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  The punditocracy's Seven Biggest Blunders of the 2008 election
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Question: Which was the biggest?
#1
The Cult of Sarah Palin
 
#2
Steve Schmidt Is a Genius
 
#3
The Price at the Pump Will Fuel the Mood of the Voters
 
#4
Obama Should Have Taken the Money ... and Run
 
#5
Obama Was Guilty of Hubris in Trying to Expand the Map
 
#6
Down-ballot Democrats Will Flee From Obama
 
#7
The Hillary Holdouts Will Never Come Back
 
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Author Topic: The punditocracy's Seven Biggest Blunders of the 2008 election  (Read 3436 times)
Nym90
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« on: October 22, 2008, 11:17:21 pm »


The punditocracy's Seven Biggest Blunders of the 2008 election

Guess what? The Conventional Wisdom has blown it again in handicapping Obama vs. McCain in the homestretch.

By Mike Madden and Walter Shapiro

This has been a campaign season when the conventional wisdom has fared about as well as Bob Barr's prospects for moving into the Oval Office.

During the primaries, the political prediction business -- all those glib quasi-certainties spouted by TV talking heads and embedded in the opening paragraphs of newspaper and magazine articles -- gave us such fantasies as Rudy Giuliani masquerading as a serious presidential candidate and mistakenly consigned John McCain to the GOP dust heap. Remember when Hillary Clinton was prematurely anointed as the nominee or the dire warnings that a protracted Clinton-Obama primary fight would, in a typical burst of Democratic self-destructiveness, cost the party the White House?

Of course, that was all long ago and everyone involved in these bum calls has been sent to their rooms without supper. But what about the errors of the last two months -- the equally fallacious theories about the fall campaign that have been the stuff of Sunday morning round tables and newspaper Op-Ed pages? Granted, we at Salon have sometimes stumbled on the road to omniscience. But that shared sense of humility does not dampen our glee in pointing out the punditocracy's Seven Biggest Blunders, homestretch edition.

1) The Cult of Sarah Palin

McCain's choice of a running mate on the eve of the Republican National Convention set off a wave of emotions that quickly veered from "Sarah Who?" to "Sarah Wow!" Even amid the initial gooey-eyed gush, there were dangerous signs that the McCain team had done a sloppy job in researching her background. But the boffo convention speech, the giddy poll numbers and Palin's rock-star crowds gave rise to half-baked theories about the veep pick's ability to transform the presidential race and even snare a chunk of the feminist vote. After the disastrous Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric interviews, however, the Palin pick seemed less a moose-hunter's delight and more like stale (Dan) Quayle. A Pew Research Center national poll released this week found that 49 percent of voters now hold negative opinions about Palin, compared to 32 percent voting thumbs down in mid-September. The Pew survey discovered that a stunning 60 percent of all women under the age of 50 currently have negative feelings about Palin.

2) Steve Schmidt Is a Genius

When McCain took the lead after the GOP convention in many national polls, the immediate reaction was to lionize top strategist Steve Schmidt for imposing order and discipline on the unruly campaign. But, in truth, Schmidt's ascension probably only intensified a problem that has dogged McCain from the outset -- a focus on day-to-day tactics over long-term strategy and a coherent rationale for the campaign. McCain often dominated the daily news cycle, but failed to dominate the hearts and minds of voters. Many in the Obama campaign believe that the turning point in the race came when McCain dramatically suspended his campaign on the eve of the first debate in order to fly to Washington to join in the ineffectual dithering over the economic crisis. Schmidt's war-room mentality (he ran the rapid-response team for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004) may have been ill-suited for a political year when McCain needed a Big Idea to compete with Obama.

3) The Price at the Pump Will Fuel the Mood of the Voters

The headline on the Aug. 20 Quinnipiac University national poll is enough to prompt instant nostalgia: "Gas Prices Gaining As Americans' Biggest Worry." Brooding about a $100 fill-up seems so overwrought two months later with a financial system in tatters. Who would have ever guessed back then that oil prices would drop below $70 a barrel before Election Day. The moral, of course, is that voters choose a candidate based on what is bugging them in November, not August. The danger in political soothsaying is to blithely assume that external events will not reshape the political landscape before Election Day. Things always happen, though rarely as dramatically as September's Wall Street whirlpool.

4) Obama Should Have Taken the Money ... and Run

Obama could have received a check from the federal government for $84 million as soon as he officially accepted the nomination. That is what McCain did in accepting public financing -- a decision that ruled out directly raising private money for his own campaign. Obama, by contrast, gambled that he could do better on his own by becoming the first presidential candidate in modern history to spurn public financing for the fall campaign. But right after the conventions, the Obama campaign appeared to radiate a whiff of desperation on the fundraising front. Meanwhile, Republicans were gloating. Not for long, though. Obama, of course, raised a staggering $150 million in September (or about $208,000 every hour), and McCain is being badly outspent in almost every major media market. An important symbolic moment in the campaign came when word seeped out that Obama was buying ads in video games -- an epic illustration of too much money chasing too few undecided voters.

5) Obama Was Guilty of Hubris in Trying to Expand the Map

In late June in Washington, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe narrated a PowerPoint presentation for the press in which he boldly sketched out all the ruby red Republican states that the Obama campaign intended to contest. Plouffe faced a host of skeptical questions about Obama making heavy investments in Virginia and Indiana, states that the Democrats had not carried in 40 years. Over the summer, both Democrats and Republicans alike were puzzled that Obama continued to contest North Carolina, even though McCain had a hefty lead in the polls. Sure, there were a few wrong calls (Plouffe saw Alaska as "competitive" in the pre-Palin era). But Obama is now forcing McCain to devote the bulk of his dwindling resources to defending once-safe GOP states like Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina, while Virginia has moved into the leaning Obama category.

