For a couple of days now, i've been semi-composing a blog post in my head about why Obama is running a different sort of campaign than we are used to, and why a lot of the concerns we may have about how unwilling he seems to be to really go on the attack really don't matter. There's been a lot of anguish on the blogs and in the press about the fact that Obama hasn't been doing enough to counter McCain's attacks, and that he's really been letting McCain set the terms of the debate on the national stage. And it's all true (although he does seem to be changing his national tactics a bit, taking advantage of McCain's "I don't remember how many houses I own" flap.). But there's a reason for that - Obama isn't running a national campaign. Just like in the primaries, he's playing a numbers game and working on the ground, state by state. National ad buys and smart quips in the national press don't have much meaning in that scenario, and worrying about blips in national polls - or even state polls - aren't as important when you're engaging in a massive effort to register new voters that aren't generally contacted by pollsters.
There's obviously some major risk in doing things this way as you don't have the standard metrics (polls, national media coverage) to judge how well you are doing, but Gore and Kerry ran the "safe" way in 2000 and 2004 and it resulted in "close but no cigar".
I was going to write a post about all that, but DDay at Hullabaloo did it for me.
Also, if you (like me) are concerned about Obama's centrist tendencies, this may give you some hope:
I truly believe that the coalition Obama is building is more progressive than he is, or than he chooses to be, and the infrastructure is in place to pressure him as President, leveraging all of this support from the grassroots, the millions of people that will be out on the ground on Election Day, to push for a sensible progressive agenda.
Finally, while DDay's article has a lot of supporting links, the best one to check out is this one, which talks about Dean's conflict with the Democratic party's orthodoxy. The point to highlight is the fact that the infrastructure that Obama is setting up here is not going to disappear after election day, win or lose. This is a transformation of the way the Democratic party will operate going forward; it is Dean's 50 state initiative in action.
By fnord12 | August 21, 2008, 4:53 PM | Liberal Outrage
The riskiest part of ignoring traditional methods and polling is the fact that the American people are stupid voters.
Polls are heavily covered in the news, and they influence voters. If Obama's numbers keep slipping, and it keeps getting covered, his voters might not show up to vote because they'll think voting for him is a lost cause. If the numbers are low, instead of trying to save him, they might just give up.
That's the main argument of reporting polls too early on election day. Lots of people want the news to stop worrying about being the first to call an election and worry more about covering the election process itself. In trying to break the news, they tend to influence the news.
Part of the strategy is to have a grassroots get out the vote organization that makes sure that all their supporters get to the polls on election day, in theory counteracting any national media/poll reporting effect. But i agree that Obama can't ignore the national scene to the point where he's showing a large gap in the polling. If anything so far, he's been anywhere from statistically tied to way ahead, and i don't think that'll change too much.