Obsessive Poll Watching Open Thread: Pew has Obama by 3 . . . Plus, microtargeting voters for GOTV

I’m sure glad MSNBC is running real programming tonight, because I can’t think of much other than the upcoming election. The polls have been moving toward Obama over the past few days, and suddenly he’s ahead in the Pew Poll which has been showing Romney ahead for some time.

Nate Silver reacted on Twitter, saying that the results match his findings:

Nate Silver ‏@fivethirtyeight
Simple average of national polls released Thursday: Obama +0.9. Friday: Obama +1.2. Saturday: Obama +1.3. Today (so far): Obama +1.4

Pew reports:

In the Pew Research Center’s election weekend survey, Obama holds a 48% to 45% lead over Romney among likely voters.

The survey finds that Obama maintains his modest lead when the probable decisions of undecided voters are taken into account. Our final estimate of the national popular vote is Obama 50% and Romney 47%, when the undecided vote is allocated between the two candidates based on several indicators and opinions.

The interviews all took place after superstorm Sandy struck.

Obama’s handling of the storm’s aftermath may have contributed to his improved showing. Fully 69% of all likely voters approve of the way Obama is handling the storm’s impact. Even a plurality of Romney supporters (46%) approve of Obama’s handling of the situation; more important, so too do 63% of swing voters.

Pew expects voter turnout to be lower than in either 2004 or 2008, which could help Romney, but other data favors Obama.

Nearly four-in-ten (39%) likely voters support Obama strongly, while 9% back him only moderately. A third of likely voters support Romney strongly, compared with 11% who back him moderately. In past elections, dating to 1960, the candidate with the higher percentage of strong support has usually gone on to win the popular vote.

Similarly, a much greater percentage of Obama supporters than Romney supporters are voting for him rather than against his opponent (80% for Obama vs. 60% for Romney), another historical indicator of likely victory. And far more registered voters expect an Obama victory than a Romney victory on Nov. 6 (52% vs. 30%).

Obama’s increases in likely voter support are most notable among women, older voters, and political moderates. Women now favor Obama by a 13-point margin (53% to 40%), up from six points a week ago and reflecting a shift toward Obama since early October. Right after the first presidential debate, the women’s vote was split evenly (47% each). Men, by comparison, favor Romney by a 50% to 42% margin, with little change in the past month.

At the Guardian UK, Ewen McAskill writes:

The findings are similar to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published at the weekend. The two offer the first firm evidence of the impact of Sandy on the election. Pew carries one caution for Obama, suggesting turnout may be lower than in 2008 and 2004, which could help Romney.

Obama’s team claimed that Romney’s frantic campaign schedule reflected a sense of desperation, squeezing in a late visit to previously neglected Pennsylvania Sunday in the search for elusive electoral college votes elsewhere. The Obama team also cited visits Monday to Florida and Virginia, two states it said the Romney camp had claimed to have locked up.

In an interview with ABC, David Plouffe, who organised Obama’s re-election bid, expressed confidence the president will win on Tuesday, and seized on a comment by Karl Rove that Obama had benefited from superstorm Sandy. Democrats are interpreting this as Rove, George W Bush’s former campaign strategist and co-founder of the Crossroads Super Pac that has poured millions of dollars into Romney’s campaign and those of other Republicans, beginning to get his excuses in early.

“A few days ago he [Rove] predicted a big Romney win. My sense is Karl is going be at a crossroads himself on Tuesday when he tries to explain to the people who wrote him hundreds of millions of dollars why they fell up short,” Plouffe said.

Another Obama strategist, David Axelrod, commenting on Romney’s Pennsylvania trip, told Fox News: “They understand that they’re in deep trouble. They’ve tried to expand the map because they know in states like Ohio. They’re behind and they’re not catching up at this point.” He added: “They understand that the traditional, or the battleground, states that we’ve been focusing are not working out for them.”


On Microtargeting . . .

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been reading some interesting articles on the GOTV efforts of the two campaigns. I was struck by this piece at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about a woman in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, Priscilla Trulen, who received a spooky call on Halloween.

