7 August 2008

Interesting little statistic...

I said in a previous article that I did not have any exact figures on the uneven distriubtion of media coverage between the two candidates. Well we do now, and as I had predicted (well you didn't exactly need a crystal ball), it is a heavily skewed picture.

By a margin of 76% to 11% respondents in Pew's weekly News Interest Index survey named Obama over McCain as the candidate they have heard the most about in recent days.

But the same poll also shows that the Democratic candidate's media dominance may not be working in his favor. Close to half (48%) of Pew's interviewees went on to say that they have been hearing too much about Obama lately. And by a slight, but statistically significant margin - 22% to 16% - people say that recently they have a less rather than more favorable view of the putative Democratic nominee.

In the advertising stakes, while Obama has dominated McCain as the candidate citizens say they have heard the most about in the news, roughly equal numbers say that they are aware of commercials on behalf of each candidate. About six-in-ten have seen commercials for both candidates. Most of those who are aware of Obama's commercials say they are mostly positive messages about the candidate (38%), while fewer (13%) characterize them as negative messages about McCain. The balance of opinion about McCain's commercials is the opposite - a plurality (31%) sees them as negative messages about his opponent, with fewer (19%) describing them as positive ads.

There is surprising partisan agreement about the campaign commercials of both candidates. On balance, both Republicans and Democrats think Obama's commercials have been mostly positive. And pluralities of both Republicans and Democrats say McCain's ads are mostly negative. Nonetheless Democrats are more likely than others to say Obama's commercials are positive, and Republicans are less likely to characterize McCain's ads as negative.

From Pew Research

6 August 2008

Hilton 08 - Like, Totally Ready to Lead

Paris Hilton has fired back in response to presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's "Celeb" ad comparing the 27-year-old heiress to Barack Obama.

The less-than-two-minute spot was paid for by the comedy video Web site, funnyordie.com. It features Hilton sprawling in a lounge chair in a swimsuit. The socialite mocks McCain's ad, saying, "I want America to know that I'm, like, totally ready to lead."

What are Hilton's thoughts on energy policy? She says her position is a "hybrid" of Obama and McCain's. "Energy crisis solved," the heiress declares.

Hilton, who's built a career out of being a celebrity, also reveals her pick for vice president and plans while in office. "I'm thinking Rihanna. I'll see you at the White House. Oh, and I might paint it pink. I hope that's cool with you guys," she says.

"I'm Paris Hilton and I approve this message because I think it's totally hot."

The McCain camp responded to Hilton's ad Tuesday. "It sounds like Paris Hilton supports John McCain's 'all of the above' approach to America's energy crisis - including both alternatives and drilling. Paris Hilton might not be as big a celebrity as Barack Obama, but she obviously has a better energy plan," says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

In Depth: Neck and Neck in the Polls......... How?

For all his popularity, his 'celebrity' that the Republicans have been mocking of late, the obvious appeal of his message of change in a country that is sick and tired of it's incumbent government and the fact that approval ratings for the President and his VP are at an all time low, how is Obama not ahead in the polls?

It should be that Obama should have a comfortable lead coming up to the DNC with so much in his favour. Many people say that the election is Obama's to lose. So why do the polls show a tie? Given a closer look there are many reasons one could state for this but I'll restrict myself to four: 1) the economy 2) the message 3) the 'unknown' factor 4) race.

The economy is looking grim and having an impact on peoples daily lives. Although the McCain campaign's ad blaming Obama for the economic situation is as untrue as it is outrageous it does play on existing fears. The democrats left a stable economy, eliminated the deficit of the previous Republican administration and even created a surplus, all of which the current administration has reversed. US debt is in the trillions, oil is at over $4 a gallon and the housing market is on the verge of collapse - this should play into Democratic hands. But as Dick Morris on RealClearPolitics has stated, a bad economy may actually damage Obama's chances. Obama hasn't focused on economy in the way that Bill Clinton did when facing a similar challenge. Clinton's experience as the Governor and Chairman of the National Governors Association meant that he could wear the label of 'expert' and the public would buy it. Obama doesn't have similar experience to back up his economic credentials.

