Friday, October 3, 2008

Campaign Pre-Mortem, Part I

Yesterday, when the news hit that Team Maverick was pulling out of Michigan, I did not hesitate to state the only possible meaning of this news: Game over. Obama wins on Nov. 4.

If you've got any InTrade futures on McCain (now trading at 34%), sell them immediately for whatever you can get, because they're not worth a nickel.

As drastic and premature as that conclusion may seem, it is defensible, if you have carefully followed the course of this campaign. This is not "panic" or "quaking in your panties," as the commenter Nermous said and, contrary to what one Kossack commenter suggested -- yes, I got cited at DKos -- this is not: "When things get tough, they begin to eat their own."

However colorfully vituperative my language might be, I am trying to report an objective fact. When it becomes clearly obvious to me that a candidate has lost an election, and I see the possibility of being the first to report this fact -- a scoop! an exclusive! -- I'm not going to keep my mouth shut just because the guy has an "R" beside his name. (Which, through a fantastic genealogical coincidence, just happens to be my name, too.)

Now, let me run down the basic reasoning:
  • This year's map always favored the Democrats -- Whoever got the nomination for the Democrats had a built-in advantage over whoever got the GOP nomination. "Brand damage" for Republican Party since 2004 is very real, and by late 2007 "brand damage" had put into play several states that Bush carried against Kerry. Count the Electoral College votes. If the Democrats could hold all of Kerry's states and add Iowa (7), Colorado (9), Nevada (5) and New Mexico (5), that's 276-262 in the Electoral College. Obama's overwhelming popularity in Iowa gave the GOP even less room for error. Even if you ignored every other possible Dem pickup this year (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Virginia), it was imperative that the GOP go on offense and try to "flip" some of the Kerry states from 2004 -- New Hampshire (4), Maine (4), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), Pennsylvania (21) and Michigan (17) being the best prospects.
  • Michigan was McCain's best "flip" prospect -- Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm pushed through an unpopular tax increase last year, and the high-profile corruption case of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (an Obama ally) created a potential "perfect storm" scenario in Michigan. Yet less than a month after Kilpatrick pleaded guilty -- and just three weeks after a one poll showing McCain +1 in Michigan, and two weeks after another poll showed him +3 there -- the McCain campaign's pulling out. Hello? This signals a huge, sudden momentum shift, and it won't be limited to Michigan. You can confidently paint Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin blue, too.
  • Timing of the shift -- The poll swings before Labor Day were relatively inconsequential. Independent voters seldom pay attention to politics before September. This was why the McCain poll surge after the Palin VP pick created such a panic among Democrats. But the subsequent GOP poll collapse (which, in retrospect, began Sept. 12) was more significant. As I wrote Sept. 22, the momentum might shift back to McCain if Obama bombed Sept. 26 in the first debate. But let's face it: McCain sucked in that debate. So now, with barely a month to go in the campaign, the independents have shifted to Obama. Let Sean Hannity spin a fantasy of how McCain is going to reverse that shift this late in the game. I can't see it happening.
  • Media bashing -- I didn't comment on it at the time, but I was shocked when Steve Schmidt lashed out at the New York Times on Sept. 22. Every word Schmidt said about the NYT being in the tank for Obama was true. But you don't do that. Ever. Not in a campaign you have any hope of winning. It is one thing to criticize specific errors by specific reporters, but for a presidential campaign manager to call into question the fundamental integrity of a newspaper that more or less dictates news coverage at the three major broadcast networks? Uh uh. No way. Leave that work to surrogates. Then Wednesday, in an interview with the Associated Press, McCain himself got all hostile with the reporter. That is tantamount to an admission of defeat.
  • The bailout stunt -- John McCain might as well have changed his slogan last week to "Got Desperation?" Suspending his campaign and attempting to cancel the first debate so he could fly to Washington and grandstand in support of a measure that polls showed a majority of voters opposed? That's just crazy.
Look, I consider the bailout to be a travesty, but even if you believe the bailout is The Right Thing To Do, it's just bad politics to jump in on the unpopular side of a controversial issue six weeks before an election, especially in such a flamboyant manner as McCain did last week.

The First Law of Politics is, You Can't Govern, If You Don't Win. Winning elections may not be the only thing that matters in politics, but it's the most important thing in politics -- and it's sure a lot more important than whatever the second most important thing is.

This is why those who've accused me of panic or cannibalism are wrong. I'm watching political incompetence in action, and incompetence infuriates me. Good policy is good politics, and vice-versa. Yet here we see the once-mighty Republican Party en route to its second consecutive electoral embarrassment, with an incumbent GOP president and his would-be GOP successor both on the wrong side (i.e., the losing side) of major issues.