“It was Mitt Romney saying, ‘I know you have an absentee ballot and I know you haven’t sent it in yet,’ ” Trulen said in an interview. “That just sent me over the line. Not only is it like Big Brother. It is Big Brother. It’s down to where they know I have a ballot and I haven’t sent it in! I thought when I requested the ballot that the only other entity that would know was the Mukwonago clerk.”

Other voters are being “creeped out” by calls from Democratic groups.

In Brown County, residents are unnerved about “voter report cards” from Moveon.org that show the recipients how their voting participation compares to those of their neighbors.

The solicitations give only a small glimpse into how much digital information the campaigns are able to access about voters.

Corporations working for candidates request publicly available voter data as well as information about absentee ballots from state governments, which they can combine with other data to target individual voters.

The cost of the entire state database is $12,500. Four requesters have been willing to pay that since Sept. 1, Magney said: Catalist (a progressive voter database organization), the Democratic National Committee, and data analysis firm Aristotle – all based in Washington, D.C. The last requester was Colorado-based Magellan Strategies, a firm that specializes in “micro-targeting” for Republican parties and candidates….

In an interview with PBS that aired in October, Aristotle’s chief executive officer, John Phillips, said the company keeps up to 500 data points on each voter – from the type of clothes they buy, the music they listen to, magazines they read and car they own, to whether they are a NASCAR fan, a smoker or a pet owner, or have a gold credit card. Some of that information comes from commercial marketing firms, product registration cards or surveys. Other information is obtained through Facebook, door-to-door canvassing, petitions and computer cookies – small data codes that register which websites the user has visited.

Through data modeling, analyzers can categorize voters based on how they feel about specific issues, values or candidates. They then try to predict voting behavior and figure out which issue ads voters are most likely to be susceptible to – for instance ads on education, gun control or immigration.

One of the companies that requested the full Wisconsin voter database, Magellan Strategies, explains on its website that it conducts surveys on people’s opinions and merges that with their political, consumer and census demographics.

Whoever targeted Trulen made one important mistake, however. She tends to vote Democratic although she lives in a Republican district.

According to Sasha Issenberg, author of the book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, writes that in 2008 and 2012, the Democratic microtargeting operation is far superior to the Republican one.

In fact, when it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era. No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example. And the reason may be that the most important developments in how to analyze voter behavior has not emerged from within the political profession.

“The left has significantly broadened its perspective on political behavior,” says Adam Schaeffer, who earned graduate degrees in both evolutionary psychology and political behavior before launching a Republican opinion-research firm, Evolving Strategies. “I’m jealous of them.”

In other words, the Republican dislike of science and academia may be holding Romney back in the microtargeting area.

Schaeffer attributes the imbalance to the mutual discomfort between academia and conservative political professionals, which has limited Republicans’ ability to modernize campaign methods. The biggest technical and conceptual developments these days are coming from the social sciences, whose more practically-minded scholars regularly collaborate with candidates and interest groups on the left. As a result, the electioneering right is suffering from what amounts to a lost generation; they have simply failed to keep up with advances in voter targeting and communications since Bush’s re-election. The left, meanwhile, has arrived at crucial insights that have upended the conventional wisdom about how you convert citizens to your cause. Right now, only one team is on the field with the tools to most effectively find potential supporters and win their votes.

Go read the whole thing if you’re interested. It’s quite a long article, but fascinating. After reading some of his pieces yesterday, I was also able to heard Issenberg on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” this morning. So many books to read, so little time.

Now what are you all hearing/reading? Are you as excited as I am?


Hey Andy, me ‘n’ Barney didn’t have nuthin’ better to do, so we decided to crash the economy!

Barack O'Gomer and Deputy "Barney" Geithner*

This morning Sky Dancing’s resident economist Dakinikat wrote about Tim Geithner’s latest trial balloon about maybe stopping Social Security checks in August if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. That’s right, he wants to use the trust fund that elderly people paid into all their working lives to pay China and other foreign debtors. Now that’s a brilliant plan boys–throw grandma and grandpa out in the streets to starve and die. It’s genius!

