10 Reasons for Democrats to Think Positive Despite the McCain Sleazathon

Obama is doing fabulously well on many levels. But the Democrats still need to be wary, as the desperate McCain campaign seems ready to do "whatever it takes" to try to bring Obama down in the last two weeks before the election.

By virtually every measure, Barack Obama is in a highly favorable position to get elected President on November 4th. Based upon organization, money, endorsements, performance in the debates, advertising dominance, the overwhelming influence of the economic meltdown, and the fact that Obama has run an incredibly effective and mostly errorless campaign, Democrats should be feeling good. But many appear to still have some serious insecurities, and rightly so.

The fact that some polls tightened a bit after the third debate, and because the desperate McCain campaign is throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Obama, some people are on the verge of panicking. Of course, the corporate media has every incentive to make the race seem closer than it is, tempted as they are by the come-from-behind narrative. And the coverage of McCain's sleazy campaign tactics has the effect of repeating their messages over and over again and keeping those ideas in the news and in people's discussions. That is a hard one to overcome, when part of the big news is the extent of the negative campaigning.

Then there are the deeper fears: Josh Marshall writing on TPM says, "McCain's final strategy relies on two pillars. The first is aggressively playing to voters' fears of electing a black president ... banking on the residual racism in a changing America to get them over the finish line. The second is an aggressive use of innuendo to convince casual voters that Obama is in league with Islamic terrorists bent on killing Americans."

Marshall continues: "So far, all this stuff just hasn't worked. But the truth is that the really corrupt and vicious part of McCain's effort only comes now ... it's only in the last couple weeks that you can pull stuff that the press won't get to call you on before election day -- after which it doesn't matter ... So far McCain's gutter campaign has hurt him more than helped. But there's no reason to be sure it will continue that way. And many Obama supporters, sure the election is basically wrapped up, appear ready to slack in the stretch and let McCain smear and cheat his way into office."

So for obvious reasons, including the fact that their candidate is potentially the first African-American to have a shot at becoming President, Democrats are counseling each other to avoid overconfidence and complacency, and get out there, as Reed Hunt writes, to "knock on every door in those key states; (Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia), respond to every charge, no matter how crazy, in every media forum that can be found; stay on the air; stay on the offense. And remember the essential voters in those key states won't finally decide until the weekend before that Tuesday."

Nevertheless, many are shocked at just how well Obama has done, and continues to do every day. Here is a list of ten Obama positives that should provide a baseline of confidence as millions gear up for the last two weeks of campaigning.

1. Obama shatters all fund-raising records in extraordinary September outpouring of $150 million.

According to the AP:

Barack Obama raised more than $150 million in September, a stunning and unprecedented eruption of political giving that has given him a wide spending advantage ... fueling a vast campaign operation in an expanding field of competitive states and underwriting a wave of both national and targeted video advertising unseen before in a presidential contest ... The campaign had added 632,000 new donors in September, for a total of 3.1 million contributors to the campaign; the average donation was $86.
2. Obama has a massive lead in newspaper endorsements: 94-28 including 18 that endorsed Bush in '04.

According to Dexter Hill and Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher, "The Obama-Biden ticket now leads in newspaper endorsements by 94 to 28, a better than 3-1 margin" ... "The readership of the newspapers backing Obama now stands at over 10 million vs. McCain's just under 2.5 million." Many endorsing papers are in key battleground states. "Obama's lopsided margin ... is in stark contrast to John Kerry barely edging George W. Bush in endorsements in 2004 by 213 to 205."
The Denver Post, which had backed George W. Bush in 2004 , endorsed Obama as did the Chicago Sun-Times, Kansas City Star, The NY Daily News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At this point 18 papers who endorsed Bush in '04 , now favor Obama including The Salt Lake Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, and Las Cruces (N.M) Sun-News. On Saturday, the Chicago Tribune which has never in 150 years endorsed a Democrat, backed Obama, as did its fellow Tribune paper, the Los Angeles Times -- which had endorsed no one in more than 30 years. It seems like a dam broke yesterday with the unexpectedly early choice of Obama by the Washington Post. New additions for him include the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Oregonian of Portland, Cleveland's Plain Dealer, Palm Beach (Fla.)

