Friday, December 12, 2008

Chewing over the Presidential campaign


Plouffe and Axelrod, last summer

A forum at Harvard put the big guns from the recent engrossing political season -- David Axelrod and David Plouffe for Obama; Rick Davis and final chief pollster Bill McInturff for McCain -- on stage last night to mull over how they did it. The usual pundits are passing out tidbits. Because they lost so badly, the Republicans offer the interesting morsels. Here are some from several sources:

[Why the McCain campaign never ran ads tying Obama to some of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's more inflammatory pronouncements]
"I said 'Look, if we do win we'll win with about 273 electoral votes and we'll lose the popular vote by 3 million,'" recalled McInturff of the internal discussions about cutting attack ads with Wright. "If [McCain] had used that issue that way, you'd already be delegitimized as a president. You couldn't function as government."

McInturff also said that McCain's burden in the final days was to close the gap with young voters and Latino voters.

"John [barred Wright attacks] for instinctively all the right reasons," McInturff said. "But anybody who believed that this issue would have affected the groups we were losing by those margins had never talked to anybody in any of those subgroups about how they felt about those issues."

Ben Smith,
Politico

I think it is worth highlighting that this is a Republican pollster rejecting inflaming racial fears for reasons that were not only pragmatic, but also, at least marginally, ethical in a utilitarian sense. They couldn't have governed after a victory based on stirring up hate, he says. This quite evidently didn't apply if the hate being stirred were religious/cultural, as was evident in the choice of Sarah Palin as the running mate, something Davis and McIntruff still defend.

McInturff admitted that he mispolled the Southwest. "We missed the Southwest. According to the exit polls, the Latino vote in New Mexico went from 34 to 41. That's extraordinary if it's true. And there was extraordinary turnout in Nevada."

Marc Ambinder,
The Atlantic

With the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Far West increasingly nailed down for the Democrats and the deep South nailed down for the Republicans, the Mountain West and Southwest seem to be the only swing regions -- and the Latino vote will matter more and more. Fifteen years ago, pollsters were not very good at sizing up the Latino vote in California, but they've learned. Now they have learn how to measure yet another region.

The Republican pundits blame McCain's defeat first and foremost on public revulsion with the Iraq War. His stumbles on the economy only dug him deeper into a pit the war had already made for him. Peace movement stalwarts need to listen up.

"John McCain essentially became the Bush spokesperson and the administration spokesperson on Iraq," [Bill] McInturff said. "In typical John McCain fashion we had managed to alienate every side of our political party."

"The emergence of the economy as the dominant issue for voters made things go from bad to worse for us," Davis said. "Because there's only one other thing I think that the American public held the Bush administration responsible for aside from Iraq, that they disliked so much, and that was the worst economy in a lifetime."

Bloomberg News

Bloomberg further describes what, for such highly competitive men, must have been an agony.

[ McInturff:] "I don't think there's anyone in our campaign who said, ‘oh my gosh we're just a few days short.' I think we're happy it was over."

[Davis:] "Around the 15th of September, it would have been fine to just call it quits at that point," he said.

These are a couple of guys who are even more relieved than most of the electorate to move on to other concerns!

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