Posted by Adam @ 2:36 pm on August 6th 2008

Ceilings

Politico has an article (I got it from this FOXNEWS page, where they actually has the link a) wrong and b) not hyperlinked) about Obama not improving his national figures any. And, equally, McCain not improving his figures any, either.

An immediate point, it seems to me, is that Obama’s ceiling is a ceiling in which he’s solidly ahead so he shouldn’t worry too much; the people that might worry are the people that want a national Democratic Party candidate to stomp across party lines, but those people might as well wait for the unicorns to appear with a working solution to Social Security shortfalls impaled on their fluted horns. The Democrats’ hope for national success is to be based, as Dean has based it, on local organisation for well-chosen local candidates; even if a Democrat wins a mighty national victory in a presidential race, I think that would say more about the candidate and their opponent than it would about changes in national preferences and breakdown of partisan politics.

Another point is that, of course, this is national polling, which is interesting as a measure of national sentiment (indeed, it’s a good measure of national sentiment) but not particularly predictive of general election outcomes via the electoral college and mostly winner-takes-all state elections. Obama seems fine in that regard, where he has sufficient states in which he’s close or ahead that he could lose all the 50-50s and still emerge a winner. Indeed, he could win 52-47, say, and still have an Electoral College blowout.

What it does show, I think, is that further progress for Obama or McCain will require more work from them to attract leaners or uncommitteds and the needle to thread there is how to do it without losing from the core, either in their enthusiasm (more of a problem for Obama, who has generated enormous enthusiasm from which has flowed cash on which he’ll depend now he’s not taking matching funds) or in their traditional support (more of a problem for McCain, I think, who has less of a hold on the Republican base by far than does Obama on the Democrat base).

4 Comments »

  1. I posted an errant thought about this too, the other day. I think McCain has an added danger: complacency. The fact that Obama’s not moving might lead him to believe he can just play it safe and keep doing what he’s doing. In truth, while Obama’s numbers have fluctuated mildly (from, say, a tie to a 6 point lead), McCain appears to have a ceiling of 44%. He can’t afford to get lulled into a false sense of comfort, or start believing that he need only run a safe and relatively traditional campaign (jump on the day’s news story, drive up opponents negatives, boast your own credentials). He needs to make some bold plays, or so I keep harping anyway.

    N.B. his last few weeks of all-negative-all-the-time is mildly bold, I suppose, though not, I don’t think, particularly coherent.

    Comment by Brad — 8/6/2008 @ 2:50 pm

  2. Complacency would be particularly dangerous given that he’s in a losing position if nothing changes. But I think that they’re not complacent at this stage (I would imagine that ‘relieved not to be smashed already’ would be more like it); I think that they’re simply cautious about going for bold blows now (and there’s an element of wisdom in that, I would say; when you’re behind, timing is very important).

    It may also be, of course, that they plan on acting on events and hoping that events behave and take place; that’s actually a pretty good strategy from where they are, because I don’t think that there’s any straight line from ‘today’ to ‘McCain winning in November’ that doesn’t involve unpredictable elements. I might have alluded to this a while back, that McCain can’t force victory out of it, although he can prod Obama to see what happens.

    Comment by Adam — 8/6/2008 @ 3:55 pm

  3. I read (and I think reposted here) a good comparison, can’t recall where from now, that made exactly the point you did, about being content reacting to events. Only their comparison was to 2004, where Kerry’s team did the daily grind of jumping all over that day’s gaffe or blog story or minor event, hoping that one of them would catch fire or the sum total would bring Bush down. While Bush mostly stayed away from the short-ball and just sat back on a consistent message and theme. That struck me as a fair appraisal.

    And Kerry was in a better position in 2004 than McCain is in 2008, I think.

    Comment by Brad — 8/6/2008 @ 4:10 pm

  4. I would say that Kerry was sunk by not reacting to a particular event (the “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” nonsense) as much as by waiting on events.

    Comment by Adam — 8/6/2008 @ 4:55 pm

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