The 2008 Election

Polling and Analyses

Frederick Weil, LSU

Guide to this page

Students in my "Political Sociology" class: As you read this material, watch for 4 important factors:

  1. Which candidate do the different social groups support (gender, religion, race, region, party loyalists, etc., etc.)? Plus how big is each group?
  2. What percentage of each group actually votes: what's their turnout? How good is each campaign's "ground game" of getting out the vote?
  3. How do the different issues play? Which issue helps which candidate, which social groups respond to which issues, and how do the campaigns maneuver to bring "their" issues to the forefront?
  4. Are the polls giving us accurate readings of voter preferences and turnout? There are various factors that may distort their accuracy.

Note: As time goes by, some of the links on this page may go dead. Pls allow for that!



The Big New York Times Exit Poll Chart for 2008


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Post-Election Analyses

  • NYT, November 10, 2008, For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics. Fear of the politician with the unusual name and look did not end with last Tuesday’s vote in this rural red swatch where buck heads and rifles hang on the wall. This corner of the Deep South still resonates with negative feelings about the race of President-elect Barack Obama. What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics. By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say. The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”
  • NYT, November 8, 2008, Dissecting the Changing Electorate. One way to consider Barack Obama’s success last Tuesday is to consider John McCain’s failure. By virtually every electoral measure — including age, sex, race, religion, income and region — Mr. McCain lost ground won by George W. Bush four years ago. For Mr. Obama, the opposite happened. He performed better than John Kerry did among nearly every voter group — significantly better, in some cases. The president-elect won overwhelmingly among blacks, Hispanics and voters under the age of 30. He made inroads among important swing groups, including Catholics, suburbanites, political independents, even veterans. He won in the Midwest, where Mr. Kerry had lost. He even made small gains among groups that typically have been solidly Republican — whites, conservatives, Southerners, regular churchgoers. A deep generational divide revealed itself. Voters under 45 backed Mr. Obama; those 60 and over supported Mr. McCain. The rest were divided. The results also suggest that a significant political realignment may be at hand. The gap between voters who identified themselves either as Democrats or Republicans grew by 7 percentage points, giving Democrats their largest advantage since 1980.
  • Deep analysis from Louisiana ... "Oui, on peut -- Yes we can!" Obama Zydeco

  • NYT, November 5, 2008, For Pollsters, the Racial Effect That Wasn’t. All the ominous predictions, all the fretting about hidden votes and closeted racists frustrating a victory for the nation’s first African-American president came down to this: the so-called Bradley effect did not exist. People did not lie — to pollsters or to themselves — about whether they would vote for a black man. The polls, national and statewide, generally predicted the results with accuracy. “The unambiguous answer is that there was no Bradley effect,” said Mark Blumenthal, the editor and publisher of, a Web site that publishes and analyzes poll results.
  • NYT, November 5, Youth Turnout Up by 2 Million From 2004. They were the initial cheerleaders of Barack Obama’s candidacy who stuck with him on the long slog to Nov. 4. And on Election Day, young people voted overwhelmingly to send him to the White House while exceeding their 2004 turnout levels by at least 2.2 million, according to researchers who track the voting habits of youth. Between 21.6 and 23.9 million Americans in the age group from 18 to 29 years cast a ballot, up from about 19.4 million in 2004, numbers-crunchers at the Center for Information and Research of Civic Learning and Engagement, or Circle, announced on Wednesday.
  • Washington Post, November 6, 2008; A Changing Electorate. Democrats Add Suburbs to Their Growing Coalition. After President Bush's reelection in 2004, top strategist Karl Rove proclaimed the arrival of a permanent Republican majority. Just four years later, the results from Sen. Barack Obama's definitive victory suggest that the opposite may be underway. The Democrats appear to have built a majority across a wide, and expanding, share of the electorate -- young voters, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities, and highly educated whites in growing metropolitan areas. The Republicans appear at the moment to be marginalized, hanging on to a coalition that may shrink with time -- older, working-class and rural white voters, increasingly concentrated in the Deep South, the Great Plains and Appalachia. Nothing demonstrates this reversal as clearly as the Democrats' ascendance in the suburbs and among the moderate, college-educated voters who dominate them. Bush prevailed in 2004 because he combined his rural base with just enough votes from the suburbs. But the Democrats have steadily been expanding from their urban base for the past decade. It is a shift that points to how the parties' basic messages have changed, with Republicans increasingly employing cultural themes that resonate most in rural areas -- such as Gov. Sarah Palin's appeals to "pro-America" small towns -- while Democrats have focused on suburban concerns such as education. "It is a problem for Republicans. As they continue to cater to their culturally conservative rural base, they continue to alienate educated voters," said Rep. Tom Davis (R), who is retiring and whose Fairfax County district was taken over by the Democrats on Tuesday. But the shift is also explained by the transformation of many suburbs as they become more developed and cosmopolitan. Suburbs are growing more diverse, which poses a challenge for a Republican Party that has seen a steep drop in its support among ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics, two-thirds of whom voted for Obama, up from 53 percent for Kerry.
  • Gallup, November 6, 2008, Blacks, Postgrads, Young Adults Help Obama Prevail. Women, non-churchgoers also provide strong backing. The final pre-election Gallup Poll Daily tracking survey of nearly 2,500 likely voters shows that Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election with practically total support from black Americans, and heavy backing from those with postgraduate educations, young adults (male and female alike), and non-churchgoers. At least 6 in 10 voters in all of these categories cast their votes for Obama. Additionally, across Gallup's Oct. 31-Nov. 2 final pre-election tracking, Obama won majority support nationwide from women, middle-aged adults (30 to 49 and 50 to 64 years of age), and Catholics. These findings are aside from the typical political support patterns whereby Democrats and liberals are reliably strong supporters of the Democratic presidential candidate, and Republicans and conservatives are strong supporters of the Republican.
  • Washington Post, November 5, 2008; A Vote Decided by Big Turnout And Big Discontent With GOP. [Good analysis of voter segments.] In building his sweeping electoral majority yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama capitalized on a tidal wave of disenchantment with President Bush, deep worry about the economy, and seismic demographic shifts away from the Republican Party among young people, Hispanics and college-educated voters.
    • As expected, the election appeared to produce record turnout, with long lines outside polling stations in many states, on top of record-breaking early voting, in which roughly a third of eligible voters cast their ballots before Election Day. But exit polls suggested that Obama was able to win with a less dramatic surge in young voters and African Americans than many had expected.
    • Instead, he constructed a much further-reaching coalition, based above all on a rejection of the Republican brand of the last eight years and a desire for change. The shift away from the Republicans did not appear to signify an ideological shift toward the left. The proportion of voters describing themselves as liberal, moderate and conservative stayed roughly the same compared with four years ago.
    • Although ideological identification appeared stable, there were significant shifts in the demographic undercurrents. Two-thirds of the Hispanic vote went to Obama, compared with 53 percent for Kerry in the last presidential race. The Hispanic margin represents a particular blow to the Bush coalition -- Bush and his advisers had taken pride in building up their share of the Hispanic vote to 44 percent in 2004.
    • Of the three-quarters of the electorate who were white, the early exit polls showed that about 43 percent voted for Obama, roughly in line with the white vote for Kerry in 2004, Al Gore in 2000 and Bill Clinton in 1996.
    • But Obama nearly tied with McCain among white voters who had some college education, a group Bush won in 2004 by 11 points. This suggested acceleration of a trend that has been underway for at least a decade, as more and more college-educated white suburban professionals have been moving toward the Democrats.
    • As expected, Obama won nearly the entire African American vote, about 95 percent, compared with the 88 percent share that Kerry won. With turnout up overall, the surge in black turnout resulted in only a two-point increase in the black proportion of the electorate, from 11 percent to 13 percent.
    • As a debate was breaking out yesterday among McCain advisers over Gov. Sarah Palin's role in the campaign's struggles, exit polls suggested that McCain's running mate had not helped in a broad swath of the electorate. About 60 percent of voters questioned by exit pollsters said they thought Palin was not qualified to be vice president. She did not appear to have helped McCain with women -- a portion of the electorate Obama won by 13 percentage points overall while losing white women by 7 points. Both were improvements over Kerry's numbers.
    • Palin may have helped, however, in maintaining the Republican hold on white evangelical Christian voters.
    • Despite worries among Democrats about Obama's chances with Jewish voters, he won more than three-quarters of them, a slight improvement over Kerry.
    • He also improved slightly with white Catholic voters -- although McCain held a narrow majority, which would represent the first time that white Catholics did not side with the winner since exit polling began in 1972.
    • The discontent in the electorate was palpable. McCain spent much of the campaign trying to disassociate himself from Bush. But when exit pollsters asked voters whether they thought McCain would continue Bush's policies or take the country in a new direction, half of them said McCain would continue on Bush's path.
    • Obama led by nine points among the nearly two-thirds of voters who said the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Half of voters said the economy was in "poor" shape, the worst of four options they were given, which was triple the rate four years ago, and Obama appeared to have won two-thirds of them. More than 40 percent of voters said their finances were worse off than four years ago, compared with a quarter who said that in 2004. Seven in 10 of them voted for Obama.
  • Pew, November 5, 2008, Inside Obama's Sweeping Victory. Barack Obama captured the White House on the strength of a substantial electoral shift toward the Democratic Party and by winning a number of key groups in the middle of the electorate.
    • Overall, 39% of voters were Democrats while 32% were Republicans -- a dramatic shift from 2004 when the electorate was evenly divided.
    • While moderates have favored the Democratic candidate in each of the past five elections, Barack Obama gained the support of more voters in the ideological "middle" than did either John Kerry or Al Gore before him.
      Without a doubt, the overwhelming backing of younger voters was a critical factor in Obama's victory.
    • Obama won a huge majority among those with low or moderate annual incomes (60% of those making less than $50,000 a year). Yet he also made striking gains among the most affluent voters: more than half (52%) of those with annual incomes of $200,000 or more favored Obama while 46% supported McCain.
    • Obama struggled to win Hispanic votes during Democratic primaries in California and other states, but on Tuesday he drew two-thirds (66%) of the Hispanic vote, a 13-point improvement over Kerry in 2004.
    • He also gained seven points among African American voters (95% vs. 88% for Kerry), and managed to slightly improve on Kerry's share of the white vote (43% vs. 41% for Kerry).
    • Yet the exit poll revealed a sizable gap in support for Obama between whites in the South and those living in other parts of the country.
    • As expected, the economy dominated the voters' agenda this year: More than six-in-ten (63%) voters, including comparable majorities of Obama supporters (65%) and McCain backers (60%), cited the economy as the most important issue facing the country.
    • Two issues worked to McCain's advantage. Despite recent declines in the price of gas, most voters (68%) said they favored offshore drilling where it is currently not allowed. Voters who rated terrorism as the top national issue -- just 9% of the electorate -- favored McCain by greater than six-to-one (86% to 13%). But terrorism has faded in importance since 2004.
    • Overall, more voters said they felt Obama has the right judgment to make a good president (57%) than said the same about John McCain (49%).
    • Moreover, McCain did not entirely escape the shadow of George W. Bush.
    • Sarah Palin's impact on McCain's fortunes will no doubt be long debated, and the results of the exit polls are somewhat mixed. Fully 60% of Americans casting ballots said that Palin is not qualified to be president should it be necessary.
    • While Obama's supporters expressed concern about the impact of his race on the election, the exit poll suggests that, if anything, the race factor favored Obama. There is little doubt that Obama's race was a factor in bringing out large numbers of new African American voters to the polls.
  • Pew, November 5, 2008, Voting Religiously. President-elect Barack Obama made a concerted effort to reach out to people of faith during the 2008 presidential campaign, and early exit polls show that this outreach may have paid off on Election Day. Among nearly every religious group, the Democratic candidate received equal or higher levels of support compared with the 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry. Still, a sizeable gap persists between the support Obama received from white evangelical Protestants and his support among the religiously unaffiliated. Similarly, a sizeable gap exists between those who attend religious services regularly and those who attend less often.

