lessons from America

Florida answers magnificently

Holy moly.  This is awesome. Remember the Big Schlep.  I thought my 91 year old relative (she’s a year younger than I remembered) would not be open to persuasion on her vote, such were assumptions about her.  I was so pessimistic I didn’t even bother to contact her.  But my mother stepped up to the plate, fired up by Sarah Silverman’s video, and sent an email to our elderly relative instead.  The email used the talking points which exposed the myths about Obama (like ‘he’s a Muslim terrorist’ etc) and gave the positive reasons to vote for Obama.  And look what she got back today:

“Thank you for your long letter praising our next president, we hope Obama. We and most of our friends are supporters of Obama and we all hope that he will get elected.”

Wow.  That is brilliant. And momentous.  The friends she is talking about are likely to be residents of similar gated retirements communities, the sort not obviously ever in ‘Obama’s column’.  But they are.  And if this picture is repeated across the state, then we may well be looking at Florida turning blue this election, a very handsome electoral college win for soon-to-be President Obama.  Indeed, that is looking the case. Today 538 predict Obama to win Florida by 4.6%.  And‘s aggregate of polling also gives Obama the state by a similar margin.


October 16, 2008 Posted by | 50 State strategy, lessons from America | , , , , | Leave a comment

Liveblogging 3rd presidential debate

[0545] So my chocolate supply has now run out, which must mean it’s time to end this show and get some sleep.  It’s been an enjoyable, educative, occasionally exhausting (the day after normally) and at other times energising experience watching the debates and doing this liveblogging lark.  Thanks for reading and commenting.  While the debates are over, there’s plenty more to come from me … especially from just over a week’s time when I head to the States and get to see and participate in what’s going on, rather than simply comment from afar.

[0544] My simple verdict is 3 out of 3 wins for Obama; 4 out of 4 for the ticket, including Biden’s performance on the v-p debate.  You can’t ask for any better than that.   

[0528] But the hatetalk wasn’t the worst McCain sunk too.  There was a question on abortion and related ethical issues.  BarbinMD (on Daily Kos) summarises McCain’s sentiment concisely: “Health of the mother? That’s extremist, liberal bullshit”.  But I leave it to Jane of Firedoglake to best express the raw emotional response to hearing McCain’s answer: 

“The most memorable moment of the debate — the one that should come back to haunt McCain — was when he sneeringly dismissed concerns for women’s “health” with regard to abortion.  Contempt for women just oozed out of every pore of his being, and it was no stretch to imagine the same man turning to his wife and saying “at least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c**t.” “

[0524] Couple of things that I haven’t had a proper chance to mention as yet and that might be making waves in the day(s) to come, or not. And irrespective are important.   Firstly, was McCain failing to directly and unequivocally “repudiate” (that his word for what he wanted Obama to do on several other matters) the worst excesses of the racism and threats of violence made by Republican supporters at some rallies.  Instead, McCain was happy to “say, categorically, I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies.”   McCain should rightly take a lot of stick on that.  And it is why the perversion of the McCain campaign slogan is so apt: The Hate Talk Express.

[0501] The feed can sometimes be a bit overwhelming in the number of tweets coming through.  And obviously a lot are heavily partisan (but still fun and valid) comments.  One great thing is just the sheer breadth of information and election-related topics that are shared.  A new and fascinating piece of info I’ve just picked up via seeing it referred to on twitter is about Obama buying ads in online video games.  For instance X-box Live car racing gameplayers in ten States will be able to see “a roadside billboard which carries Obama’s picture and says ‘Early Voting Has Begun’.  Other billboards feature an Obama website address,, and the words ‘Paid For By Obama for President’.” See here for more. 

[0447] Returning to the theme we pick up at this time of night after every debate, TV pundits vs pollsters and ordinary people.  In my day job I sometimes rail against focus groups and polling, and with good reason when these seem to be the basis for making policy or communication decisions or exclude most of the population by only being done in swing seats.  But on occasions, they serve a very valuable function.  And after the debates is one of them.  There’s another good discussion on Daily Kos about it, entitled “snap polls render pundits obsolete”.  We’re not there yet; not do I think that’ll ever actually be the case fully.  But he best line though is at the end of that post. “They don’t like it, but polling technology is one more way their role as gatekeepers has been diminished.” That’s the really important bit.  And like the video mash-ups and clips spreading like wildfire through the web in the minutes and hours after the debate (see 0440 below), it is all about democratising political discourse.   

