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Counting Your Chickens Before They Hatch

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Watching the Sunday Morning talking heads on Meet the Press and This Week was kind of a surreal experience. For a minute I thought it was next Sunday, because they were all talking about the election in the past tense, with questions like "when was it that John McCain lost this election?" The discussion came down mostly to how much of a landslide the election is going to be for Obama, with no consideration of the possibility of any other outcome.

Apparently the media has entirely convinced itself that exit polls of early voting can accurately predict the overall outcome of the election, despite the fact that it has been definitively proven that people lie pathologically to exit pollsters, as was demonstrated in 2000 and 2004. In addition, all of the polls are using weighting systems based on hypothetical assumptions about demographics, voter turnout and voter attitudes which have no basis in anything except the partisan wishful thinking of the pollsters and their employers. With McCain running such a wildly unconventional campaign, clearly based on a completely different set of assumptions, the talking heads seem foolishly arrogant in their premature conclusions. It is almost enough to raise the suspicion that they are engaging in psyops-style vote suppression and attempting to convince people not to vote because the outcome is predetermined.

One of the fundamental mistakes the punditocracy and the pollsters seems to be making is the assumption that high voter turnout means that lots more Democrats are voting and that independents are turning out to vote Democrat. This seems to be based on the theory that only Barack Obama can inspire people to vote and that those people can only be voting for him. They seem to be overlooking the reality that Obama is a polarizing figure and his power to turn out voters may very well include the power to turn out a lot of voters who oppose him. This is clearly what the McCain campaign is banking on by painting the Obama's negatives in broad strokes and making sure that those who have concerns about Obama are given plenty to worry about.

A second important mistake is the assumption that Obama has a strong appeal to the middle and working class. There's very little evidence to actually support this theory. Obama has become clearly associated with the ruling elite of the left and has consistently alienated the working, tax-paying segment of the population who turn out to vote more than any other segment of the population. Despite the claims of Obama's spokespeople, McCain has been aggressively campaigning towards that demographic and based on the impressive and increasing turnout at McCain and Palin rallies in key working class areas, he seems to be making huge inroads in that traditionally Democratic population. The predictions of the pollsters and pundits seem to give no consideration at all to the possibility that Obama may be losing a remarkable number of votes among the white middle class to whom the McCain message and Sarah Palin's union background and populist persona are very appealing.

The third mistake is the chronic Democratic assumption that voters are stupid and uninformed. The pollsters and the pundits are basing their conclusions about the election on the very questionable belief that McCain's message and his efforts to educate the public about Obama are not reaching the voters. It's a purely anecdotal and personal observation, but from what I've seen, a lot of people have gotten the message that Obama's background and ideology are extremely troubling and ultimately unacceptable. Fear of Obama is very real and very powerful, and it will motivate voters to turn out in large numbers to stop the threat to the nation which they perceive Obama to be.

Finally, there's still the issue of voter doubt which the pundits and pollsters seem to have forgotten all about. Even if McCain's case against Obama is not conclusive, he's raised so many doubts about Obama so successfully that there is bound to be a trend of voters making a last minute decision to play it safe, change their minds and vote McCain, even if they later tell exit pollsters that they voted for Obama. Some of them will make that decision based on race, but what the experts seem to be missing is that far more are likely to make that last minute decision based on ideology and fear of change. The Obama campaign's critical blunder, which no one is calling them on, is their basic message of change. Even when times are bad, people have a gut instinct to fear the unpredictable and to fear risk, and that's what change is all about. In the dark of the voting booth a lot of voters are going to play it safe and vote for McCain.

The media makes much of the huge crowds which turn out to see Obama's speeches. What they seem to be missing is that Palin and McCain are making far more appearances between them, seeing far more of the voting public on a more direct level, and turning out enthusiastic crowds of 25,000 and more at every one of these appearances, often in states where, if Obama is actually doing as well as the experts claim, they ought to be getting the cold shoulder. There's a very real possibility that the McCain/Palin campaign is largely flying under the radar and that their successes are being almost entirely overlooked by those who are watching the election.

