I admit it

… I’m worried.

Tonight we’ll find out how Obama and Clinton have fared in Indiana and North Carolina. The polls have been all over the place:

  • In Indiana, Zogby has Obama up 45-43 (Zogby polls are notoriously unreliable) while Survey USA has Clinton up by 12.
  • In North Carolina, Clinton’s internal polls reportedly show her within 5 points of Obama, whereas a blogger who is very familiar with the state is projecting a 17-point Obama blowout.

In both cases, I suspect a result somewhere in the middle is more likely. That is, Clinton by ~6 in Indiana and Obama by 8-10 in North Carolina.

But in fact, it’s hard to know what to expect. The Democratic electorate is volatile right now.

The Rev. Wright circus clearly hurt Obama in the short term. The Obama brand has been tarnished:  unfairly, in my opinion, since no one with any brains ought to believe that he shares Wright’s “God damn America” sentiments.

Since repudiating Wright, Obama has partly rebounded. At least in the national polls, where he has now opened up a small lead over Clinton again. But I admit, I’m worried. Clinton consistently outperforms her poll results when people actually vote.

Worst case scenario:  if Clinton’s margin in Indiana is greater than Obama’s margin in North Carolina, it would be a huge blow to Obama. Here’s hoping it isn’t as bad as all that!

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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Zayna
    May 06, 2008 @ 18:45:13

    I’ve been following your posts about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, admittedly with a large amount of ignorance when it comes to politics in general, with a distant but persistent interest.

    I’m just wondering why we, as Canadians, should even care? Clinton, Obama, McCain…they’re all still ‘Merican, right?

    This is not a back handed attempt to gode you, it is a sincere attempt at understanding exactly why it’s important for us, as Canadians, to concern ourselves with the politics of our south of the border neighbours.

    I mean, I know it’s important, I was just hoping you could explain, in layman’s terms, why.

    It’s just that if I understood it better, I might care more.

    Reply

  2. Stephen
    May 06, 2008 @ 20:03:11

    Personally, I care because of the damage done by George Dubya Bush in his two terms in office. Damage not only to the USA, but to all Western democracies.

    There has been a direct effect on Canada insofar as a Canadian was turned over by American authorities to be tortured in Syria; Canadians have been barred from airplanes or denied entry into the USA based on vague suspicions (e.g. having the same name as someone with terrorist connections); and of course, Canadian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, in bin Laden’s neighbourhood, while the US tilts at windmills in Iraq.

    All Western democracies have to be disturbed by the Bush policies of torture, pre-emptive wars, the suspension of human rights, abandonment of multinational collaboration, and the pro-oil scoffing at global warming and environmental concerns.

    John McCain is sticking very close to Bush’s policies on the whole (e.g. tax cuts, staying the course in Iraq). And Hillary Clinton has increasingly sounded like a Republican wannabe: e.g., declaring that she will “obliterate” Iran if they commit an act of aggression against Israel.

    I think Obama is a game-changer: not just on the American political scene, but internationally. Consider this story from Nigeria, for example. People in the Middle East and other parts of the world are watching with real interest to see if this black man, who grew up partly in Kenya, can actually be elected President of the USA.

    Meanwhile, Obama is promising to talk to Iran and to the new leader (Fidel Castro’s brother) of Cuba. He has taken some flack for that position, but he has held his ground.

    Obama also wants to get (most of?) the American troops out of Iraq, and redeploy at least some of them to Afghanistan. That’s good for Canada and potentially for the security of the West in general, I think.

    Reply

  3. Troy
    May 07, 2008 @ 01:14:08

    The news was better than we thought. Being from Indiana, I was sad Obama didn’t take the state, but a 2% spread is tiny. And he rocked North Carolina! I think we’re still in good shape, but it’s still a fight. He really does intend to make the U.S. better neighbors. I hope he gets the chance to do it.

