Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain Needs a Reset Button

Everything seemed to be going well on that summer night in Saint Paul when the Republican delegates and the whole country seemed infatuated with the "hockey mom" from Alaska. John McCain seemed to revitalize a stagnant campaign and make the nation stand up and take notice. The Republican convention was the most watched convention in television history, edging out the Democratic convention of the week before. The aftermath saw McCain ahead of Obama in almost every national poll, and Obama saw his electoral poll advantage evaporate. What a difference a month makes! The way the McCain campaign has been going since the afterglow of Saint Paul, it is in desperate need of a reset button.
Some may say, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the McCain campaign may be greatly exaggerated, but such is not the case. It's all over but the shouting.
Palin is a train wreck. Palin has to make Dan Quayle happy, because until now, Quayle set the standard for inept running mates. Oh how we long for the days of Dan Quayle. Palin makes Quayle look like a genuis. The few interviews she has given have shown a complete and utter failure to understand the issues which the next Presidential administration will face.
What in the world was McCain thinking when he thought that Palin was up to the job of being Vice President? The rationale for a Palin pick was one or a combination of the following: I'll break them down into the "benefit of the doubt" and "cynical" explanations.
1. Palin will attract the disgruntled Hillary supporters. Benefit of the doubt -- 18 million voted for Hillary in the primary, many of them women. Sarah Palin will arouse a feeling of pride in women and they will vote for her because she broke through that "glass ceiling" that Hillary couldn't. Cynical --- Women are stupid. A woman is a woman is a woman. They voted for Hillary. They'll vote for Palin. This clearly has not happened, because to the surprise of the McCain campaign, women are not a group of lemmings who vote on gender and not the issues. Women came out in big numbers for Hillary not solely because she was a woman, but because they liked the way should stood on issues that were important to them.
2. Palin will energize the conservative base. Benefit of the doubt -- Palin is popular among conservatives, and they will be enthused when one of their own is on the ticket. There was an enthusiasm gap, because McCain was viewed as a moderate or, worse yet, a liberal. Palin would make the conservative base happy. Cynical -- conservatives, like women, are lemmings. They will happily support anyone who is one of their own. Many conservative commentators spoke glowingly of Palin, but always looked at her as a long shot. The more intellectually true conservatives like George Will and David Brooks have seen through Palin and realize that she is completely unqualified for the vice presidency, let alone the presidency.
3. Palin is young and will offset the age issue. Benefit of the doubt -- John McCain will be the oldest person elected to a first term as President in history. Palin is 44 years old. She will offset McCain's age and will add youth and vigor to the ticket. Cynical -- She's a cute woman, and the media will give her a pass. Unfortunately for McCain, Palin has only amplified the age issue, and her youth has now also amplified her inexperience.
4. Palin is confident and doesn't blink when the going gets tough. Benefit of the doubt -- America wants a leader who shows certitude. Make a decision, and never look back. That is decisiveness, and that's what the American people want. Cynical -- The American people are stupid and they can be fooled into believing certitude can overcome a lack of knowledge and experience.
Hit the reset button, John. To paraphrase Gerald Ford, let our long national nightmare be over.

Five Weeks to Go -- Electoral Update

Here’s the five week out update of the electoral map. There have been a number of changes since last week. A number of states have been trending towards Obama. There are three factors which fuel this trend. First, the Palin bubble seems to have burst. Second, the financial crisis has benefitted Obama, and third, Obama did well enough in the first debate to push some undecideds into his camp.

Safe Obama States: (222)

California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Iowa (7), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (15), New Mexico (5), New York (31), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (11), Wisconsin (10).

Leaning Obama (89)

Colorado (9), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21), Virginia (13).

Safe McCain States (158)

Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (10), Arkansas (6), Georgia (15), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), Wyoming (3).

Leaning McCain (5)

West Virginia (5).

Toss Up (64)

Florida (27), Indiana (11), Missouri (11), North Carolina (15),

Solid Obama and Leaning Obama (311)

Solid and Leaning McCain (163)

With the election five weeks away look very good for Obama at this point. Even without winning Florida or a single toss up state, Obama has more than the 270 needed. Particularly troubling to the McCain camp is Obama seems to be solidifying his support in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Bush won Virginia in 2000 and 2004. If McCain cannot win Virginia, it is almost inconceivable that McCain can win a majority with the remaining states. Even more troubling is that Ohio has been trending to Obama. If McCain loses Virginia and Ohio, he will lose the election, regardless of what happens in Florida.