Lets face it the last time Obama tried to launch himself using an economic forum voters chose the other Clinton. People are worried about where this current economic crisis is going to lead. The public are unsure about his ideas on raising taxes and not convinced by his assurances that it won't affect them. In times of such instability people are nervous of going with the new guy.

The message was once an optimistic ideal from a youthful candidate that inspired; now people want details, how? When? Where? The message is still as potent as ever but what Obama needs to do is build on that with substance. People want to believe but they also want proof. It's almost ironic that in a country where religion is prominent, faith is not enough. Obama needs to keep his message on song and in line with his core principles. "Change" is bringing the punters in, Obama now needs to keep them.

Of late, however, Obama seems to be flip flopping around, contradicting himself and leaving voters puzzled as to where he stands on certain key issues. Obama needs to tighten up and get on point and prove he's more than just a message, that he has substance and can deliver where it counts.

Obama has the charisma and the image, now people want to know the man. We've read the books and heard the speeches and yet to most people he remains something of an enigma. Other candidates have been easier to pigeon hole and easier for the voters to identify with. McCain is a military man, his whole campaign is tied up with that identity: forged in battle really should be his campaign slogan. Bill Clinton was a good ol' southern boy with his easy charm and his saxophone. George W Bush was a regular Joe, the kind of man you'd have a beer with. But who is Obama? He can't be as easily placed as the rest. This makes voters unsure of him, if they can't define him they can't define his motives and his reactions. Obama is many things: a man whose rise rather than his role has defined him, son of a black father and a white mother, brought up in several different countries, the community man and the intellectual, the man who shoots hoops with his mates, the family man, Christian with a Muslim father, religious without a definite church. All of this actually makes him typical of an increasing number of people in America but it does leave them wondering where to put him.

And Race. We would love to think that this isn't a factor. That people would look at the man and his stance on the issues and judge accordingly. But, and I hate to write these words, that just isn't the case. In the last few weeks we've seen both campaigns flinging accusations over who brought race into it. But race was always a factor, until recently it was the elephant in the room, it was there but no one wanted to talk about it. The sad fact of the matter is that there are some people out there who won't vote for Obama because he's black.

That being said there are 89 days until the election, plenty of time for things to change, plenty of time for the Obama campaign to tighten up their message get on point and reassure those with doubts.

But then this is the nation that elected George W Bush........twice.

By Beth Connor

McCain should be careful what he wishes for

According to the McCain campaign, the media have somewhat of a schoolgirl crush on Barack Obama.

For sure the Obama campaign did seem to pack up the worlds media on Obama Force One and jet them on a magical fairytale whirlwind tour of the world last week, with John McCain struggling for breathing space in the mainstream media as he spoke (from notecards) about the price of milk in a rural supermarket.

Now I don’t have any figures right now that show the media coverage each candidate has received, but I don’t think it is a huge leap to assume that it would be pretty one sided in Barack Obamas favour.

Which leads us to McCains problems – the man needs to stay relevant and he needs to stay in the headlines to avoid the risk of people forgetting there are actually two candidates in this race. But how?

Attacking the media is a bad idea. Stamping your feet up and down and demanding they pay you more attention is a bit like reading the eulogy of a campaign out loud. John Edwards did it as his campaign failed, Hillary lashed out before she dropped out and now McCain is doing it. If all else fails, blame the media.

I think the McCain camp should instead be counting their blessings that their candidate is not a prime time feature... because perhaps he isn’t a prime time candidate.

With greater presence in the media comes far greater scrutiny. The United States waited with abated breath for one tiny Obama misstep or misspeak during his world tour. His comments on NAFTA (not exactly a topic to get the heart racing) have been turned upside down and inside out. Every comment is unpacked and cross referenced with something he may or may not have said sometime around about 1972.
If McCain were receiving comparable scrutiny I think his senior strategist would be begging for the baying mob to stop and look at the other fella for a while.

