Obama Campaign Warming Up to Outside Groups

The NY Times reports that the Obama campaign is having trouble meeting its ambitious fundraising goals after its decision not to accept public financing. And Marc Ambinder writes that now Team Obama is quietly embracing outside 527 groups. If you recall, when Obama broke his pledge to accept public financing, his justification was that the system was broken, and that he needed money to fight Republican outside groups that were out to slime him. Now it turns out that he won’t take public money and he’ll be relying on outside groups.

A new kind of politics, indeed.

Rasmussen Post-Convention Swing State Polls

No major movement, but here’s the bottom line:

In Colorado, Obama is up 1 (McCain was up 3 before the conventions — perhaps this reflects the bounce from the Dem convention being held in Denver)

In Florida, it’s tied (McCain was up 2 before the conventions)

In Ohio, McCain is up 7 (he was up 5 before the conventions)

In Pennsylvania, Obama is up 2 (that’s the same as before the conventions)

In Virginia, McCain is up 2 (he was up 1 before the conventions)

More info here.

One thing that would concern me if I were in the McCain camp is that Bush won four out of five of these swing states that Obama is putting in play. And Virginia wasn’t even a swing state in 2004 and hasn’t gone Democratic since the 1964 LBJ landslide. With that said, these polls show that it continues to anybody’s ballgame right now.

Poll Finds Palin Popular in Michigan

A new PPP poll taken over the weekend shows Barack Obama clinging to a statistically insignificant 1-point lead over John McCain in Michigan.

The poll finds:

The selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate appears to be a hit with Michigan voters. 45% of respondents say they are more likely to vote for McCain because of his running mate selection, while just 30% say Joe Biden joining the Democratic ticket makes them more likely to vote for Barack Obama.

In the previous PPP poll taken in July, Obama led by 3 points, so this isn’t a huge move. But still, it’s good news for McCain in a state with 17 electoral votes that went for Kerry and Gore.

Gallup Credits McCain With 6-point Bounce

That compares with a 4-point bounce for Barack Obama. Today’s Gallup daily tracking poll (which is different than the USA Today poll I noted earlier) has McCain up 49 to 45.

The typical bounce coming out of the convention is five points.

And some more context from the folks at Gallup:

Since 1964, the first election year for which Gallup could reliably measure convention bounces, there have been only two examples in which one candidate consistently trailed until the time of his party’s convention, but took the lead after and never relinquished it. Those occurred in 1988 for the elder George Bush and 1992 for Bill Clinton.

But there are also examples where a consistently trailing candidate took the lead after his party’s convention, but later relinquished it — Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Al Gore in 2000.

So basically, your guess is as good as anybody’s. But there’s one point worth making. All along, it’s been assumed that the conventions would favor Obama, because whenever he gets to give a major teleprompter speech to a huge national audience, he has an advantage. His convention speech was supposed to be the most significant moment of his campaign. Yet it turns out that the conventions were acually better for McCain. And now we move on to the season of debates and unscripted moments, which is where McCain tends to shine.

The Kael Effect

Although elections are not decided by television ratings it absolutely shocked me that John McCain drew more viewers for his speech than Barack Obama, even if only a few hundred thousand more. Given all of the hype surrounding the Obama speech before more than 80,000 people in a football stadium and the fact that he’s a far more gifted orator than McCain, I would have thought Obama would absolutely bury him in the ratings by several million. But apparently, for all the talk of Obama being a rock star and McCain being an old dude, it turns out that a lot of Americans want to hear from the war hero. Perhaps there’s a certain Pauline Kael effect in media reporting that hasn’t been fully accounted for.

Monday, Who Needs It?

And by that I mean the first day of political conventions. Given all the reports about the record ratings for the Republican convention, and the bump that McCain received as a result, it seems as though the Republicans lost absolutely nothing by canceling the first day of the convention due to Hurricane Gustav, and if anything, guaranteed a better, more compressed, schedule for the remainder of the convention. From now on, the political parties may take a long, hard, look at convention planning, and consider standardizing the three-day schedule.

McCain’s Bump

This USA/Today Gallup, which reflects the three day polling period after the convention, has McCain up 50-46 among registered voters and by 54-44 among likely voters. I think this is pretty significant, not just because it shows an 11-point swing as a result of the Republican convention.

What’s also important is that McCain hit the 50 percent mark. The basic trend we’ve seen during this general election has been that both candidates are tied around the mid-40s, then Obama has a good run, McCain dips to the lower 40s, Obama creeps up, and opens a 4 to 8 point lead. Then McCain knocks Obama around a bit, and they ended up tied in the mid-40s again. I’ve been wondering the whole time whether McCain would finally hit the 50 percent mark, because it seemed that there was a group of voters that was fluctuating between Obama and undecided, while showing resistance to McCain. Now McCain has broken this cycle.

A few other important notes. On the economy, “Before the GOP convention, Obama was favored by 19 points; now he’s favored by 3.” It’s pretty simple. McCain has an advantage on national security that is pretty stable, so if Obama cannot capitalize off of working class economic anxiety and win those voters that eluded him during the Democratic primaries, he cannot win the election. Obama should be blowing McCain out of the water on the economy, but it seems that the constant hammering during the convention on his plans to raise taxes was effective.