  • Washington Post, November 5, 2008; How He Won. Measured Response To Financial Crisis Sealed the Election. [Good narrative of the election end-game.] Sen. Barack Obama, so steady in public, did not hide his vexation when he summoned his top advisers to meet with him in Chicago on Sept. 14. His general-election campaign had gone stale. For weeks, he had watched Sen. John McCain suction up the oxygen in the race, driving the news coverage after the boisterous Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., and suddenly drawing huge crowds with his new running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Convening the meeting that Sunday in the office of David Axelrod, his chief strategist, Obama was blunt: It was time to get serious.
  • NYT, November 5, 2008, Near-Flawless Run Is Credited in Victory. [Another good narrative of the election end-game.] It was the third week of September, and Senator John McCain was speaking to a nearly empty convention center in Jacksonville, Fla. Lehman Brothers had collapsed that day, a harrowing indicator of the coming financial crisis and a reminder that the presidential campaign was turning into a referendum on which candidate could best address the nation’s economic challenges. On stage, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, was trying to show concern for the prospect of hardship but also optimism about the country’s resilience. “The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” he said. A thousand miles away, at Senator Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, the aides who monitored Mr. McCain’s every utterance knew immediately that they had just heard a potential turning point in a race that seemed to be tightening.

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Final Exit Polls and Election Maps

Interactive Maps at the NY Times

Interactive Maps at the NY Times

Interactive Maps at the Washington Post

Interactive Maps at the Washington Post


NY Times version is interactive

NY Times version is interactive

New York Times Maps of Change, 2004-2008


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Analyses of Turnout

  • United States Elections Project - Michael P. McDonald at George Mason University: includes information and analysis of turnout.
    • Voter turnout rates presented here show that the much-lamented decline in voter participation is an artifact of poor measurement. Previously, turnout rates were calculated by dividing the number of votes by what is called the "voting-age population" which consists of everyone age 18 and older residing in the United States (the yellow line to the right). This includes persons ineligible to vote, mainly non-citizens and ineligible felons, and excludes overseas eligible voters. When turnout rates are calculated for those eligible to vote, a new picture of turnout emerges, which exhibits no decline since 1972 (the green line to the right).

  • NYT, 11/6/08 (scan from print edition), turnout chart from Michael P. McDonald at George Mason University

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General Sources of Polling & Analysis


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Basic Press Sites

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Other Sites that Synthesize available polling
... and some of them try to predict the Electoral College Vote outcome

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Background Polling & Analysis

  • Polling Report - a collection of recent surveys from all sources; updated daily (see the current horse races here.)

  • Gallup's Daily Trends - Three-day rolling averages on a variety of indicators of well-being: economic, health, mood, etc. These images give insight on what voters are experiencing now, and help explain voter dissatisfaction with the current administration.
    • The images here are from 10/26/2008 and don't auto-update. Thus, any statement about "voter dissatisfaction" is only valid through that date & could still change. ...Click on each image to go to the current data on the Gallup website.

Personal Finance

Economic Conditions

Economic Outlook

Consumer Confidence

Standard of Living


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Problems & Debates about Polling Accuracy

  • Some methodological statements from Gallup (their methods are typical of industry standards)

    • Does Gallup call cell phones? Since Jan. 2, 2008, Gallup has been including cell phone-only households in all of our national telephone Gallup Poll surveys. Households that have only cell phones are now as eligible to fall into our national Gallup Poll samples as those living in traditional landline households.

    • How do Gallup's likely voter models work? Gallup is providing users of our data with several ways of modeling the electorate, taking into account different assumptions about turnout. The base registered voter model reports the current vote intentions of all registered voters -- the data Gallup has been tracking all year. The "traditional" model assumes that both past voting history and current voting intentions are important determinants of likelihood of voting. The "expanded" likely voter model assumes that current voting intentions are the important determinant of likelihood of voting, and that past voting history will not be the factor that it has in previous elections.

  • The Washington Post's Behind the Numbers - looks at information from polls, surveys, and voting data, highlighting interesting trends, new findings, and analysis.

  • Blumenthal, October 31, 2008, How Do Polls and Exit Polls Handle Early Voting? The most common questions I have been getting via email the last two weeks are about early voting. Specifically, how are pollsters dealing with early voting on the pre-election polls we report and how will exit pollsters deal with the early and absentee voters that do not show up at polling places on Election Day? But key point that some seem to miss: None of the pre-election polls (or at least none that I know of) are excluding early voters from their samples. The totals reported include both early voters and those still considered "likely" to vote next week, so no, we do not have to try to somehow account for early voting in interpreting the poll numbers posted and estimated on or other poll aggregation sites. What about the exit polls? The exit pollsters have, for several elections conducted telephone surveys the week before the election among those who have already voted in states with a rate of early voting they consider significant enough to affect the results. On election night, they combine the early voting telephone survey results with interviews conducted at polling places (except for Oregon, where all voters cast ballots by mail). In 2004 , they did telephone surveys of early voters in 12 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and nationally (for their national exit poll).


  • Debate on factors that may distort polling's accuracy

    • AP, Oct 23, Polls apart: Why polls vary on presidential race. Barack Obama is galloping away with the presidential race. Or maybe he has a modest lead. Or maybe he and John McCain are neck and neck. Confusing? Sure, thanks to the dueling results of recent major polls. How can this be? Some questions and answers about why the polls differ.
    • Blumenthal, Oct. 22, 2008, Deciding Who's A Likely Voter. Pollsters Have Had To Adjust Their Models This Year To Account For A Changing Electorate. This week, I want to look at concerns that the "likely voter" models used by pollsters might miss a flood of new and younger voters that some speculate may turn out this year. Political polling is often a meld of science and art, but nowhere more than in the selection of "likely voters." The basic issue is simple enough: Most pollsters begin by calling a random sample of adults (with telephone service). Some will begin with a sample drawn from a list of registered votes. But all face the challenge that neither all adults nor all registered voters turn out and vote.
    • Blumenthal, Oct. 15, 2008, Dial A Cell, Reach A Dem. Exclusion Of Cell-Phone-Only Households Means Pollsters Are Probably Undercounting Obama's Support. Let's take a look at how the growth of "cell-phone-only" households may be affecting the political polls we are all obsessing over. More Americans than ever are living in households without traditional landline telephone service. Younger Americans especially are out of reach. This change worries pollsters because most political telephone surveys are conducted via landlines, not cell phones, and these missing cell-phone-only households create the potential for what pollsters call "coverage" bias. Interviewing by landline phone only may cost the Obama-Biden ticket roughly 2-3 points on the margin.

    • Real Clear Politics/HorseRace Blog/Jay Cost, October 13, 2008, Why No Traction for McCain? On Gallup's Two Likely Voter Models. [Rather nerdy/techie, but interesting!] There have been reams of paper dedicated to reporting on the Obama campaign's voter mobilization efforts. What effect will this massive effort have at the ballot box? Don't ask Gallup. On Sunday the polling outfit began offering its likely voter (LV) model (in addition to its registered voter (RV) model). But this year, there's a twist. Gallup is offering two LV models.
    • Mark Blumenthal, National Journal, Oct. 8, 2008, Will Winds Of Change Blow Pollsters Away? The Presidential Election Will Bring Three New Factors That Are Keeping Pollsters Up Nights. Will the 2008 election be polling's "perfect storm"? Pollsters rarely say it in so many words, but when they compare notes these days, worry is the prevailing theme. Three big challenges loom that threaten to throw off survey estimates for the matchup between John McCain and Barack Obama. This year's polls "may be undercounting the number of young people who are going to vote," they "may be undercounting the African-American turnout" and they "may not be capturing those white voters who just won't vote for Barack Obama because he's black." (1) Cell-Phone-Only Voters. Since 2004, the cell-phone-only population as a percentage of all adults has more than tripled and now includes nearly a third of adults between 18 and 24. With younger voters expressing overwhelming support for Barack Obama, are pollsters that depend on landline samples understating Obama's support? (2) The Bradley-Wilder Effect. Over the last 10 years, according to a paper by Harvard post-doctoral fellow Daniel Hopkins that studied 133 statewide races between 1989 and 2006, the apparent polling bias in such races largely disappeared. But can we assume that Bradley-Wilder will remain in remission this fall? (3) Likely Voter Models. Will, as many speculate, younger and African-American voters turn out in sufficient numbers to alter the demographic composition in ways that take the pollsters by surprise? And will the assumptions of their "likely voter models" be sensitive enough to accurately capture any such turnout wave, if it occurs? [also see Polling's Perfect Storm]
    • Princeton Election Consortium/Sam Wang, September 25th, 2008, The cell phone effect: about 1 percent. How much has cell phone usage affected the reliability of polls? The answer may surprise you: Depending on what pollsters do about it, not much at all. Obama’s support may be understated by as little as 1%.

  • The "Bradley Effect" - do survey respondents lie about race?

MEN OF EFFECT Former Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, top, and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, above, both lent their names to a voting phenomenon peculiar to black candidates. Mr. Bradley lost in a close race for governor, while Mr. Wilder won in a close race. Polls predicted that both candidates would win by large margins.

    • NJ/Mark Blumenthal, Oct. 30, 2008, A Hidden McCain Vote? GOP Memo Revives 'Bradley Effect' Debate. I want to take one more look at the so-called "Bradley Effect" and similar theories suggesting that polls may missing a hidden vote for John McCain among those who say they are undecided. I would prefer to focus on the evidence pollsters have collected this year. Is there any current empirical evidence suggesting that the effect observed 20 years ago might reappear next week? Let's consider two important categories of evidence: (1) Race of Interviewer. In those famous biracial contests 20 or more years ago, some pollsters reported seeing a "race of interviewer" effect. White respondents who talked to white interviewers were more supportive of white candidates than white respondents who talked to black interviewers. Are pollsters seeing any such differences now? Not that I could find. (2) A Hidden "Undecided" Vote? Our finding? The model predicts that the totally undecided voters in this sample will split 54 percent for Obama and 46 percent for McCain.
    • Franklin, October 29, 2008, Undecided Voters and Racial Attitudes. How will undecided voters break, and will racial attitudes color their votes? We've seen an enormous amount of speculation but little evidence based on data, so let's try to tip the balance back to empirical evidence. ...So what can we conclude? There is no evidence of a hidden support for McCain among undecided voters. They split more evenly than does the "decided" pool of respondents, who split 54-46 in this sample (Oct 3-11) but that's well within normal expectations and is a modest difference in any case. Second, the role of racial attitude is important at the individual level, but the aggregate consequence is extremely modest. Some are moved away from Obama yet others are moved towards him. And among the undecided, the distribution of opinion on this measure of racial attitude is virtually identical to that in the population. In a year of endless discussion about racial effects there has been far more speculation and far less data analysis than is good for us. Let's put our data on the table before continuing to opine about this subject.
    • FiveThirtyEight/Nate Silver, Oct. 27, 2008, Bradley Effect? Or Elephant Effect? I have received quite a number of requests for comment on the article published by Republican consultant Bill Greener at The article purports to find evidence of a "Bradley Effect" in Senate and Gubernatorial Elections in involving black candidates in 2006. So, I'll comment on it. Problem #1: ... A more comprehensive way to look at this question would be to compare the performance of the black candidates against a more comprehensive set of polling, such as the Real Clear Politics averages. Here is what such a comparison reveals:

      On average, the black candidate received 44.8 percent of the vote, as compared to the 43.3 percent predicted by the polls. The white candidate received 52.2 percent of the vote, as compared to the 48.6 percent predicted by the polls. In looking at the actual versus predicted margins of victory, the black candidate overperformed his polling in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, and underperformed it in Massachusetts, Maryland and Ohio. Although the white candidates did perform a little better on balance, this is not very persuasive evidence given that we have only five data points to look at, and that polling in mid-term elections is generally fairly marginal. (Put more succinctly, the differences aren't statistically significant).