Let’s see what happens in the Vice Presidential debate this Thursday. Unless Palin shocks us all with her knowledge of the issues, her charm will not carry the night. The Thursday debate is not about Biden. It is all about Palin, and if her Couric interview is any indication of how she does on Thursday night, barring a Obama implosion, McCain will return to the Senate and Obama will move on to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Third Term?

Would the election of John McCain be a third Bush term or would he break away from the Bush Revolution? McCain is trying very hard to distance himself from the unpopular and failed policies of the Bush administration. When we look at the issues and the positions of the 2008 John McCain, we can see when it comes to the issues that really matter, a John McCain presidency, with few minor exceptions, would be the third Bush term.

Where they agree:

Taxes - McCain was one of only two Republicans who opposed Bush tax cuts in 2001. He stated on the floor of the Senate in 2001 “so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief." McCain has since changed his position by voting to extend the tax cuts in 2006, and now says he will work to make the Bush tax cuts permanent if elected.

Abortion - Bush and McCain both oppose use of federal money for abortions, including aid to groups that help women obtain them. Both support the ban on Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 and parental notification for minors. McCain says Roe v. Wade “should be overturned,” and says he will appoint judges who would vote to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision. Despite being a member of the infamous “Gang of Fourteen” (the bipartisan group of centrist Senators in the 109th United States Congress who successfully negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called nuclear option over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate Democrats,) he voted for both John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Iraq - McCain supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but has tried to have the best of both worlds by criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the war. He was one of the first national political figures to support a troop “surge,” which was eventually adopted by Bush. McCain does not support a timetable for withdrawal, and has stated that the United States may have a military presence in Iraq for a hundred years.

Health Care - McCain’s proposal to eliminate tax breaks that encourage employers to provide health insurance for their workers is very similar to one that Bush pushed last year, to little effect. The Bush plan offered a $15,000 tax deduction for families buying their own insurance, while the McCain plan would give a refundable tax credit of $5,000 to families for insurance whether or not they pay taxes. Both opposed a 2007 bill to expand SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program.)

Education- McCain generally supports No Child Left Behind, Bush’s signature education policy. Calling it a “good beginning,” he has said, “there’s a lot of things that need to be fixed” about it. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a McCain adviser, has said “the law needs to start addressing the underlying cultural problems in our education system.”

Diplomacy With Iran and Syria - Like the president, McCain has ruled out direct talks with Iran and Syria for now. McCain supported Bush when he likened those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” to appeasers of the Nazis.

Immigration - McCain supported a 2007 bill, strongly backed by Bush, that called for establishing a guest-worker program and setting up a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He sponsored a similar bill in 2006, but this year he said he would not vote for his own proposal now.

Guantánamo Detainees - McCain was a key backer of the 2006 legislation that allowed detainees to be tried in military courts and abolished habeas corpus rights for detainees labeled “enemy combatants” by the administration. He would close the Guantánamo prison and move prisoners to a maximum-security military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Social Security - “I’m totally in favor of personal savings accounts,” he told The Wall Street Journal in March, “along the lines that President Bush proposed.”

Same-Sex Marriage - Bush supported a constitutional amendment to ban such marriages, but McCain voted against it, saying states should enact such bans. He said he would consider a constitutional ban if “a higher court says that my state or another state has to recognize” same-sex marriages.

Wiretapping and Executive Power - McCain supports the Bush administration’s authorization for National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants.

Where they disagree, a bit…

Climate Change - McCain claims he would be an environmentally friendly President. Although McCain supports a cap-and-trade program that would set a national ceiling on carbon emissions, he said “America did the right thing by not joining the Kyoto Treaty.”

Energy and Oil - McCain has called for a “great national campaign to put us on a course to energy independence,” adding that the next president must be willing to “break completely” with the energy policies of previous administrations. Mcain also, for the time being, opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, once a top goal for Bush. McCain, however, has recently changed his position and is now on board with Bush on lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Federal Spending - McCain is trying to gain some political ground by attacking the pork-barrel projects and other wasteful spending which became a hallmark of the Republican Congress and the Bush administration.

Interrogation Tactics - McCain has battled the Bush administration on a number of bills to end torture by the U.S., but this year he voted against a bill to force the Central Intelligence Agency to abide by the rules set out in the Army field manual on interrogation. He said that a 2005 law he helped pass already prohibits the C.I.A. from “cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Friday, September 26, 2008

I Can See Russia From My House

Sarah Palin's detractors enjoy using the line Tina Fey used while parodying Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Fey said in a dead-on Palin impersonation, "I can see Russia from my house." Is this a unfair criticism of Palin, considering Palin never used that exact line, or does it provide a insight into the first term governor that should make us all stand up and question Palin's basic fitness to be our next Vice President. Let's first look at what Palin actually said that was the basis for Tina Fey's words in that memorable skit.
Charlie Gibson of ABC news interviewed Palin over a two day period from September 11th through September 12th. Here's the relevant part of his interview.
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
About ten days later, Palin was interviewed by CBS news anchor Katie Couric. She was asked a similar line of questions.

