Focus Grouping

The right is simply clamouring over a quick post over at the Stump for understandable reasons.  When someone writes at The New Republic that their “focus group” of a few emails from Democratic women indicates that Sarah Palin was “alarmingly strong”, it would appear as though the frantic spinning that Palin is someone to be feared has caught on.

I’ve got a few focus groups for them though.

My own personal focus group I’ve already discussed.  If my wife and her cousin were fence leaners after the Democratic convention, they aren’t now.  Nor are they even remotely alone.

My friend Blue Girl at her new digs “They Gave Us A Republic,” checked the feedback at CNN and found only a handful of praise for Palin’s speech, and a whole lot of jeers.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

OH NO SHE DIDN’T!!!!!!!!!!!! I was going to vote for McCain until I watched and heard Palin’s speech…..I cant believe her! I am in shock! She is so Nasty…….disrespectful…..and Rude. My Vote is for Obama All the way!

This speech belongs on Jerry Springer, not on a national political stage. There are 5 potshot-punchlines at Democrats for every one statement about McCain. Tell us something positive about your ideals, not about the top ten quips you came up with yesterday…I’m so embarrassed for our country…

I was very anxious to hear Palin’s speech to actually find what she is all about and am coming away very disappointed. I was actually embarrassed at certain points to be a woman myself as she came across EXTREMELY catty and juvenile. She did not show what women in power can really be, and played to the high school stereotype of the gossip game. I was expecting and hoping for MUCH more. Michelle Obama has more grace and intelligence in her little pinky than Palin displayed in the entirety of her speech tonight.

I have been watching this for days to determine how I should vote. Palin’s speech has been the deciding factor for me. Aside from the issues, she has about as much experience as my next door neighbor. I can’t believe she has the nerve to ignore the obvious and come out as if she isn’t a bit aware of the fact that hardly anyone knows who she is and she hasn’t earned the standing to be attacking other’s experience. The only thing that I have seen that is similar is George Bush’s complete obliviousness to the public view. Maybe like him, she only watches FOX news. I was hoping McCain would be more in tune to the American people. His judgement is a serious question.

Governor Palin just seems to be mean. I find her attacks and rhetoric to be disturbing – and I’m a Republican! This is the sort of attacks I expect on the talking head shows by surrogates, not of someone I expect to be prepared to lead – to lead all of us. I would expect more.

Is this the best that McCain could select. As an independent, I don’t think I heard the democrats not wanting to drill. I think they spelled out a specific plan for alternative energy. WHAT ABOUT THE ECONOMY?????? WHAT ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE?????WHAT ABOUT HIGH MEDICAL CARE COST??????I think that this party has lost the perspectives and issues that affect the people. This is very weak presentation with little facts and without a plan to solve the problems. It sounds like Palin is trying to convince the people at the convention that she is the right choice. She was not speaking to the American people. Grade C-

Never before tonight have i been pushed so far to the left and towards Barack Obama. I was undecided until Palin took the stage tonight. Arrogance beyond belief sums it up. No timing, substance, or tact. Just attacks and the same stories that we have all heard over and over again. Tonight, my vote is decided and my candidate is Barack Obama.

B-B-But that’s just the comments section of CNN–nowhere near the level of objective and scientific focus grouping of Michael Crowley’s inbox!  Thankfully, Steve M of No More Mister Nice Blog was able to dig up a couple other focus groups that were a little more on the up and up.

From the Huffington Post:

In the “married” group, when one attendee kicked off the discussion by saying “she’s a good speaker, and a crowd pleaser,” the rest of the room articulated their agreement. “I didn’t expect to be as impressed as I was,” said another respondent. But then another woman added: “Once she started mudslinging, I thought, it’s the same old crap as other politicians. McCain used her to get the women’s vote. And she’s using McCain.”

“Thank you,” another woman responded. “That really upset me; there was no need for that. It was snippy.”

