Welcome to 44thPOTUS. On this blog I am looking to piece together a few coherent strands from this extraordinary race, and point you towards some of the reasons why we are at this moment in history.

I will look back on the election season and look forward to the priorities of the 44th President of the United States. I will analyse the issues, the money, the media, the distractions, and mostly the strategies of both campaigns.

Monday, 27 October 2008

"There is no ground game!"

This election comes down to the ground game - which campaign will be the best at turning out voters. Analysing the McCain campaign, here is the news, 1 minute, 25 seconds into this clip [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/27399977#27295062] Joe Scarborough, that smooth shmuck presenter (and Republican on the heavily Democrat-leaning MSNBC) sums it up "There is no ground game."

With 8 days to go, I am surprised that the national polls are still around +7 for Obama [http://www.realclearpolitics.com/]. They will tighten - and the polls that matter, in the swing states, will tighten too .

Looking at the polls as they stand it is difficult to see how McCain can win, but of course he can, and although he doesn't have the narrative, the money or the ground game supplied by enthusiastic supporters that Obama enjoys, he has enough Republican voters to make this election close, and he can still queeze though and win.

8 days out, all the evidence shows that Obama has laid the groundwork for a huge victory, a landslide on a par with Clinton in '92. He created the movement that got him through the primaries by enthusing anti-war Democrats, urban liberals, African Americans and (overwhelmingly and in historic numbers) those under 25 years old - first time voters and those who have become adults during the Bush years. That coalition proved more robust than Hillary's coalition, and it got out the vote in spectacular fashion time and again during the primaries.

But it may not be enough to beat the Republicans' millions of determined volunteers, who are not particuarly fired up by McCain, but they will do anything to make sure Obama does not get in. The ground game is essential for Obama, but less so for McCain, as he and Palin can rely on the votes of the Republicans.
Obama is banking on an unproven coalition. McCain can be certain that his voters will come out. The pressure is on Obama's voluteers - how good will they be at getting out the vote? All those calls, knocks on doors, adverts and campaign offices mean nothing if they don't have the folks coming to the polls.

One element to emerge in the last few days - and this will build as the election comes down to the final few days - is the spin surrounding Obama's massive crowds - 100,00+ twice, first on Thursday in St Louis [http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/10/humongous-crowd.html] and again yesterday in Denver [http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2008/10/26/obama-crowd-100-000-strong-in-denver/2] These are huge rallies, the biggest he has seen in the 20 months he has been campaigning. It points to Obama closing strong.
So at first glance this seems only positive from Obama's point of view. It does however feed into a narrative that Obama has this election in the bag, and that may dissuade some voters from actually voting - 'he's won it already, so it doesn't matter I don't queue up to vote.' Reports and commentary on the massive crowds, added to the basic need for both campaigns to plan the transition, tend towards Obama thinking the presidency is 'innevitable'. Palin has been calling the election a 'coronation' over the weekend, feeding the idea that Obama is planning his presidency without the decent first step of waiting for the voters to decide the outcome. This won't have a huge efect on the actual votes cast, but McCain can and will exploit this to his advantage.

I expect McCain to win a few states on Nov 4th that are +Obama right now. They are investing healivy in Pennsylvania and Florida, and he has a long-standing positive relationship with New Hampshire.

Still, 8 days out, Obama should win this comfortably, and as results come in at 6pm Eastern, 11pm GMT, watch out for Indiana. If Obama carries Indiana, we are in for a short night and a big Obama victory. Since 1940 the Democrats have won Indiana only once, in the LBJ landslide of '64. If McCain wins, we will be in for a longer night and a closer result, and we will then probably have to wait for Nevada and New Mexico on the West Coast until we know for sure.

Indiana is not a battleground state, it is not a swing state, it was carried by Bush in 2004 60% - 39%. Obama's insistence that there are no red states or blue states have made even Indiana competetive. It is an astonishing place to be 8 days out, and the path of predictability, if this story unfurls as it has, will see Obama comfortably in the White House.
But politics is never predictable, and the only thing that matters is getting out the votes.

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