Just in the past three weeks, McCain has mistaken "Somalia" for "Sudan," and even football’s Green Bay Packers for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He spoke enthusiastically of a country that has not existed for over a decade (Czechoslovakia) and confused Germany for Russia. A YouTube clip from last year immortally memorialises McCain referring to Vladimir Putin of Russia — following a trip to Germany — as “President Putin of Germany.”

Then this Spring McCain said troops in Iraq were “down to pre-surge levels” when in fact there were 20,000 more troops than when the surge policy began. He has was also corrected by his friend and supporter, Joe Lieberman, when he twice appeared to mistake Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, two branches of Islam that split violently

Ironically, the errors have been concentrated in what should be his area of expertise: foreign affairs.

I think the McCain campaign should be very careful what they wish for… because they might just get it.

Flip Flops

With accusations of flip-flopping flying back and forth between the two campaigns faster than you can say "Strategic Petroleum Reserve", we all begin to wonder just who is telling the truth here?

Well, with a little bit of help from PolitiFact, we can now follow the candidates through the mine field of u-turns, no turns and about turns with their new Flip-O-Meter tool.

The site looks at the facts of the issues to determine whether the candidates have performed a full flip flop on an issue or whether it was just a case of mis-speak.

Although it might make uncomfortable reading for some Obama supporters...

5 August 2008

Just a thought...

Just had a quick thought. If Barack Obama announces his VP pick tomorrow as he is widely expected to, where does this leave John McCain?

With the Beijing Olympic Games beginning on Friday (8th August), there is no time for McCain to announce this week.

Most peoples guess is that neither candidate will want to make any significant announcements during much of August due to the risk of competing for air time and coverage with what could be an unpredictable Games.

So that leaves McCain on the back foot for three weeks as Obama and Bayh hit the road and the airwaves telling the world their story.

With the Republican National Convention beginning just one week after the end of the Olympic Games, McCain has a very small window to stage the perfect announcement.

Advantage, Obama?

Bayh talk getting louder...

As I posted this morning, rumours have been picking up steam that Barack Obama is on the verge of announcing Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate.

This chatter is now getting louder, with The Huffington Post reporting on Tuesday afternoon that an announcement is imminent.

Bill Browning states on the site that "Barack Obama will announce his vice-presidential choice Wednesday morning. It will be Indiana Senator Evan Bayh."

The article also offers these bits of tantalizing evidence:

1) The website ObamaBayh08.com is taken. For a tiny sliver of time late last week, you could type in the URL and you'd be forwarded to another site. Where do you think it took you? The Democratic Party website.

2) Just got an invite from the Obama campaign to attend an appearance on Wednesday that isn't on Obama's official calendar. Why not? The campaign said, "I can't tell you what the event is about, but we want to make sure you have a ticket so you can cover it for the Bilerico Project. We want Bilerico Project to be there for this one."

Watch this space!

A Study in Contrasts...

Seriously, who is managing McCains photo ops!?

Sen. Kennedy Convention Video

A spokeswoman for Sen. Edward Kennedy said yesterday (Monday) that the Senator had recorded a short video to be aired during the Democratic Convention, taking place in Denver later this month.

The announcement comes after speculation over whether or not the Senator - who suffered a seizure in May, and has recently undergone six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, will attend the convention.

It would seem that such speculation can now end, though if there is one thing that history has taught us about the Kennedy family, it's that they should never be underestimated.

Dick Cheney Will Not Attend Republican National Convention

Sources from within the McCain camp have suggested that Vice President Dick Cheney will not be given a speaking slot at this years Republican National Convention.

Acutely aware of the toxic reputation of the Vice President, the McCain camp is going to great lengths to put some distance between the two.

One GOP official told CNN there's a "mutual understanding" between Cheney's office and the McCain camp that he is "unlikely" to attend the convention.

