Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Debate, Polls, and More

Debate analysis: nobody won. Tonight’s debate has got to be the most boring debate of this election cycle. There were some debates during the primaries that were pretty awful; they were like the Lincoln-Douglas contests compared to this yawner. In most debates, the candidates try to stick to their talking points. I’ve never seen them succeed so completely.

Conventional wisdom: this lack of a winner is really, really bad news for McCain. McCain’s behind in the polls, and time is running short, so the conventional wisdom was that McCain needed a knockout punch here.

Wrong. Polls can change almost instantaneously—like they recently did for Obama—and it’s never too late for a knockout punch. McCain has plenty of time—a strong performance in his next debate, combined with a weak one from Obama, could wholly change the narrative of the race.

Besides, it’s not like McCain has never come back from tough obstacles. After Iowa, his campaign was effectively dead in the water. Then, somehow, he won New Hampshire and never looked back. A similar thing could easily happen in this contest.

Another point to consider: most of Obama’s poll bump is due to current events, not because of anything the Obama campaign is doing. And current events are fickle—a year ago, the election was supposed to be about Iraq, this summer, it was supposed to be about oil prices, now, it’s about the economy. Tomorrow, the focus could be on something completely different.

And it’s not like Obama’s campaign has been especially good at creating a narrative. Obama’s foreign policy trip was supposed to lend him gravitas—it didn’t. And his convention speech was supposed to be a seminal moment in his campaign. It wasn’t. Obama’s debate performances have been only average (as have, it must be said, McCain’s).

A final point on this matter—in the primaries, Obama had trouble closing the deal. He often led, or was very close, in the polls, then would get blown out by Hillary Clinton. Even with his impressive lead in current polls, he can’t afford to let that happen.

Many wonder what influence the “Bradley effect”—the tendency of many white voters to tell pollsters that they will vote for a black candidate—will have on the election. That’s an important point, but I think that the “cool effect” may have a bigger impact. When one thinks of politicians, Obama’s is the first name that springs to mind. There must be at least some, and maybe more than some, people who simply tell pollsters that they supporter the cooler and more well-known candidate.

Still, even with the “Bradley effect,” and the “cool effect,” and all the unknowns of the race, Obama is still clearly ahead. The smart money has to be on him to win—were I betting on the race, I would put my money on Obama. Things could change completely—but right now, Obama’s path to the White House looks clear.


At October 8, 2008 at 4:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Debate analysis: nobody won"

Right, I agree with you, nobody won, however...McCain Lost by not winning.
Obama didn’t have to win, he already had a big lead. It was his debate to lose and he didn’t.
So in that respect, McCain lost.

Get your crash helmets ready. It's going to be a really bumpy road for the next 4- 8 years.

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