    • Salon, Oct. 27, 2008, Why Obama has to stay above 50 percent. A GOP operative argues that in a race between a white and black candidate, "undecideds" vote white. Meaning, "undecideds" will break for McCain. As his campaign manager has described it, John McCain is now looking at a "narrow-victory scenario." "The fact that we're in the race at all," added Steve Schmidt, "is a miracle. Because the environment is so bad and the head wind is so strong." But talk of miracles and head winds aside, I think John McCain really does have a decent shot at winning, and that's not just because I'm a longtime Republican political operative. Despite what the polls seem to be saying, a closer look at the numbers shows that a Democratic victory is not a foregone conclusion. Why? Because if history is any guide, Barack Obama, as an African-American candidate for political office, needs to be polling consistently above 50 percent to win. And in crucial battleground states, he isn't. If you're a black candidate running against a white candidate, what you see is what you get. If you're not polling above 50 percent, you should be worried. As of this writing, Barack Obama is not polling consistently above 50 percent in a number of electoral-vote-rich swing states, including Ohio and Florida. He should be worried.
    • Real Clear Politics/V. Lance Tarrance, Jr., October 13, 2008, The Bradley Effect – Selective Memory. Now that polls indicate Senator Barack Obama is the favorite to win, some analysts predict a racially biased “Bradley Effect” could prevent Obama from winning a majority on November 4th. That is a pernicious canard and is unworthy of 21st century political narratives. I should know. I was there in 1982 at “ground zero” in California when I served George Deukmejian as his general election pollster and as a member of his strategy team when he defeated African-American Democratic California gubernatorial candidate Tom Bradley, not once but twice, in 1982 and again in 1986. The Deukmejian campaign tracking polls did not confirm any Bradley Effect and to interject this type of speculation into the 2008 presidential election is not only folly, but insulting to the political maturity of our nation's voters. To allow this theory to continue to persist anymore than 25 years is to damage our democracy, no matter who wins.
    • WP, October 12, 2008; Pollsters Debate 'Bradley Effect.' Election Seen as Test of Theory That Black Candidates' Leads in Polls Aren't Real. Not long ago, it was considered political gospel: Be wary of polls when an election involves an African American candidate, because many whites will voice support but then vote for the white opponent. Now, poll-watchers are asking whether that could be skewing the numbers as Democrat Barack Obama, the first African American presidential nominee, moves ahead of Republican John McCain. Most experts say they do not believe that the phenomenon, known as the "Bradley effect," is at work in this election. But some disagree. And if the effect has disappeared, it is not clear whether that is because polling techniques have improved or because the country has become more tolerant about race.

Q: Would You Vote for a Qualified Black Candidate of Your Own Party? (among whites)

    • NYT, October 11, 2008, Do Polls Lie About Race? Since 1982, people have talked about the Bradley effect, where even last-minute polls predict a wide margin of victory, yet the black candidate goes on to lose, or win in a squeaker. (In the case that lent the phenomenon its name, Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles, lost his race for governor, the assumption being that voters lied to pollsters about their support for an African-American.) But pollsters and political scientists say concern about a Bradley effect — some call it a Wilder effect or a Dinkins effect, and plenty call it a theory in search of data — is misplaced. It obscures what they argue is the more important point: there are plenty of ways that race complicates polling. Considered alone or in combination, these factors could produce an unforeseen Obama landslide with surprise victories in the South, a stunningly large Obama loss, or a recount-thin margin.
    •, 10/6/08, Do voters lie about racial concerns? Less than a week before the 1989 election for Virginia governor, two newspaper polls showed L. Douglas Wilder, a black Democrat, comfortably ahead of his GOP opponent by between 9 and 11 points. But when the ballots were counted, it was a nail-biter that Wilder won by fewer than 7,000 votes. Political scientists dubbed it “the Wilder effect,” or referred to it by its earlier name, “the Bradley effect,” after Tom Bradley, the black mayor of Los Angeles who lost the 1982 California governor’s contest despite being up in the polls by as much as 22 points in the weeks before Election Day. “The Wilder effect, the Bradley effect, is on the minds of everybody, without exception,” Neil Newhouse, who directs NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling, said, referring to what pollsters say is the phenomenon of some white people lying to pollsters about their support for black candidates. A Democratic pollster, who also would not be quoted by name, said that when he surveyed Pennsylvania union members — who as a group tend to be older, white and working class — he found a striking 20 percent difference between how whites responded when questioned by blacks and how they responded when questioned by other whites. But many pollsters, citing the vastly improved track record among black politicians in elections over the past decade, said they believed that the problem of whites lying to pollsters about their support for black candidates was largely a thing of the past.
    • NYT, October 5, 2008, Does Race Really Matter? The idea is that white voters will lie to pollsters about their true intentions on Election Day for fear of appearing to hold racist views. However, the continued existence of a Bradley effect has been largely discredited. Indeed, during the 2008 Democratic primaries there was no discernible Bradley effect, if anything there was a reverse Bradley effect, with Mr. Obama frequently outperforming pre-election polling results. The 2006 Senate race in Tennessee between Harold Ford and Bob Corker, one of the most racially charged in recent memory, saw the same phenomenon. Mr. Ford who is African-American overperformed pre-election polls. In fact, according to a recent survey by the Princeton Election Consortium, since 1996, black candidates have actually polled 0.3 percent lower than the final result.
    • Princeton Election Consortium/Sam Wang, September 27th, 2008, The disappearing Bradley effect. A hot topic among polling nerds is the “Bradley effect,” which occurs when a non-white (usually black) candidate falls short of opinion polls on Election Day when he/she runs against a white candidate. For this reason it has been suggested that support for Obama might be overstated - a hidden bonus for John McCain. Now comes a large-scale empirical study (in preprint form) by Harvard political scientist Dan Hopkins. He finds that since the mid-1990s, the Bradley effect has disappeared. His paper is a must-read.

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The "Ground Game:" Turning out the Vote
Plus: Defense against Voter Fraud & Vote Suppression

  • Washington Post, November 2, 2008; Ohio Is a Ripe Target for Candidates. With the presidential campaigns pressing to get out the vote in the race's final hours, no state is being more fiercely contested than Ohio, which provided President Bush with his decisive margin of victory four years ago. Obama has mounted an ambitious effort here to correct the mistakes of Kerry's campaign, which succeeded in boosting turnout in cities but lost the state by ceding exurban counties and rural areas. Obama has scattered dozens of offices and scores of paid organizers across central, southern and western Ohio, hoping to find enough pockets of support to put him over the top. The Republicans aim to counter that approach with the formidable network of volunteers and reliable GOP voters built by strategist Karl Rove, which has been enhanced by high-tech telephone systems that allow supporters to place more calls than in the past. In the party's strongest areas, the exurbs of Cincinnati and Columbus, offices are packed with veterans of 2004 -- nearly all women, many of them antiabortion activists wearing lipstick pins in honor of Palin. Elsewhere, though, are signs that Democrats have the organizational edge. In polling in Ohio, more voters report being contacted by Obama's campaign, which has 89 offices to Sen. John McCain's 46. With its operation organized into 24 regions and hundreds of "neighborhood teams," the Democrats are better prepared than in 2004 to absorb out-of-state volunteers.
  • Associated Press, 11/2/08, Campaigns unleash massive get-out-vote drives. Barack Obama and John McCain uncorked massive get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings in a frenzied, fitting climax to a record-shattering $1 billion campaign. Together, they'll spend about $8 per presidential vote. After months of planning, the Republican Party launched the last stage of its vaunted "72-hour program," when volunteers descend on competitive states for the final stretch. Democrats unleashed their "persuasion army" of backers scouring their own backyards to encourage people to back Obama in the campaign's waning hours. More than 10,000 Obama volunteers in Ohio were knocking on doors and planning to hit their one millionth home Sunday after a five-day push. His campaign reported that Saturday was its largest volunteer day, with more volunteers showing up to work the phones and walk neighborhood precincts than ever before in the campaign. Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "Our volunteers are completely engaged." For all the hype, Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge that turnout operations usually only are determinative in contests that are close; they're good for gaining a few percentage points at the most.
  • NYT, October 30, 2008, In Tight Race, Victor May Be Ohio Lawyers. If the outcome of next week’s presidential election is close, this precariously balanced state could be the place where the two parties begin filing the inevitable lawsuits over voting irregularities, experts say.
  • Gallup, October 29, 2008, Obama Beating McCain on Voter Outreach. Majority of swing-state voters have heard from Obama’s campaign. More U.S. voters say the Obama campaign has contacted them at some point in the last few weeks than say the McCain campaign has done so, 38% vs. 30%. Both presidential campaigns appear to be focusing their voter outreach efforts on those who already support their own candidate -- suggesting that "get out the vote" activity is the primary game being played "on the ground" at this late stage of the campaign. The intensity of the so-called campaign "ground war" in the battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and New Hampshire is clear from a regional breakdown of the voter contact question. Adults under 30 years of age are twice as likely to have been contacted by the Obama campaign versus by the McCain campaign: 40% vs. 20%. Given blacks voters' overwhelming support for Obama's candidacy (88% of all black registered voters interviewed Oct. 27-28 prefer Obama for president), it is not surprising that the Obama campaign would heavily target blacks in its get-out-the-vote campaign. Close to half of all non-Hispanic black registered voters (45%) say the Obama campaign has contacted them in recent weeks. That compares with 37% of all non-Hispanic white voters. Very few black voters have heard from the McCain campaign (12%), compared with 35% of whites.
  • Newsweek, Oct 25, 2008, What Have We Created?! Obama's supporters have high expectations, and they may expect to have a voice in governing. [Maybe not quite "ground" game, but rather net-roots...] It is eerily quiet at Barack Obama's headquarters, an open expanse that takes up the entire 11th floor of an office tower in Chicago's Loop. It's nearly as silent as a study hall, which is appropriate, since most of the 20- or 30-somethings in it wear jeans and T shirts. They could be working on their Ph.D.s or at a high-tech startup. Yet, as unassuming as it seems, this is the engine room of a novel grass-roots machine that may soon have another purpose: to help Obama govern the country. If he wins, it also could cause him headaches: if you live by viral marketing, you can die by it, too. "His supporters have sky-high expectations and expect to be involved," says Will Marshall, who studied the Obama organization for the Democratic Leadership Council. "They are loyal but not easy to control." Like FDR and Ronald Reagan, Obama is an innovator in organizing and communicating. Roosevelt was the first to rely on labor unions, and he talked intimately to voters through the then new medium of radio. Reagan built and benefited from a new conservative movement that perfected direct mail and established think tanks to conjure ideas that the former actor could mass-market. FDR and Reagan communicated mainly in one direction—down. But Obama is claiming to be more: the first communal candidate, a man of twoway streets. Campaign volunteers make key organizing decisions; they also have access to voter lists, traditionally guarded by headquarters. "We have a very trusting organization," David Plouffe, the campaign manager, told me.
  • NYT/Susan Saulny (from eastern New Orleans), October 28, 2008, Jacksonville Journal: Unease Sits Heavily in a Group of Black Voters. In conversations with about a dozen Jacksonville residents in cafes, outside churches and at their homes over three days, many black neighbors worry, unable to put aside the nagging feeling that somehow their votes will not be counted. Wounds have not healed here in Duval County since the mangled presidential election of 2000, when more than 26,000 ballots were discarded as invalid for being improperly punched. Nearly 40 percent of the votes were thrown out in the predominantly Democratic-leaning African-American communities around Jacksonville, a reality that has caused suspicions of racial bias to linger, even though intentional disenfranchisement was never proved. Now, in a show of early election enthusiasm, more than 84,200 people have already voted in Duval County, surpassing the number of early votes cast in the last presidential election. Added to 33,800 absentee ballots collected so far, the numbers show that 22 percent of registered voters cast their ballots as of Oct. 27, county election officials said. But amid excitement over Mr. Obama’s historic candidacy and the chance that the country might choose an African-American president within a matter of days, there is an unmistakable sense of anxiety among blacks here that something will go wrong, that victory will slip away. “They’re going to throw out votes,” said Larone Wesley, a 53-year-old black Vietnam veteran. “I can’t say exactly how, but they are going to accomplish that quite naturally. I’m so afraid for my friend Obama. I look at this through the eyes of the ’60s, and I feel there ain’t no way they’re going to let him make it.”
  • NPR/Fresh Air, October 28, 2008, Hotline To Help Secure Voters' Rights On Nov. 4. As voters gear up for election day, the National Campaign for Fair Elections is gearing up for voters: The organization will offer a national hotline to answer voter questions and respond to problems. Jonah Goldman is the heading up the initiative.
  • NYT, October 27, 2008, Party Lawyers Ready to Keep an Eye on the Polls. With heavy voter turnout expected on Election Day, both parties are amassing thousands and thousands of lawyers to keep an eye on the polls. Both campaigns plan to use the lawyers to protect their supporters at the polls, help untangle ballot problems and run to court should litigation be necessary. Given the heated ballot challenges in the 2000 and 2004 elections, getting legal talent on the ground on Election Day is becoming as common a tool for the campaigns as advertising and polling. The role of lawyers, especially at polling places, has grown since the 2000 election. For the Obama campaign, the recruitment of lawyers began the moment it set up field offices and is part of its long-term strategy to make voting easier. Already, lawyers for Mr. Obama have been talking to county election officials and boards of election to increase the number of early voting sites, to encourage early voting and to make sure that there will be sufficient number of voting machines. This comes on top of an effort the Democratic National Committee began after the 2000 election. The committee set up a National Lawyers Council to work on ballot issues, established a voter protection hot line and surveyed 1,300 state and local election officials to flag potential Election Day problems in advance. Republican lawyers would be on the lookout for voter fraud, and would work to halt such previous stunts as having busloads of voters show up to keep polls open beyond their statutory closing time. Democrats say their lawyers have already had an impact. In Montana, a federal judge upheld a Democratic challenge to a Republican attempt to purge 6,000 voters from the rolls. And in Detroit, a court settlement was reached over allegations that Republicans were going to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters.
  • Morning Edition, October 27, 2008, Campaigns Ratchet Up Ground Game In Ohio. With just over a week until the election, both the McCain and Obama campaigns are focused on organizing on the ground. Nowhere is this truer than in Ohio, a perennial swing state that helped decide the election in 2004. In 2000 and 2004, even Democrats marveled at the GOP ground game. The party perfected the science of microtargeting voters. Paul Lindsay, a McCain official, said their technology has only gotten better and more efficient. The McCain campaign is confident in its battle-tested technology. It also knows what it is up against. The Obama campaign says that its greatest strength is the volunteers who have been working their own neighborhoods for months. Obama volunteers are going door to door, or calling and text messaging people. A new ABC News poll found that in eight tossup states, including Ohio, 42 percent of voters said they have been contacted by the Obama campaign; 29 percent said the McCain campaign has reached out.
  • NYT, October 26, 2008, Casting a Ballot, and a Wary Eye. There are at least two wikis intended to let voters collaborate to collect examples of problems with voting, whether exceptionally long lines or more direct actions meant to scare off voters — the Voter Suppression Wiki ( and SourceWatch’s Election Protection Wiki ( The ultimate home for much of this content could be the video-sharing giant YouTube, which has created a channel, Video Your Vote (, in collaboration with PBS, to encourage submissions. Voting is a contentious issue in America — a visitor from Mars might even think that the government didn’t want everyone who is eligible to actually cast a ballot. David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard, which was charged by YouTube with advising citizen journalists on how to behave near polling places, said the “labyrinth of laws we expect voters to follow” was a product of the country’s system of federalism. And then there is America’s well-chronicled history of denying the vote to blacks even after the right to vote was enshrined in the Constitution. As a result, what to some might seem like a rapturous recording of American democracy in action could be seen as intimidation to others — who is filming me, and why? Lingering behind Election Day 2008 is Florida 2000, and the suspicion that with today’s tools the problems there could have been corrected. Someone writes on a blog that she thinks her vote might have been counted for Pat Buchanan, someone else sneaks out a photograph of the confusing butterfly ballot and perhaps the system is changed that day, or voters are warned to be careful.
  • WP, October 12, 2008. Obama Camp Relying Heavily on Ground Effort. In 2004, Democrats watched as any chance of defeating President Bush slipped away in a wave of Republican turnout that exceeded even the goal-beating numbers that their own side had produced. Four years later, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign intends to avoid a repeat by building an organization modeled in part on what Karl Rove used to engineer Bush's victory: a heavy reliance on local volunteers to pitch to their own neighbors, micro-targeting techniques to identify persuadable independents and Republicans using consumer data, and a focus on exurban and rural areas. But in scale and ambition, the Obama organization goes beyond even what Rove built. The campaign has used its record-breaking fundraising to open more than 700 offices in more than a dozen battleground states, pay several thousand organizers and manage tens of thousands more volunteers.
  • NYT, October 11, 2008, Obama Aims for Electoral Edge, Block by Block. In a half-dozen states where polling suggests the candidates are deadlocked, Mr. Obama is seeking to capitalize on a devoted grass-roots enthusiasm and an unprecedented investment of money to push the get-out-the-vote effort to a new level. The concept could well be called the 2.0 version of President Bush’s effort from his 2000 and 2004 campaigns, which outclassed Democrats and left them determined not to be out-organized again. It is supplemented by get-out-the-vote efforts from unions and other groups backing Mr. Obama, and it is benefiting from national trends, like growing anxiety over the economy, that favor Democrats nationwide. A sophisticated battery of databases has been tapped to find voters who may be inclined to support the candidates. At the national level, Republicans have had better success at the modeling techniques, but the Obama campaign studied the Republican plan to help shape its own system of finding voters who are prone to support Mr. Obama. The information is culled from a variety of sources, including magazine subscriptions, the types of cars people drive, where voters shop and how much they earn. Commuting patterns are analyzed. Voting history in local races is factored in. The data, after it is studied and sorted at campaign headquarters in Chicago, is sent to every battleground state. The names are bar-coded and ultimately show up on the lists given to volunteers. And the theory is verified, or disproved, through conversations at doorsteps or in telephone calls where voters are identified on a scale from a No. 1 (strongly for Mr. Obama) to a No. 5 (strongly for Mr. McCain). Both sides will vigorously focus on those in the middle — a large figure that neither campaign would disclose — in the final three weeks. Also getting attention will be the voters who identified themselves as supporters of Mr. Obama and are voting for the first time or the first time in a long while. “Once we register them, that’s only half the job,” said Mr. McGowan, one of 10 regional field directors for the Obama campaign in Virginia. While Republicans have a demonstrated record of success in turning out supporters on Election Day, members of the Obama team could hold at least one advantage: they have been through repeated election days from working on the longest primary campaign in the party’s history.
  • Washington Post, October 6, Registration Gains Favor Democrats. Voter Rolls Swelling in Key States. As the deadline for voter registration arrives today in many states, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is poised to benefit from a wave of newcomers to the rolls in key states in numbers that far outweigh any gains made by Republicans.
Background on Karl Rove's successful "Ground Game"
that worked for George W. Bush ... until it didn't