The conservative American Spectator first reported Monday Cheney, who has low national approval ratings but is still popular among conservatives, is not expected to attend the convention.

With the all indications up to this point being that McCain wants to keep the Bush administration as far away from his campaign (at least publicly) as possible, it will be interesting to see what role will be carved out for President Bush at the convention. Side-by-side photos of a grinning McCain and Bush will be potent ammunition for the Democrats, seeking to portray the two as one of the same.

Could Obama Announce VP Choice Today?

Speculation is rife this morning that Barack Obama could be on the verge of announcing Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate today.

A 21-hour stop in Indiana - far more than Senator Barack Obama needs for his town hall meeting in Elkhart on Wednesday - is fuelling speculation that the Democratic presidential candidate will pick Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate - and soon.

Bayh will introduce Obama at the morning event - a side-by-side pairing that many Democrats in Indiana hope is a taste of things to come.

Evan Bayh is the Junior Senator from Indiana and former Governor from the typically Republican state. He is also renowned for his youth, charisma and ability to work with Republicans across a variety of issues. What is more, he was an early and avid backer of Senator Hillary Clintons Presidential bid, giving the Obama campaign an ideal unity candidate.

He has also recently stated that he would accept the number two position on Barack Obama's ticket if offered it.

The blogosphere was abuzz Monday about what Obama's lengthy stop in Indiana could mean, as people noted that Obama arrives in South Bend about 6:30 p.m. today and doesn't leave the state until about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Plenty of time, say, for a stop in Bayh's hometown of Shirkieville in Vigo County or elsewhere to launch a ticket.

Watch this space...

4 August 2008

Happy Birthday, Barack Obama!

Any guesses as to what he might be wishing for when he blows at those candles?

Hillary will not seek nomination at Democratic convention

According to the New York Daily News Senator Hillary Clinton will not ask to be nominated for President when the Democrats gather in Denver to officially nominate Barack Obama later this month.

Some had speculated that Clinton would request the nomination so that her supporters could cast their first vote for her, thus validating the closeness of the Democratic race while simultaneously symbolising the historic nature of Clinton’s bid to become the first woman nominated for President by a major party. But that seems unlikely at this point.

A source close to the New York Senator confirmed she won't file a formal request to the convention asking to be nominated along with Barack Obama, who secured the nomination with the help of Democratic superdelegates.

"She is not going to submit the signed request," the insider told the Daily News. "People are still circulating petitions on her behalf, but this is a done deal."
Though Obama’s nomination is certain at this point, Clinton’s supporters and delegates can vote for whomever they want during the roll call of the states.

And some may well still vote for Clinton instead of Obama, though the former First Lady is expected to release her delegates when she speaks to the convention on August 26th.
"Depending on the dynamics, hundreds of delegates might decide to demonstrate their support and affection," a Clinton source speculated to the Daily News.

While Clinton appreciates the support, she is encouraging those who supported her to back Obama.

"Hillary Clinton is 100% committed to helping Barack Obama become the next President of the United States and realises there are passionate feelings that remain among many of her supporters," said Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand.

In a show of Democratic Party unity, Senator Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama will appear together when women’s group EMILY's List (a major Clinton backer in the primary) throws a gala during the Democratic Convention in Denver.

From pinknews.co.uk

Hillary Clinton: Tuesday Signals End of Veep Hopes

Senator Hillary Clinton has agreed to speak on the second night of next month's Democratic convention, headlining on the 88th anniversary of the day women earned the right to vote, sources say.

Two sources close to Clinton said the former presidential candidate will speak August 26 with all female U.S. senators on stage with her.

That night is the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

What's more, giving her a high profile platform to praise the Presidential nominee can only help sooth the nerves of the nearly 2000 Clinton delegates who will be seated at the Convention (because Clinton suspended her campaign and did not end it, she has kept her delegates to the convention.)

All of this is true. But that's not actually the point...

The real significance is in the fact that the Vice Presidential nominee has always traditionally spoken on the Wednesday evening of the convention.