[0440] One of the clips of the night, and quite a laugh – if you’re not McCain or a Republican supporter – comes from McCain’s reaction in the health insurance segment to hearing Obama say “Joe plumber’s fine would be zero”.   That moment has now been nicknamed McCain’s “deer in headlights” moment. See for yourself here.  Politics can be cruel.  And with all this new technology now at people’s fingertips, it can be even crueller, even quicker!

[0432] Super stuff via Twitter: wabisabi says: “turns out the plumbers have already endorsed Obama.” And links to this story on the plumbing union backing Obama.

[0421] Justin Webb hearts Schieffer, the moderator.  That’s very much the impression from his comments on the BBC’s debate ticker , and also see back to [0222]  I agree Bob did a good job generally.  Though that may also have a lot to do with the furniture and set, and the specific format of this debate – all not decided and completely out of the control of the moderator. But there’s a bit backlash on the progressive blogosphere to how it seemed that he often gave McCain the last word, or the extra comeback; making it seem even more than Obama was on the defensive and struggling.  Ironically, as seen by the polling, those extra negatives and attacks from McCain may just hurt him more.

[0419] Just realised McCain never said “my friends” once.  Just shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

[0418] Update on the CNN instapoll. Obama won big on credibility to deal with the economy. McCain lost big with his greater negative attacks.

[0416] That ‘seeming presidential’ question is a biggie.  Nate’s immediate post-debate analysis was “Congratulations, President Obama”, and he meant that both because there was no home-run or game-changer for McCain, but also because Obama came across so well. So calm as I pointed out earlier.  And Trapper John  (on Daily Kos) makes a nice point about this:

“And Barack Obama isn’t just cool — he’s redefined cool in politics.  He’s gotten past 20 years of presidents who equate anger with passion.  There hasn’t been a president who could keep an even keel since Reagan — and even then, he was more easy-goin’ than cool.  Reagan was detached.  But Barack Obama is engaged, intelligent, and calm — but he’s no Adlai Stevenson.  He’s always cool”

[0411] Taking it down to individual voter reaction: from the Twitter Churelliestonight, for the first time I thought of what Obama would be like as “President” and I was happy.”

[0406] “Obama wins big” is one of the headlines on Daily Kos.  That’s not their analysis but the news from the instant polling.  CBS undecideds: Obama 53, McCain 22. CNN: Obama 58, McCain 31. [Update] Even the Fox focus group went for Obama in a big way.

[0401] The focus group results are coming in … and seems to be good for Obama.  Joe the Plumber seems to have been a distraction and a turn-off mainly.  The Ayers segment didn’t resonate either with swing voters. 

[0355] I can’t watch MSNBC coverage sadly (my housemate would kill me if I was watching TV downstairs, by her room), but you can catch up on what MSNBC stars Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan were saying at  Rachel is one of the new darlings of the progressives, but Pat is certainly not.  But even he says Obama scored on issues like NAFTA which play well in places like Pennsylvania.  Plus he “thought it was McCain’s best performance of the past 3 debates, but Obama was even more cooler and collected than he’s been.”  Praise indeed from Pat.

[0349] If you aren’t sick of him, but instead want to find out a bit more about who Joe the plumber is and the origins of why he’s come to promimence, see

[0347] “Is Joe the plumber and Joe-6-pack the same person?” asks someone on CNN.  Interestingly, the response seems to be (apart from someone better register “joe the plumber” as a domain, trade name, put it on vans etc), ‘I wanted it to be more about me and the issues, not about joe”.

[0340] CNN is reporting from a debate viewing party in Atlanta, held in one of these super-churches.  They had 4000 people turning up. To watch the debate.  Holy cow! 4000.  That’s four thousand. Three zeros after four.  Incredible levels of interest.  I’m guessing no drinking games either inside the church, just lots of audience participation and crowd noise I’m sure. 

[0338] Everyone’s talking about … Joe the plumber.  “A whiff of absurdity” about how much he turned up says a commentator on BBC Radio 5 Live.  A CNN analyst said that McCain’s repeated mentions of him went OTT and seemed contrived and possibly counter-productive. 

