance up and down the ticket.


Less has been said about why McCain will win. Maybe this is because the possibility seemed so absurd to many viewers of the political process not two weeks ago, that little commentary has been done on the actual scenario for a McCain win, or why things look different than they looked a few months – or even weeks – ago.


Let me be clear from the outset though – this isn’t to say I think McCain will win. I actually still think Obama is the favorite by reasonable odds -- probably 55-45. What I’m interested in is this: If we wake up the morning after election day looking at a McCain Presidency, and people talk about the “shocking” result, what were the warning signs? What should we have been looking at in order to see this coming?


I think a good way to approach this is to take a look at all of the supposed Obama advantages, and look at the evidence why they won’t play out the way that we have expected that they would



Money advantage – This is probably the number one reason that Obama was expected to win this, walking away. Remember back in June, when people thought that Obama would have $500 million to spend against McCain, to spend on a top-notch get-out-the-vote operation and enough money to completely swamp McCain’s paltry spending? (Indeed, if you google obama swamp cash mccain, you get about 160,000 hits).

Of course, it hasn’t worked out quite like that, with some dangerous consequences for Obama, as Patrick explains here. Obama’s fundraising has been strong, but it hasn’t been anywhere near $500M territory. Moreover, McCain’s fundraising has picked up considerably, weakening the advantage Obama has had. And of course, the DNC is getting killed in fundraising by the RNC. Newsweek’s Andrew Romano breaks it down like this:

In August, the McCain campaign managed to net a record $47 million for its coffers and another $22 million for the party, finishing the month with more than $100 million on-hand--money that it has now turned over to the Republican Party. It has also accepted $84.1 million in public financing from the federal government. Combined with the RNC's $100 million projected haul over the next two months--all Republican cash now goes to the party, not the campaign--that should leave McCain with about $300 million to spend before Nov. 4.

Obama's situation is a shakier. After spending approximately $55 million in August--advertising during the Olympics isn't cheap--the Illinois senator finished the month with $77 million on hand. The DNC chipped in another $17.5 million. That brought the Democratic nominee's bank account to about $95 million at the start of September--or about half of McCain's $184 million. To keep pace with the Republicans, Obama and the DNC must rake in another $200 million or so before Nov. 4, which divies up as $100 million per month--or $17 million more than the $83 million they raised together in August.

 Obama is also spending cash in places he’s not expected to win, and not getting much in return. Which brings me to a question I’ve asked many times before: If Obama has already spent an ungodly amount of money promoting his candidacy – over $300M between the primary and the general so far – and he hasn’t closed the deal, when is he going to close it?

Regardless, there is certainly an argument to be made that Obama’s cash-on-hand doesn’t give him the huge advantage that many had anticipated (and yet you hear it repeated again and again).  If he loses, I suspect the decision to reject public funds will be seen as culprit number one.

Youth/AA vote

The argument here is that youth/African American turnout as the result of the Democrats’ improved ground game and Obama’s candidacy will make the difference. Much of this stems from the antiquated notion of low African American turnout is a relic from the arguments of the 1960s and 1970s; Jesse Jackson fixed that problem, and today African Americans already turnout at a very high rate. Regardless, I’ve covered this to some extent here, with the salient point being this: yes, Obama will likely increase African American turnout, but the states where this could make a real difference – with the exception of Virginia – are either so deeply red or so deeply blue that it is unlikely that AAs will be game-changers. Improving Obama’s vote share in Mississippi from 40% to 43% doesn’t do him a lick of good. Add in the fact that there might be an equal-and-opposite reaction (see the Bradley effect below), and I just don’t see this being a huge factor. (also, see this estimate, showing that AA turnout in GA would have to be up 81% to put Obama over the top, something that would require almost every eligible black to vote).

Which brings us to the youth vote, the dream of every insurgent Democratic candidate since McGovern lost by over twenty points. The problem, as Jerome Armstrong has pointed out, is that the youth vote isn’t a growing share of the electorate. The 60+ vote is growing. This makes sense of course, given everything we know about the graying of America. Again, there might be a surge in youth turnout – there was, after all, in 2004. The question, though, is whether this will be part of a general surge in turnout, as it was in 2004.

Four more years

Presidential parties almost never win the fabled third term. They are 1-6 in the post-war years. That’s a pretty bad track record.

But let’s dig down a little deeper. 5 tries is a mighty small data set, and we know in the pre-war years, it was fairly common for Presidential parties to win such terms. In the post-war years we have: 1952, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1988 and 2000.

Obviously 1988 was a third-term win for Republicans. And 2000 was a popular vote win for Democrats, and 250 voters changing their minds in Florida from being an electoral win for Democrats. 1976, 1968, and 1960 were close elections. But for a debate gaffe in 1976, Poor makeup in a debate in 1960, and a better Democratic convention in 1968, we might be talking about how the rule was that parties win third terms.

