Somehow, I Don't Think McCain Deserves the Credit for This

A ATV/Zogby poll (and, as always, take every poll with a huge grain of salt) has found that Barack Obama is losing ground to John McCain in what are typically key Democratic demographics, including "young people, women, Democrats and independents […and] has also lost some support among African-Americans and Hispanics, where his lead over [McCain] has shrunk, and among Catholics, where he's lost his lead."

Interesting, isn't it, that all of those groups are presented as mutually exclusive? We'll come back to that.
Zogby called the results a "notable turnaround" from a July survey he did that showed Obama leading by 46-36.

"McCain made signifciant gains at Obama's expense among some of what had been Obama's strongest demographic groups," Zogby said.

His findings:

-Among voters aged 18-29, Obama lost 16 percent and McCain gained 20. Obama still leads, 49-38;

-Among women, McCain gained 10 percentage points. Obama now leads 43-38;

-Among independents, Obama lost an 11 point lead. They're now tied;

-Among Democrats, Obama's support dropped from 83 percent to 74 percent;

-Among Catholics, Obama lost the 11 point lead he had in July and now trails McCain by 15.

Zogby said Obama also lost ground among minorities.
Okay, so. First let's note we're comparing this to a survey done presumably not long after Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign. That's notable, because in the interim, McCain picked up lots of women supporters—in almost precisely the same percentage as he picked up independents.

Now, I'm no fancypants pollster like Mr. Zogby—I'm just a cultural anthropologist with a few statistics courses under my belt that my silly wee girl-brain could barely comprehend—but the numbers here suggest to me there's a distinct possibility that the women "McCain gained" and the independents "Obama lost" might be a lot of the same people, and, further, that they were the independent women fired up by Clinton's campaign, who were, in July, generally still nominally in Obama's camp, giving him a look.

Obama started July with the votes of a lot of independent women to lose, but, during the course of that month, he said that "mental distress" shouldn't qualify as part of the mother's health exception to late-term abortion bans, then "clarified" the statement with more of his "between a woman, her doctor, her pastor, and her family" crap, then talked out the other side of his mouth at a "Women for Obama" breakfast, then failed utterly to lead (or even notably weigh in) on a significant national health issue affecting women, then poured more fuel on the rumors (which he started) that he plans to put anti-choice Republicans in his cabinet, and then vetted a "pro-life Democrat" as his possible running mate. It wasn't exactly a banner month for winning the hearts of independent women. Or any women, for that matter.

The logical question is naturally: If those women were so concerned about reproductive rights and other women's issues, why on earth would they switch to McCain? And I can understand why that might not make sense—unless you figure that women for whom women's issues are of primary concern are probably well-versed on the subject and ergo know that a thin promise to "protect Roe" not only fails to acknowledge it's increasing irrelevance for millions of women who have already lost affordable local access to abortion, but also fails wholly to even acknowledge where the real battlefront on reproductive rights even is now: state legislatures. The frustrating reality is that promising to appoint SCOTUS justices who will uphold Roe is, because of the changing face and location of the abortion rights struggle, only marginally better than a candidate who won't. A genuine commitment to reproductive rights requires a lot more now—and it does not make me happy in the slightest to say that.

The long and short of it is that independent women who supported Clinton because of women's issues didn't, in her absence, find a candidate who, unlike Clinton, knows the ins and outs of reproductive rights and passionately defends them. There's no candidate left in the race who does.

So they went on to their secondary concerns. Which may be lower taxes, or staying in Iraq, or any one of a number of issues that favor McCain, which might seem incompatible with supporting reproductive rights to progressives, but welcome to the complexity of womanhood, which it turns out isn't a monolith after all.

The same premise holds for the other flip-floppers in Zogby's polling. Why would young people who supported Obama suddenly switch to McCain? Well, some of those young people may be the independent women discussed above, and some of them may be men and women whose main issue was the war, or FISA, or faith-based initiatives, or welfare reform, or handgun law, or the death penalty, all of which were issues on which Obama potentially disappointed last month. Most voters aren't straight progressives or straight conservatives, after all, but a mish-mash of both.

(Which also means, of course, that by the end of this month, there could be people who have flipped back to Obama.)

Despite all of this, though, Zogby gives the possibility that a loss of support "among young voters may also be due to his perceived reversals on issues they care about, such as the war and government eavesdropping" only passing mention and instead attributes the declining support his poll purportedly reveals to McCain having "turned lemons into lemonade" by making pointed critiques of Obama.
"The survey results come as Obama, fresh off what had been characterized as a triumphant tour of the Middle East and Europe, including a speech to 200,000 Germans in Berlin. That trip quickly became fodder for an aggressive response ad by the McCain campaign that questioned whether Obama's popularity around the world meant he was ready to lead the U.S.," Zogby said.

"The McCain camp seems to have turned lemons into lemonade. Huge crowds and mostly favorable press reviews of Obama's overseas trip have been trumped by McCain's attacks on Obama."
That's really just giving the McCain campaign far too much credit—and it also ignores that McCain's a freaking gaffe machine. The difference is that McCain's mistakes are mostly about revealing he's a belligerent, rude asshole who doesn't know fuck-all about fuck-all, while Obama's mistakes alienate or betray his own potential voters and the things about which they care the most.

Consider again the list of groups among which Obama's lost support: young people, women, Democrats, independents, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Catholics. All of them are more progressive than their counterparts.

Young people are as a whole more progressive than older people. Women are as a whole more progressive than men. Democrats are more progressive than Republicans. Independents are as a whole more progressive than Republicans. POC are, as independent wholes, more progressive than whites. Catholics are as a whole more progressive than evangelicals.

What happened in July is that Obama ran right because Democrats are convinced that's what they need to do in a general election to win.

In the process, Obama has bled moderate voters whose primary issues were progressive (repro rights, ending the war, FISA, etc.). And that's to say nothing of the progressives he's turned into undecideds—not between him and McCain, but between him and a candidate for whom casting a vote wouldn't feel like a betrayal of one's principles.

That ain't John McCain's doing. He's not that good.


Once again, I will note, as an aside, I really hope, more than I can say, that Obama turns it around. I don't know how he's going to, and I've got no suggestions—short of a speech to the effect that he feels like he's been compromising, doesn't like it, and is essentially calling a do-over, followed by a renunciation of his shiny new positions on late-term abortion, FBOs, FISA, welfare reform, the SCOTUS decisions on handgun law and death penalty for child rapists, and possibly some shit I'm forgetting. (That would be an awesome speech, btw.) Short of that, I got nuttin'.

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