Monday, August 18, 2008

Five Things Going In Obama's Favor

Ok, yesterday I was negative on Obama. Today, let's look at the positive.

Despite McCain's heavy ad spending in battleground states, which is obviously tipping the polls, Obama is repairing his national lead today. Here's why Obama's overall numbers are holding up and why there's hope he'll recover his battleground leads.

1. McCain may be starting to overplay his hand. There's a lot of noise out there about the Rick Warren so-called "debates," but cut through the noise, Warren's followup, the "cone of silence" fiasco and judgments about "who won," and what comes into focus is that the debate looks more and more like a setup: Warren, who is certainly not an objective moderator, fed softball questions to McCain to play to his stump speech. McCain's team is trying to play this story as Obama sour grapes and falling back on his POW credentials. But the strum und drang may be starting to backfire. Obama felt he had to show up to keep Evengelical voters within a reasonable margin. He wasn't playing to the base the way McCain was (imagine McCain and Obama having an equivalent debate on Logo, with Ellen DeGeneres moderating, and you have some sense of the partisan turf.) But for those outside this voting block, the fiasco doesn't reflect well on McCain...he protestest too much, and the POW shield may be starting to crack. Unlike Bush, McCain really does have a temper, and documentable scandals that go beyond mere incompetency, so the Rovian tactic of accusing the opponent of your own foibles while castigating the press for stepping over the line may not always work if the truth about your own foibles can be so easily verified. And if his POW facade finally cracks, all sorts of McCain character flaws may become fair game. The Warren debates may turn out to be the beginning of a genuine press scruitiny of McCain and a deciding change of momentum for Obama.

2. As Nate Silver reports, Obama has been silently building his ground game in battleground states, and is tremendously out-organizing McCain. The ground game goes largely unreflected in the polls but could result in several percentage points going Obama's way outside of current polling numbers.

3. Obama's wonderful parody of the Corsi smear book seems to have effectively flumuxed the Swift-Boat strategy that sunk Kerry. Why, even right-wingers are denouncing Corsi now. Major Bullet. Dodged.

4. Obama has been able to deflect the Rovian attack machine while keeping his own negative ads largely under the radar. This allows him to go into a convention painting a very upbeat, positive picture, while the public has been treated to three solid months of negative Republican attack ads. The stark difference between Hope and Fear become more visceral, not just a campaign slogan, so even the unwashed masses in Ohio begin to feel the difference in tone.

5. After six months of negative Clinton campaigning and three months of negative Republican attacks, the undecideds still don't know enough about Obama to make up their minds. So far, Obama's best speeches have been playing defense: his race speech, his triumph-without-offending-Hillary speech. Now all that may be over, at least for a couple weeks: the convention will finally give Obama a chance to play offense, and a platform to define himself to the public. A week from tomorrow, we'll be treated to an Obama bio-pic that will introduce the candidate on his own terms. And on Thursday, Obama will deliver the speech of his life, with 20 million voters watching. When unscripted, Obama may have a smidgeon of Kerry Verbiosity Syndrom, but given a script and a theme, he's a talented dude. Some of that virtuosity will have to come through. Once team Obama has posession of the ball, they've got a good chance to run it significantly down the field.

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