    Reply

  4. Random
    May 07, 2008 @ 04:23:30

    So again, nothing much changed – Indiana and NC were good enough to keep Clinton in the game, but not good enough to give her a shot at turning it around. She won’t give up just yet, but I really don’t see much of a way back for her that doesn’t rely on a massive unforced error from Obama (somebody producing footage of him clapping and cheering in the congregation during one of Wright’s more colourful sermons, say…).

    Without wishing to endorse Stephen’s whole list, I would like to support his basic point – this election matters to non-USAians like us (British in my case) because of what it says about the foreign policy of the next administration.

    “And Hillary Clinton has increasingly sounded like a Republican wannabe: e.g., declaring that she will “obliterate” Iran if they commit an act of aggression against Israel.”

    No, Stephen. It was rather more serious than that – the obliteration language was specifically linked to an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, not a mere act of aggression. And given that in the past the Iranian leadership has made noises along the lines that a nuclear first strike aimed at destroying Israel is feasible because Iran is big enough to survive any Israeli retaliation then such language is rather more likely to give them pause for thought than an offer to talk to them. (Hint: the Islamic Republic is not threatening to obliterate Israel because George Bush is being beastly to them by not conducting talks, they’re doing it because they genuinely can’t stand the idea of a Jewish state on what is supposed to be Muslim land.)

    Troy: with all due respect, but how does threatening to abrogate NAFTA make the USA a better neighbour?

    Reply

  5. Stephen
    May 07, 2008 @ 06:34:52

    This is more of a game-changer than Random’s account would suggest. North Carolina (134 delegates) is a significantly bigger state than Indiana (84 delegates). So Obama won big in the big state, while Clinton won small in the smaller state. Last night will significantly increase Obama’s lead both in pledged delegates and in popular vote.

    There are 270 delegates left to be won in the primary process. Compare that to the 218 that were up for grabs last night.

    In other words, the primary season is essentially over. Obama has won: in terms of pledged delegates, in terms of popular vote.

    Clinton needed my “worst case scenario” (a bigger margin in Indiana than Obama got in South Carolina) to give her any leverage whatsoever with the superdelegates. All the pressure is now on her: if not to withdraw from the race, at least to quit smearing the presumptive Democratic nominee. I don’t think the superdelegates will put up with any more shit from her — she no longer has a rationale for continuing her hardball tactics.

    Re NAFTA: As a Canadian, I care about the issue. But I think either Obama or Clinton, if elected, would do exactly the same thing. They would seek some relatively small face-saving concession from the other parties to the agreement, and thereafter it would be business as usual. On this issue, Obama was tacking for political advantage. Even so, he’s more credible than Clinton as an anti-NAFTA crusader.

    Reply

  6. Stephen
    May 07, 2008 @ 06:42:37

    Andrew Sullivan’s summation:

    Overall, counting both states, Clinton won 1,273,696 votes; and Obama won 1,528,897. It was a 55 – 45 percent win for Obama in the popular vote. And it’s now basically impossible for her to make a popular vote argument, even with Florida and Michigan. After the last month of unremitting Freak Show attacks, that’s a remarkable show of strength and resilience. … The logic of Clinton’s remaining in the race dwindles to the point of vanishing altogether.

    Reply

  7. aaron
    May 07, 2008 @ 08:52:15

    Stephen, I guess your concern was unnecessary.

    Going into the election, the overall polling numbers suggested a medium win for Obama in NC and a medium win by Clinton in IN — in both cases they underestimated Obama’s success. This seems to fly in the face of your assertion in https://itsmypulp.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/hillarys-last-hurrah/ that “Clinton consistently outperforms her polling results,” and presumably your explanation of that phenomenon (racism). Thoughts?

    Reply

  8. Stephen
    May 07, 2008 @ 15:46:36

    Clinton has performed beyond her polling results in state after state. This result is obviously an exception to the general rule.

    In this case, I think Obama bottomed out during Rev. Wright’s roadshow. That was, of course, reflected in the polls. Then Obama repudiated his former pastor and, over the course of the next 7-10 days, his standing in the eyes of voters began to rebound.

