I watched the debate last night, and actually took notes to comment on it.
McCain was incredibly bad, in so many ways.
First off, even he, I think, must realize that the economy is first and foremost on everybody's mind. So it probably wasn't the best thing in the world to use Ebay as an example of the booming U.S. economy-- apparently John had not gotten the word that Ebay had laid off 10% of its workforce the day before.
Then McCain started hammering Obama "and his cronies" on their lack of oversight of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two big federal mortage agencies. Yeah, John-- Obama, in his two years in the Senate, versus your 28 years-- what happened to your oversight of it?
And I was waiting for Obama to point out-- and he did-- that McCain's campaign manager was a lobbyist paid to prevent regulation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
McCain tried to spring a surprise-- the idea to buy up all of the bad mortgages in the country to prop up the sagging equities of millions of homes in America. So much for getting the government out of our lives and the economy.
I did a little quick math. Lowballing both the number of mortgages to be bought out and the amount of the homes-- 5 million homes costing $300,000 each-- that's a trillion and a half dollars. That's a little over double last week's bailout. Tack onto that a trillion dollars or so for the Iraq war. All while lowering taxes. Where is all of this money going to come from then? Looks like it's the classic "borrow and spend" conservatism.
He kept hammering away at offshore drilling as a panacea for our energy problems. He failed to point out that one, it takes years and even decades to develop offshore drilling platforms. Secondly, even if this happens, it would increase domestic production only 3%. And of course, as Mr. Obama pointed out, it would exacerbate, not help the global warming problem.
I loved when Mr. Brokaw asked them what their foreign policy "doctrine" was. Mr. Obama was straightforward, stating that there is a need to balance the moral and political imperatives in foreign intervention with the realities of the situation. McCain, however, took a page from the "Palin Doctrine"-- to ignore the question and make a statement unrelated to the question.
At least twice, McCain invoked the memory of his "hero" Ronald Reagan. Again, he showed staggering stupidity. Guess what, John? First off, for a good number of voters, he means nothing. Young voters in particular. Secondly, many of the "Reagan Democrats" have wised up. They saw how Reagan's bullshit "prosperity" was a smokescreen, benefitting mostly the rich. They saw that the tax cuts for the rich left a huge deficit that Clinton had to clean up. They read newspapers. They remember that Clinton left office with a huge surplus. Not only is that surplus gone, we're back to the "borrow and spend conservatism" of the Reagan years.
Barack Obama was great, making it clear that he has the intelligence and wits to hold the office of President. McCain blustered, obfuscated, out and out lied and in general made it clear, to me, that I don't want him to be President.
In these last weeks before the election, it'll be interesting. McCain's "bad cop," Sarah Palin, is doing her job, going before paranoid, ignorant Republicans and trying to tie Barack Obama to former radical who he was guilty of having loose associations with years after the former radical had become a mild-mannered school reformer. What was the response of the voters? Obama went up another percentage point in Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Ohio, all states he was expected to lose. He's leading all four. He's up by a fraction of a percentage in Missouri, a state no one dreamed he'd capture. In Minnesota, where Republicans had a fantasy they might have a chance, Obama is up by over 10%. He's leading by comfortable margins in Wisconsin and Michigan, where pundits thought he'd have trouble. He's leading in solidly Republican New Hampshire. And now the McCain campaign is in a dither because they're afraid they might even lose Indiana, a state that hasn't gone for to a Democrat since Johnson in 1964.
As we get closer, there are two wild cards at work. First, as Bubs pointed out, is the Bradley Effect. This refers to the fact that there is a difference between the number of people polled who say they're going to vote for an African-American candidate and those who do. It's named after former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, who was leading in the polls going into the 1982 California governor's race, but lost by a narrow margin. The "Bradley Effect" is thought to be about 5%. In many of the races I mentioned above, the margin is smaller than that. Obama's numbers are steadily rising in all of those states-- let's hope he gets above the 5% margin.
The other factor-- or factors, really-- are young people and cell phones. Back when I studied Political Science, we were taught that the Achilles Heel of many polls are that they're done by telephone. Back in the early eighties, when I was studying it, the problem was that telephones were one of the first things people lost when they had financial difficulties. That meant that poor people were often underrepresented in polls.
This was balanced out by the fact that there is a direct correlation between "socio-economic status," as we called it in my classes, and voting rates. Poor people tend to vote at much lower rates, middle class at higher rates and rich people at very high rates.
These days, the issue is cell phones. Many people have ditched landlines and use only their cell phones. The tendency increases the younger the person is. There is a correlation between voting and age that is similar to socio-economic status and voting rate-- the older one is, the more likely one is to vote.
This campaign has energized young people like no election in decades. I'll be curious after the election to see if there's a decrepancy between the polls and the actual vote due to the fact that younger voters were underrepresented in polls because their names were not in the phone book (that's the way pollsters usually do it-- picking names at random out of phone books)
As we get close to the election, it'll be interesting to see what factor winds up being the deciding factor: Obama's increasing popularity and incredible organizing machine vs. the Bradley Effect, and the cell phone factor vs. the apathy of youth. I think you know which factors i hope win out.