Plus, there is one important difference here. The candidate of the incumbent party is not of the Administration. Although Democrats have exerted heroic efforts to tie McCain to the Bush Administration, it is much more difficult under these circumstances.

Which actually brings me to 1952. It is fitting that for an incumbent who draws so many parallels to Harry Truman, Bush leaves a political landscape similar to the one that Truman left Stevenson. But there is an important difference. That year, Republicans nominates Dwight Eisenhower, a conservative who ran on a moderate, pragmatic platform, and governed accordingly. Democrats nominated someone who tries to talk like Ike, but just . . . isn’t. They have nominated someone much more like Robert Taft, Jr., the also-ran to Ike. But most polls showed that, had Republicans nominated Taft, we very well may have seen Adlai Stevenson elected in 1952, allowing the Democrats to tie the Republicans’ record of six consecutive wins (from 1860 to 1880).

Republicans coming home/enthusiasm

This is pretty simple. The conventional wisdom has been that Republicans have been despondent, and are unlikely to turn out at 2004 levels – the primary had pretty low turnout. In the meantime, Democrats shattered the previous turnout record of . . . 1988. But the Palin pick seems to have changed that, and there is at least some chance that Republicans’ enthusiasm will survive into November.

Bradley Effect/Undecideds

This, I think, is where the ballgame is for McCain. The Bradley effect is actually much simpler then the press accounts of voters nefariously lying to pollsters. Its about voters lying to themselves, and telling pollsters that they are undecided when they actually are not.

Consider the polling averages for the primaries, compared to Obama’s eventual performance:

The first column is obviously the state. The next two show either the final RCP average or, if I couldn’t find that, the average of the polls from the last few days before the respective primary. The next two columns show Obama’s final tally and Clinton’s final tally. The final column shows how much or how little Obama over- or under-performed the polls. A few states that only had one or two polls like AR, OK and SD are removed from the set. Not too much of a trend here:

State Obama Polls Clinton Polls Obama Final Clinton Final Obama Trend
AL 43.8 45 56 42 +9.2
AZ 35.7 41.7 42 51 -2.8
CA 42.8 44.6 42 52 -10.8
CT 48 45 51 47 +1
GA 50.3 32.3 67 31 +17.3
IL 58 25 65 33 -1.5
IN 44 49 49.3 50.7 +3.6
KY 29.4 58.4 29.9 65.5 -6.6
MD 55 32.7 60 36.5 +1.2
MA 40.7 47.7 41 56 -8.4
MS 53 37.6 61 37 +8.6
MO 41.8 47.5 49 48 +7
NH 38.3 30 36.4 39 -10.9
NJ 40.6 48.3 44 54 -2.1
NY 36.3 53.5 40 57 -.3
NC 50 42 56.2 41.5 +6.7
OH 43 50.1 44.1 54.2 -3
OR 52.2 40.2 58.2 40.6 +5.6
PA 43.4 49.5 45.4 54.6 -3.1
RI 38.5 45.5 40 58 -13
SC 38,4 26.8 55.4 26.5 +17.3
TN 33.7 46.7 41 54 -.3
TX 45.7 47.4 47.4 50.9 -1.8
VT 56.6 35.3 59 39 -2
VA 55 37.3 63.6 35.4 +10.5
WV 24.7 59.7 25.7 67 -6.3
WI 46.3 42 58.1 40.7 +13.1

 But let’s take out the states of the Old Confederacy:

  Obama Polls Clinton Polls Obama Final Clinton Final Obama Trend
AZ 35.7 41.7 42 51 -2.8
CA 44 42.8 42 52 -10.8
CT 48 45 51 47 +1
IL 58 25 65 33 -1.5
IN 44 49 49.3 50.7 +3.6
KY 29.4 58.4 29.9 65.5 -6.6
MD 55 32.7 60 36.5 +1.2
MA 40.7 47.7 41 56 -8.4
MO 41.8 47.5 49 48 +7
NH 38.3 30 36.4 39 -10.9
NJ 40.6 48.3 44 54 -2.1
NY 36.3 53.5 40 57 -.3
OH 43 50.1 44.1 54.2 -3
OR 52.2 40.2 58.2 40.6 +5.6
PA 43.4 49.5 45.4 54.6 -3.1
RI 38.5 45.5 40 58 -13
TX 45.7 47.4 47.4 50.9 -1.8
VT 56.6 35.3 59 39 -2
WV 24.7 59.7 25.7 67 -6.3
WI 46.3 42 58.1 40.7 +13.1


Outside of the South – where he was buoyed by unusually high African American turnout that will be mitigated once the Republican vote is mixed in – Obama performed on average 2 points behind the spread the polls predicted. And look how frequently Obama gets what he gets! In AZ, CA, CT, KY, MA, NH, OH, PA, RI, TX (left in the data set, because AAs are a fairly small portion of the population here, so it isn’t “Southern” in the sense that the other states in the dataset are), VT and WV, his final result was three points or less above where he ended up in the poll average. That’s almost two-thirds of the total states in this dataset!!!