6) Down-ballot Democrats Will Flee From Obama

This was a constant trope during the primaries, and continued into the summer: Democrats, particularly in red states, would cut and run from the party's ticket faster than you could say "Barack Obama and his liberal allies." Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren made headlines in June when he vowed not to endorse Obama; other House members from conservative districts were expected to do the same. One economic collapse later, and instead, it's Republicans -- in such Democratic strongholds as, ahem, Nebraska -- who are fleeing McCain. Incumbent GOP Rep. Lee Terry, whose Omaha district is being targeted by both presidential candidates as a possible source of one electoral vote, ran newspaper ads this month featuring a hypothetical "Obama-Terry voter." It turns out that to most Democrats, the pluses of an unprecedented turnout organization, wild enthusiasm among supporters and a gazillion dollars in campaign ads outweigh the minuses of a weird name and a liberal voting record.

7) The Hillary Holdouts Will Never Come Back

During July and August, just about the easiest way to get on television was to announce that you were an angry Hillary voter who would never, ever support Obama. Of course, political science studies dating back three decades show that party loyalty invariably trumps hurt feelings by the time November rolls around. Guess what? For all the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) nonsense that filled the airwaves over the summer, the Pew Research Center poll this week shows that Obama is beating McCain by a 91-to-5-percent margin among self-identified Democrats. So while independent-minded blue-collar voters who may have opted for Clinton in the primary are still being wooed by the Obama campaign in states like Pennsylvania, virtually all the died-in-the-wool Democrats have (surprise!) returned to the fold.

But that's Conventional Wisdom for you. Often wrong, but never in doubt.
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Daniel Z
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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2008, 02:33:14 am »

God they are all good examples. Well we will have to wait until Nov 5th to find out about expanding the map. I would go with the Hillary holdouts as being the biggest followed by Obama taking the public money and the Palin cult.
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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2008, 04:10:18 am »

#5 isn't true, McCain isn't devoting the bulk of his resources to unexpected states.  His buys in Indiana are reasonable, in North Carolina and Missouri they are moderate.

He's unexpectedly not devoting resources in a key media market of an unexpected key Obama state (VA) and unexpectedly devoting minimal resources to what were thought to be swing states (WI, NM, IA, [CO?]).


Obviously the Hillary issue is the dumbest one of the news cycle.  Considering that Obama had basically identical policy issues to Hillary (a cheap trick on his part, letting her triangulate and then he, with the better personality image, copying) , only racists and die-hard experience advocates would be left for McCain to grab up.... after Obama ran a series if scary ads against McCain's economic/healthcare/whatever policies. 

Considering that Palin enjoys higher negatives among women than men (a product of female Democratic bias, fosho, but still), it's clear that it's not a feminism issue at hand either.

Most bitterly contested primaries involve more ideological fights than Hillary and Obama did and the press completely ignored that.  The two biggest policy fights Obama and Hillary had were some technical health plan issues involving mandates (no one cares about) and a widely discredited plan involving the suspension of the gas tax that the Obama campaign (with media help) masterfully handled.   If you think Hillary is the greatest, it's hard not to vote for Obama, unless you were only voting on experience or racism, and letting "not be Bush" be the second priority over either of those previous qualities.

But yeah, the PUMA issues is interesting.  It's not that Hillary voters won't come over for Barack (at least those who would have voted for her again against McCain, which not all of those in Appalachia would have*), but rather that they'll be less enthusiastic about Barack.  This is a critical issue that the press didn't pick up.


*In the case of many states that regularly vote GOP at the presidential level, Democrats still voted for Hilldawg vs. Barack at the primary level, and many McCain supporters, I'm sure, view Hillary in more favorable terms than Barack Obama.
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Fmr President & Senator Polnut
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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2008, 07:04:28 am »

I never thought the PUMAs were going to be much of a threat.

I think the BIGGEST was overestimating the effect of Palin.

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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2008, 05:17:31 pm »

The biggest blunder is not even on the list.  The biggest blunder was the "Inevitability of the Hillary Clinton Nomination." 

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Stranger in a strange land
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2008, 12:56:37 am »

I never thought the PUMAs were going to be much of a threat.

I think the BIGGEST was overestimating the effect of Palin.



just for fun: here's a thread from the Palinmania phase: https://uselectionatlas.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=82367.0
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Lief 🐋
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2008, 06:47:44 pm »

The first and the last one are the most idiotic. All of these were idiotic at the time, and just goes to show that the punditocracy isn't that smart.
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Cigarettes & Saints
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« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2008, 10:21:16 am »

Option 3 wasn't stupid. It seemed logical at the time and no one could've predicted what would've happened.

Options 5 and 7 were probably the worst. Weren't Duke and Phil arguing Obama running ads in North Dakota would turn off swing voters? LOL.
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Grand Mufti of Northern Virginia
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« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2008, 04:05:58 pm »

The last. 
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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2008, 04:09:22 pm »

The last one was really the dumbest, and the most annoying.
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« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2008, 12:39:59 am »

The gas prices thing is interesting. They've fallen considerably, although the bay area average is still in the $3.20s. Gas prices and Bush's approval rating have a very strong negative correlation. And yet, this isn't doing sh**t to save McCain, the economy is a far bigger issue than just gas prices.

Anyways, the punitocracy is usually wrong.
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