Then while we were all commiserating in the comment thread, we got the jobs report for June: only 18,000 jobs were added, and the phonied-up unemployment rate is now at 9.2%.

O’Gomer dragged his sorry a$$ out to the Rose Garden in late this morning to mumble a few weak excuses.

“Today’s job report confirms what most Americans already know,” Obama said. “We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do to give people the security and opportunity that they deserve.”

The president tried to lay some blame at Congress’ feet. He said lawmakers could pass a handful of policies today to create jobs. His list included an infrastructure bank, free trade deals and patent reform.

“There are bills and trade agreements before Congress right now that could get all these ideas moving,” he said. “All of them have bipartisan support, all of them could pass immediately, and I encourage Congress not to wait.”

Yeah, patent reform, that’s the ticket! And more trade agreements to create more outsourcing of American jobs. Brilliant! And cutting off Social Security checks! That’s really gonna give Americans “the security and opportunity they deserve.” Who is advising this guy anyway?

Well, one of O’Gomer’s top advisers, David Plouffe, made an unfortunate remark before the jobs report came out. Minkoff Minx wrote about it in her SDB reads earlier this evening. From The Christian Science Monitor:

David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s top political adviser, got things started Thursday at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg News.

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Mr. Plouffe said. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate; they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’ ”

Ask yourself, Mr. Plouffe, how do you think most ordinary Americans feels about their situation right about now? O’Gomer’s buddy Timmy Geithner is talking about cutting off Social Security payments. O’Gomer himself is trying to talk the Republicans into cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This administration hasn’t done diddly-squat about jobs except occasionally have O’Gomer mention that we need to create them. Talk is cheap, Mr. Plouffe. Actions speak louder than words as my mom used say.

According to Julian Brookes at Rolling Stone, Plouffe also made this odd assessment:

the president, says Plouffe, has a good shot with independent voters, who’ll reward his bipartisan, bend-over-backwards approach the debt talks; is a seasoned campaigner with a huge war chest; has moved to the center without losing the base (the oft-noted “enthusiasm gap” seems to have closed); and has demographic trends working in his favor (he won big with minorities in 08, and they’ll make up a larger share of the electorate next year). Plus, of course, the GOP field is weak: Frontrunner Mitt Romney is the most formidable of the bunch, but he’s nobody’s idea of a galvanizing standard bearer.

What is wrong with this guy? Does he really believe that Independents like politicians who “bend over backwards” instead of showing some strength? Does he really believe O’Gomer hasn’t lost his base? And the center? O’Gomer has gone so far right he’s out-crazying the Tea Party!

Then there’s William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff. Check out what he recently had to say about Americans’ attitudes about the crappy economy. According to Peter Nicholas at the LA Times, O’Gomer’s main defense is that the middle class was already suffering under Bush, so it’s not really his fault. Never mind that unemployment has gone from 7.8% to 9.2% on his watch. So O’Gomer is asking for more time:

Speaking at a fundraising dinner in Philadelphia last week, he said that the nation’s challenges “weren’t a year in the making or two years in the making, but are actually 10 years in the making.”

But Obama’s nuanced message isn’t breaking through. A Gallup Poll last month showed that Americans’ economic confidence was near its low for the year.

For the White House, it’s tough to get the public to pay attention to anything else.

A Democratic senator spoke by phone recently with White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley. “He said, ‘Honest to goodness, if we’re not talking about jobs and the economy, nobody is listening,’” recalled the senator.

Surprise, surprise, surprise!!

Gee, do you think maybe you ought to stop talking and actually DO something then? Just wait until Grandma finds out she might not get her Social Security check in August. Maybe O’Gomer and his advisers need to get a clue. And find O’Gomer a couple of advisers who know something about economics, Mr. Daley.


*NOTE: The graphic at the top of this post is the work of our old friend StateOfDisbelief.


Thank you Sir May I have Another?

Oh, the economic hardships of giving up those charitable deductions!