The unmarried group also voiced similar objections to the harsh, partisan edge of Palin’s remarks. “I’m not impressed with her at all as a person,” one said, citing her “finger pointing” and general sarcasm after the group had generally agreed that she was a talented public speaker.

Still not all focus group members thought Palin came off too harsh. “She didn’t seem very aggressive to me at all,” said one unmarried participant.

But in both groups, narrow majorities said they held a more negative view of Palin after her speech. “She comes off pretty cutthroat,” said one.

On other issues, women in both groups said they wanted to hear more of Palin’s own policy views, outside the realm of energy. Education, heath care, the economy and Iraq were all cited as areas in which women were hungry for more information — especially in light of McCain’s age. “I think America is concerned, because of McCain’s age, that we’re gonna have a female president who’s maybe inexperienced. The nation needs to know what her issues are,” said one married respondent, which prompted another to add: “I don’t think she’s got what it takes.” An unmarried participant said she had yet to hear enough “in regards to her personal views, which could be implicated on us if McCain was to die.”

When prompted to respond to Palin’s steadfast opposition to abortion — even in cases of rape or incest — no woman in either group stepped forward to defend the Alaskan Republican. “I don’t dig that,” said one married woman, matter of factly.

He also references a WaPo article with some mixed reviews.

Here’s my thoughts, and they aren’t limited to Sarah Palin.  The right is excited because this convention was more of the same that got Bush reelected four years ago.  From a more objective stand point, though, this convention has been all about red-faced, full-throated, vein busting anger and hatred. 

The Democratic convention which was indeed critical of the Bush administration and the McCain candidacy, still was largely respectful, and more specifically substantive.  This convention, by contrast, is woefully lacking on substance, and driven by vitriol.  It’s great if you’re a hardcore Republican, or anyone else who is motivated by pure hatred for anyone that is to the left of moderate conservatism, but stop and imagine how the rest of America will see this.

For one, while McCain may be patting himself on the back for energizing the right, this comes at the cost of energizing the left even more.  Considering that Obama’s ground game operation is far superior to McCain’s, I think that is an exchange that McCain loses.

But when we look at swing voters, imagine the stark contrast that they have between watching the Republican convention and the Democratic convention.  The Democratic convention was lively, focused on the issues, but critical of the opposition.  The Republican convention was, to say the least, set in a cathedral of hate bound by so much cognitive dissonance it feels like a days long non sequitur.

My feeling is that McCain will get a bounce from charging up his base, but it will be considerably short lived, and put him on precarious grounding because his convention is probably scaring away an awful lot of moderates and swing voters.

While Tuesday was sleep inducing, last night was simply over the top, and the political climate is simply not what it was four years ago.  Further, the Democratic candidate is not the same candidate from four years ago that will simply sit back and take it all.

Even now the Obama campaign is using this convention to raise more money as evidenced by the most recent mailer sent out:

Kyle —

I wasn’t planning on sending you something tonight. But if you saw what I saw from the Republican convention, you know that it demands a response.

I saw John McCain’s attack squad of negative, cynical politicians. They lied about Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and they attacked you for being a part of this campaign.

But worst of all — and this deserves to be noted — they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.

You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together. Will you make a donation of $25 or more right now to remind them?

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack’s experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let’s clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it’s no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it’s happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven’t gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It’s now clear that John McCain’s campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks — on Barack Obama and on you — are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.

But you can send a crystal clear message.

Enough is enough. Make your voice heard loud and clear by making a $25 donation right now:

Thank you for joining more than 2 million ordinary Americans who refuse to be silenced.


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

So, yes, let the right suck up as many comments as they can that “proves” Palin and the Republican convention were stunning successes, but I think that they should be wary of claiming victory too soon.  I’ll round it off with a thought from Nate at

Ultimately, it’s not that I don’t think there aren’t people who will find Palin’s performance effective — I just don’t think there’s much overlap between those people and the universe of persuadable voters.

And in the universe of persuadable votes, it’s quite likely that they will come away unimpressed if not outright offended.

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