Just as with the shamnesty, so also with the bailout: Republican leaders trying to ram through measures that are opposed by an absolute majority of the voters, and more opposed by Republican voters than by Democrats. And the same rationale to explain failure in both cases: "You benighted know-nothing voters are being misled by demagogues. We know what's best for you, so shut up."

"Leadership," according to the 21st-century Beltway GOP elite, requires the negation of representative government. They believe in a government above the people, against the people, in spite of the people. And then they wonder why they're losing elections!

For me to be silent about the impending disaster and its causes would be an act of bad faith. On Nov. 5, somebody's going to have to explain this botched campaign, and if we leave that job to the liberal media or the Republicans who were personally in charge of the disaster, you can be sure we'll get the wrong explanation.

So I'm now on record with the first installment of what I believe to be the first pre-mortem of the McCain campaign. If my prognosis is mistaken, and somehow Maverick pulls the greatest comeback in modern political history, well, OK. But if I were you, I'd dump those InTrade shares for whatever any fool is willing to pay for them, because they're going to be worthless pretty soon.


  1. Look, if you can't do something to contain this irrational optimism, I may have to chide you formally.

  2. "Look, I've been following politics since 1968 when I was (believe it or not) a staunch 9-year-old Hubert Humphrey booster. I know a losing campaign when I see one and, having more than a few friends who are political operatives, I know what goes on inside a losing campaign."

    I'm unimpressed and I'm out of here.

  3. Not quite ready to drink the hemlock yet. Let's see how things are after the next debate and then I might join you in the Great Leap to Nowhere.

  4. I'm what most call a liberal, I don't know if you'll consider me a troll or not, I read this piece with terrific interest

    for me, it's not principles in search of facts, it's facts that which principle

    I don't see too much of that on the other side of our respective ideologies and I suppose you don't see it on my side

    however I am pleased to say I surely see it on this blog

    so let me ask you something, I hope I don't get branded a troll and thrown down the stairs before we have some decent dialog;

    do you really believe the new York times is a "liberal paper" as corporate media promotes?

    we on the left have plenty of indication that it's in the tank for whichever administration rules the day, we know as a fact they hire administrative flunks like Judy miller and krystol

    I have the conversation with friends, (this is going to be amusing to you I am sure), that to most republicans, a "liberal" paper is any paper that criticizes a republican, a "fair and balanced" to a republican is any source that defends republicans no matter how corrupt.

    now I know you believe the reverse, isn't that amusing though?

    here's where we are coming from;

    before the consolidation of media, sources were owned by a legion of interests and these all had to compete with each other, a far more likely prospect of getting real and more abundant facts

    now media has devolved into about 5 owners, they are now corporate owned with a corporate agenda, obviously (to liberals), they are going to promote their corporate interest

    sometimes that interest is indeed socially liberal, however most of the time those interest is (according to us), "Conservative"

    let's look at the new York post, (a "liberal town") over this ridiculous bail out for the wealthy in the financial industry.

    they continue blaming democrats for the bills failure, calling them "a$$blanks".

    front page too.

    now here is a perspective progressives like myself enjoy but do not get to share, you tell me where I am wrong;

    when and industry creates an issue that causes us problems or costs us money, it is their obligation to pay that bill it is not up to us, if they refuse and there is no law that forces them, a new law has to be created (a regulation)

    for instance, the auto industry was dumping their bronchitis in my kids air and their cancer in my moms water, the industry refused to clean up their own crap, bing, regulation

    regulations are in most cases productive, they save us money they do not cost (sometimes not)

    when a regulation is counter productive to US, (not the industry), then we revisit those regulations, we do not simply remove regulations because an industry needs more profit, they have to pay their bills or go out of business.

    don't forget, the very concept of money is a regulation, ownership is a regulation, protection against crime is regulation

    so I don't know if this post gets through but I surely hope you and I can forge a mutually informative dialogue

  5. Hey - you put me on your frontpage. Awesome! Thanks for making me famous.

    I am still optimistic that Mac can pull this out. Here is my rebuttal:

    1. Check this article out. This article basically says that the electoral map is unchanged from 2000 and 2004. I think the recent evidence bears this out because both campaigns are consolidating.

    2. Yes, Mac did pull a failed stunt with suspending his campaign, but I really don't think it was fatal. It is already off the news cycle just like this bailout will soon be old news.

    3. Did you see the Cuda skewer the Gaffo-matic last night? That woman is amazing! She did what she needed to do, and then some.