Couric: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

Sarah Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don't know, you know … reporters.

Couric: Mocked?

Palin: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

Couric: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

These answers represent more than mere gaffes, they represent a gross misunderstanding of foreign policy and should make the hair of anyone listening stand on end. How can we take such a candidate serious? If Barack Obama made a statements like these, Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee on February 5th of this year.

Sarah Palin sees the world in simple black and white terms, when the world is actually filled with multiple, complex shades of gray. We've suffered through the last seven and a half years with a President who governed by the philosophy that "you're either with us or against us." That simple black and white philosophy got us a war without end, large budget deficits, an extremely divided country, and a financial climate that looks almost as bleak as the days of the Great Depression.
Let's get serious, Vice Presidents must be able to step in and fill the role of the President on a moment's notice. Not everyone who's taken the oath of office for President throughout our history has been up to the job, and the same goes for many Vice Presidents. But has any of them demonstrated such a fundamental air of incompetence as that of Palin? Yes, she's got energy, drive, certitude, and can invigorate the base, but these qualities without a deep understanding of the basic issues we face in the world today are a dangerous combination. Alexander Pope wrote: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."
Hopefully if John McCain is elected, he will live a long life, and we will never have to see Sarah Palin's incompetence in action. However, the choice of Palin casts serious doubts into the judgment of John McCain. In John McCain's biggest decision since deciding to run for President, he has failed miserably in picking Palin. She was certainly not the most qualified person McCain could have picked. She isn't even the most qualified Republican woman for the job. Where's Kay Bailey Hutchinson when you need her?
One final thought: Barack Obama may have spent only 140 days or so in the Senate before he made his announcement to run for President, but he has demonstrated, whether you agree with his views or not, that he has an in depth understanding of the complex issues our next President will face. He would certainly have not survived the relentless onslaught of the Clinton campaign during the primary if he didn't have such an understanding.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Look At Senate Races

One thing is certain in the upcoming election --- No matter won wins the Presidential election, he will have to deal with a Democratic Senate. The only question is how big will the Democratic majority be. The biggest problem Republicans face is the fact that they have to defend twice as many seats as do the Democrats, and they have a number of long term Republican Senators who have decided not to run in 2008.

The current make up of the Senate is 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and two Independents. The two Independents, Bernie Sanders (VT) and Joe Liberman (CT) caucus with the Democrats, thus giving them a 51 to 49 majority.

There are thirty-five of the 100 seats up in the 2008 election. Thirty-three are for full six year terms, and two are for partial terms. Let's take a look at the races.

Republican Safe Seats (13)

Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Jeff Sessions (AL), Thad Cochran (MS), Lamar Alexander (TN), John Cornyn (TX), James Inhofe (OK), Pat Roberts (KS), Mike Johanns (NE), Mike Enzi (WY), John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID).

Democratic Safe Seats (14)

John Kerry (MA), Jack Reed (RI), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Joe Biden (DE), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Mark Warner (VA) [Pick-Up], Mary Landrieu (LA), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Carl Levin (MI), Dick Durbin (IL), Tom Harkin (IA), Tim Johnson (SD), Max Baucus (MT), Tom Udall (NM) [Pick-Up].

Leaning Republican (2)

Roger Wicker (LA), Mitch McConnell (KY).

Leaning Democrat (3)

Mark Udall (CO) [Pick-Up], Mark Begich (AK) [Pick-Up], Jeanne Shaheen (NH) [Pick-Up].

Toss-Up (3)

Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D) (MN), Gordon Smith (R) and Jeff Merkley (D) (OR), Elizabeth Dole (R) and Kay Hagan (D) (NC).

Not a single Democratic seat is vulnerable. Republicans have problems due to the retirements and unpopularity of several incumbents. Let's look at some of the hot races and Democratic pick-ups.

Mark Warner (D), the former Governor of Virginia has consistently polled 20 points ahead of former Governor James Gilmore (R). This seat is currently held by long time Senate Republican (no relation) John Warner. Tom Udall (D) has also never trailed Steve Pierce (R). This seat is being vacated by the retirement of New Mexico's Pete Domenici, a Senator since 1973. This means a definite pick-up of two for the Democrats.