    The Hamburger/Wallsten Explanation
    of the Rove/Bush Strategy

    • "One Party Country: The Republican Plan For Dominance in the 21st Century" at Amazon
    • A September 28, 2006 article in Harpers (here) tries to answer these questions:
      1. The G.O.P. still raises more money than the Democrats, but the Democrats are hardly short of cash. How significant is the G.O.P. advantage in terms of sheer dollars? Are they simply raising more money, or are they also doing a better job of spending it?
      2. How successful has the G.O.P. been in eating away at Democratic support among core constituencies like African Americans and Hispanics?
      3. You say that Republicans have surpassed the Democrats in mobilizing their voters on election day, in part by using databases such as Voter Vault, which allows party activists to track voters by personal hobbies, professional interests, and even by their favorite brand of soda. How does that bank of personal data translate into an advantage on election day? Are Democrats responding with similar programs of their own?
      4. Whatever structural advantages the Republicans have, hasn't the G.O.P. also sought to gain an electoral advantage by suppressing Democratic turnout? How significant are those efforts on the part of the G.O.P., and are we likely to see new and improved methods down the road?
      5. Republicans would no doubt argue that their policies and ideology are simply more popular with the public than Democratic policies. Do ideas still play a role in electoral success or is it all about money and organization?
    • Diane Rehm show, 27 July 2006, here
    • Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 24, 2006, here
    • BuzzFlash, 08/28/2006, here
  • NYT, November 15, 2005. By Jim Rutenberg, Voter Profiles for Bloomberg Went Beyond Ethnic Labels. Throughout this year's mayoral campaign, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's spending records included something called "voter list development." It looked ominous to Democrats - especially as Mr. Bloomberg poured millions into it. Lists like this usually include voters' personal data - the magazines they buy, the cars they drive, their political affiliations. But as the cost of compiling Mr. Bloomberg's list inched up toward $10 million, not even aides to President Bush, who perfected this sort of voter identification last year, could figure out where the money was going.
  • Los Angeles Times July 24, 2005. By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Parties Are Tracking Your Habits. Though both Democrats and Republicans collect personal information, the GOP's mastery of data is changing the very nature of campaigning. COLUMBUS, Ohio — At first glance, Felicia Hill seems to fit the profile of a loyal Democrat: She is African American, married to a General Motors union worker and voted for Dukakis, Clinton and Gore in past presidential elections. But in the weeks before election day 2004, the suburban mother of two was deluged with telephone calls, invitations and specially targeted mailings urging her to support President Bush. The intense Republican courtship of Hill, 39, was no coincidence. A deeper look at her lifestyle and politics reveals a voter who might be persuaded to switch sides. Among the clues: she is a church member uneasy about abortion; she lives in a growing suburb and she sent her children to a private school. ...For the first time, she sees the GOP as a place where black women can be comfortable. "I saw people I could relate to," she said, describing conversations she had with Republican professional women during telephone outreach calls and at party events. ...Hill and millions of other would-be Bush backers in closely contested states were identified by a GOP database that culled information ranging from the political basics, like party registration, to the personal, such as the cars they drive, the drinks they buy, even the features they order on their phone lines. The "micro-targeting" effort was so effective that the party credited it with helping to secure Bush's reelection.
  • NYT, December 6, 2004. By Katharine Q. Seelye, How to Sell a Candidate to a Porsche-Driving, Leno-Loving Nascar Fan. After the 2000 presidential campaign, strategists for President Bush came to a startling realization: Democrats watch more television than Republicans. So by buying millions of dollars' worth of television advertising time, Republicans were spending their money on audiences that tended to vote Democratic. What to do? With the luxury of four years until the next election, the Bush team examined voters' television-viewing habits and cross-referenced them with surveys of voters' political and lifestyle preferences. This led to an unusual step for a presidential campaign: it cut the proportion of money that it put into broadcast television and diverted more to niche cable channels and radio, where it could more precisely reach its target audience.
  • NYT, November 19, 2004. By Adam Nagourney, Bush Campaign Manager Views the Electoral Divide. After two years of polling, market testing and up-close demographic scrutiny of American voters, the manager of President Bush's re-election campaign, Ken Mehlman, offered another way Thursday to view the divide between the American electorate. "If you drive a Volvo and you do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat," Mr. Mehlman told an assembly of the nation's Republican governors here. "If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun, you're voting for George Bush." ...Rather than dispatching troops to knock on doors in neighborhoods known to be heavily Republican, Mr. Mehlman said, the Bush campaign studied consumer habits in trying to predict whom people would vote for in a presidential election. "We did what Visa did," Mr. Mehlman said. "We acquired a lot of consumer data. What magazine do you subscribe to? Do you own a gun? How often do the folks go to church? Where do you send your kids to school? Are you married? "Based on that, we were able to develop an exact kind of consumer model that corporate America does every day to predict how people vote - not based on where they live but how they live," he said. "That was critically important to our success."
  • Washington Post, November 7, 2004. By Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Four More Years Attributed to Rove's Strategy. Despite Moments of Doubt, Adviser's Planning Paid Off. Admired, disparaged, respected and feared, [Karl] Rove joins an elite cadre of political strategists who can claim two presidential victories. Bush's adviser can now look toward the goal he has pursued since he was an obscure direct-mail specialist in Texas: the creation of a durable Republican majority in Washington and across the country.
  • Washington Post, November 4, 2004. By John F. Harris, Victory Bears Out Emphasis on Values. GOP Tactics Aimed At Cultural Divide. ...The results appeared to validate several of the pet theories of [GOP campaign director Karl] Rove, including his belief that politics is as much science as art. Presidential stops in swing states, and the route of campaign bus trips, rarely included the largest cities. That was because Rove chose them scientifically, using three criteria that he explained to reporters in the waning days of the campaign. Rove said his targets were areas where Bush had underperformed in 2000, whether Republican or Democratic, and where the campaign's target for votes was higher than the number that showed up. Second were fast-growing exurban areas or Republican places where there were a large number of people who ought to register to vote and do not -- what Rove calls "a large gap between participation and potential." Third, he said, he paid attention to areas "that have a significant number of swing voters, and swing wildly from election to election."
  • NYT, November 4, 2004. By Elisabeth Bumiller, Turnout Effort and Kerry, Too, Were G.O.P.'s Keys to Victory. In the closing hours of President Bush's campaign for re-election, Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, was obsessed with turning out Republican votes. Late on Monday night, Mr. Rove stood in the cold at a rally in Albuquerque and pulled scraps of paper from his pocket covered with numbers that reassured him that his ground army was in full assault.
  • NYT, July 18, 2004. By Jim Rutenberg, Campaigns Use TV Preferences to Find Voters. When deciding where to run his television advertisements, President Bush is much more partial than Senator John Kerry to crime shows like "Cops," "Law & Order" and "JAG." Mr. Kerry leans more to lighter fare, like "Judge Judy," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Late Show with David Letterman." Those choices do not reflect either man's taste in television, but critical differences in the advertising strategies of their campaigns, which are spending more money for commercials than any other campaigns in presidential history. Crime shows appeal to the Bush campaign because of its interest in reaching out to Republican men who are attracted to such programming. By contrast, the Kerry campaign is more interested in concentrating on single women, who tend to be drawn to shows with softer themes.
  • NYT, April 7, 2004. By Joyce Purnick, Data Churners Try to Pinpoint Voters' Politics. There's this great story making the Washington political rounds about the Conservative Party in Britain. It is that fund-raisers in London found a strong correlation between Conservative Party donors and people who buy garden bulbs by mail. Far-fetched? Maybe not, because people who plant spring bulbs tend to be more suburban and rural than urban, more wealthy than poor and, with time to garden, older. Hence, a likely Conservative, right?
  • NYT, April 6, 2004. By Joyce Purnick, Foraging For Votes: One-Doorbell-One-Vote Tactic Re-emerges in Bush-Kerry Race. They call it the ground war. And as anticipated, it is back after a long hiatus, subtly changing politics as we know it. Or trying to. After decades of playing poor relation to television advertising, grass-roots politics has become a campaign star this year, as many political pros predicted it would be in the aftermath of the Bush-Gore face-off of 2000. And today it ranges from old-fashioned shoe leather to Web technology that can make a precinct captain of anyone with a computer.
  • Washington Post, November 10, 2002. In GOP Win, a Lesson in Money, Muscle, Planning. [Karl] Rove, [Rep. Tom] DeLay and others concluded that Republicans had lost the turnout battle in recent elections by focusing too much on paid advertising and too little on the ground war that Democratic allies such as the AFL-CIO do so well: getting potential voters to the polls. Beginning in early 2001, the party registered thousands of new Republican voters, particularly in fast-growing states. It invested heavily in a program, dubbed the "72-hour project," that would later help spur record turnout in key regions. The Republican National Committee spent millions of dollars honing a system to identify voters, down to specific households, and contact them repeatedly with phone calls, mail and visits from party activists.