    It also helped that Obama was able to change the subject to the McCain/Clinton gas tax holiday. He rightly characterized the issue as political pandering that wouldn’t actually save consumers any money. It played to one of his strengths (a politician who doesn’t play typical Washington games) and Clinton’s primary weakness (she says whatever is politically expedient at any given moment and therefore can’t be trusted to mean what she says).

    The upshot is, support for Obama was rising significantly right up to the day of the vote, and the polls were necessarily lagging behind his actual standing. That’s how I read the result here.

    What do these primaries say about racism in this campaign, with the first credible African American candidate for President?

    Let me throw the question back to you: do you maintain that racism against the black guy isn’t a factor in the vote? Do you maintain that the furor over Rev. Wright had nothing to do with race (as opposed, say, to the silence over McCain’s embrace of Rev. Hagee’s support)?

    Reply

  9. Zayna
    May 07, 2008 @ 16:15:36

    Thanks for the response Stephen.

    I guess the reason I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around politics is the whole “he said, she said, he said and then they said” process of following it.

    By the time I finally get to grasping one small facet, besides being totally exhausted, I’m left feeling like the endeavour was pointless.

    I vote anyway, that’s something I guess.

    Thanks again for your time in replying.

    Reply

  10. Random
    May 07, 2008 @ 17:26:32

    “Let me throw the question back to you: do you maintain that racism against the black guy isn’t a factor in the vote?”

    Racism is probably a factor, but if it is it’s working both ways. Yes, the white vote is breaking 3:2 for Clinton – but the black vote is breaking 9:1 for Obama. Surely if the smaller of these trends is racist then the larger is even more so? If you’re happy about your guy benefiting from racism then you really shouldn’t be crying foul if his opponent is too.

    “Do you maintain that the furor over Rev. Wright had nothing to do with race?”

    Speaking bluntly, but race is the only reason why the Wright furore hasn’t sunk Obama. It’s been said many times now, and never convincingly refuted, that if a white candidate had had such close ties to a white racist conspiracy theorist who had celebrated dreadful terrorist attacks on the USA and had thought he could get away with simply repudiating some of the man’s more controversial statements while defending his relationship with him then that candidate would have been destroyed by the firestorm that followed.

    If you want a solid example of this, compare and contrast Obama’s apparently only briefly interrupted progress to the Democratic nomination and probably the presidency with the way Trent Lott’s career was effectively ended after he praised Strom Thurmond’s segregationist past at the latter’s 100th birthday party (he was repudiated at the highest levels of the Republican Party and forced to resign the Senate Majority Leader post a bare fortnight later). Rightly or wrongly, people are still prepared to make excuses for black candidates in the way they would not for whites.

    “(as opposed, say, to the silence over McCain’s embrace of Rev. Hagee’s support)”

    Oh good grief, not this one again. Are you seriously comparing a single, transparently political, meeting with a close personal relationship of over 20 years standing? As I’ve mentioned several times now, McCains relationship with Hagee is much more like Obama’s – literal – embrace of Al Sharpton than Obama’s relationship with Wright. And the media have neen far less interested in Obama/Sharpton than in McCain/Hagee.

    BTW and off topic, but what’s going on with the funky icons in the “Recent Comments” section? I quite like Aaron’s rather cool st John’s cross, but I’m not so impressed by my big gay swastika;-)

    Reply

  11. Stephen
    May 07, 2008 @ 18:32:49

    • Zayna:
    I’m glad you asked the question, and I was happy to provide a response.

    The problem with politics is that each issue tends to arise in isolation. Even each statement of the politician is isolated, so that McCain (for example) can say things today that contradict what he said in 2004, and frequently he gets away with it.

    I tend to see patterns — it’s just the way my mind works. My answer is essentially about connecting the dots of the Bush record to show the pattern that’s there: a pattern that’s bad for Canada and Western democracies in general. (Certainly including citizens of the USA.)

    • Random:
    The icons appeared by magic; on MaryP’s blog too. Clearly it’s some new feature of wordpress. If I had any control over it, I’d try to make your swastika look less gay, so you could feel better about it. 😉

    If you’re happy about your guy benefiting from racism then you really shouldn’t be crying foul if his opponent is too.

