Ahhhhh Brian, you poor deluded troglodyte. I almost chose not to tell you, but it's only fair you should know that you are working, very hard actually, to get John McCain elected President. For those who may have 'troll-screen' featured on their computer, it should be understood that Brian is one of those malicious, venom-fueled malefactors who delight in attacking their betters. To be fair, there are Republican trolls as well as Democrat trolls, and Conservative trolls just as there are Liberal trolls, though it does seem to me that the Liberal variety breed a lot more, and that the Democrats like to encourage the vermin on their side, while Republicans would generally prefer a clean contest. Certainly in the present contest, McCain has tried to shut down the cheap shots from his side, while Obama seems to think his rats are just fine. That, folks, is a very stupid move by Obama, and I am frankly surprised that Senator Obama has not realized it yet. But of course, this is the Senator who thought his campaign based on "Change" would be best served by a VP nominee who is a Washington Insider working his fourth straight decade as an elite, self-serving mandarin. So, I suppose it should not shock me that a man who made so many promises to reach across the aisle and to eschew the dirty tricks and smear tactics of candidates from past elections, would in the actual case use the very tactics and slime that he pretended to hate.
Yesterday, some of my Left-leaning readers (or hecklers, to call things by proper names) remarked that my piece was nothing more than a Right-Winger making a noisy point that I supported the Republican. It's true enough that I decided to vent a little bit, just call things as I saw them, kind of like a 'sun comes up in the East' kind of thing, saying 'Obama is not what he said he'd be', but as I pointed out, not one of the Leftists posted a rebuttal that proved me wrong on a single count. Either they were lazy, or I was right. It's always fun to push buttons that will create predictable responses.
Anyway, back to the point. What I find so amusing about Brian and those like him, is that he will help get John McCain elected President. Explaining just why that is so will take a little bit, but please bear with me.
Let's start with the latest poll numbers. Yep, Obama back on top, is the headline for many of them, though it's a bit tight. I guess we should worry on the Right? Hmmmm, well maybe not so much, just as those on the Left did not have that much to worry about when McCain got the 'Palin Bounce' earlier this month. I said when the first bumps came out that I did not think Palin's effect would really be that immediate, and I have always said that the reader should go well past the headline to find out what a poll says. So, taking my own advice, let's see what Gallup has to say.
The Gallup Organization is as clean and straight-arrow a polling group as I have ever found. Their methodology is consistent and transparent, their questions are the same and they have a longer history than anyone else in the business. But even Gallup has a few odd quirks, and when you see them it might change how you look at their poll releases. For this article, I am looking at the Gallup 'Daily Tracking Poll' for the Presidential election. For the five most recent weekly reports, here's where Gallup says the candidates stood:
Aug 21: Obama 45, McCain 44
Aug 28: Obama 48, McCain 41
Sep 04: Obama 49, McCain 42
Sep 11: McCain 48, Obama 44
Sep 18: Obama 48, McCain 44
From that, it appears that a tight race opened up first for Obama, then McCain, then Obama again, with each candidate sitting anywhere from 41 to 49 percent support (not counting margin of error) during that time. Fair enough, but let's look at their support by party identification, first by Obama:
- continued -
Liberal Democrat support for Obama - 88% Aug 21, 91% Aug 28, 93% Sep 4 through Sep 18.
Moderate Democrat support for Obama - 78% Aug 21 and 28, 81% Sep 4 through Sep 18.
Conservative Democrat support for Obama - 68% Aug 21, 63% Aug 28, 77% Sep 4, 70% Sep 11, 66% Sep 18
Hmmm. Obama's support goes up and down, but the Liberal and Moderate Democrat support for Obama has been steady all of September. Odd, isn't it? And support for Obama among Conservative Democrats went down four points in the last week, even though his overall support is supposed to have gone up four points. How to figure that?
Perhaps it's in the Independents. After all, if Obama started winning them over, he'd not only be making gains overall but gaining support where he wants it the most.
Independent support for Obama - 24% Aug 21, 29% Aug 28, 23% Sep 4, 29% Sep 11, and 27% Sep 18
Hmmm, again. Obama gained support among Independents in the last month, but he actually lost two points among Independents in the last week. So that 4 point gain overall is still a mystery.
Nothing to do, then, but look at the Republicans. It would really be something if he's improving support from GOP voters:
Liberal/Moderate Republican support for Obama - 16% Aug 21, 13% Aug 28, 14% Sep 4, 16% Sep 11, 10% Sep 18
Ouch. Obama lost six points among Liberal and Moderate Republicans in the past week.