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Pre-Election Articles

  • SNL's McCain and "Palin" pre-election sketch for QVC!

  • NJ/William Schneider, Nov. 1, 2008, The Collapse Of The GOP Vote. Obama isn't much ahead of where Kerry was in 2004, but McCain lags far behind the support Bush received. This is a "throw-the-bums-out" election. And the Republicans are the "bums." Democrats smell victory. The average of seven surveys taken between October 20 and 24 shows Barack Obama with an 8-point lead over John McCain. In 2004, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by less than 3 points. What has happened? The Republican vote has collapsed. It's 9 points lower than four years ago (51 percent for Bush in 2004; 42 percent for McCain). But Obama is doing only 2 points better than Kerry (50 percent for Obama; 48 percent for Kerry). Where did the other voters go? Answer: to the "unsure" category (7 percent). They don't want to vote Republican this year, but they're not certain whether they will vote for Obama.
  • New York Times, 11/1/08, Map of Electoral Change in past two months

See full sized map here

  • Pew, October 31, 2008, Will Obama Win the White Catholic Vote? Surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press show that white, non-Hispanic Catholic support for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has grown, taking him from a 13-percentage-point deficit in late September to an 8-point lead in late October.

  • Gallup, October 31, 2008, Blacks Appear Poised for High Turnout. Constitute 11% of both of Gallup's likely voter groups, up from 8% in 2004. Black voters are scoring highly this election season on several election interest and voting measures, and thus constitute a higher percentage of Gallup's projected likely voter pool than in previous elections. Additionally, blacks report having received election-related contact from the Obama campaign at a higher rate than do whites, although many fewer blacks have been contacted by the McCain campaign. As is the case among 18- to 29-year-old voters, blacks report having been contacted in disproportionately higher numbers by the Obama campaign than by the McCain campaign. While rates of contact by the Obama and McCain campaigns are similar among whites, blacks are almost four times as likely to report having been contacted by the Obama campaign as by the McCain campaign.

  • Gallup, October 31, 2008, Update: Little Evidence of Surge in Youth Vote. Obama campaign has contacted about one in three 18- to 29-year-olds. Gallup polling in October finds little evidence of a surge in young voter turnout beyond what it was in 2004. While young voter registration may be up slightly over 2004, the reported level of interest in the election and intention to vote among those under 30 are no higher than they were that year. What's more, 18- to 29-year-olds continue to lag behind Americans aged 30 and older on these important turnout indicators. As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds now constitute 12% of Gallup's traditional likely voter sample, basically the same as the estimate in the final 2004 pre-election poll (13%). A second possibility for heightened youth turnout would be voter mobilization efforts. Such efforts can convince people with little motivation or interest in the campaign to actually vote on Election Day. Gallup has been measuring voter contact in its daily tracking poll this week in an effort to gain a better understanding of this important component of the "ground game" in the final days of the campaign. As of Oct. 27-29 polling, 39% of 18- to 29-year-olds had been contacted by either the Obama or McCain campaigns. That is the same contact rate seen among 30- to 49-year-olds, but is well below that of Americans 50 and older. So thus far, in a general sense, mobilization efforts have not reached the young voters to the same extent that they have older voters.

  • Gallup, October 31, 2008, Obama Retains Slight Edge Over McCain on Taxes. Americans still more likely to say Obama will increase taxes. A new Gallup Poll, conducted Oct. 23-26, finds Americans still favoring Barack Obama over John McCain as the candidate better able to handle taxes, 50% to 44%, but to a slightly lesser extent than earlier this month. The positioning of the two candidates on the tax issue has taken on increased importance in the last several weeks as McCain in particular has been focusing heavily on the differences between his approach and Obama's approach to taxes.

  • NYT, October 30, 2008, Growing Doubts on Palin Take a Toll, Poll Finds. A growing number of voters have concluded that Senator John McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, is not qualified to be vice president, weighing down the Republican ticket in the last days of the campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. All told, 59 percent of voters surveyed said Ms. Palin was not prepared for the job, up nine percentage points since the beginning of the month. Nearly a third of voters polled said the vice-presidential selection would be a major factor influencing their vote for president, and those voters broadly favor Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee. And in a possible indication that the choice of Ms. Palin has hurt Mr. McCain’s image, voters said they had much more confidence in Mr. Obama to pick qualified people for his administration than they did in Mr. McCain.
  • NYT, October 29, 2008, Early Voting and Exit Polls. With millions of people taking advantage of early voting in states across the country, election experts have been examining the data available and discussing the impact on next Tuesday’s exit poll results and, ultimately, the election itself. Some analysts are projecting that early voting will amount to more than 30 percent of the total turnout this election. And more than 30 states now have some form of early voting, with much of it continuing through this week and long lines reported in many of them. Some states will be too close for races to be called on Tuesday, based on exit polls alone, and problems with releases of horse-race figures relying on early exits have been problematic in the past.
  • WP, 10/29/08, Is McCain Coming Back? (Revisited). With just six days left before voters go to the polls, McCain lead pollster Bill McInturff is out with a memo in which he argues that the race continues to move in his candidate's direction. Perhaps the most interesting point made by McInturff in the memo is the idea that Obama has almost no room to grow due to the composition of the remaining undecided voters as well as his consolidation of the African-American vote. "This means when you see Senator Obama's number in a survey, it already reflects his significant and full support among African American voters," writes McInturff. "Functionally, this means the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino." So, what do we make of the memo? McInturff's argument that the race is closing is on sound ground as it relates to recent history. Presidential elections do tend to close as the end nears and McCain, by all accounts, has been underperforming among soft Republicans who may well be coming home to him in these final days. Yet, it is important to remember that the presidential election is a state by state race -- not a national one -- and there remains scant evidence of a McCain boomlet in key states.
  • LA Times, October 29, 2008, The end of the Catholic vote. Obama's lead among Catholic voters may signal a profound shift. It's an article of faith in U.S. politics that, when it comes to the popular vote at least, Catholics determine the winners in our presidential contests. In fact, with the notable exception of George W. Bush eight years ago, no candidate in recent memory has entered the White House without securing a majority of the votes cast by Catholics, who now make up more than a fourth of the U.S. population. Until Ronald Reagan came along and created a new political category -- "Reagan Democrats" -- Catholics also were a reliable constituency in the party of Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt. That had been true since the 1840s, when the first great waves of Catholic immigrants essentially were pushed into the Democrats' arms by the anti-immigrant sentiments of the Know Nothings and Whigs, most of whom ended up in the new Republican Party. What we're seeing in these three swing states is the end of the Catholic vote, as conventional political strategists traditionally have expected it to behave. National polls have shown for some time that, although Catholics are personally opposed to abortion, they believe it ought to be legal in nearly identical percentages to the rest of America. There's also a profound demographic shift occurring in this sector. Nearly one-third of all American Catholics now are Latinos, as are more than 50% of all Catholics under 40. They have broken overwhelmingly for Obama because of his stands on the economy and immigration. (Shades of the 1840s.) In other words, back to the future.
  • Washington Post, October 29, 2008; Could the polls be wrong? Skeptics Challenge Assumptions Made. There appears to be an undercurrent of worry among some polling professionals and academics. One reason is the wide variation in Obama leads: Just yesterday, an array of polls showed the Democrat leading by as little as two points and as much as 15 points. The latest Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll showed the race holding steady, with Obama enjoying a lead of 52 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Some in the McCain camp also argue that the polls showing the largest leads for Obama mistakenly assume that turnout among young voters and African Americans will be disproportionately high. The campaign is banking on a good turnout among GOP partisans, whom McCain officials say they are working hard to attract to the polls.
  • RealClearPolitics/Dick Morris, October 29, 2008, Undecideds Should Break for McCain. If current survey trends continue, Obama will finish with less than 50 percent in the polls. Even discounting the Nader vote (some people never learn), the undecided voters could tip the race either way. How will they break? If Obama falls short of 50 percent in these circumstances, a majority of the voters can be said to have rejected him. Likely a disproportionate number of the undecideds will vote for McCain. But don't write Obama off. His candidacy strikes such enthusiasm among young and minority voters that there is still a chance that a massive turnout will deliver the race to the Democrats. None of the polling organizations has any experience with -- or model for -- so massive a turnout, especially among voters notorious for staying at home. But the primaries proved that these young and minority voters will not stay home this time, but will vote for Obama. The effect of this increased vote is hard to calculate, but it may be enough to offset the undecideds who will vote for McCain.
  • Pew, October 28, 2008, Trends in Candidate Preferences Among Religious Groups. The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press includes analysis of the candidate preferences of major religious groups. These charts, based on People-Press surveys conducted on the dates indicated, will be updated as the Center's new surveys are released.

  • Gallup, October 28, 2008, Early Voting Now Up to 18%. Obama doing better among those who have voted or say they will vote before Nov. 4. Gallup Poll Daily tracking data collected through Monday night indicate that 18% of registered voters who plan to vote have already voted, and another 15% say they will vote before Nov. 4; so far the voter preferences of this early voting group are somewhat more tilted toward Obama than those who say they will wait to vote on Election Day. The voter preferences of individuals who have already voted show a 53% to 43% Obama over McCain tilt. Among the group of those who say they have not yet voted, but will before Election Day, the skew towards Obama is more pronounced, at 54% to 40%. By comparison, those who are going to wait to vote on Nov. 4 manifest a narrower 50% to 44% Obama over McCain candidate preference. (Across all registered voters over this time period, Obama leads McCain by a 51% to 43% margin). These results indicate that, with each passing day, Obama appears to be freezing in place a higher and higher percentage of votes tilting in his favor, making that portion of the overall electorate impervious to any last minute campaign trends. At the least, the results certainly suggest that the vote returns on Election Night will be incomplete, and perhaps misleading, if absentee and early voting results are not included.