Three more seats look very good for the Democrats. Mark Udall (D) (cousin of Tom) should beat Bob Schaffer (R) and pick up the Colorado seat held by retiring Republican Wayne Allard. Jeanne Shaheen (D) looks very strong against incumbent John Sununu in a rematch of the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race. Mark Begich (D) will have to wait to see what happens in the Ted Stevens (R) federal criminal trial. If the longest serving Republican Senator in history is found guilty, Begich will be representing Alaska come January. If Stevens is acquitted, this race may need to be changed to "Lean Republican."

The three tighest Senate races involve all incumbent Republicans --- Norm Coleman (R-MN), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). All three have tough opposition, and if Obama wins by more than a few points nationwide, I would not be surprised to see the Democrats sweep all three seats.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Political Polling 101

Like many political junkies, I love political polling. Political polling has come a long way since Dewey "defeated" Truman. Back then, in 1948, it was just Gallup and Roper, who blew the election calls badly. One of the factors that knocked the polls askew was that polling was done by telephone, and many of Truman supporters didn't have telephones. His supporters were, therefore, undercounted. The same problems occur today for another telephone reason --- cell phones. Polsters try to overcome a problem like this by creating polling models which weight the raw data they receive from their telephone polling.
One of my favorite web sites is realclearpolitics.com. They have a section which lists the latest polls, and it is updated regularly throughout the day. Today's national polls, taken over relatively the same time period range from McCain leading by two percentage points to Obama leading by nine percentage points. McCain's support ranges from 42 percent to 48 percent, and Obama's ranges from 46 percent to 52 percent. The polling in the individual states also varies. But why is there such variance in polls taken at the same time? The answer lies in the methodology used in weighting the samples.
Anyone who has perused a book on statistics or suffered through a statistics class in college or high school knows that you can take a sample of a larger group and get somewhat of any idea what makes up the whole group. Sampling is how polling works. It is impossible to survey everyone who's going to vote in an election, so polsters take a sample of the whole group. Polling in Presidential contests usually survey between 600 and 1000 voters. The larger the sample, the smaller the margin of error. A sample size of 600 will give you a 4 percent margin of error, whereas a sample size of around 1000 will give you a 3 percent margin of error.
I saw a great visual example of this on a now defunct children's television show called Mathnet about 20 years ago. The people on the show had a giant container into which they place about 10,000 marbles, 9000 of one color and 1000 of another. After mixing up the marbles, they blindly took out a few hundred marbles and counted the different colors. Invariably the sample of marbles would show about a 90 to 10 advantage of the one color over the other. It wasn't always exactly 90 percent to 10 percent, but it was always within a few pecentage points either way. This is the basis for the sample used by polsters.
The major obstacle polsters face is that unlike the randomly dispersed marbles, the electorate is not randomly dispersed. Utah will undoubtedly vote in favor of John McCain. (Bush won there in 2000 and 2004 by margins of 40 and 45 points, respectively.) Just as Obama will win Wasington, D.C. (Republican candidates have not broken the 10% barrier in years.) Much of these disparities have to do with party affiliation. Voters generally stick with their party in Presidential elections (80 percent or more.) Non-affiliated or independents tend to vote within ten percentage points of a 50/50 split.
Unlike the marble count, polsters do not take the raw data and transpose this directly into percentages. For example, if a sample's raw numbers were, out of 1000 surveyed, 485 for Obama, 445 for McCain, and 70 for undecided or other, the polster would not announce the results as 48.5 percent for Obama and 44.5 percent for McCain. The polster would "weigh" the raw data through a complex formula which takes into account many factors. These polling models do in a great degree explain some of the differences in poll results taken in the same time period.
The two great unknowns in this Presidential election are 1) are the polsters properly compensating for the growing percentage of persons who only have cell phones, and 2) what weight have they given to all the newly registered voters. This year, the Democratic Party in Nevada has registered almost 80,000 new voters, shifting the registration balance from a 6,000-voter Republican advantage in 2006 to a 70,000- voter Democratic edge. Bush won Nevada in 2004 by slightly more than 21,000 votes.
Politcal polling is actually quite accurate, especially when polls are averaged. For example, in 2004, based on the rcp final average, the election morning prediction had Bush garnering 292 electoral votes to Kerry's 242. The only state the rcp average got wrong was Wisconsin. Kerry won Wisconsin by 0.4%. The rcp average had Bush ahead 0.9% in its morning of the election average.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Shoot the Messenger

“I leave you gentlemen now and you will write it. You will interpret it. That's your right. But as I leave you I want you to know — just think how much you're going to be missing. You won't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference…” Richard Nixon spoke these words on November 7, 1962 after losing the California Governor’s race to Pat Brown. Nixon did not keep true to his word about the end of his political career, because six years later he ran for and was elected President. He did, however, continue his contempt for the media throughout his Presidency.