    4. There is still time! There is a month left and that is a long time in a presidential campaign. Lots of people still have not made up their mind.

    Mac is still in this, and now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fight.

  6. Good lord. Who held your purse while you typed this?

    Well, never too soon to panic, I guess. Me, I'll wait until all the votes are counted. We're five weeks out. Five weeks ago, did you have any idea we'd see all this? Five weeks is a looooong time.

  7. Liberal, by your own "logic" Fox News is not conservative at all because they have Allan Colmes.

  8. gordo, liberals don't think colms is liberal, we think he is at the very best, middle

    did you know under the McCain tax plan "mainstream" (which has corporate agenda not liberal) media gets 1.44 billion in tax cuts? (as his entire "tax cuts" target the upper class instead of the middle class)

  9. Simple demographics means more socialists coming out of universites (which are not subject to democracy), more Latino populists becoming citizens, and more Americans entering late middle age and voting themselves benefits. If America remains a democracy, it will become more and more socialist, and its economy more and more untenable.

    The only way to save our economy, which represents the only freedom that matters (economic freedom) is to repeal that First Law of Politics: "You Can't Govern, If You Don't Win". The franchise must be restricted to taxpayers. If the electorate won't go with that, as I suspect, then either the productive states will have to secede or else the army will have to get involved.

    My vote will go to Obama, because he will drive the current regime over that cliff fastest.

  10. If America remains a democracy, it will become more and more socialist, and its economy more and more untenable.

    and there is the thing, through propaganda of corporate media, we have people like yourself who want to claim projects forcing industry into paying their own bill is "socialism"

    the roads you drive are a social project and socialism, the police dept is a social project and is socialism, the fire dept, the water in your House, the electricity that lights your room, social projects

    the very concept of "money" is socialism, ownership is socialism, the court system is socialism

    without socialism law would be for those who could afford it, your daughter raped?

    nope, you would not get redress without socialism

    now for the good news;

    "socialism" in the pejorative sense are only projects you are forced into using without the option of using private service instead

    for instance, money is socialism in the pejorative sense, the roads and bridges are socialism in the pejorative sense as well, the police are not since you can hire your own private guards, the fire dept is not since you can hire your own patrol

    ownership is though, so is the court system

    when you force industry into paying their own bill that is NOT "socialism" the way you want to look at it, it is part and parcel to ownership, they want what is yours and we as a society do not allow their theft

    health care guaranteed is NOT "socialism" in the pejorative sense since you can opt into private health care any time you want

    AND that health care you buy for yourself will be LESS expensive then if there weren't a public program SINCE they have to attract you to their program

    there are services and good called "the commons", these are services and goods that are used by everyone and therefore need to be payed for by everyone

    contrary to the corporate propaganda machine, private industry is NOT "more efficient" then government and it does NOT cost less when we are talking about "the commons"

    this is because private industry bases their prices on what we will pay, NOT what that product costs, when it is a "commons" we are forced into using their service and we pay through the nose

    case in point, blackwater and haliburton, both costs more then our forces by multitudes, INCLUDING the "hundred dollar hammer"

    just about everything run privately costs us more then through the government when it's a "commons"

    industry uses our roads, they use our water, they use our workforce

    this country is a government "for the people, by the people", not "for industry by industry"...I know that's a liberal thing but I didn't make it up, I swear it.

    industry MUST pay it's own bills, this includes paying enough for a man to raise his family, put health food on the table, educate his kids if they are qualified, take care of his daughter if she breaks her leg and his wife if she gets Cancer

    these are necessities of life, when an industry does not pay these necessities they ARE STEALING from you and from me.

    this is NOT "socialism", it's forcing industry to PAY THEIR OWN FRIGGING BILLS"

    so get off that "oh no, it's socialism to force them into paying their bills"

    paying your bills is a requirement, when they refuse we have to force them into it.

    those of you that don't think "socialism" is good, what you are asking for is anarchy

    you live in a society, their MUST be socialism in a "society", the two exist together

    if you and your wife were the only people on the planet, you would STILL have socialism

    tiz a fact

    not enough action on this board for me to return, but realize, yours is not the only way of thinking

    I understand mine is not either, that's why I look for dialogue on both sides of the aile

    however here there isn't too much going on, I must go to other boards where I might get some dialogue

    good luck to you and yours "the other mccain", I enjoy your board and will stop by once in a while to read

    be good to each other and god bless you all

  11. @zimri
    My vote will go to Obama, because he will drive the current regime over that cliff fastest.
    Recall that the Republic/Empire break in Rome was an invention of Gibbon.
    "fastest" is going to take a looong time to unravel, without an overt dip into "fascist".