Also, here’s the most important aspect of the Palin effect: “Before the convention, Republicans by 47%-39% were less enthusiastic than usual about voting. Now, they are more enthusiastic by 60%-24%, a sweeping change that narrows a key Democratic advantage. Democrats report being more enthusiastic by 67%-19%.” This was the biggest GOP worry all year — what to do about the enthusiasm gap? Would voters turn out for McCain? Would they stuff envelopes, make calls, and knock on doors? It now appears that they’re much more likely to, and in a close race that will be a turnout battle, the importance of this development cannot be overstated.

The ‘Iron My Shirt’ Hoax Lives

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Anne Kornblut writes:

Watching Gov. Sarah Palin explode onto the national scene over the last week got me thinking back to a cold evening earlier this year, just before the New Hampshire primary. I was half-listening to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speak at an auditorium when a strange noise interrupted the event: two young men shouting, in muffled voices, “Iron my shirt!”

At first, Clinton seemed as taken aback as the rest of the audience, unsure of what was going on. Then she saw the yellow “Iron My Shirt!” sign one of the young men held, figured out what was being shouted and brushed the interruption aside. “Ah, the remnants of sexism, alive and well,” she said, then continued with her remarks. When security officers removed the young men from the audience, I joined several other reporters in following them outside to find out who the hecklers were and what had motivated them to make such a spectacle.

Little did we know that the bizarre incident was a precursor of what was to come — of the debate over sexism, feminism and the role of women in public life that would emerge as one of the defining aspects of the 2008 campaign. My fellow reporters and I never really did resolve the mystery of the “iron my shirt” episode; the two young men refused to give us their names and offered strangely vague reasons for being there. But we were put on notice that night: Gender politics was going to be a part of this race in ways that no one could foresee.

Did nobody tell Kornblut 9 months ago that it was a stunt done for a local radio show?

Grand United Party

ST. PAUL — When he captured the Republican nomination, there was widespread consensus that the only chance John McCain had to win the election was to earn the support of skeptical conservatives and unite the party. Mission accomplished.

In a scene that one could have never imagined just a year — or even a few months ago — McCain entered the hall at the Xcel Energy Center here to a rousing, piercing, four-minute ovation.

The man who irritated the conservative base by creating burdensome campaign finance regulations, opposing the Bush tax cuts, and pursuing comprehensive immigration reform was given a hero’s welcome, with chants of U-S-A and signs such as “The Maverick,” “We love McCain,” and “Straight Talk.”

McCain isn’t generally a great speaker, and he was slow to get going last night. The early portion of the speech was focused on reminding everybody of his maverick image: his fights against corruption and pork-barrel spending, and his advocacy of the surge strategy in Iraq before it was popular.

The policy portion of his speech was conservative boiler-plate in favor of low taxes, school choice, and oil drilling.

Though portions of the speech were flat, he ended strong, with a recount not just of the heroic story of his captivity when he rejected early release, but of when he was broken under torture and ashamed, with nothing to fall back on but the counsel of one of his fellow soldiers, and the love of his country.

His Churchillian rallying cry at the end of the speech brought the house down. It was delivered with a level of conviction that few others could muster, because he’s lived it. “Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight,” he implored the crowd. “Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.”

McCain has spent months reassuring the base that he stands with them on the most important issues, and the fact that he’s running against liberal Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden has also helped.

“I think the positions he’s taken are on the main conservative positions, and certainly compared to the radical positions of his opponents give conservatives plenty of reasons to elect him,” Jim Burnett, a delegate from Arkansas who didn’t consider McCain his first choice during the primaries said.

But for all his efforts at conservative outreach, there’s no doubt that the main difference maker was the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, which has been a booster shot for conservatives who have seen many disappointments over the last several years.

McCain often had his name mocked as “McPain” and “McLame” by frustrated conservatives, but following Palin’s speech, Rush Limbaugh, long a vocal critic of McCain, dubbed him “McBrilliant.”

Richard Viguerie, the direct mail guru and go to guy when the media is looking for a disgruntled conservative to quote, has released several statements praising McCain’s choice.

“A week ago, conservatives and most Republicans were down-in-the-dumps, listless, unengaged,” Viguerie said. “That lack of enthusiasm is a thing of the past…thanks to Senator McCain and Governor Palin, conservatives and Republicans are fired up as they have not been since Ronald Reagan was president.”

Tom Powers, a delegate from Clanton, Alabama, who supported Mike Huckabee during the primaries, said that while at first his state’s delegation didn’t know much about Palin, as they learned more, their energy level grew.

“On Thursday morning at our breakfast, you could just feel that energy start to generate,” Powers said. “That’s what we needed. We were lacking that conservative spark. She’s going to do that. Those are the people in this party who work. We’re in the trenches for this party, and she’s going to bring those people back into the fold and put this party in a strong position for the last 100 yards of this race.”

With the conventions over, the battle for swing voters — especially blue-collar workers who eluded Obama in the Democratic primaries — is under way. While unifying the party itself is not sufficient to win the election, it certainly means McCain will be able to count on more foot soldiers.