 In the RCP average for these states, Obama’s current RCP average (or Pollster.com, if RCP is unavailable), with how much Obama overperformed his final polling by in the primaries, is:

 AZ: 40.1 (+2)

CA: 51.3 (-2)

CT: 55.3 (+3)

KY: 37.9 (+.5)

MA: 53.9 (+.3)

NH : 48 (-1.9)

OH : 45.1 (+1.1)

PA : 45.5 (+2)

RI : 57 (+1.5)

TX: 38 (+1.9)

VT:57.5 (+2.4)

WV: 42 (+1)

That’s an awful lot of electoral votes that, if the same pattern that affected Obama in the primaries affects him here, are going to be very much endangered. And given that we have a pretty good suspicion what that pattern is caused by, and given that the cause hasn’t changed (and is unchangeable), he has something to worry about here.

Note also that in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan we are beginning to see the same polling trend that we saw in those states that we saw in the primaries: Obama has relatively little variance in his polling numbers. In the polls in the RCP average for Ohio we see the following numbers for Obama: 46, 41, 49, 44, 45, 45, 42, 47, 44, 44, 49. Before the primary his RCP average results were: 45, 42, 40, 42, 44, 44, 44. He got 44.1 percent. His numbers in PA since August 1 are: 46, 46, 48, 49, 48, 47, 47, 48, 47, 45. Before the primary they were: 41, 44, 44, 42, 49, 44, 41, 42. He got 45 percent. (Note also that Biden mentioned Scranton three times in his acceptance speech, and that Obama is diverting some resources from Virginia to Pennsylvania, which tells me his polling is showing something he doesn’t like there). And in MI we see, since August: 49, 46, 43, 47, 45, 49, 51, 44, and 48.

In other words, if the pattern we’ve seen in the primaries holds up, Obama’s ceiling is dangerously close to 50%.

Now, all of this is speculation. It’s a different race in the general election. But also consider the internals of the most recent SUSA polls. In Ohio it tells us that the undecideds are disproportionately over the age of 65 (currently 54-41 McCain), moderate (slightly pro-Obama), and from the Toledo area (52-42 McCain). Again, we must be careful with this, as there are huge error margins for subsamples. In Virginia they are 50-64 (50-47 Obama) and 65+ (51-43 McCain), and independent (48-44 McCain). In Florida they are actually younger (49-44 Obama) and Hispanic (55-36 McCain), perhaps demonstrating the split in young Cuban voters who are less likely to vote like their heavily Republican parents. In New Mexico 0% of voters younger than Obama are undecided, but 4% of those older than McCain are (53-43 McCain). I won’t bore you with the details, but the other pollster who shows detailed crosstabs – PPP – shows similar results.

In other words, the undecideds are voters who are from demographic groups that are currently breaking toward McCain. And, incidentally, they are the people who are probably the least likely to be truly comfortable with a black President, even if they are convinced that they are not the least bit racist.

Anyway, like I said, I think Republicans are likely to look back at the two weeks post-Convention in the same way that Bogart and Bergman looked back on Paris. But if McCain does pull this off, I think the serious analysis of why he wins will look something like this.

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What about Barr and Nader?

One thing that drives me nuts is that all of these polls are Mccain-Obama only, and don't factor in Barr and Nader.  I suspect that Nader will take away from Obama more than Barr takes away from McCain, based on the few 4 way polls that have been performed, but I'd like to see some more data points.


I don't know that undecideds

I don't know that undecideds are secretly racist. I think that they may not be comfortable with Obama's lack of experience.

Their support for McCain will be blamed on racism. To go with your Casablanca reference, round up the usual suspects.

I think Obama's current bump is due to the economy. If McCain continues today's offensive on Obama's close ties to Freddie and Fannie, then all of this polling will shift back in McCain's favor in the next week. Especially if the GOP uses some of that cash to defend McCain's Federal Housing bill from 2005.

Unfortunately, the GOP sucks at doing this. This has amazed me election after election.

With all of Obama's scandalous associations (Wright, Ayres, Fannie, Freddie, et al),  and a Democrat-led Congress that is less popular than Bush, it really is McCain's to lose.

But hey, we all look at water-filled glasses in different ways and blurt out tomato and potato according to our own whimsies. The truth is no one knows. And it's 6.5 weeks of speculation until the nail-biting begins.