I think that means we can assume someone else will be taking that speaking engagement.

The Video Everyone is Talking About...

Since it hit the airwaves last week people just can't seem to stop talking about the McCain campaigns Obama Celeb video, likening the Illinois Senator to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

And the ad has prompted some angry reactions - On Sunday, Hilton's mother, Kathy Hilton, a McCain donor, registered her disapproval.

"It is a complete waste of the country's time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs," Kathy Hilton said in a short article posted on the liberal Huffington Post Web site. "And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next president of the United States."

So what do you think?

Is there such a thing as 'impersonal politics'?

As McCain launched another 'attack ad' on Obama comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, an insult in anyone's books, and the Obama campaign has responded that such tactics are "juvenile" and that the McCain campaign is taking the "low road" with the "same old politics, same failed policies", we have to ask the question is it possible to contest a seat of power without taking a personal shot at the opposition?

To take such a route is an interesting tactic for McCain to take as during the 2000 election campaign he also had to deal with attacks on his family. Before the South Carolina primary that year rumours circulated about McCain having fathered an illegitimate "black baby". McCain and his wife Cindy had just adopted a daughter from Bangladesh, but that didn't stop the smear campaign broadcasting rumours of infidelity and a 'love-child'. In a country that was still reeling from the fall out of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair such rumours were bound to affect a candidates credibility. McCain went onto lose the primary and subsequently, it could be said, the nomination.

After such personal attacks you would imagine that McCain would think twice about being connected with a personal attack on another candidate. Apparently not. When Michelle Obama made her now, over quoted, 'proud' gaffe both Mr and Mrs McCain wasted no time in putting the boot in.

Obama himself has stated that such tactics are examples of a failing political system and that the McCain campaign is just trying to install fear and divert people’s attentions away from issues such as the economy. Not that Obama can quite call him self squeaky clean in this issue, let's face it being hailed as the next George W. Bush can only be described as an insult.

The fact is that while originally deploring such tactics both Obama, McCain and other candidates haven't been stringent enough in their criticism of such attacks on other candidates. The only person to make a decent stand was Laura Bush. Her defence of Michelle Obama showing that being a political figure doesn't mean abandoning all sense of fairness. McCain, on the other hand, seems to have thrown off the pretence of condemning such tactics and embraced them wholeheartedly them as his three-in-a-row shows.

But are such ad's inevitable, in a system where personality of the candidate is as much an issue as their stance on the economy or the war in Iraq? Could we envision an election where the topics up for debate and attack were simply the issues at hand? But I suspect that even if both candidates were to stick to the declaration they both made of avoiding attack ads they would still have to contend with the third party groups just dying to stir things up. Groups such as Swift Boat and Move On have taken such ads to extremes and seem to take delight in not just making a political statement but viciously attacking the candidates without reason, justification or sticking to the facts. The fact that 12% of Americans, apparently, still believe, (incorrectly I might add) that Obama is a Muslim and that when he was sworn in refused to put his hand on a bible but opted for a Koran instead, is testament to the fact that although deplorable these tactics still work and as such will be peddled as legitimate means of campaigning until they lose their potency or effectiveness.

And they're not the only ones. Every article blog or video posted on the web seems to be accompanied by vicious diatribes from extreme supporters of both parties finding an excuse to pour their bile, bigotry and hatred into the mix. The internet seems to be a breeding ground for a whole chorus of Anne Coulter wannabees who loudly proclaim their opinions regardless of truth, integrity or willingness to listen to someone with a different opinion. The old adage 'we'll agree to disagree' has been thrown out of the window. People no longer seem to have different opinions or different approaches, they are either patriots or traitors and cowards.

Although I applaud Obama's attempts to pull campaigning out of the gutter, I can't help but think that until people stop peddling their own brand of hate and bigotry as reasonable political debate then attack ads will continue to be broadcast and accepted legitimate means of campaigning.

By Beth Connor