UPDATE: TWO WEEKS OUT

Posted in Election 2008 on October 23rd, 2008 by Ed

I was part of a group email exchange recently in which some Obama fans noted their unshakable pessimism, the idea that McCain will somehow win irrespective of the current conditions. This is the nagging feeling that Democrats have earned from decades of being the Washington Generals of American politics. Nothing can ever go right. They will always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I would like to share that pessimism, especially after 2004. Try as I might, I just cannot make the math work for McCain. There are only two ways to conjure up a McCain victory at this point: electoral fraud, which I do not endorse, or the assumption that literally hundreds of polls conducted by independent, Democratic, and Republican organizations are wrong, with which I can't agree.

To win, McCain will need to prevail in every single swing state and two or more states (depending on which ones) in which he currently trails by a statistically significant margin. I do not have the words for how unlikely or implausible that appears at the moment. The polls will narrow over the next two weeks as undecideds finally extract heads from asses, but there are only two ways to get around the data showing Obama in the lead. First, assume that the polls are just wrong. All of them. Significantly wrong. In a dozen states and nationwide. That sounds more like a childish denial of reality than a logical argument. Second is to believe, absent any empirical evidence, that he's about to mount an overwhelming and rapid comeback. Good luck with that.

Money-wise, Obama's recent figures stagger me. Regardless of my preferences, I find the amount of money required in these elections to be sickening. Obama raised more than $5 million per day in September – that means that his campaign raised $58 per second for an entire month. McCain isn't exactly hurting, raising tens of millions as well, but the fund raising by Obama has dwarfed anything conceivable even a few years ago. Obama can literally piss money away on any half-cocked idea that crosses the campaign's mind. Campaign hard in North Dakota? Why not! Thirty minutes of network TV time? Buy it! Six million dollars worth of advertising during each NFL game? Do it! It is like an episode of Supermarket Sweep at this point, sprinting down the aisles, arms outstretched, pushing anything in reach into the cart.

What's he doing with that cash? He's straining McCain to the mental and financial breaking point. Unlike Kerry, who unwisely devoted all of his attention to just a few states, Obama is running hard and running hard everywhere. McCain can't just focus on "swing states." He has to waste precious time and money making sure he holds Indiana. That is not good.

I expect very little to change in twelve days. Barring some world-shattering event (the Russians invade, the stock market plummets to zero, etc) I feel like the dynamics of this race will not substantively change in such a short time. Minds are largely made up and the contest becomes a battle of who will show up on Election Day. McCain should spend less time throwing the kitchen sink of "hot button" issues at the media to turn undecided voters against Obama. Instead, he should do everything in his power to keep his existing supporters motivated. If they say "fuck it" and give up, he has no chance. If they stay fired up, he has some chance. Hoping that his base outnumbers Obama's support might not make great odds, but they're better odds than throwing inane smears around and hoping they work.

Obama's plan shouldn't change: stay calm, talk about the economy. That's it. As long as everyone's focus remains on our pitiful economic climate, the odds of voters flocking to McCain's "message", whatever the hell it is, are slender.