Chicago Style Politics aren't Just In Chicago

As expected, both McCain and Obama started their POTUS run with vaunted claims for running honorable, virtuous programs, and it not the least bit surprising both politicians quickly got down in the mud with smears, low blows, easily rebuked lies, and other childishness that we've grown accustom to seeing in many other campaigns. Short of a US war, major terrorist act on US soil, or the collapse of the Free Market Economy, it appears the 47 day rolling average will be 45% +/-4 for both parties.

Stepping ahead of the time curve, I'll predict the extreme fun will begin in the last 7 days of the campaign, leading to a crescendo  48 hours before the polls open. Then, we can look forward to the two camps throwing anything and everything at each other: length and type of service to the country, age, race, sex, previous career actions, financial strings from elections, backroom promises to unnamed friends, and probably even denigrating the character of their respective Mothers. It will make the media's recent treatment of Palin look like a genuine love fest.

In this arena, I predict McCain will carry the day. Obama oratories and populist demagoguery will be vapor in the face of the blasting fear and uncertainty McCain's scriptwriters can stir up with the already disclosed facts of the Obama family. Being cynical, isn't it reasonable the RNC is holding a few aces up the sleeve to tip the mass hysterical on November 4th, like an "I hate whitey!" video?  It is acknowledged that ~85% of African Americans will be voting for Obama (which isn't racist??), but only recently has the "Bubba Factor" been out in the  mainstream print - which imputes some white guys will never vote for a black guy (al la HRC's PA / WV / OH experience).

This last point may be a harbinger for a Republican landslide. Nationally.

Why will McCain win? We saw that this Morning.

When time came to come up with a substantive economic speech to the Nation, McCain stepped up and gave one, with a substantive proposal that reached back to his Teddy Roosevelt roots.

He became Mr. Problem Solver, which is what the Independent Voters want.

Meantime, Obama took a pass. He was supposed to say something, but decided not to. He put out a bulletin on Politico.com that, apparently, said that he didn't want to "politicize" the goings on given the negotiations on the Hill.

One guy took the initiative, the other guy was frozen like deer in headlights.

More and more this is looking like Truman/Dewey 1948. I'm serious. McCain was left for dead; and he's shown nothing but grit, initiative, and fight. Obama? For all his Alinsky heritage, he's looking more and more like the Man on the Wedding Cake. From the Sarah Palin pick to his constant, undermining ads, McCain has been inside Obama's head. 

Obama should be out there with his own plan for Wall Street. Instead, McCain is the man with the plan. Don't think that voters won't notice. They do.

Give 'em hell, Johnnie.  

Closing Arguement

The youth vote, if it shows up, has decided.  The black vote has decided.  The College Professor vote has decided.  That's Obama's base.  Those who have not decided, white, elderly, and Independent will probably break to McCain.  Obama has been campaigning in all 57 States for two years.  If that group is not onboard now, when will they get onboard?

Your post is excellent and hits all the points but one. It's somewhat noted above by one of the commenters.  I believe John McCain has a better 'closing arguement' than Obama.  Look at how Hillary hit him with the 3am ads and how that moved undecided voters.  McCain will hit him with this and the experience issue.  Even with McCain's numbers off a bit over the last week, he trounces Obama in this area.

I'd love to see McCain up by 5 points in the homestretch but it ain't going to happen.  This is a final weekend election and I think McCain has a better hand.  I believe that undecideds will break his way.

McCain must form a bond with Middle America...

...  And he has damned little time to do it.   What is weighing heavily on Middle America right now is our anemic economy.   Its not really about us, its about our children, our grandchildren, our nieces/nephews.    We're worried sick about what sort of society they'll have to grow up into.  Will it be some sub-3rd world barrio of a nation? With zero Middle Class? Forced to live in some hillside favela?   Where our Constitution has become a "living document" that can mean anything to whatever politician is in power at the time?  We need some reassurances.

Jobs are another major concern.  Certainly there are plenty of mall retail/burger flipping assistant manager jobs available.  But we've lost so many of our manufacturing jobs.  Right now Middle Americans are eyeing a ripe plum - domestic oil production and the high paying jobs it will create.    The $700 billion a year that will fold back into our own economy.  The Republicans are not talking about this particular aspect of domestic oil production - the jobs - and that is being viewed as a lack of interest from the Repub's toward Middle America.  If John McCain wanted to make a BIG SPLASH he'd pose the question: "why are democrats standing in the way of high paying oil field related jobs for U.S. workers?"  And then expound upon that w/some solid statistics/numbers which ought to be readily available.  The dem party used to be for the workers.  They've abandoned that.  The Repub's could fill that void which will pull in considerable union rank n file votes, too.  Not to mention the millions in non-organized labor.