The McCain campaign is not like other Republican campaigns of recent years. It targets different people and may be using Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber and strong negative arguments against Obama to more effect than anyone realizes. McCain is campaigning to a different audience and with a different message, and if it works, the surge of middle and working class voters it could bring in will swamp any increased turnout among young and black voters for Obama.

We could be looking at one of the great upsets of presidential campaign history, to rival the Truman-Dewey surprise. It's not the foregone conclusion the Punditocracy would like us to think it is, so be prepared.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Dannielle

    This is the type of article the main stream media USED to write.
    Absolutely fair and informative. Congratulations and thank you.

  • Thanks, Danielle, but I wouldn’t even go that far myself. This article is biased in its own way, if only because I’m being the devil’s advocate to balance out the media’s leaping to conclusions.


  • How can we count the chickens before they hatch when Diebold hasn’t had the chance to modify the totals yet?

  • Good article, Dave.

    I will be writing my own predictions about the presidential election result tomorrow. I politely request that you, or another BC editor, publish it ASAP, as it will (obviously) be a highly time-sensitive article.

  • “The third mistake is the chronic Democratic assumption that voters are stupid and uninformed.”

    Because of your kinda-disclaimer in comment #2 above, viz. that you’re playing devil’s advocate, I’m tempted to let this one slide for now.

    But I do feel compelled to remind you that this same assumption was one of the central pillars of your argument for reforming the electoral college, which appeared on the site yesterday.

    Anyway, we’ll know in a couple of days or possibly months Florida behave yourself whether you were right.

    And if you’re wrong, I’ll be interested to hear from Stan, who’s been insisting for months that there was no way America was ready to elect a black man, which he’s prepared to cough up – London or the brick?

  • Dave, I think this is wishful thinking on your part. Obama is leading McCain in newspaper endorsements by an overwhelming 240-114. Thirty more editorials for Obama’s way and he has enough to win the presidency.

  • Clavos

    If only editorials counted for anything more than their author’s egos…

  • “with no consideration of the possibility of any other outcome.”

    That’s because of the campaign itself. They couldn’t even be bothered to wait until the election was over before they stated pointing fingers at who was at fault, mainly Palin.

  • bliffle

    Dave seems to have no qualms about revealing himself as biased and elitist:

    “The third mistake is the chronic Democratic assumption that voters are stupid and uninformed.”

    Also, this is dangerous to Dave’s ego, since if Obama wins then Dave must concede that dems do NOT think that voters are stupid.

    Regardless, IMO opinion Daves analysis goes in the wrong direction and misses the point. I am impressed that so many southerner whites and blue collar whites are determined to vote for Obama to help rid the country of the curse of racism. IMO the post election analysis will show that the REAL white race vote in this election worked in Obamas favor and outweighed both the pro-obama black vote and the anti-obama white vote.

    What that will mean is THE END of white racist politics in American life. Good riddance. Only scattered individual racism will remain and it will be without the powerbase racism has had for so long in the political system.

  • Also, this is dangerous to Dave’s ego, since if Obama wins then Dave must concede that dems do NOT think that voters are stupid.

    Or I could just conclude that the Dems are right and voters ARE stupid.

    Regardless, IMO opinion Daves analysis goes in the wrong direction and misses the point. I am impressed that so many southerner whites and blue collar whites are determined to vote for Obama to help rid the country of the curse of racism.

    And I think that you’re wrong, and that when it comes down to it the big swing factor will be midwestern and mid atlantic working class voters who may coincidentally be white, who vote McCain not because of race issues, but because of a fear of change.


  • We must all do our best to save the bull.


  • zingzing

    oh, there are many of us democrats who are still crossing our fingers, not daring to believe a damn thing until wednesday morning.

    still, things are looking good right now. of course, i was pretty shocked when bush pulled out the election four years ago. and i would never put it past the republicans to pull of the improbable.

    i’m voting tomorrow, although my vote is pretty well wasted in this area. but i’m voting. just because i had better if i expect every other democrat out there to do the same.

    still, everyone is taking you to task for that “democrats assume voters are dumb or misinformed” comment…

    i think that if you changed that to “democrats assume republican voters are dumb and misinformed,” you’d have a pretty strong argument. how anyone could vote republican is beyond me. lalalala.