[0336] Good spot / factcheck from Sean on 538: “McCain keeps saying Palin’s son has autism, but it’s Down’s Syndrome.” Only a small point, but still fascinating that he didn’t get this right.

[0333] I like this summary of McCain’s closing words on firedoglake:  “I think we’ve had a very healthy discussion . . . even though “I’ve insulted you for the last 80 minutes.” 

[0331] That’s it.  For 4 years. No more debates.  But don’t worry.  After 90 minutes of debate, 90 minutes of analysis.  That’s how CNN pitches it just now, and that’s what I’m happy to provide and join in with too.

[0330] Obama: “change, not the same failed policies as the last 8 years” – he’s good at repeating a constant narrative throughout his campaign.  A really emotional, passionate ending by Obama.

[0328] Final final closing statements by the candidates.  McCain asks “who can you trust?”. Obama a lot of people will be shouting into their TV sets.

[0326] A plug on TV for where you can see all the debates in full again. Hooray. 

[0325] I suspect they’ll be some comeback for McCain on this one.  He refers to Michelle Obama but doesn’t actually name her.  A bit like the “that one” non-naming of Obama last time.

[0323] Another great line by Obama, almost immediately after the last one. “America’s youth aren’t an interest group, they’re our future”.

[0322]  At last, Obama cracks a joke.  “With Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, he left the funding behind”.  Nice line.

[0320] McCain points out that some of the worst schools in America get the most money per student.  Does it no occur to him that some of these schools might be in the most deprived areas where parents aren’t able to provide much support and there is a need to give much more state-funded support?

[0318] The last topic – education – is answered.  Oh no, the last topic. Already.  But I am really enjoying this debate.  And the whole debate fun in general. I can go on, can’t they?

[0316] “Of course we have to come together” sounds a very pat line from McCain.  You believe Obama much more when he talks about consensus-seeking and building.  And that may be part of what Americans – at least subconsciously – are looking for after 8 years of Bush (or more if you include the partisan bitterness in Washington since 1994).

[0312] Wait, McCain does come back on this one.  And brings up Obama’s voting record, which Obama then has to spend a bit of time defending.  This does put Obama on the back foot, but at least it gives him the opportunity and time to put his positions clearly and with dignity. 

[0310] Roe v Wade. Litmus tests and ideological standards for judges.  McCain says he wants to pick on qualifications, but stays clear of talking about abortion.  Keeping quiet is better for McCain than anything else on this.  Obama on the other hand can – and does – speak more eloquently and emotionally on the rights of women, privacy and the role of the courts. 

[0305] Okay.  I’m a little wiser now.  But in a few seconds time I’ll have forgetten it all again. Not the most exciting segment.  Very detailed.  But very important too.

[0301] Aha. Last time we got a tiny remark by McCain on fines if you don’t get health insurance, or something like that on Obama’s plans.  Now we get a proper discussion about it.  The question was answered, albeit a week later.  I confess I don’t quite understand all the details, terminology and ins and outs of each candidate’s healthcare plans, as just described.

[0258] Healthcare.  We haven’t had a proper question on this for ages, until now.  Interestly it is framed in terms of costs and what can we afford, not what should people deserve.  McCain gets to bring up Joe the plumber again and how he would react to Obama’s healthcare plan. 

[0256] Obama as Herbert Hoover, that’s who McCain is trying to paint him as.  I don’t buy that at all, especially as it is a reminder that it was a Democrat – FDR – who was the saviour at a time of Depression.

[0253] McCain attacks Obama for not travelling south of America to places like Colombia.  But that immediately makes me think of Palin and her not travelling anywhere outside the States until last year/

[0248] Obama coming across as very cool and calm seems to be the general reaction.  McCain less angry and frustrated than in the past, but still gives out signs of smirks, disrespect to Obama and other unsympathetic facial expressions. It comes across badly in the split screens the TV networks are doing a lot of this debate, showing the two men’s faces in close up side-by-side. 

[0246] One of McCain’s main attack lines seems to be ‘Obama will raise taxes’.  It may not be true (except for the top 5% or so), but at least he’s decided to stick to a couple of main narratives and attacks and repeat them ad naseum, rather than the scatter-gun approach of before. 