John McCain and conservatives need to "cease and desist" immediately, shooting themselves in the foot - both feet - over this Corn Ethanol Program.  We're hurting ourselves by this obstinate negative stance.  The world brought this on itself and we are now profiting greatly from the higher grain prices.  The U.S. is by far the largest exporter of corn and grain products on the planet.  McCain is alienating the farm/agri-business vote - big time!  Stop it!  U.S. farmers keep the worlds belly full and they deserve to be well paid for it, damn it!  And the Corn Ethanol Program, with all its flaws and short comings  has finally pushed prices up so that can be realized.  Back off immediately Mr!  The corn ethanol program must remain.  This is another source of high paying agri-biz jobs for U.S. workers.  And the world is paying for it.  We are bringing in massive amounts of foreign currency with our grain exports.  Stop crying/ whining conservatives because you're paying 10 cents more for a can of corn.

Last, McCain and the GOP Hierarchy "must" also back away from  Globalism.  Middle Americans are Nationalistic.  Nation centric.  We want no part of globalism/ internationalism. This is and this alone has been (and is) the downfall of George W. Bush.   He is a rabid, open borders globalist and he has put our nation in danger by allowing our sovereign southern border to be breeched.  Middle America considers this a serious violation with blame resting squarly on the Republican Party.

The GOP Hierarchy, all of its consultants, advisers and strategists have a real problem accepting constructive criticism.  Which displays their brazen arrogance.  They've assigned themselves some sort of God-like infallibility.  They'd better clean the wax out of their ears and listen.  Or the experiment is over. Failed. Game over.           Darvin Dowdy

In a Crisis you want an Experienced leader.

While it's true that democrats (and the party out of the white house) typically do better on poor economic news, that's only true up to a point.

In times of general economic malaise, we look for exciting new Hope and Change.

In times of crisis, we look for steady, experienced, middle-of-the-road leadership.  A crisis is no time to take a leap of faith on a risky newcomer.

Add to that running against a Democratic Congress --- that actually just went into recess without even acknowledging the financial sector crisis...

It's certainly at least a plausible route to victory.

But, honestly, I think it's all going to come down to the debates -- and how independent voters see the two candidates there.

The Only Argument

for a McCain victory is an Obama forfeit.

In Huey Long's immortal bon mot, unless they catch Obama in bed with a dead girl or a live boy he will be elected.,


I don't see how you come to that conclusion with every poll tied or well within the margin of error. I know the Obamaites like to believe he's the annointed one but when it comes down to brass tacks and consdiering the world we live in, post 911, people are going to ask them selfs who is better prepared to lead and protect the country-- A community organizer who has never penned one major piece of legislation and had 143 legislative days in the US senate before announcing he was ready to lead the country?

Or a Naval Academy graduate (even 5th from the bottom is an accomplishment when you consider all the other rigors of academy life that 'normal' college students don't have in addition to an engineering curriculum) a man who was tough enough to fly aircraft off the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier, and then mentally tough enough to survive the Hanoi Hilton, and then after all his injuries able to return to flight status and run a squadron. All this prior to being elected to congress. I just do not see the comparison-- there is none. Obama has not one significant accomplishment to his name either academically or legislatively. All he can seem to do is either dodge questions or pander to whatever he feels the audience he's speaking to wants to hear.



Obama has not one significant

Obama has not one significant accomplishment to his name either academically or legislatively.

Right.  Magna Cum Laude at Harvard Law and presidency of the Law Review are overrated.

I want what you're smoking.

Sarah Palin trumpets her putting the Alaska checkbook online, which of course is the state equivalent of the Obama-Coburn bill.  This line of argument is a loser, since McCain won't even abide by the bill with his name on it, McCain-Feingold.

McCain's ducking of the GI Bill vote certainly hurts him with THIS Army vet.

as WF Buckley said

I'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty.

You know, listening to Obama speak he doesn't sound like a cum laude Harvard graduate.  I've heard far brighter people who got degrees from UConn Law.

By the way, Obama supporters might not want to raise the "smoking" issue, since it will lead to questions on the issue of "snorting".


Most polls out there now are significantly trending Obama right now, not "tied or within the margin of error".


McCain's record of achievment in the Senate in 26 years is not going to get him elected, especially the last two years, when he's been a rubberstamp for a deeply despised Bush.


Achievements for Obama?  How about taking a young, Black small-time State Senator into the lead for a National Election, defeating Hillary Clinton, and being the Chief Executive of a flawless 300 million dollar Presidential campaign effort?

Not to mention his six years on the faculty of a major Law School as a Professor of Constitutional Law.

McCain has never even had to figure out a way to get and make a mortgage payment since he came back after being shot down over Vietnam.

Where to start?

McCain's record of achievment in the Senate in 26 years is not going to get him elected, especially the last two years, when he's been a rubberstamp for a deeply despised Bush.