  • WP, 10/27/2008, WP-ABC Tracking: In the Final Week. The Washington Post-ABC News daily tracking poll shows Barack Obama kicking off the final full week of campaigning with a seven-point lead over John McCain, but beneath the nationwide number are big regional and racial differences. Obama is outperforming any Democrat back to Jimmy Carter among white voters, getting 45 percent to McCain's 52 percent. But in the South, it is a very different story. Obama fares worse among Southern whites than any Democrat since George McGovern in 1972.
  • Lombardo, October 27, 2008, Eight Days to Go and McCain Can't Seem to Break Through. Here is our up-to-the-minute assessment of the state of the Presidential campaign:
    1. While McCain has stopped most of his downward slide, he still lags Obama nationally and in key states.
    2. However, the gap will close because late-deciders will largely move toward McCain in the final days before the election.
    3. Obama has solidified his position on the electoral map.
    4. While clearly Obama's "ground game" was a factor this year in his primary victory, we feel the importance of grassroots and organizing activities in Presidential general elections is often overstated.
    5. McCain's increasing unfavorable rating is a problem for him and correlates with the drop in his share of the vote.
    6. Team Obama has their foot on the pedal and isn't letting up.
    7. Virginia is turning out to be the paradigm battleground for both sides.
    8. Missouri and Ohio are close and will go down to the wire.
  • Washington Post, October 25, 2008; As Election Day Nears, Poll Shows Obama Leads McCain. Handling terrorism and the war in Iraq continue to be relative strengths for John McCain, but few voters cite either issue as their top concern, limiting the Republican nominee's options for reframing the debate to his advantage as Election Day approaches. Fifty-one percent of all voters call the economy the No. 1 issue in deciding their presidential choice., and Obama is winning these voters handily, by a 62 to 35 percent margin.

  • Pew, Oct. 23, 2008, How Church Attendance Affects Religious Voting Patterns. The latest report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that, as in previous elections, differences in voting patterns by religion are amplified when church attendance is taken into account. For example, Barack Obama has made no headway among white evangelical Protestants who attend church at least once a week; just 17% of this group supports him. By contrast, 37% of white evangelicals who attend services less frequently support Obama. Similarly, while Obama has made gains among Catholics overall, he runs even with John McCain among observant white Catholics (45% to 45%). He now has a clear lead among white Catholics who attend Mass less frequently (53% to 38%).

  • SNL's Palin Sketch for Oct 23, 2008: The Bush Endorsement...
  • NYT, October 23, 2008, Polls Show Obama Gaining Among Bush Voters. Senator Barack Obama is showing surprising strength among portions of the political coalition that returned George W. Bush to the White House four years ago, a cross section of support that, if it continues through Election Day, would exceed that of Bill Clinton in 1992, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News polls. Mr. Obama led Mr. McCain among groups that voted for President Bush four years ago: those with incomes greater than $50,000 a year; married women; suburbanites and white Catholics. He is also competitive among white men, a group that has not voted for a Democrat over a Republican since 1972, when pollsters began surveying people after they voted.

  • Washington Post, October 23, 2008; Ideological Fire Misses the Mark. Despite strong GOP efforts to define Barack Obama as "too liberal" and an equally pointed Democratic campaign aimed at labeling John McCain as "too conservative," voters' impressions of the main presidential contenders' ideological leanings have budged little since June, according to a new release from the Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll. McCain has argued consistently that Obama's policy views closely resemble those of a typical tax-and-spend liberal, and Obama has countered by portraying McCain as a repackaged version of George W. Bush's compassionate conservative, minus the compassion. But neither candidate appears to have made great inroads here: The proportions of likely voters who consider Obama as too far left, 40 percent, and McCain as too far right, 38 percent, both have held basically steady.
  • Gallup, October 23, 2008, Obama Winning Over the Jewish Vote. Three-quarters of U.S. Jewish voters now plan to back Obama for president. Jewish voters nationwide have grown increasingly comfortable with voting for Barack Obama for president since the Illinois senator secured the Democratic nomination in June. They now favor Obama over John McCain by more than 3 to 1, 74% to 22%. The current proportion of U.S. Jews backing Obama is identical to the level of support the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards received in the 2004 presidential election (74%). It is only slightly lower than what Al Gore and Joe Lieberman received in 2000 (80%) -- when the first Jewish American appeared on the presidential ticket of a major party.

  • Gallup, October 23, 2008, No Increase in Proportion of First-Time Voters. Thirteen percent of registered voters say they will be voting for first time. The signature characteristic of first-time voters is their youth. Among registered voters, 62% of those who say they will be voting for the first time are below age 30. Nearly half of first-time voters (47%) come from a racial or ethnic minority group. That is higher than the proportion of first-time voters who were minorities in 2004 (33%), and could reflect the historic nature of Barack Obama's candidacy. First-time voters show solid support for Obama, 65% to 31%. That is a better showing for the Democratic candidate than in 2004, when first-time voters favored John Kerry over George W. Bush by 55% to 41%. Bottom Line. Although there is speculation that Obama's candidacy -- given his appeal to young and minority voters -- could bring an unusually large number of first-time voters to the polls this year, the proportion of registered voters who say they will be voting for the first time is no higher than it was in 2004.

  • Gallup, October 22, 2008, Young Voters Favor Obama, but How Many Will Vote? Still lag behind older voters on key turnout indicators. Although Barack Obama leads John McCain by almost 30 percentage points among 18- to 29-year-old registered voters, these younger voters are still less likely than older voters to report being registered to vote, paying attention to the election, or planning to vote this year. Obama's share of the vote would increase only if young voter turnout is much higher than it has been in the past, and at that, he gains only 1 percentage point.

  • Gallup, October 21, 2008, Hispanic Voters Divided by Religion. Catholics and those who attend church less often are most supportive of Obama. Taken as a group, Hispanic voters solidly support Barack Obama over John McCain for president, but there is a significant difference in the Hispanic vote by religion. Catholic Hispanics support Obama by a 39-point margin, while Hispanics who are Protestant or who identify with some other non-Catholic Christian faith support Obama by a much smaller 10-point margin. Additionally, as is true in the general population, Hispanics who are most religious are most supportive of McCain, while Obama garners his greatest support among Hispanics who attend church services least often.

  • The New Republic, October 21, 2008, The Message Keeper. How David Axelrod learned to conquer race. Obama kept courting Axelrod, because Axelrod had proven the master of the key to Obama's political future: He knew how to sell black candidates to white voters. It's a formula Axelrod developed working on a series of black mayoral candidates' campaigns in cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Once Obama finally won him over, in 2002, Axelrod used it to elect Obama to the U.S. Senate. And now, with Axelrod serving as the Obama campaign's chief political and media strategist, that formula is poised to send the first African American to the White House.
  • Washington Post, October 21, 2008; Obama Leads Among the Young and the Landline-less. Barack Obama is up 12 points over John McCain among white voters under 30, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll. That is a reversal from 2004, when John F. Kerry lost these voters by 10 points. The senator from Illinois is also exceeding Kerry's take by large margins among first-time voters (20 points better), moderates and African Americans (nine points each). Another closely-watched group this year, particularly for the poll-obsessed, are those voters who have abandoned traditional phone service for mobile phones. Obama leads by better than 2 to 1 among these voters.

  • Gallup, October 21, 2008, As the Economy Goes, So Goes the Vote. View of economy strong predictor of vote. A new Gallup analysis of more than 40,000 interviews conducted over the last month and a half shows a strong correlation between trends in voters' candidate preferences in the election and consumer views of the U.S. economy. Barack Obama's margin of support over John McCain has risen proportionately when the percentage of Americans who are negative about the U.S. economy increases. Obama's front-runner margin has fallen when economic negativity decreases. These data suggest that one of McCain's best hopes of improving his positioning against Obama in the remaining two weeks of the presidential campaign would be for a sharp drop to take place in the percentage of Americans holding negative views of the U.S. economy.

  • NYT, October 20, 2008, Obama Appeal Rises in Poll; No Gains for McCain Ticket. As voters have gotten to know Senator Barack Obama, they have warmed up to him, with more than half, 53 percent, now saying they have a favorable impression of him and 33 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. But as voters have gotten to know Senator John McCain, they have not warmed, with only 36 percent of voters saying they view him favorably while 45 percent view him unfavorably.

  • SNL's Palin sketch this week ... with Gov. Palin ... 10/18/08:

...And with that moose (what?)

  • Gallup, October 16, 2008, Recent Obama Surge Evident Among Men, Less Educated. Independents have also swung strongly in Obama’s direction. [Good overview of social groups] In the week after the Republican National Convention, John McCain led Barack Obama 47% to 45% among registered voters nationwide. Then the financial crisis emerged as a major issue, and Obama quickly took the lead. In the most recent full week of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data (Oct. 6-12), that lead has expanded to 10 percentage points. Obama's surge in the polls in recent weeks has been fairly broad-based across demographic and political subgroups of the electorate, but he has made particularly notable gains among men, those with less formal education, and middle-aged voters. These groups have tended to lean in McCain's direction or be about even, so it is clear that the movement is a bad sign for the McCain campaign.
  • CNN, October 15, 2008, Poll gives debate to Obama. A majority of debate watchers thought that Barack Obama won the third and final presidential debate, according to a national poll conducted at the end of the debate.

CNN Post-Debate Polls for All 3 Presidential Debates
(data at

  • Gallup, October 15, 2008, Previewing the Final Presidential Debate. McCain will need to address economic concerns. Obama is clearly in the driver's seat going into Wednesday night's debate, leading in the overall horse-race preferences of voters, besting McCain on important issues relating to the economy, and dominating public perceptions of who is most empathetic to the concerns of the public and is ready with a plan to fix them. McCain, on the other hand, is associated with an unpopular president and represents a political party that in this election is seen significantly less favorably than his opponent's party. Nevertheless, McCain does have some strengths he could play off of in his attempt to shake up the race and reduce Obama's lead. McCain retains a strong positioning vis-à-vis Obama on terrorism and, to a lesser degree, Iraq, and is also just as likely as Obama to be seen as being a strong and decisive leader and a good manager. McCain's overall image is also positive, and just slightly less so than Obama's.

  • NYT, October 14, 2008, Poll Says Attacks Backfire on McCain. The McCain campaign’s recent angry tone and sharply personal attacks on Senator Barack Obama appear to have backfired and tarnished Senator John McCain more than their intended target, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found. With the election unfolding against the backdrop of an extraordinary economic crisis, a lack of confidence in government, and two wars, the survey described a very inhospitable environment for any Republican to run for office. More than 8 in 10 Americans do not trust the government to do what is right, the highest ever recorded in a Times/CBS News poll. And Mr. McCain is trying to keep the White House in Republican hands at a time when President Bush’s job approval rating is at 24 percent, hovering near its historic low. The poll suggested that the overwhelming anxiety about the economy and distrust of government have created a potentially poisonous atmosphere for members of Congress. Only 43 percent of those surveyed said that they approved of their own representative’s job performance, which is considerably lower than approval ratings have been at other times of historic discontent. By way of comparison, just before the Democrats lost control of Congress in 1994, 56 percent of those polled said that they approved of the job their representative was doing.

  • Gallup, October 14, 2008, Seven in 10 Say Obama Understands Americans' Problems. Public also more likely to think Obama has plan to solve problems. Americans are much more likely to believe that Barack Obama understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives than to believe John McCain does. The public not only gives Obama credit for understanding its problems, but also for having a plan to solve them. McCain and Obama are viewed similarly in terms of their leadership and ability to manage the government. At least half of Americans say each candidate shares their values, although more say this about Obama (58%) than McCain (50%).

    Implications. In an election in which the economy is the top issue on voters' minds, Obama is already seen as the candidate who can better handle the issue. During the campaign, Obama has been able to convince a growing number of Americans that he understands Americans' problems and has a clear plan for solving them. Also, Obama has been able to largely erase the advantage McCain had over him on perceptions of their leadership ability. That doesn't leave much important territory where Americans believe that McCain is superior to Obama on character or issues, aside from McCain's continued advantage for handling matters of international policy. Thus, in order for McCain to prevail, in the remaining weeks he will either have to convince voters that he is as good as or better than Obama on the economy, or try to shift the agenda so that international matters carry greater weight in voters' minds.

  • CNN, Oct. 13, 'Great Schlep' pitches Obama to Florida Jews. "Schlep." A Yiddish word meaning to pull, yank or tug, schlep is a good way of describing what it took for Mike Bender to persuade his grandparents to vote for Sen. Barack Obama for president.
  • Bloomberg, Oct. 13, Obama Gains as New South Trumps Old Race Card. Obama, according to polls and politicians, is running even or slightly ahead of Republican John McCain in North Carolina, a reflection of both the Democrat's campaign and how much this once-decidedly Southern state has changed. North Carolina, like Florida and Virginia, represents a New South politically, different from the deeply conservative, reliably red -- as in Republican -- one that marks most of Dixie.
  • Gallup, October 13, 2008, Democrats’ Election Enthusiasm Far Outweighs Republicans’. Different pattern than occurred in 2004. Only 51% of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in previous years, compared to 71% of Democrats, marking a shift from October 2004, when enthusiasm was about the same for both partisan groups.