Nixon went as far as having his special counsel, Charles Colson, compile an “enemies’ list.” The list mainly consisted of Nixon’s political opponents and supporters of those opponents, but the list also included a number of people in the media, including Daniel Schorr, Jack Anderson, and Ed Guthman. If you were lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to make the list, Nixon used the power of the Presidency to “get back” at you with such actions as IRS audits.

The Republicans have taken a page for the Nixon playbook by demonizing the “liberal media.” They have been doing this since the time of the Nixon Presidency, and have been quite successful with their “shoot the messenger” strategy. The strategy is actually quite brilliant and has now become a major part of the Republican playbook. Whenever a negative or embarrassing story appears, Republicans cry “liberal bias” in the mainstream media, without ever having to address the truth or veracity of the story. Believe me, the “shoot the messenger” mantra is commonplace in today’s political discourse.

A perfect example appeared in local newspaper reports on John McCain’s visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania. One McCain supporter said, “I want to ask the media – when are your 30 investigators going to Chicago to start digging? You should start doing your job instead of picking on little children and pregnant teenagers. (A reference to Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.) Shame on you.” She further went on to say that the national media wasn’t covering stories on Reverend Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers. Apparently she doesn’t listen to Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, or Rush Limbaugh, all of whom have been beating that dead house for months now.

The “shoot the messenger” strategy has created a large class of voters who don’t want to be confused by the “facts,” because their minds are made up. These “unpersuadables,” unfortunately, now make up perhaps as much as thirty percent or more of the electorate, and give us a valuable insight into Sarah Palin’s continued popularity. All the stories from Alaska about Palin’s slash and burn path to political stardom fall on the deaf ears of the unpersuadables. It’s all chalked up to the liberal bias of the mainstream media.

Richard Nixon’s legacy will forever be Watergate, the botched “third-rate” burglary that brought down his Presidency. His accomplishments of developing diplomatic relations with Communist China, the beginning of nuclear arms negotiations with the former Soviet Union, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency will always be overshadowed by the Watergate break-in and cover-up and his subsequent resignation. But, perhaps, just perhaps, Nixon’s most significant contribution to the American political scene is firing the first shot in the war on the media and the genesis of the “shoot the messenger” strategy which the Republican party has embraced for the last thirty years.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Electoral Map Volume 1

It’s time for the late September electoral map.

Safe Obama States: (214)

California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Iowa (7), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Minnesota (10), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (15), New York (31), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (11), Wisconsin (10).

Leaning Obama (59)

Colorado (9), New Mexico (5), Michigan (17), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21).

Safe McCain States (117)

Alabama (9), Arizona (10), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Nebraska (5), Oklahoma (7), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), Wyoming (3).

Leaning McCain (72)

Alaska (3), Georgia (15), Mississippi (6), Missouri (11), Montana (3), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), West Virginia (5).

Toss Up (76)

Florida (27), Indiana (11), Nevada (5), Ohio (20), Virginia (13).

Solid Obama and Leaning Obama (273)

Solid and Leaning McCain (189)

With the election six weeks, things look very good for Obama at this point. Even without winning Florida or a single toss up state, Obama has more than the 270 needed. This certainly doesn’t mean that Obama can just cruise to victory, but it does mean that McCain will have to pour money and resources into a lot more states than Bush had to in 2004. Obama will also force McCain to spend millions of dollars in states which Bush took for granted.

It is reported that Obama plans to spend $37 million in Florida alone. This large expenditure on behalf of the Obama campaign will put a tremendous drain on McCain, who has been limited to the federal funding of $84.1 million. Obama opted out of federal funding and will probably spend in the neighborhood of $200 million between now and election day. McCain needs to spend large amounts of his federal cash in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and the Chicago market (to hit Southern Wisconsin,) in addition to Florida.

This doesn’t include the money the Republican National Committee (RNC), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the 527s will spend. (A 527 is a type of American tax-exempt organization named after a section of the United States tax code, 26 U.S.C. § 527. A 527 group is created primarily to influence the election of candidates for public office, and are not subject to the same contribution limits as the candidates. Candidates can only receive $2300 per election cycle.)

In 2004, 527 groups spent almost $440 million. Democratic/liberal groups outspent Republican/conservative by a 2 ½ to 1 margin in 2004. Expect the 527s to spend at least as much as they did in 2004. The RNC had $76.5 million on hand at the beginning of September, 2008, whereas the DNC had only $17.7 million.

If you live in one of the dozen or so battleground states, expect to see a lot of political television advertising in the next six weeks. You can also expect phone calls, direct mail, and even someone knocking on your door for one of the candidates.