  • Lee Richards

    Dave, This is just more of the same from you–a completely partisan “analysis” seasoned with the usual diatribe. So predictable.

    Now if you’d shared your insights on how McCain specifically is going to get 270 electoral votes, it would be much more interesting and worth considering.

  • Cindy D
  • I still make no predictions. Dave is correct that it could go either way despite the polls and pundits.

    However, I do take issue with his assumption that people fear change – at least in this instance. Ordinarily, I would agree. People often prefer the status quo in that, even if it is bad, it is at least familiar.

    But, I believe that Bush & Co. have pushed that envelope beyond the breaking point. To many, change seems far more attractive than standing pat. McCain does NOT represent any real change. Obama does. Obama offers hope. McCain just offers a fight.


  • Another point. This is a great post for Dave. If McCain wins, Dave is a genius. If he’s wrong, he just shrugs and says, well, it was a long shot.

    So, I think that if Dave IS proven wrong, BC should make him listen non-stop to Kenny G recordings until the inauguration.


  • Which inauguration, B-tone? 2009 or 2013? 🙂

    While theoretically McCain could still pull this off, according to a computer simulation by math professor Brian Adams, it’s a virtual statistical impossibility.

    Assuming Adams’s methodology is sound, if McCain does win then the integrity of the vote most assuredly needs to be scrutinized.

    Poor Dave. It must cut like a knife…

  • And B-tone… you’re trying to lure Kenny G’s Assistant out of the woodwork, aren’t you?

  • BT, any mathematical analysis is only as good as the assumptions behind the polling data on which it is based.

    Since my thesis is that the weighting of the polls is seriously flawed, the mathematical analysis becomes equally suspect.


  • That the polling methodology is flawed is Dave’s opinion. We’ll see tomorrow if his opinion holds water or is a sieve.


    2009? 2013? Whichever you prefer. The latter might give us a bit more peace, though. Kenny Gs assistant?


  • bliffle

    I predict an Obama landslide. Just because the turnout is huge and people vote AGAINST incumbents in large numbers, but seldom do you get a large affirmation turnout.

    IMO people regard Bush as a radical who has wrecked the economy and mired us down in an endless war for no significant national interest, and McCain as a puppet and they want a return to normalcy.

    The only questions remaining are the size of the Obama mandate and the dem margin in the senate.

  • Now if you’d shared your insights on how McCain specifically is going to get 270 electoral votes, it would be much more interesting and worth considering.

    That article is in ‘pending’ status right now, Lee.


  • Dave,

    Where, oh where, the did the electoral vote projections on the BC Politics home page originate? Seem right correct to me.


  • Re Comment #23,

    Ah ha. Now I know. It was here.

    Good show.


  • Zedd

    Ditto to Baritone #15

    “The third mistake is the chronic Democratic assumption that voters are stupid and uninformed

    I have to disagree. The public is stupid and uninformed. Sara Palin mania, Obama is a Muslim and will be taking the oath on the Koran, GW twice, family values, prayer in school, Afghanistan/Iran-same thing- they are all terrorists, Apartheid (constructive engagement), and Jim Crow (separate but equal). Stupid is a long running theme with the public; Hitler, the inquisition, the monarchy (scam of all scams)??? STUPID.

    If we were really smart, it would be difficult for anyone to come to power.

  • And another thing! In the past 2 elections the Democrats had no real ground game. Conversely, that is in part at least where Bush found his victories (other than disenfranchizing hundreds of thousands of voters, pressuring the Supreme Court, etc.) The Dems didn’t have a clue.

    It may be just the opposite this go round. The McCain campaign has been disjointed from the get go. The Obama machine is organized to the hilt. My being a very small part of that machine, I have at least a modicum of insight as to how thorough they are and have been. They still may lose, but it won’t be due to a lack of preparation and execution in all phases of the campaign, including the ground game.