White House minions Ken Baer and David Plouffe tried the hard sell on a few liberal and progressive bloggers in a teleconference on Monday Night according to Susie Madrak at C&L. Yes, it was yet another access blogger telethon where the White House tries to sell  the progressive blogs with all the readership on the way to “Tote dat barge! Lift dat bale!”  for the reelection effort and this stinker of a White House Budget.  After all, the Republican we have in the White House now will be marginally less evil than the Republican we could get in the White House then if every one doesn’t just bend over and ask for more.

Although the minions said the budget asked for “shared sacrifice’, Plouffe had a difficult time coming up with concrete examples on how the very rich in the country would be doing their share of the sacrificing.  The only examples they could provide were less deductions for mortgages and no deductions for charitable giving.   I’m sure all the folks relying on charitable giving aren’t thinking the sacrifice part of the deal goes to their rich donors.  Do they really think honest liberals will agree with this let alone try to sell it to others?

A conference call with Congressional Budget Office spokesman Ken Baer and White House adviser David Plouffe tonight was probably aimed at growing indignation in the blogosphere over the proposed Obama budget, which features your proverbial draconian cuts to just about every social program — except Social Security and Medicare.

It’s good that the administration is engaging in these calls because we get to hear more details about their budget instead of the usual MSM drone, but I’m not sure that bloggers are happy with the overall conversation since once we got into the details of arguing different cuts, it looked as though we were buying into the White House frame that the cuts were urgently needed in the first place, and many of us don’t believe that’s true.

The audio of the call is in our media player–above. What do you think?

Baer’s opening remarks focused on “shared sacrifice.”

My question: “When you’re talking about shared sacrifice, clearly, the working and middle class is getting a disproportionate slam everywhere they turn with this budget, and you’re talking about a few, what sound like token items to the rest of us out here, and I wonder how you rationalize that during this severe economic recession.”

Baer said people got that impression from the stories that were released early, without looking at the big-budget picture. (Click here.)

David Dayen at FDL was also on the call.  His post draws similar conclusions. There’s an insane explanation of why the White House version of draconian cuts is better because of  the timing of undesirable cuts.  It seems straight out of newspeak world.  It appears that the White House is still very confused about basic economics and multipliers.  They appear to believe that March is an unsafe time for cuts but by October, recessionary budget cuts will be hunky dory.

Didn’t the mess they made of the first opportunity to get a stimulus right teach them anything? Do they really think they can finesse every economic variable to acquiesce to a hope and dream speech at a particular point in time?  After all, they’ve done such a bang up job with the labor market already that we still have record rates of long term unemployed and full on market exits.  How do you get a president re-elected when the lowest unrealistic unemployment rate you can offer up is around 7.5%?  Even the Gipper was getting  nervous about a re-election attempt with rates that high.  Reagan’s administration switched to massive recapitalization of the military ala Keynesian stimulus to buy a re-election boost.

WTF do these people think we’re smoking over here in our pajama wearing hippy dreamland? The only thing I can figure is that this delay buys enough time to get through an election cycle so that the first wave hits but not the tsunami of recessionary anti-stimulus as the impact multiplies through out the economy.  This way, Obamas gets to still happy talk  some of the people all of the time about how things are getting better without looking like a complete liar.  He also fights off conservative angst about deficit improvement before the next recession takes hold and makes everything much, much worse.

My question was this: Where does the Administration think demand will come from to reverse a three-year demand shortfall if you cut budgets in the immediate term at a time when 14 million people are unemployed, if state budgets show the same contraction, if trade remains in imbalance and if corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash? In other words, do you think economy can generate its own demand right now? I added this for Plouffe to give it a political angle: The budget predicts 8.2% unemployment at the end of 2012. No President has ever run for re-election with unemployment over 7.8% since 1948. Do you think it’s worth cutting budgets over the next two years and reducing aggregate demand at a time when 14 million Americans are unemployed, if the political benefit appears to be facing re-election with the highest unemployment in recorded history?

So here was the answer. Plouffe said that the employment estimates, they hope are conservative. (Actually, one criticism of the budget I heard yesterday was that the projections were pretty aggressive and above what CBO projects for the next few years.) He said that there is a lot of positive trajectory in terms of job growth, though not nearly enough, he stressed. He said that the President has said repeatedly that we cannot jeopardize the recovery with the budget, and that it does not have negative effects on the economy in terms of hiring and growth.