  • NYT, October 13, 2008, Road to November: The Youth Vote in Pennsylvania. Much is made of the youth vote each year, and then, much is dismissed as turnout among younger voters ends up eclipsed by large margins by older Americans. But demographic swings in recent years — the population of 18- to 24-year-olds rose to nearly 30 million in 2006, from about 27 million in 2000, according to Census figures — have sparked greater interest in the group. This is especially so in this swing state, with its many colleges and universities. Mr. Obama was effective during the primaries at captivating young people across the country. In March, thousands showed up at an Obama rally on campus here.
  • WP, October 12, 2008; Issue of Race Creeps Into Campaign. In the first presidential campaign involving an African American nominee of a major party, both candidates have agreed on this much: They would rather not dwell on the subject of race. But their allies have other ideas.
  • WP/E. J. Dionne Jr., October 10, 2008, Hoover vs. Roosevelt? Hope vs. fear, new vs. old: Barack Obama and John McCain have placed their bets. These are the terms on which the 2008 presidential campaign will be decided. It would seem that Obama has been studying the 1932 campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The key to Roosevelt's victory was not a big program but a jaunty sense of optimism in the midst of despair that led to his signature inaugural line -- "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Less famously, Roosevelt declared in his acceptance speech that "this is no time for fear, for reaction or for timidity." In recent days, Obama has painted himself as calm, pragmatic, open and hopeful. He seemed to be channeling FDR when he told a crowd in Indianapolis on Wednesday: "This isn't a time for fear or for panic. This is a time for resolve and steady leadership." As for McCain, his campaign is trying to sow fear and panic about Obama. That's exactly what Herbert Hoover tried to do with Roosevelt. Days before the 1932 election, Hoover attacked Roosevelt's "inchoate New Deal." He predicted it would "crack the timbers of the Constitution" and warned voters to beware of the "glitter of promise." It's too early to predict that the 2008 campaign will turn out like the one in 1932. But history suggests that in American elections, the candidate who underestimates his opponent often loses, and hope almost always beats fear.
  • Princeton Election Consortium/Sam Wang, October 10th, 2008, A hard look at reality, and what you should do. Where the Presidential race stands. By the standards of Presidential elections since 1992, Barack Obama is far ahead. For most of this season he has been running about 50 EV ahead of where John Kerry ran at the same point in 2004, which ended in a near-tie. Currently the gap is even larger - it’s nearing Clinton v. Dole proportions. In the face of a down economy and abysmal approval ratings for the Bush Administration, a lead of this size by a Democrat is essentially insurmountable. This is why John McCain’s tactics have become increasingly savage - it’s his last stand. It is why Obama has started to buy 30-minute blocks of time - he is shooting for a massive blowout. Conservative commentators are jumping ship, writing obituaries for the Republican Party or even coming out for Obama. The writing is on the wall. Every knowledgeable insider on either side knows it. At a time like this, one impulse is to worry or grasp for straws, depending on who you are rooting for. You might like to speculate on the Bradley effect, in which polls overstate the support for the black candidate. This effect was never more than 2-3 percentage points in the first place, and signs of it disappeared over a decade ago. You might want to know if cell phone users are undersampled. Perhaps, but only by a little, and that’s a population that favors Obama by an even larger margin than the general population. You might want to know if pollsters’ likely voter models are off. This effect isn’t going to be more than a few points, and could well be zero. All of these potential errors are either negligible or suggest that Obama has more support than polls now state. In short, the wind is at Barack Obama’s back. I currently expect a final outcome of Obama 318-364 EV, McCain 174-220 EV.
  • David Brooks, NYT, October 9, 2008, The Class War Before Palin. Over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch. And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.
  •, 10/9/08, Hispanics turn cold shoulder to McCain. Despite championing immigration reform in 2007, John McCain is poised to lose the Hispanic vote by a landslide margin that is well below President George W. Bush's 2004 performance. Polls show Obama winning the broadest support from Latino voters of any Democrat in a decade, while McCain is struggling to reach 30 percent, closer to Senator Bob Dole's dismal 1996 result than to Bush's historic 40% four years ago.

    Sources: 1976-2004 Exit Polls; 2008 Gallup Oct 5 poll

  • Gallup, October 9, 2008, Obama Rated as Winner of Second Presidential Debate. Debate watchers say Obama won by 56% to 23%. A one-night USA Today/Gallup reaction poll finds a random sample of debate watchers saying Barack Obama (56%) did a better job than John McCain (23%) in Tuesday's town hall debate.

  • Omero, October 8, 2008, The Palin Effect--Its Rise & Fall. One of the big topics from September was the Palin Effect, and how it improved McCain's standing with white voters, particularly white women. While most commentators agreed the Palin Effect didn't move Hillary Clinton's primary base, there was some unique movement among white women overall. And while it's tough to isolate the effect of campaign events after Labor Day (especially given the economic crisis), the post-Palin bounce has been declared over. We can indeed track its rise and fall. Much more attention has focused on the Palin Effect on white women than on white men, or really any other group. Naturally, that's largely due to Palin's gender. But it's also because white women are a swing group. The race, particularly among white women, will likely continue to be volatile. But the Palin bounce, and bounce-back, seems to have been replaced by other campaign events.

  • NYT, October 8, 2008, G.O.P. Facing Tougher Battle for Congress. The economic upheaval is threatening to topple Republican Congressional candidates, putting more Senate and House seats within Democratic reach less than a month before the elections, lawmakers and campaign strategists say. Top campaign officials for both parties, pollsters and independent experts say the intense focus on the economic turmoil and last week’s bailout vote have combined to rapidly expand a Democratic advantage in Congressional contests. Analysts now predict a Democratic surge on a scale that seemed unlikely just weeks ago, with even some Republicans in traditional strongholds fighting for their political careers, and Democratic leaders dreaming of ironclad majorities.

Maps are interactive at the NYT website

Maps are interactive at the NYT website

  • Gallup, October 9, 2008. Obama’s Race May Be as Much a Plus as a Minus. Much has been written about the impact of race in this year's election, a not surprising fact given that Obama is the first black major-party candidate in U.S. presidential history to gain his party's nomination. The data analyzed here -- based on voters' self-reports -- show that the impact of Obama's and McCain's races appears to cut both ways. Enough voters, particularly nonwhites, say they are more likely to vote for Obama because of his race to offset the small percentage who say they are less likely to vote for him because of his race. And the same is true in reverse for McCain: the impact of nonwhites' saying his race is a negative is offset by those who say it is a positive. More specifically, to review perhaps the most important finding in these data, 7% of white voters say Obama's race makes them less likely to vote for him. But 6% of white voters say Obama's race makes them more likely to vote for him. And among nonwhite voters, Obama's race is a significant net plus. [See additional article here.]

  • Gallup, October 7, 2008, Voters See Economic Plans as Net Plus for Obama. McCain economic plan more likely to repel than attract voters. Voters are most likely to cite Barack Obama’s economic plans and his opposition to the Iraq war as factors that make them more likely to vote for him. John McCain’s biggest plus is his support for the 2007 Iraq troop surge. Relatively few voters say the candidates’ races will be a factor in their vote.

  • October 7, 2008, CNN Poll: Obama won the night. Polls suggests Obama has won tonight’s debate. A national poll of debate watchers suggests that Barack Obama won the second presidential debate. Fifty-four percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey conducted after the debate ended said that Obama did the best job in the debate, with 30 percent saying John McCain performed better. A majority, 54 percent, said Obama seemed to be the stronger leader during the debate, to 43 percent for McCain. By a greater than two to one margin — 65 percent to 28 percent — viewers thought Obama was more likeable during the debate. "Obama had made some gains on the leadership issue even before the debate," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "McCain's advantage on leadership shrunk from 19 points in September to just five points this weekend. If Obama can use this debate to convince Americans that he is a stronger leader than McCain, he may be difficult to defeat."

  •, Oct. 7, 2008, Special Report: Race Matters?
    • 10/6/08. Race drives strategy, stirs uncertainty. By far the most likely thing that could derail Obama’s victory is a racial backlash that is not visible in today’s polls but is waiting to surge on Election Day — coaxed to the surface (to the extent coaxing is needed) with the help of coded appeals from McCain and his conservative allies. Racial issues tend to hover in the background in much of the public analysis of the Obama-McCain horserace — often mentioned but not usually as the dominant factor. By contrast, it is increasingly the subject of obsessive interest in the nonstop, not-for-attribution conversation that takes place between reporters, political analysts and campaign sources in the heat of an election. As a result, much of the news coverage and commentary that the media will produce over the next month will flow from the assumption that racial antagonisms are an unexploded bomb in this contest. By this logic, if Obama does not head into Nov. 4 with a lead of at least several points in the polls, there is a good chance he’ll be swamped by prejudice that will flourish in the privacy of the voting booth.
    • 10/6/08, How Obama quietly targets blacks. As Barack Obama trekked through the Philadelphia suburbs, Northern Virginia and Greensboro, N.C., in recent days, his campaign was ramping up a massive parallel effort in big cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Miami. In the largely black precincts of those metropolises, radio broadcasts blast constant reminders to vote for Obama, field organizers swarm, and megastars including Jay-Z, Russell Simmons and LeBron James have led massive rallies, working to reach not just the substantial portion of the black community who regularly come out to vote but also the younger people and others who have never before cast a ballot. Though the rallies are publicized, much of the advertising directed at black voters isn't. Get-out-the-vote ads on radio and television aren't released to the media, and the number of new voters Obama has registered is a closely held secret. He is, however, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to registering African-American voters. Little of this targeted outreach has produced images of Obama addressing black crowds or mingling with black officials, and most has gone unnoticed by the broader electorate. "If you didn't notice it, then you probably weren't the target," said Obama spokesman Corey Ealons of the targeted advertising.
    • 10/6/08, It’s NOT the racial issues, stupid. “I’m hearing, ‘Oh, you know, he’s just not ready.’ I don’t know whether some of that has to do with his color. I think some of it does,” said Boscola, a veteran Democrat from Northampton County in the Lehigh Valley. “They say that they don’t trust him, and I don’t get it. What is it about him that’s bothering them? ... It has to be [about his race], because they’re trying to find an excuse.” Yet at the same time, many of these politicians are reporting another phenomenon — that there is one central concern at the moment, the economy, and it seems to trump all others, even deep-seated racial prejudice.
  • Gallup, October 7, 2008, Americans’ Satisfaction at All-Time Low of 9%. Dismal rating sets stage for town hall-style debate. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are set to meet for the second presidential debate in Nashville Tuesday night at a time when only 9% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States -- the lowest such reading in Gallup Poll history.

  • Washington Post, October 7, Obama Leading In Ohio, Poll Finds. Edge Is 6 Points In a State Looming Large for McCain. Aided by the faltering economy, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has the upper hand in the race for Ohio, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, putting Republican John McCain at a disadvantage in a state considered vital to his chances of winning the White House in November. The new survey underscores the degree to which the economic crisis has shaken up the presidential race and the obstacles that now confront McCain in the final month of the campaign. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio, and the state's 20 electoral votes are of paramount importance to McCain. There are indications from the survey that Obama also may have an early advantage in mobilizing and turning out Ohio voters over the next month. He has more enthusiastic supporters than McCain does, and has reached more voters in Ohio than his rival.

  • NYT, October 6, 2008, Campaigns Shift to Attack Mode on Eve of Debate. Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama entered their general election contest this summer denouncing American politics as trivial and negative, and vowing to run campaigns that would address the concerns of voters during a difficult time. But Mr. McCain made clear on Monday that he wanted to make the final month of the race a referendum on Mr. Obama’s character, background and leadership — a polite way of saying he intends to attack him on all fronts and create or reinforce doubts about him among as many voters as possible. And Mr. Obama’s campaign signaled that it would respond in kind, setting up an end game dominated by an invocation of events and characters from the lives of both candidates.
  • Gallup, October 6, 2008, U.S. Financial Rescue Plan Wins Slim Public Support. Republicans and Democrats mostly agree passage was a good thing. More Americans consider it a "good thing" that Congress passed a financial rescue package for U.S. financial institutions last week than call it a "bad thing," but only by a narrow 9 percentage-point margin, 50% to 41%. Another 9% have no opinion about it. Last week, as Congress was debating the details of a financial rescue package after the first deal fell short of the necessary votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans expressed greater support for Congress' starting over with a new plan than merely revising the one that failed. Now that Congress has done just that -- passed a retooled version of the original failed bill -- Americans seem more likely than not to accept it, albeit by a slim margin. There is, however, relatively little partisan friction in the mix.