3. Sarah Palin is a major drag on McCain.

According the Huffington Post:
The more voters learn about Sarah Palin, the more wary they become ... the Alaska Governor is now viewed as a serious liability to the McCain campaign. Palin's polling numbers are daunting: with the unfolding economic crisis, her favorable to unfavorable ratings have switched from a positive 40-30, according to a September 12-16 New York Times survey, to a negative 32-41 in an October 10-13 survey.
Palin is, additionally, costing McCain newspaper endorsements [See above ] Many of the endorsements cited Palin as a factor in their rejection of McCain. The Salt Lake Tribune, which supported George W. Bush in 2004, commented that "out of nowhere, and without proper vetting, the impetuous McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. She quickly proved grievously under-equipped to step into the presidency should McCain, at 72 and with a history of health problems, die in office. More than any single factor, McCain's bad judgment in choosing the inarticulate, insular and ethically challenged Palin disqualifies him for the presidency." The Kansas City Star, in turn, described Palin as "unqualified."
4. Obama is still strong in the polls -- despite a temporary softening, Obama hasn't really lost any ground.

As Talking Points Memo Track Composite shows, Obama is ahead by six points:
Here's our daily (Sunday) composite of the five major national tracking polls. Barack Obama is holding a sizable lead over John McCain, and has slightly expanded it after a momentary dip yesterday:

  • Gallup: Obama 51%, McCain 44%

  • Rasmussen: Obama 51%, McCain 45%

  • Hotline/Diageo: Obama 48%, McCain 41%

  • Research 2000: Obama 50%, McCain 43%

  • Zogby: Obama 48%, McCain 45
Adding these polls together and weighting them by the square roots of their sample sizes, Obama is ahead 49.9%-43.9%, a lead of six points, compared to the 49.5%-44.3% Obama lead from yesterday. Note that this is the first day of polling taken entirely after Wednesday's debate. The pre-debate baseline was an Obama lead of 50.3%-43.7%, meaning that McCain has barely made a dent since then.
According to the very popular Fivethirtyeight.com, which aggregates many polls:
While McCain has gained, the candidates' approval ratings over that period are completely unmoved. In the Gallup tracker, while McCain has gained ground among likely voters since the debate, he has lost ground among registered voters. Lastly, every poll conducted on the debate itself suggested that Obama won the event.
McCain is not likely to be:
... persuading very many voters, and particularly not independents or registered Democrats. McCain's other problem is that the polls in battleground states have not really tightened at all. Obama gets good numbers today, for instance, in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Florida. Obama presently has something like a 3:1 advantage in advertising, and most of that advertising is concentrated in battleground states. As such, this may serve as a hedge against any improvements that McCain is able to make elsewhere in the country.
5. Obama is out-advertising McCain 4 -1.

From the New York Times:
With advertisements running repeatedly day and night, on local stations and on the major broadcast networks, on niche cable networks and even on video games and his own dedicated satellite channels, Mr. Obama is now out-advertising Senator John McCain nationwide by a ratio of at least four to one, according to CMAG, a service that monitors political advertising. That difference is even larger in several closely contested states.
While Mr. Obama has held a spending advantage throughout the general election campaign, his television dominance has become most apparent in the last few weeks. He has gone on a buying binge of television time that has allowed him to swamp Mr. McCain's campaign with concurrent lines of positive and negative messages. Mr. Obama's advertisements come as Republicans have begun a blitz of automated telephone calls attacking him.

6. Conservatives and Republicans are bailing on McCain.

We all know about the major endorsement by Colin Powell, but a growing gaggle of very conservative columnists have abandoned McCain for Obama. As Patricia Cohen, writing in the New York Times, notes:
In recent weeks, some prominent conservative intellectuals seem to have discovered they have two hands after all ... Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker wrote in the National Review on Sept. 26 that Palin is "clearly out of her league" and should bow out of the campaign. On Oct. 4, influential conservative pundit and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, rapped McCain for his "frenetic improvisation" and, in what some interpreted as an endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama, praised his "first-class intellect and a first-class temperament," adding that these strengths "will likely be enough to make him president."
This came after another conservative beacon, George F. Will, compared the "Palin bubble" to the irrational exuberance of the deflated high-tech and housing bubbles and said McCain was "behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high" in the way he responded to the financial crisis. He all but pronounced the Republican ticket finished after the final presidential debate Wednesday night.
And then, to top it off, novelist and humorist Christopher Buckley endorsed Obama. This decision, coming from the son of William F. Buckley Jr., one of the intellectual founders of the modern conservative movement, was the climax of what seemed to be a mood of growing discomfort on the right.
7. The sleaze isn't working so well.