I don’t know how he can say that. Simple math indicates that taking $90 billion out of the economy, which this does in the first fiscal year starting in October, would have negative effects. The positive trajectory on job growth, reflected by two consecutive months of reductions in the topline unemployment rate by 0.4%, have not carried with it actual hiring growth, and could be attributed to noise in the data and rejiggering of population statistics. So when you’re talking about actual job growth, not many economists see it yet. And sucking money out of the economy when states are contracting and businesses aren’t spending will necessarily reduce that hiring.

This is when Ken Baer stepped in. And his answer was baffling. He said that the President’s budget covered Fiscal Year 2012, which was “a bit away,” and that the budget was constructed so that the cuts wouldn’t go into effect until a little later. Republican cuts from the current budget year will start March 5 if they get their way, and there’s a risk there.

I haven’t seen a complete list of invitees, but my guess is that there wasn’t an economist among them.  Yup, it’s a tough life when you join the league of uncommon bloggers.


Raise your hand if you’re surprised about this….

Jay Carney with Joe Biden and Robert Gibbs

Lloyd Grove has a veeeerrrry interesting post up at The Daily Beast on Obama’s new press secretary Jay Carney. Unlike Robert Gibbs, who had easy access to the president, Carney doesn’t even report directly to Obama. According to Grove Carney

is expected to be far more responsive to the needs of his erstwhile colleagues than the sometimes flippant Gibbs. The 39-year-old Gibbs, a trusted Obama confidant since the latter’s 2004 Senate race, has experienced occasionally tense relations with press room regulars and is notorious for not returning phone calls.

Carney is a champ at returning phone calls.

But he’s not an Obama insider—hardly an advantage when toiling for an insular politician who is naturally wary of newcomers and relies on a tight circle of advisers and intimates. Some White House veterans, including at least one former presidential press secretary, worry that Carney won’t receive the necessary access to Obama, and other policymakers at key meetings, to speak from the podium with the authority that Gibbs unquestionably enjoyed.

Carney will report “to White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, who in turn reports to senior presidential adviser David Plouffe,” according to this story in the Washington Post

With Carney’s appointment comes a major structural shift: All of the operations of the press and communications shops will move under the control of communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Previously, the press shop had reported to the press secretary. Carney will technically report to Pfeiffer, something of a downgrading of that role, although they are expected to function as equals.

Grove talked to Ron Nessen, Gerald Ford’s press secretary about the Carney appointment.

“If the press secretary is not reporting directly to the president, his boss, I think it’s going to be a disaster,” Nessen told me, adding that he made sure to meet with Ford every day at 11 a.m. for half an hour before briefing the press. “How can you accurately reflect the president’s thinking if you have to go through two layers? That was one of the conditions I made with Ford when I took the job—that I would have direct access to him, and that I could attend any meeting I wanted.”

Anne Compton, WH correspondant for ABC news also expressed doubts about the access Carney will have to Obama.

“I became suspicious when the president didn’t announce [Carney’s elevation]; Bill Daley did,” Compton told me, referring to the new chief of staff. “When Tony Snow came on, Bush announced it. When Scott McClellan left, Bush announced it. I think this time, it was stunning, and it was stunningly clear when the president did not make this announcement that the new press secretary will not be duplicating what Robert Gibbs has done for the past two years.”

Just exactly whom does President Obama deal with directly? I assume Axelrod was also a confidante, along with Gibbs, but they are leaving the WH. I know Valerie Jarrett is very close to Obama.

Anne Compton told the Daily Beast’s Grove that David Plouffe is the one who will be in meetings with Obama. So he’ll be briefing Dan Pfeiffer and then Carney will get everything from him?

It looks like Obama has decided to find a new way to give the press as little real information as possible. With Gibbs, it was dismissive, snarky treatment of press questions and refusal to return phone calls; with Carney, it will be friendly, responsive behavior, but little firsthand knowledge to share with the media.