    In my earlier dialogue with Aaron, I tried to make a distinction between racism and pride in one’s identity. If, for example, women vote for Clinton because they’re proud to see a woman like them with a chance to hold the highest office in the nation, I have no quarrel with that. Similarly if black people vote for Obama out of pride in an exceptionally talented “brother”.

    But if someone votes against Clinton because they think women should be subservient, and they can’t stomach the thought of a female in authority over them — that’s bad in my books.

    Likewise for someone who won’t vote for Obama because he is prejudiced against African Americans (i.e., the motivation is negative, not positive). To me, that’s true racism, and it’s objectionable.

    That said, I accept that there are going to be a certain number of racists and a certain number of misogynists in every society. I wasn’t crying foul so much as I was trying to explain the phenomenon of late deciders breaking disproportionately for Clinton. It frustrates me, but it’s just a bump in the road that Obama has to cope with.

    Rightly or wrongly, people are still prepared to make excuses for black candidates in the way they would not for whites.

    I more-or-less agree with that statement. I am among those who would say it’s right for people to “make excuses” for black candidates. African Americans leaders have just cause for militancy (though I hasten to add that certain of Rev. Wright’s statements cannot be justified on any grounds).

    I would say it’s right to make allowances (I wouldn’t use the word excuses) for an African American candidate who has rubbed shoulders with militant colleagues, so long as he does not share the militant views of those colleagues.

    Trent Lott’s career was effectively ended after he praised Strom Thurmond’s segregationist past.

    Did Barack Obama praise Rev. Wright’s “God damn America” statement, or any other of Wright’s offensive statements? No; so you’re making a false equivalency here.

    McCain’s relationship with Hagee is [unlike] Obama’s relationship with Wright.

    Yes but.

    It’s true, McCain doesn’t have such a long, close association with Hagee. But he has made excuses for Hagee’s anti-Catholic statements, and I don’t think he should have gotten away with it.

    I also continue to think that the issue deserves more attention than the media have given it. Not as much as Obama’s relationship with Wright, but more than it has received. For example, the media have not delved into Hagee’s offensive opinions about Jews.

    btw, I think Obama’s relationship with Ayers is every bit as casual as McCain’s relationship with Hagee. I think it’s very nearly an exact parallel. And yet it is specifically the Ayers connection that has hardened you against Obama.

    I think you hold Obama to a higher standard than McCain.

    Reply

  12. aaron
    May 07, 2008 @ 19:37:50

    “Let me throw the question back to you: do you maintain that racism against the black guy isn’t a factor in the vote? Do you maintain that the furor over Rev. Wright had nothing to do with race (as opposed, say, to the silence over McCain’s embrace of Rev. Hagee’s support)?”

    Yes, racism against the black guy is surely a factor in the vote. I believe that the furor over Wright was way overblown, and that race is likely a factor (though not the only one) in that. I do think the media in its present incarnation plays favorites and likes to be an active participant in the kingmaking process — I think their love of McCain plays a greater role in the disparate treatment of Hagee/Wright than does racism, but I have no way of knowing. I tend to think that if a similar endorsement had been given to Clinton, she would have been treated more like Obama than like McCain.

    FWIW, I don’t think Ayers is near the equivalent to Hagee. McCain went out of his way to solicit Hagee’s support, and only gave a tepid “I don’t agree with everything he says” when asked about it. I’m not aware of Obama soliciting anything from Ayers. And despite the furor that greeted Obama with Wright, McCain’s tiny remark satisfied the press. The degree of this difference being tied to racism vs. favoritism matters not — there’s a gross disparity in treatment here.

    Reply

  13. Jack
    May 08, 2008 @ 02:06:33

    pre-emptive wars

    FWIW, I think that you would agree that not all pre-emptive wars are bad. Or should I say that the concept of pre-emptive wars is not automatically immoral.
    Hint: the Islamic Republic is not threatening to obliterate Israel because George Bush is being beastly to them by not conducting talks, they’re doing it because they genuinely can’t stand the idea of a Jewish state on what is supposed to be Muslim land

    And this is part of why I have an issue with talking to the leading supporters of terrorism in the world.