  • USA Today/MTV/Gallup, October 6, 2008, Young Voters ‘08: Pro-Obama and Mindful of Outcome. Majority of 18- to 29-year-olds perceive a direct impact of president on their lives. America's youngest voters are mindful of history and the impact on their own lives as they prepare to cast ballots on Nov. 4. Among 18- to 29-year-old registered voters, 61% support the Obama-Biden ticket, versus 32% who prefer the McCain-Palin ticket, with Obama's voters being far more likely to be certain about their vote than McCain's. Obama's strong appeal to younger voters is apparent in that he outperforms McCain by double digits on every single character dimension tested in the poll of more than 900 18-29 year olds nationwide, conducted by Gallup for USA Today and MTV Sept. 18-28, 2008. The 47-year-old Obama swamps 72-year-old McCain, 71% to 12%, on understanding the "problems of people your age" and even wins on what is a McCain strength among the broader electorate, being a "strong and decisive leader," 46% to 36%.

  • SNL's Palin sketch this week, 10/4/08:
  • WP, October 4, 2008. U.S. Fiscal Crisis Seems to Have Altered Political Map. McCain's Challenge Is Underscored by Pullout From Mich. The faltering economy has left Sen. John McCain on the political defensive, altering the landscape in many of the most important battleground states and providing a series of avenues for Sen. Barack Obama to claim the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House in November, according to political strategists in both parties. Over the past two weeks, Obama has opened up leads both nationally and in the states likely to decide the outcome of the presidential election. A combination of factors -- the tumult in the financial and credit markets, the performance of the two candidates in responding to it, and increased doubts about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- have contributed.
  • NYT, October 4, 2008. Economic Unrest Shifts Electoral Battlegrounds. The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states. Mr. Obama has what both sides describe as serious efforts under way in at least nine states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including some that neither side thought would be on the table this close to Election Day.
  • WP, October 4, 2008; McCain Plans Fiercer Strategy Against Obama. Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said. With just a month to go until Election Day, McCain's team has decided that its emphasis on the senator's biography as a war hero, experienced lawmaker and straight-talking maverick is insufficient to close a growing gap with Obama. The Arizonan's campaign is also eager to move the conversation away from the economy, an issue that strongly favors Obama and has helped him to a lead in many recent polls.
  • CNN, 10/2/08 Debate poll says Biden won, Palin beat expectations. A national poll of people who watched the vice presidential debate Thursday night suggests that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden won, but also says Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations.

  • WP 10/1/08 Behind the Numbers polling breakdowns

  • NYT October 1, 2008. Poll Finds Obama Gaining Support and McCain Weakened in Bailout Crisis. With the first presidential debate completed and both candidates grappling with the turmoil on Wall Street and in Washington, Senator Barack Obama is showing signs of gaining significant support among voters with less than five weeks left until Election Day, while Senator John McCain’s image has been damaged by his response to the financial crisis.

See graphic full sized

  • NJ, Oct. 1, 2008. Women, Independents Drive Obama In Key States. White Evangelical Voters Still Not Giving McCain The Boost They Gave Bush In 2004. Following their first presidential debate Friday, Barack Obama has been rebuilding his advantage over John McCain, breaking open sizable leads in three voter-rich swing states -- Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania -- with the help of women and independents, according to a Quinnipiac poll out today. Evangelical support for McCain, while strong, is far less than the 78 percent of white evangelicals that Bush carried in 2004. Obama is also keeping things close among white men, a key McCain demographic.
  • NYT, October 1, 2008, New Poll Shows Obama Has Significant Lead. The CBS News poll showed that Mr. Obama had a nine-percentage-point lead over Mr. McCain — 49 percent to 40 percent. And a series of polls taken in highly contested states released by other organizations on Tuesday suggested that Mr. Obama was building leads in states including Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The CBS News poll found that President Bush had tied the presidential record for a low approval rating — 22 percent, matching Harry S. Truman’s Gallup approval rating in 1952, when the country was mired in the Korean War and struggling with a stagnant economy.
  • Washington Post, September 30, 2008. Voters Fear Failure of Bailout Bill Could Deepen Crisis, Poll Finds. Concerns About Economic Prospects Continue to Lift Obama's Campaign. Voters are deeply divided over the terms of the government's $700 billion economic rescue package, but overwhelmingly fear the House's rejection of the measure on Monday could deepen the country's financial woes, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. ...The new survey began the night after the first presidential debate at the University of Mississippi, and while a plurality of voters said Obama performed better than McCain, 38 percent to 24 percent, large numbers said it was essentially a tie or expressed no opinion. Contrary to the hopes of Obama and McCain advisers, the debate failed to help either candidate deal with major vulnerabilities, in part because few voters said the candidates' performances in the forum changed their views.
  • NYT, September 29, 2008. The No Votes. Details on the Republican and Democratic representatives who voted to reject a $700 billion rescue of the financial industry. [Graphic]

    The No Votes - Graphic

  • NYT, September 29, 2008. David Brooks [a Republican columnist], Revolt of the Nihilists. House Republicans led the way [in the defeat of the Bail-out bill on 8/29/08] and will get most of the blame. It has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the G.O.P. as we know it.
  • WP, 9/29/08. Analysis: The Failure of the Bailout Bill. It's no coincidence then that of the 205 Members who voted in support of the bill today, there are only two who find themselves in difficult reelection races this fall. The list of the 228 "nays" reads like a virtual target list for the two parties. While it's clear that the main reason the bill failed was the provincial concerns of more than 220 Members, the blame game is already well under way at the presidential level.
  • WP, 9/29/08. Why the Bailout Bill Failed. So how could a major bill described by the president and both parties' leaders as critical to the well-being of the nation's -- and the world's -- economy go down to defeat? 1) Poor Salesmanship... 2) Vulnerables Scared... 3) No Center of Gravity... 4) Ideological Problems... 5) Partisanship? ...
  • WP, September 29, 2008. By E. J. Dionne Jr. McCain's Lost Chance: Obama Holds His Own on Foreign Policy. September began as John McCain's month and ended as Barack Obama's. McCain's high-risk wagers aimed at shaking up the campaign turned into very bad investments. And Friday's debate eliminated McCain's best chance to deliver a knockout blow to an opponent whose most important asset may be his capacity for self-correction.
  • SNL's Palin sketch this week, 9/27/08:

  • (Part of SNL's parody was taken verbatim from Palin's interview with Katie Couric. See the parallels as shown by CNN on YouTube.)
  • MarketWatch, Sept 25, 2008. AJC Survey: Jewish Voters Favor Obama Over McCain, 57-30 percent; Many Undecided. With less than six weeks to go to Election Day, American Jewish voters favor Senator Barack Obama over Senator John McCain for U.S. president by a margin of 57-30 percent. At the same time, an unexpectedly large number, 13 percent, remain undecided about their vote, according to a new American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey. Also see here and here.

  • NYT, September 22, 2008. David Brooks, The Establishment Lives! [Written when it looked like there was going to be a deal on the bail-out bill. Predicts the demise of right & left populism.] The global financial turmoil has pulled nearly everybody out of their normal ideological categories. The pressure of reality has compelled new thinking about the relationship between government and the economy. And lo and behold, a new center and a new establishment is emerging. The government will be much more active in economic management (pleasing a certain sort of establishment Democrat). Government activism will provide support to corporations, banks and business and will be used to shore up the stable conditions they need to thrive (pleasing a certain sort of establishment Republican). Tax revenues from business activities will pay for progressive but business-friendly causes — investments in green technology, health care reform, infrastructure spending, education reform and scientific research.
  • William Schneider, 9/20. Independents' Day: The power to determine the outcome of the presidential election is in their hands. The Karl Rove theory held that the way to win elections was to turn out your base: Rally the party faithful, muster them to the polls, and overwhelm the enemy. It worked for the Republicans in 2004 -- but only barely. Moreover, victory came at a cost: a bitterly divided electorate. The base strategy did not work for the GOP in 2006. Instead, swing voters came back and swung the election. In the 2006 nationwide congressional vote, independents went 59 percent Democratic to 37 percent Republican, according to the exit polls. That was the biggest margin for either party measured among independents since the first exit polls in 1976. Will the base strategy work this time? It seems unlikely. With fewer than 30 percent of voters now calling themselves Republicans, mustering that army won't overwhelm anything.
  • WP 9/18/08. Analysis: Fundamentally, McCain Has Something to Worry About. John McCain has a fundamentals problem. It is political as well as economic, and it remains the biggest obstacle standing between the Arizona senator and the White House. McCain didn't single-handedly create this problem, but he made it worse Monday when, as Wall Street was melting down, he uttered words -- "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" -- that totally muddied the real message he meant to deliver. Barack Obama has hammered him at every stop since as a man out of touch with reality.
  • NYT 9/17/08. McCain Seen as Less Likely to Bring Change, Poll Finds. Despite an intense effort to distance himself from the way his party has done business in Washington, Senator John McCain is seen by voters as far less likely to bring change to Washington than Senator Barack Obama. He is widely viewed as a “typical Republican” who would continue or expand President Bush’s policies, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. full results.

  • NYT 9/17/08. Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes. A struggle on how Catholics should apply their beliefs in politics is reaching swing cities like Scranton, Pa.
  • September 17, 2008. Gallup. Shifts in Last Two Months of Election Not Uncommon. Average change in “gap” since 1936 is 6.6 points. A question of keen interest to election observers is the following: To what degree do presidential elections change between the end of the political conventions and Election Day?
  • NYT 9/15/08. Both Sides Seeking to Be What Women Want. By KATE ZERNIKE. In particular, the campaigns are competing for working-class white women, the group that could be especially pivotal in the hotly contested states.

  • William Schneider: Political Pulse, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. Partisans Return Home. The political conventions did what they were supposed to do. They rallied partisans on both sides.
  • Gallup 9/11/08. "No Disproportionate Shift in White Women’s Preferences. 4-Point shift toward McCain appears about average." by Frank Newport, Jeffrey M. Jones, and Lydia Saad. PRINCETON, NJ -- An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking interviewing conducted before and after the two major-party conventions shows that the impact of the conventions was not materially different for white women than it was for white men, and neither group's shifts were substantially different than the changes among the overall electorate.
  • WP Behind the Numbers, 08/29/2008. Women Voters: The History. John McCain and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin today made their first appearance as the GOP's presidential ticket, and some have suggested the pick could attract women voters. But Republicans may need to do more than put a woman on the ticket to attract women's votes. Democrats hold a wide advantage in party identification among women, with nearly six in 10 in recent Washington Post-ABC News polling calling themselves Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, and Barack Obama has opened up a wide lead among women... But women have not always been a Democratic group.

    But the real battleground may be among white women. Obama currently outperforms previous Democratic presidential nominees among the group, but exit polling shows white women have been closely divided in each of the last two presidential contests without an incumbent candidate.
  • WP Behind the Numbers, 08/28/2008. The Enthusiasm Gap. The new Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week found a continuing enthusiasm gap: a majority of Obama supporters reported feeling very enthusiastic about his candidacy while fewer than three in 10 McCain supporters said the same about their preferred candidate's bid.

  • September 4, 2008. Gallup. Intense Political Week Brings Decline in Swing Voters. Uncommitted voters down from 30% to 21% in past week, according to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll.

  • And ... SNL's season opener, 9/13/08 ...

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Background from a Spring 2008 Baton Rouge poll
conducted by Weil's Sociology 2211 class.

  • Respondents felt thatMayor Kip Holden had done a great job and deserved to be re-elected. In fact, Holden won the Fall 2008 election with 71% of the vote.

  • Significantly, Holden, an African American Democrat, overcame all party, race, and ideological divisions in the Baton Rouge electorate. Those division still play a role in politics, as indicated by Baton Rouge preferences in a (then hypothetical) match-up between Barack Obama and John McCain in a presidential election.

    Source: 2008 Baton Rouge Poll (4/08, N=329),
    Conducted by the Students of Sociology 2211, “Sociological Methods,” LSU

  • Conclusion: It is clearly possible for a candidate to overcome partisan, racial, and ideological divisions in America today - if the issues are favorable and if the candidate can make that kind of appeal.

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