Here is Frank Rich in Sunday's New York Times:
Now McCain is trying to distract us from his humiliating managerial ineptitude by cranking up the politics of fear -- another trademark Bush-Rove strategy. But the McCain camp's quixotic effort to turn an "old washed-up terrorist" into a wedge issue as divisive as same-sex marriage is too little, too late and too tone-deaf at a time when Americans are suffering too much to indulge in 1960s culture wars. Voters want policies that might actually work rather than another pandering, cynical leader who operates mainly on the basis of his "gut" and political self-interest.
The former Bush speechwriter David Frum has facetiously written that McCain could be rescued by "a 5,000-point rise in the Dow and a 20 percent jump in home prices." But the economy, stupid, can't be blamed for McCain's own failures, any more than Bush can be. Even before the housing bubble burst and Wall Street tumbled, voters could see that the seething, impulsive nominee isn't temperamentally fit to be president.
8. Major Latino vote for Obama.

From the report "Power of the Vote" by Americas Voices Online:
The Republicans hateful anti immigration messaging, partially embraced by McCain in the primaries, has come back to haunt the McCain campaign and its chances for victory on November 4th. It's now becoming evident that they woke a sleeping giant.
The passion of the immigration debate has galvanized immigrants and motivated them to apply for citizenship in record numbers. As a result, millions of new voters are preparing to cast their first ballots in November. Combined with the U.S.-born children and grand-children of immigrants who are coming into voting age, this wave has created a formidable force of Latino voters in 2008. Political scientist and Latino voting expert Matt Barreto of the University of Washington predicts turnout of over 9 million Latino voters in 2008, compared with 7.6 million Latino voters in 2004 In 2004, George W. Bush won approximately 40% of the Latino vote nationwide, but The Pew Hispanic Center recently found that Latinos favor Senator Obama over Senator McCain 66% to 23%. In their research, 76% of Latino registered voters rated Senator Obama favorably, in comparison to a 44% favorability rating for Senator McCain.xi Obama leads among Latinos in the Gallup daily tracking poll by an average of 59% to 30% over the past month. And a Wall Street Journal poll shows Latino voters favoring Obama over McCain 63% to 30%, while the poll shows the candidates tied with the general electorate.
9. Early voting increases dramatically.

According to the AP's Stephen Ohlemachrr:
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is busily banking every early vote he can get in key states.
Voters in every state can now cast ballots through early voting or absentee voting programs ... a look at those who have voted shows the Democrats have been aggressive. In Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio, Democrats, or at least those living in heavily Democratic areas, are requesting and submitting ballots in large numbers. In Florida, Republicans hold an edge, while in Indiana, absentee voting has been split among Republican and Democratic areas.
President Bush won all six states in 2004, and McCain probably needs to win them all to claim the White House this year. The early voting snapshot, taken more than two weeks before Election Day, illustrates the strategies and strengths of both presidential campaigns.
Obama is pushing early voting on a grand scale, in speeches, e-mails, a Web site and even ads placed inside video games. Eighteen video games, including the extremely popular "Guitar Hero" and "Madden 09," will feature in-game ads from the Obama campaign.
In addition to efforts by the Obama campaign, there are broader reasons for the spike in mail-in voting, which range from anxiety over voting machines involving their technical reliability to campaigns by voting officials with advertising and mailings, hoping to avoid the long lines that plagued polling places in 2004 and 2006.

10. Obama's amazing grassroots, on-the-ground campaign to register and get voters to the polls.

Obama has built the strongest grassroots campaign in history. As Jeff Zeleny writes in the New York Times:
In a half-dozen states where polling suggests the candidates are deadlocked, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, is seeking to capitalize on a grass-roots enthusiasm and an unprecedented investment of money to push the get-out-the-vote effort to a new level. His campaign is hoping to gain that edge in perennial battlegrounds like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The campaign is also seeking to use its army of employees and volunteers to help shift the electoral map by putting in play states like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia, where changing demographics combined with the challenging political environment for Republicans nationwide have given Democrats hope.
What started out organically -- campaign officials saw organizational promise in Virginia last year, when 20,000 signatures were gathered to make Mr. Obama the first candidate to qualify for the primary ballot -- has come full circle. Now, people driving by the storefront offices are drawn in by their visibility and put to work.
The Obama campaign has broken the country into a collection of battleground states, which are dissected into precincts that are parceled one more time into neighborhood teams. (Ohio, for example, is divided into 1,231 neighborhoods.) And each of these teams, if the recruiting is up to speed, has a leader who, ideally, lives just down the block from all those doors that need to be knocked on.


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