[0245] McCain interestingly gives an unprompted backing and shout-out to Palin’s husband Todd, who got criticised alomng with his wife in the Troopergate report.

[0244] “We’re going to sweep out the old boy’s club” says McCain about him and Palin.  Does that mean he’ll sweep himself out too?

[0240] 538 and those on twitter are picking up on the fact that the wonderful CNN audience reaction dials show a significant gender gap.  Women are digging Obama and really not liking McCain at all, certainly compared to the men.  There is a stark gap on the bar chart each time McCain speaks.

[0238] McCain was too chicken to mention Ayers by name.  Obama picked that up and was able to give a clear positive answer on his relationship with Bill Ayers. “And the fact that it has become so much of a focus of your campaign McCain says much more about your campaign than mine”.  ….. cracking response. I loved that.

[0235] Ha ha. That’s hysterical.  McCain mentions ACORN and suggests that they are about to perpetuate the biggest electoral fraud in history.  Florida 2000? Ohio 2004? Republican-connected attempts to purge voter rolls? 

[0231] McCain seems a wuss and really thin-skinned. And scolding on the most minor of points. 

[0230] Brilliantly clear and effective response by Obama on Joe Lewis’s comments about the racism and nastiness at McCain rallies.  McCain dismisses it as “just a few fringe people, you always get that”.

[0229] There’s lots of talk on the wires about Bob Schieffer and his moderation, bringing equivalence to the negative ads and vitriol from both sides.

[0228] McCain says his feelings have been hurt by the negative ads. 1,2,3 aaahh ….

[0227] “Everytime a Republican has said an out-of-bounds remark I have repudiated it” says McCain.  That doesn;t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever. Crazy in fact, given the films we’ve seen of Republican rallies.

[0224] Obama brought up all the instances he stood up to the ‘special interests’ within his own party. Interesting to see if that gets any reaction from the blogosphere.

[0222] Before I forget, I weighed into the quality of debate moderation issue over on the BBC website.  My comment on Justin Webb’s views on this subject can be read here

[0221] “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush.  If you want to run against Bush you should have stood 4 years ago.”

[0218] McCain going into specifics on how he would save money.  Gets to mention not just earmarks but also his favourite example of “the $2million overhead projector for the Chicago planetarium”.  I didn’t think it worked as an attack last time, but he and his advisors think otherwise.

[0214] Blog of the day I’m following as an extra source of comment and fun is the great Firedoglake – its a collaborative, unashamedly progressive blog and well worth a read.

[0211] “Joe the plumber” is a lucky guy.  He is the centre of this debate on the economic rescue package, and all for asking a question to Obama at a campaign event some weeks ago.   

[0208] McCain seems to have learnt from his past mistakes and is looking direct to camera and giving straight, simple answers; and attacking Obama in a more subtle way than before.  The Twitter community is pointing out how much McCain is blinking.  I hadn’t noticed it, but now it’s been pointed out to me ….. oh yeah.

[0206] Instead of bland opening statements you have McCain and Obama explaining what their economic plans would be.  McCain stresses help for home-owners and tries to put a dividing line between him and the Bush administration. 

[0205] The difference in tonight’s format, which will be much commenting on, is that both candidates are sharing a large desk, so are physically much closer together.

[0202] We are about to be underway.  Incidentally, earlier tonight I watched the ‘live’ presidential debate on the final series of West Wing.  Excellent and gripping stuff.  Hope this lives up to that kind of real debate.

[0159]  The wonders of advertising – I get a “pause” in programming whilst viewers in the States see some fun ads.  On the subject of political ads, Obama has bought up 30mins of airtime on some of the big networks at the end of October, to give himself some unmoderated, unfiltered access to the American public.  30mins is a long time to fill, but he’s doing it partly to seem presidential.

[0154] Are we going to get McCain hitting Obama on Ayers (the reformed Weatherman), just as he has promised to do?  Negative attacks don’t seem to be working at this time, so will be interesting to see whether he spends time trying to do exactly that.

[0145] So welcome to this final night of presidential debates. “I want to be a part of it …. New York, New York” is going round in my head.  The candidates are at Hofstra University, upstate New York and about to resume moderated hostilities one last time.  Shame, as I’ll miss these late night skirmishes, and the community of bloggers and others staying up to watch, comment and participate in proceedings.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | debates | , , , | 3 Comments