    I am opposed to conducting any sort of
    diplomacy with countries that engage in this sort of nonsense.

    Unless and until they stop their saber rattling and support of terror there is no reason to sit down at a table with them. What is it going to accomplish other than provide them with a forum to promote their hate.

    Reply

  14. Stephen
    May 08, 2008 @ 07:24:46

    • Aaron:
    The parallel between Ayers and Hagee, in my mind, is this:
    – Ayers once hosted a fundraiser for Obama in his home;
    – Hagee endorsed McCain (and McCain revelled in it).
    Thus, neither candidate has an ongoing personal relationship with the individual (unlike Obama and Wright), but both have accepted support from him.

    • Jack:
    I think that you would agree that not all pre-emptive wars are bad.

    I’m not sure I can agree with that. You’d have to provide me with a specific scenario.

    I would make a distinction between a limited, carefully aimed strike (e.g. on a nuclear facility) and preemptively launching an invasion like the US invasion of Iraq. If there’s any way to justify the latter, the bar would be extremely high.

    I am opposed to conducting any sort of diplomacy with countries that engage in this sort of nonsense.

    And you’re welcome to your opinion.

    Philosophically, there is a long debate over whether it’s better to engage or to ostracize regimes that we disapprove of. This includes not only political engagement, but also economic engagement.

    There are good arguments for both approaches. It’s probably wise to change approaches from time to time, instead of perpetually using the same approach. After eight years of cowboy diplomacy … the USA needs to rehabilitate its image.

    I think what Obama has in mind (e.g. with Iran) would involve some private, low-level discussions first, to see whether the parties can agree on a framework that would enable the USA to further its goals via public diplomacy. Presumably that would require some concessions from the other country before they received a visit from a senior White House official.

    In my view, it’s a prudent approach. But that’s only my opinion, of course.

    Reply

  15. Random
    May 08, 2008 @ 13:28:26

    “In my earlier dialogue with Aaron, I tried to make a distinction between racism and pride in one’s identity. If, for example, women vote for Clinton because they’re proud to see a woman like them with a chance to hold the highest office in the nation, I have no quarrel with that. Similarly if black people vote for Obama out of pride in an exceptionally talented “brother”.”

    This is where I’m probably more fundametalist than you. To me, if somebody votes for anybody on any basis other than their policies, ability to do the job and character (the first is presumably self-explanatory, the second is relevant because it speaks to the likelihood of actually doing the first, and the third is relevant because it speaks to the likelihood that they will actually attempt to go through with what they promised) then they are voting for the wrong reasons. That includes factors such as the gender or skin colour of the candidate voters are supposed to be citizens of a republic (or monarchy in our case…) not members of a tribe. I voted for Margaret Thatcher not because she was a woman and the idea of having a first female prime minister was in some way a sign of progress, but because she was by a long way the best candidate for the job, with the best policies. And I know for a fact she would not have had it any other way.

    “Likewise for someone who won’t vote for Obama because he is prejudiced against African Americans (i.e., the motivation is negative, not positive). To me, that’s true racism, and it’s objectionable.”

    Honest question – is it racist to vote against a candidate because you believe he is prejudiced against you? Because I think this is the real import of the Wright affair.

    “Did Barack Obama praise Rev. Wright’s “God damn America” statement, or any other of Wright’s offensive statements? No; so you’re making a false equivalency here.”

    He praised Wright, and I believe Lott thought he was simply saying something nice about an old colleague on his hundredth birthday. The equivalence is closer than you think. Except in the outcome, of course.

    “But he has made excuses for Hagee’s anti-Catholic statements, and I don’t think he should have gotten away with it…. For example, the media have not delved into Hagee’s offensive opinions about Jews.”

    McCain did not make excuses for Hagee’s anti-catholic statements, he specifically disassociated himself from them. And I am genuinely curious as to what you think Hagee has said that is so offensive to Jews – as I said (and linked) last time, a great many Jews don’t seem to be offended, to put it mildly.