    I will say though, that a McCain loss certainly won’t be unexpected, and while the Reps would have to spend some time licking their wounds, the fact that they will have to wholly reorganize almost from the ground up is a given.

    On the other hand, an Obama loss would truly be devastating to the party. To have flubbed the pass and dropped the ball again, especially in this, perhaps the most favorable climate the Dems have found themselves in since Johnson/Goldwater or even Ford/Carter, would be horrendous. I will have to admit that it would mean the Dems are just on the wrong page, perhaps reading the wrong book entirely. I would not want to have to help pick up the pieces in the event of an Obama loss.


  • Baronius

    Dave, one other consideration in support of your argument: the high voter turnout could also be motivated by anger against Congress. The Dems are hated for what they haven’t done, the Republicans are erroneously getting blamed for the bailout, and there’s still lingering frustration over the immigration bill (and who knows how that could affect the top of the ticket).

    That being said, it still looks like McCain would need every break plus Pennsylvania, and I can’t see that happening.

  • Kenny Gs assistant?

    We don’t see much of him in the Politics section, B-tone, but ‘Kenny G’s Assistant’ is an occasional Blogcritics sprite who indignantly and vehemently attacks any commenter imprudent enough to disparage in any way the musical talents of Mr G.

    Having satiated his bloodlust, he is gone as abruptly and mysteriously as he came.

  • Cindy D

    RE # 25


    Excellent, excellent, excellent post!

    I loved it all, but I particularly loved this part:

    If we were really smart, it would be difficult for anyone to come to power.

  • Cindy D


    I like the name of the BC electoral map.

    “LOL at leftists!”

  • Independent Voter

    The sad fact is that regardless of whose shoes are under the bed in the White House, the country is in the tank with no simple way out. The problems didn’t come about last month or last year. It’s been building for decades.

    There was a prescient book written in 1992 (Bankruptcy 1995) that was right except for the date. And now the problems outlined in 1992 have gotten an order of magnitude worse.

    It’s not just that government has been spending more than it takes in… most Americans caught the same virus.

    Hang on for a long, long rough ride…

  • Cindy D

    Independent Voter,

    Thanks for that book reference! Holy smokes…that lead into a wealth of interesting information.

    One of the two authors is University of Arizona economics professor Gerald Swanson, who wrote another book entitled: AMERICA THE BROKE 2004.

    Swanson—who makes the challenging subject of economics understandable, interesting, and even enlightening—teaches hundreds of students at a time in the large lecture format, the hardest format in which to affect students, and has been called “a rock professor” due to his strong following. This past spring Swanson’s profound accomplishments were recognized when he was named the Thomas R. Brown Chair in Economic Education with a $1.5 million gift to the Eller College from the Thomas R. Brown Private Foundation. Swanson’s first book Bankruptcy 1995 spent nine months on the New York Times bestseller list.

    I have been reading articles, for example one from Time in 1992, “If you want a really good holiday-season scare, be sure to pick up this half-baked Figgie pudding of doomsday scenarios and vague nostrums.” the Time’s article’s author says.

    This will be an interesting look from the past into the present. I have ordered both books.

    I am also learning more about leveraged buy-outs and there toll on the deficit.

    Thanks again!

  • Cindy D

    whoops did I say deficit? I meant the debt load.

  • Zedd


    This is one of your sad PR stunts. Hope it works for you. As I recall, you did predicted the internet….

  • Shark

    Dave “Vox Populi” Nalle: “…The McCain campaign is not like other Republican campaigns of recent years. It targets different people and may be using Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber and strong negative arguments against Obama to more effect than anyone realizes.”



    Your usual uncanny insight into politics!


    PS: um, Dave/Vox…






    PPS: Bush gave birth to a baby named Obama — and aborted an evil, hypocritical, mentally impaired baby elephant named “GOP”. Thanks, George!

  • Shark. I wonder. Do you even bother to vote?

    You clearly have little interest in making the world a better place.


  • Lisa Solod Warren

    Wanna read something interesting? Read the interview with young Galbraith in Sunday’s NYT. About today’s economists and why they did not predict what happened….