Conservative Republican support for Obama - 6% Aug 21, 5% Aug 28, 4% Sep 4, 3% Sep 11 and 18
No change there in the past week.
Taken altogether, there is no group of political identification where Obama's support has increased in the past week. Mathematically, therefore, there is only one way in which Gallup could show an increase in Obama's overall support, when none of the party identification groups showed improvement for him. I will come back to that in a moment, but the reader should think about it, because it's very important, that only possible way this could happen.
Before I explain that possibility, I want to look at John McCain's support by specific party identification groups. The man, according to Gallup, lost four points of overall support in the past week,
Conservative Republican support for McCain - 89% Aug 21, 91% Aug 28, 94% Sep 4 and 11, 95% Sept 18
Interesting. McCain's support among Conservative Republicans went up a point in the last week. Well, let's move on:
Liberal/Moderate Republican support for McCain - 75% Aug 21, 77% Aug 28, 78% Sep 4 and 11, 85% Sep 18
Wow, McCain's support from Liberal and Moderate Republicans climbed by seven points in the past week, and yet we are told his overall support fell by four points? That is very odd, wouldn't you say? It must have been the Independents, perhaps?
Independent support for McCain - 34% Aug 21, 31% Aug 28, 29% Sep 4, 28% Sep 11, and 32% Sep 18
Stranger and stranger, McCain's support among Independents went up by four points in the past week, just as his support from Republicans increased, yet we are told his overall support went down by four. Very hard to explain that using the math most of us learned in school, isn't it? Well, there's just one place left to look. Maybe somehow McCain used to have significant support among Democrats, but lost it? Let's find out:
Conservative Democrat support for McCain - 23% Aug 21, 26% Aug 28, 15% Sep 4, 21% Sep 11, 24% Sep 18
Hmpf. Once again, a group where support for McCain went up, but the overall says he went down.
Moderate Democrat support for McCain - 14% Aug 21, 13% August 28, 11% Sep 4, 12% Sep 11 and 18.
Steady there, so that one does not explain it.
Liberal Democrat support for McCain - 6% Aug 21, 6% Aug 28, 4% Sep 4 and 11, 5% Sep 18.
It's only a point, but again we see McCain's numbers in this group went up.
So, put it all together, and in the past week Obama has stayed steady or lost support in every party identification group, yet Gallup says his overall support went up four points. And McCain stayed steady or went up in every party identification group, yet we are supposed to accept the claim that his overall support went down by four points? Anyone have an answer for how that is even possible?
Well, actually I do. There is one, and only one, possible way that such a thing can happen mathematically. And that way, is that Gallup made major changes to the political affiliation weighting from the last week to now. Gallup has significantly increased the proportional weight of Democrat response and reduced the weight of Republican response. Bear in mind that this assumes that people change the foundation of their political opinion like a showgirl changes costumes, which has no scientific basis or historical support whatsoever. As I said earlier, the Gallup Organization is very much a professional polling agency, who tries their level best to gauge the national mood. That, after all, is why I chose to use their poll for my examination. I could do the same thing with any other of the major published polls, and I can tell you straight-up that I would find the same practice going on everywhere. But just because something is popular, does not validate it as a scientific method. Rather than report the rising and falling levels of support for Obama and McCain with constant party identification weighting, the Gallup and other polls are shifting the party weights over time, which pretty explains how the 'bounce' happens for each convention. When the Democrats held their convention, the polls increased the weight of Democrats and lowered the Republican response, and when the Republicans had their convention, the polls gave the Republicans more weight. That's why Palin made such an immediate difference in the polls; the Liberals were not all that impressed with her, but the Republicans were happy and with a bigger share of the weight their response was magnified. I can't prove it, since the Gallup people do not invite me into their strategy meetings, but I think somewhere they are weighting the party ID by the mood as they see it. The problem there, is that such weighting is still very subjective, and what's more it fails to consider that someone may consider themselves a member of one party with respect to the House and Senate races, but something else entirely when it comes to voting for the President. The state of Oklahoma, for example, is a very Democratic place, but it's pretty solid for McCain, just as it was for Bush. So weighting a presidential poll for party identification on the basis of how they think someone will vote for Congress, is going to miss the mark.