    “btw, I think Obama’s relationship with Ayers is every bit as casual as McCain’s relationship with Hagee. I think it’s very nearly an exact parallel. And yet it is specifically the Ayers connection that has hardened you against Obama.”

    Oh, come on. McCain had one meeting with Hagee, got an endorsement, and ran for cover. Obama had at least a seven year relationship with Ayers that was a great deal closer than Obama has admitted and that was certainly financially rewarding to Obama personally. Furthermore, Hagee has never declared war on the United States, never attempted to plant bombs with the intent of killing hundreds of Americans whose only “crime” was to wear their country’s uniform and has certainly never (to take the latest scandal to hit the internet, if not yet the mainstream media) been photographed trampling an American flag into the mud. If you seriously believe Ayers and Hagee are even remotely equivalent figures then I really don’t know what more I can say to reach you.

    As I’ve said several times now (and as you’ve persistently declined to address) Hagee’s relationship with Mccain is much more equivalent to Obama’s relationship with Al Sharpton, about which there has been virtually no controversy. In fact, I’m tempted to propose a deal – to save time in the future, the next time you bring up Hagee can I simply write “Sharpton” in reply and we’ll assume the rest of the discussion is taken as read?

    Aaron: “I’m not aware of Obama soliciting anything from Ayers.”

    Ayers has hosted at least one campaign fundraiser for Obama (for his first Illinois senate run in 1995) after Obama’s predecessor in the state senate arranged an introduction. He has also donated to his campaigns on several occasions since, and also in 1995 swung Obama a cushy job as first director of the Chicago Annenberg Fund, which dispersed something like $49M in grants. A somewhat more intimate – and lucrative – relationship than the “some guy in my neighbourhood” level which Obama was prepared to admit to.

    Reply

  16. Jack
    May 08, 2008 @ 14:31:44

    You might be interested in reading this why Iranian Jews are not crazy about Obama.

    Reply

  17. Random
    May 08, 2008 @ 14:56:19

    “• Jack:
    I think that you would agree that not all pre-emptive wars are bad.

    I’m not sure I can agree with that. You’d have to provide me with a specific scenario.”

    Well, for a real life example there’s the Six Day War – when your enemies are transparently and obviously building up to a massive attack on you you are not morally obliged to let them finish.

    “I think what Obama has in mind (e.g. with Iran) would involve some private, low-level discussions first, to see whether the parties can agree on a framework that would enable the USA to further its goals via public diplomacy.”

    However this isn’t what Obama has actualy said – he specifically said he would be personally prepared to meet the likes of Chavez or Ahmedinejad without preconditions. I remember Hillary lambasting him for his naivety about this in an earlier debate.

    PS apologies for the sarcastic and intemperate tone of my previous post (though I stand by the factual content) – it should have been edited, on reflection. Unfortunately the lack of a preview feature sometimes means your rough, first thoughts get through without modification:-(

    Reply

  18. Stephen
    May 08, 2008 @ 14:57:46

    Good heavens, Jack, is this the calibre of your reading material?

    Obama’s propaganda does not really mean that the U.S. should talk to the Iranian regime officials, but that the U.S. should drop any demand which is not palatable to the Mullahs. …

    Hussein is a very normal name in the Middle East, a name carried by many of our good friends and associates would not matter to us under any normal circumstance. However, it matters at this historical juncture when there is a global war against Islamic extremists and when this name is going to be carried by the President of the United States.

    And then the article ends with an image of “Che Obama”!!!

    Am I supposed to find Frank Nikbakht’s perspective rational, coherent, persuasive?

    Reply

  19. Stephen
    May 11, 2008 @ 06:17:19

    Random:
    To me, if somebody votes for anybody on any basis other than their policies, ability to do the job and character … then they are voting for the wrong reasons.

    It occurred to me after I wrote the previous comment that I should have added, “All other things being equal.” I agree that it isn’t good for people to vote for an inferior candidate based solely on tribal solidarity.

    btw, I think I’ll cue up your Obama/Ayers post to go up this evening.

    Reply

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