Obama has been an even more reliable rubber stamp for an even more deeply despised Democratic Congress.  I can tell you several times off the top of my head how McCain deviates from the Republican Party, often in ways that have deeply troubled me.  Obama hasn't deviated from his own party when it comes time to vote.

Achievements for Obama?  How about taking a young, Black small-time State Senator into the lead for a National Election, defeating Hillary Clinton, and being the Chief Executive of a flawless 300 million dollar Presidential campaign effort?

First of all, "flawless" is laughable.  Strike it from your comment.  In a year like this, any generic Democrat should be creaming the Republican candidate, not spending money like it's going out of style on (a) long-shot states he doesn't need to win if he gets the states that must necessarily precede them and (b) having to defend states like PA, WI and MI.  He's had a lot of help from the media to even keep it this close.

Second, running for president is a qualification for being president?  "I've survived literally months of scrutiny, so you can stop scrutinizing me now"?  He's a one-term senator whose chief opponent in the primary was another one-term senator; he became a senator in the first place largely because both his most formidable primary and general election opponents were embarrassed by revelations of the details of their respective divorces.  And before that, he was a state senator whose achievements were handed to him on a silver platter; other Democrats took the ball to the 1-yard line and blocked for him to walk it in.

The Media Will Decide the Election

Regardless of conservative dreams to the contrary, the news media will decide this election. Newsweek's Evan Thomas said in 2004 that the media was worth what, 15 points, to Kerry. I think he was right and at that time the media actually displayed some restraint in backing their candidate. This time there is no restraint. If Thomas was right then, I would argue that in 2008 they are worth even more.

It's a combination of erosion and censorship. As McCain brings out facts about Obama -- some of which are very disturbing -- the media either deflects the information or rebuts it. Sometimes the rebuttal comes from the reporter, sometimes from the Obama campaign. Either way McCain's statements are presented as allegation, the rebuttal as fact.

Additionally, McCain's message and any positives are censored and there is no independent "vetting" of Obama. McCain has to pay to expose what the media should be covering about Obama while the media engages in a feeding frenzy over mere rumors or old news detrimental to McCain-Palin.

In the long haul, it's like being pecked to death by a duck. The media, despite its disappearing credibility, will steal this election for Obama, old time Chicago pol, affiliate of radicals, terrorists and slumlords. 


But Obama's popularity was declining at the time

Interesting analysis, Sean, but I wonder whether a different pattern might emerge if you looked at the states in chronological primary order rather than alphabetical. Obama underwent a steady decline in popularity from mid-February through May, because of the Wright controversy and the related general realization that he's just another human politican after all. With his popularity generally on a downward trend rather than holding steady, it's no surprise that his primary results often underperformed his polls, as the polls were already slightly outdated by the time the vote occurred.

If Obama's and McCain's popularities are basically constant leading up to the election, the polling might be a lot more reliable for November.


I take your point, but I don't think it holds up.  Obama underperformed in the first primary -- NH.  He underperformed on a series of Super Tuesday primaries -- CA, MA, NJ, etc.  And of course he underperformed later in the campaign as well.  On the other hand, he overperformed in SC -- the second primary (that counted).  He overperformed in primaries in the middle, like WI.  And he overperformed in OR at the end.

In other words, I don't think listing primaries in chronological order would give a different explanation.

Fair enough

Thanks, Sean. True, OR (and IN) prevent there from being an unambiguous late primary trend away from Obama. I was basically just remembering the way he fell off the cliff in PA, WV, AR, and KY (after Bittergate, IIRC).

Why refer to your own expectations?

Very useful and informative post, but I don't see what purpose is served by stating your own expectations, except as a kind of pre-emptive CYA, especially when your own prediction (BO 55 - 45 odds) is little better than a coin flip.  At worst, it encourages a kind of creeping defeatism.  At best, it undermines and distracts from the otherwise very thoughtful and, more important to me, well-grounded main evidence and argument.  Personally, I'd rather you had spent the time either expanding on your themes or examining them against those factors that in your view outweigh them, if only by a little. 

The only thing certain is that lots and lots of people will have bet wrong, and a somewhat smaller but still substantial number of people stating absolute foreknowledge about the outcome will be proved wrong.

the success of lies, smear, and fear will be the correct

explanation for a Mccain victory, if it should happen. I don't think it will this time.  Most people must agree that tactics like this


are sleezy or the groups behind them wouldn't go to such trouble to hide their identity.


You mean Obama isn't into "LSF" ?

Blaming McCain for Rush Limbaugh's immigration position---in a spanish language ad?

Denying he voted against the Born Alive Act in Ill?.  

A toxic waste hose turned on Sarah Palin?....with a Democratic activist hacking her e-mail account

Demeaning McCain's military service and record as a POW?