Anyway, going back to my earlier piece on party weighting, if we go back and look at the historical track record for the last ten years in terms of self-identified party affiliation from actual exit polls, we see a clear standard of weights; 38.4% Democrat, 35.8% Republican, 26.0% Independent. If we then work them out to fill the liberal/moderate/conservative slots used by Gallup, the following weights have historical validity and may be used as a constant for poll responses:
Liberal Democrat 9%
Moderate Democrat 16%
Conservative Democrat 13%
Liberal/Moderate Republican 23%
Conservative Republican 13%
If we apply those weights to the poll response, here is what happens to the Gallup polling responses:
August 21: Obama 39.94%, McCain 43.43%, Undecided 16.63%
August 28: Obama 40.04%, McCain 43.60%, Undecided 16.36%
September 4: Obama 41.06%, McCain 41.77%, Undecided 17.17%
September 11: Obama 42.04%, McCain 42.45%, Undecided 15.51%
September 18: Obama 39.62%, McCain 45.71%, Undecided 14.67%
Movement still happens in both sides' support, but it is more gradual and is consistent with events in both parties. Frankly, it is only reasonable to expect that Democrats largely support Obama while Republicans largely support McCain, and even now there is a significant amount of indecision; between one of six and one of seven voters are not sure who they want. Most of that doubt is with independents, whose support may make all the difference in the key states. Further, the stated levels of support are within the statistical margin of error. It is also interesting to note that both Obama and McCain, in general, are gaining support incrementally, with gains gradually reducing the undecided portion (at the present pace, however, the undecided portion of the vote would still exceed ten percent of the total vote). The latest support level for Obama, statistically, appears to be an outlier, so his next poll may be expected to reflect stronger support. If Obama is in fact losing support, some specific reason would have to be found - it is not reasonable to expect support to diminish without a clear cause.
The sum effect of all this, is that both Barack Obama and John McCain are gaining support, shoring up their party support and looking for persuadable independents. But McCain is gaining support faster than is Obama, and one might wonder why.
Sure, Sarah Palin was a great choice, but as the Democrats have said, she is after all only the Vice-presidential nominee, a position which ordinarily does little to decide elections. It is reasonable to think that she helped with Republican support, but it would not explain much of a jump in independent support on its own, but there the trolls have helped out.
You see, a political campaign is a matter of building support. A candidate goes on all kinds of trips, pays for all kinds of advertisements, attends conferences and debates and makes appearances all over the place, in hopes of gaining a few voters along the way. When I wrote yesterday that at first I liked Obama and disliked McCain, I was being honest, and trying to explain that they each made their case over time, one gradually losing my interest and the other gaining my support. OK, so it's no news flash that a life-long Republican comes around to cheering for the GOP candidate, but it does bear mention that there have been a lot of folks waiting all year for a candidate to convince them that he deserves their support. There really is not that much that Obama or McCain have said, which changes either of their initial platforms very much, so it would make sense to see each platform grow gradually, and about to the same degree, though with more people identifying themselves as Democrats, Obama frankly should be doing better than he is seeing in hard numbers. And that brings us to what, precisely, would be dragging him back. And that is where the trolls come in.
People plain do not like trolls. Some of us work for trolls, like the caveman who steals your work for his own credit, or the sadist who likes abusing his staff as far as he can get away with it. Some of us see them in traffic, the guys who cut you off in traffic while signaling a gesture that most parents would not want to have to explain to their kids. And of course, there are the political trolls. And like all trolls, people react to them adversely, but what sets them apart is that they also tend to damage their patron at times. And so it is, that Barack Obama's pet trolls have been chewing away at support he needs in the election, weighing him down and making his message look, well, like he's lying through his teeth. It's one thing for The Obama campaign to examine Governor Palin's record as an executive, but out of line to attack her family as their trolls have done so gleefully. And since Obama has not made much of an effort to rein them in, the implicit approval of their attacks has attached him to the stench of their conduct. So too, the smear attempts by trolls to deny John McCain's heroic service in Vietnam has come back to make people wonder about why Barack Obama has not tried much at all to make clear that he respects John McCain's service. Barack Obama has been a little too cute the past month, with monsters who - if not under his direction, they have certainly not been condemned by his campaign - have tried to damaged the public perception of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but have instead provided each a stage to defend their records (which they have done well) and to make regular folks question why a man like Obama, Mister 'Above the Rancor', would let his people act like thugs. While Obama has tried to distance himself from the dirty tricks, they are very similar to tactics he used to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary season, further staining the image he tried to paint for himself.
It is true that Barack Obama can win this election. But he has a big problem with the trolls he set out to trip up his opponent. They are working, instead and with great energy, at tearing apart the underpinnings of Obama's own character and judgment, and at the moment, trolls like Brian are creating an increasing momentum - for the McCain campaign.