Acorn stuffing the ballot box with fake voters?


Somebody at fivethirtyeight has a... quibble


So to summarize, Oxendine:

1. Cherry-picks states for his analysis;
2. Touts a finding that is not remotely statistically significant anyway;
3. Touts a finding that would entirely disappear if you used a different poll averaging mechanism, and,
4. Ignores, even if you excuse all of the above and take his claims at face value, the presence of an apparent reverse Bradley Effect that would benefit Obama in three highly electorally significant states.

Strong words.  Thought I'd point them out here and give you the floor to respond.

McCain will Win

The undecideds will break to McCain. A lot it has to do with the white vote. Many of the industrial battleground states do have a lot of job issues. One of the issues white workers have to contend with is affirmative action, where they may have missed out on a job or government contract due to a guota system. Also you have a lot of black artist like Ludicris that raps "They are going to paint the White House Black". They will also start to consider what an Obama Aministration would look like. Will Jessie Jackson be Sec. of State. Will Charlie Rangle be Sec. of Defense. Will he have an all black cabinet like many black mayors around America stack their staff. Will he push for repparations for slavery? Will he advocate more affirmative action policies against the whte working class? 

Also we will see a lot of 529 advertisements right before the election with the Good Reverend Wright saying "No, No, No, not God Bless America - God Damn America". 

Gotta love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Stop worrying

The lip-quivering, knee-wobbling worry-warts here should take heart from:

1) the debates are going to be great for McCain/Palin. Particularly McCain against the waffler.

2) the Bradley effect - Obama loses votes via lip-service Dems

3) the reverse-Bradley effect - Palin gains votes from lip-service Dems, male and female.

4) the warped msm poll-numbers. Every election this happens. Poll numbers across the board favor Dems leading into the vote, only to swing anywhere between 2 and 5% to Reps after the votes are counted.

5) the 527 ads who, on the Rep side have FAR more ammunition against Obama and Biden to throw out in the next few weeks than the Dems do back in the opposite direction.

6) the gaffe-prone duo, Obama and Biden are far more likely to come out with gaffes in the next few weeks.

Stop worrying and instead get out and volunteer to help - or at least make positive suggestions. A defeatist mentality only serves to give the opponent the initiative.


Conservatives need to stop talking about the Bradley effect

We've really got to stop saying things that amount to, "Well, the polls might be close, but we can factor in x% switching to McCain due to the Bradley effect." It ends up sounding much too close to, "don't worry, racist voters will put us over the top," which is not only incredibly offensive, it's stupid politics, too. If Obama does lose in November, would you really like to gift-wrap an excuse for him and put the GOP stamp of approval on it? Pushing the Bradley effect as an important factor in the election only makes it look like we condone and even endorse racist voting. Let the left hoist their own petard on that one.

It might sound that way...

... but if the Bradley effect is what Sean says it is (voters who self-identify as undecided really aren't), then it's not about the voters actually being racist, but rather the voters not wanting to sound racist when polled. 

If this is a big historic election and Democrats are already saying that racism is the only explanation if Obama loses the election, then a pollster calling you and asking you who you're voting for might sound like (with thanks to my coblogger Dale Franks), "Are you planning on voting for Obama, or should we get your measurements for your white sheets right now?"

Is that some kind of Obama-supporter racist accusation comeback?

Sounds like you're buying into the leftie's world view if you think the Bradley effect is some kind of Republican trump card. I'm not a rascist, and I bet any conservative reading this would agree with me that most like-minded people they know are - more or less - color-blind and instead view Socialists as the enemy. The Bradley effect is, rather a demonstration that Dems are the cynical types. Saying one thing while doing another - out of peer pressure so as not to appear uncool - like a "racist" conservative. I sincerely hope Obama loses NOT because he's black, but because he's a Socialist.


This is no astroturfing

I don't intend to call anyone here racist, so apologies if that is how it was interpreted. Frankly though, whether or not anyone is actually a racist is beside the point - narratives trump facts, for better or for worse, and I can't shake the feeling that the more conservatives talk about the Bradley effect, the more fuel they add to the fire for race-baiters and slanderous accusations. Sure, those will happen anyhow, but why paint a target for them? The "conservatives are racist" meme is bad enough as it is without us looking giddy about a hidden 5% in the polls and whatnot.

I'm of the mind that the whole concept of the Bradley effect is just toxic, regardless of who talks about it. If conservatives bring it up, it ends up looking like shedding crocodile tears regarding the issue of racism (i.e. oh, what a pity, your own base is racist, sucks to be you!) . If the left brings it up, it makes them look incredibly condescending (i.e. our candidate is only losing because of those racist yokels.) I think we're better off letting the media discuss it to death on its own and disgrace their side in the public eye.


... if the Bradley effect is about self-identified undecided voters not being truly undecided, it's not really about the Democrat base being racist, it's about a bunch of voters (regardless of affiliation) not wanting to appear racist.  But it is highly satisfying to see the party in which race isn't just a card but a whole suit suddenly turning on its own.  There is some contingent of Dems who cannot conceive of a reason other than racism for their candidate to lose.

The popular definition is the one that counts

Fair enough point, but that's a rather nuanced view of it (i.e. harder to communicate in soundbite format,) so for that reason (and others, natch) it's certainly not the way that the media is going to portray it. I think ultimately it's about framing - regardless of anything else, the Bradley effect will be portrayed as hidden racism, and thus if the right becomes associated with this as a talking point (i.e. if a prominent conservative pundit pushes the idea that the Bradley effect will give McCain a few bonus percentage points) it will only end badly for us.

I agree that it's rather satisfying to see the left in an apoplexy about this, which is why I think the Bradley effect should be a phenomena only paid attention to within the left. My feeling is that whichever side pushes the Bradley effect as an explanation of polling anomalies is going to end up looking like a bunch of goons. The far left can destroy itself on this issue well enough without external help.

real fodder for McCain-Palin in the debates

The Bradley effect is obviously not what the campaign or conservative pundits should draw attention to - no. I agree on that.

The main title of this article suggests there is one main argument why McCain will win, and while I'd like to suggest the answer is that his opponent is merely a stuffed shirt who has no business being in contention for the Presidency, and anyone with a brain should be able to see that as clear as day - I think there are instead many and various positive reasons McCain-Palin should win, almost regardless of the quality of their opponents.

The main negative one however remains just that: Obama is the opposing candidate, and I don't think I need to point out to people here the many obvious reasons he is patently unqualified to be in charge of the local Mailboxes etc. let alone the country.

Rather than deflect attacks on McCain as "McSame" which really doesn't stick anyway. McCain should be going after Obama and all the reasons he's unfit to be President. For example, I'm hoping that if the campaign doesn't bring up the Ayers connection then the 527's will shed light on that whole story in a similar way that the Swift boat Vets did to Kerry

Since the convention even conservative pundits have been mouthing advice to the Obama campaign about how he needs to stop attacking Palin and concentrate on McCain. Well thanks guys! He's now started doing that and is doing better. Let's instead give McCain-Palin talking points and real fodder for the debates. As I said I'm looking forward to those, and I think McCain may be able to slaughter Obama during them.


I am becoming more confident that the only way Obama can win

is to keep it real close.  So close in fact that maybe the only way for him to win is if there is 269-269 tie in the electoral college and thus is elected in the house (if  that is even possible given the rules for that laid out in the 12th Amendment).  If he can't win both Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada and not lose any of the Kerry states then he loses.  And the fact that he is having to defend WI, PA and NH makes that even harder.

The fact is he can't seal the deal.  This was supposed to be the year the DEMS takes this election in a walk.  But polls show it consitently close and very rarely has his lead been over 50%.  Moreover, he is not winning overy many Bush states (the only one he has in the bag is IA and that is only because they love the ethanol boondoogle which McCain opposes).  He couldn't even really beat Hillary in the primaries, he needed the superdelegates to swing it his way.

This is so bad that were back to "your a racist if you don't vote Obama" meme by his sycophants in the MSM.  Already we are seeing stories about how only 70% of DEM voters support him (compared to over 80% GOP voters for McCain)  and the reason they are given is that too many white voters are still uncomfortable voting for a black man.  Proving his campaign has become pathetic and absurd.

Being a realist...

...is not being a defeatist.    The worst thing the McCain camp could do right now is to become complacent and over confident.

Don't think that Obama can't win.  He has million of mind-numbed followers who could care less if he was a mother killin' father raper in his past.  And his many gaffe's?  They are not gaffe's to these zombies.  Any sort of coherent word that rolls off of his tongue sends them into some orgiastic experience.  Doesn't have to make any sense.  And Obama has millions more of these emotional type followers than did Kerry or before him, Gore.   So there is certain cause to be concerned.  Look at the thin victory margins in '00 & '04.  Its going to be thinner this time.   Or possibly non-existent if we start slacking.  We certainly shouldn't fall back on some theory like the Bradley effect. 

Again, Palin is not running for POTUS - McCain is!  And it is McCains turn, now, to make a firm/solid connection with the estranged conservative base.  Palin has done her part and done all that she can do on her own.   McCain must now step out and offer his hand and an olive branch.  DD

Obama 95% tax cuts? McCain 100%

Obama keeps repeating that line about giving 95% of tax payers a cut in taxes. McCain can easily counter that punitive Socialist redistribution of income philosophy by saying he'll be growing the economy by giving 100% of tax payers a tax cut. See the Washington Post diagram: