What Constitutes Success for Palin?

At this point, while the right wing is already claiming victory on behalf of Sarah Palin, I think it is necessary to take stock of the reality on the ground, and what actually constitutes success for the McCain campaign in relation not only to Palin’s performance last night, but also John’s as of yet delivered speech tonight.

Last night marked what will likely be the highest rated evening of the GOP convention.  And for this it’s important to understand that she fell about a million or so viewers short of Obama’s widely viewed acceptance speech a week ago.  This because the sheer volume of fence sitters possible to swing one way or another into either camp is therefore a smidge smaller for the GOP than the Democratic party.

It would seem that people still weren’t quite as interested in watching Palin as they were Obama.

In any case, two factors come together to fortell a lower viewership for John McCain.  The first is that there’s simply not that much curiosity swirling around him, the second is that tonight marks the beginning of the NFL season.  This puts the onus of moving the polls in a positive direction for the McCain/Palin ticket squarely on Palin’s shoulders.

That battle, though, looks largely to be an uphill one.  First, she and McCain face a significant polling deficit, with the Gallup Daily Tracker placing them seven points behind.  And then there’s the end game.  I do not think that the McCain campaign wants to come out of it’s convention without at the very least drawing even to Obama in the polls.

Of course they would prefer to pull ahead.

The reasoning behind this is simple.  First, even if the Religious Right activates fully for McCain, the McCain campaign will still find itself on the losing end of a ground game.  Second, I highly suspect that John McCain will not outperform Obama in the four debates, and I’m sure he understands this.  Finally, if the McCain campaign doesn’t come out of this convention highly competative in the polls, that alone will become the driving media story for the next week at the very least.

This last assertion I base off of the media’s response to the relatively small bounce that John Kerry received at the end of the 2004 convention.  Media narratives such as this are much like quick sand, and failure to induce a bounce is likely to turn into a referendum on A) McCain himself, B)the wisdom of the Sarah Palin selection, and C) the wisdom of launching such a negative tone in the convention.

Thus, beginning tomorrow (when polling interviews include voters after the Palin address), the McCain camp needs to start seeing highly significant movement in the up direction and unless Team McCain pulls to well within the margin of error, one, two points at the very most, by Sunday or Monday of next week, we can safely declare this whole week a loser.

Will it happen that way?  Obviously, seeing as how I’m not a mind reader and prognosticator, I can’t be certain, but I think there are very serious signs that should have the McCain camp sincerely worried already.

The first comes from some seriously solid analysis by Chris Bowers.  After taking a close look at the polls, one thing becomes clear, prior to her speech, Sarah Palin was responsible for an uptick in the polls for Obama, not McCain.

Further, I think the Newshoggers’ BJ is about right in his post here where he discusses the audience, tone, and intent of the Palin speech.  Conservatives can’t stop heaping praise upon Sarah Palin’s address, which is as it should be; they were most definitely the target of the speech.  Unfortunately, there is serious reason to question the wisdom in targeting a speech so specifically to that crowd.

Republicans loved it, but this was not the kind of speech that seemed designed towards attracting swing voters and fence-sitting Democrats.  This was Palin’s opportunity to introduce herself to America as a whole, and what America as a whole viewed was a woman who was very light on policy, who didn’t go very far towards telling us who she was, or what she will do for the country, but was very heavy handed in attacking the opposition.

I know that negativity works a lot of the time, but not all of the time, and of the millions of viewers that Palin pulled last night, I will be very interested to see how many were turned off by what was a largely vitriolic speech.

Further, anecdotal evidence, and there’s far too much to link to all of it here, is that the target independents and swing voters weren’t incredibly impressed by it (for a sampling check here, or you can check out the post I did earlier here).

But Palin’s speech did one other thing that can’t be ignored; it really fired up the Democratic base as evidenced in part by the highly impressive haul the Obama campaign was able to pull in in under twenty-four hours.

For the Democratic convention, this was highly unheard of, but that was because the tone and substance was entirely different.  Yes, the Democrats were critical of John McCain, but they were respectful about it–they laid out their grievances and the problems that a McCain presidency would provide, but they did so in a way that didn’t necessarily respect the man.  In other words, they threw a little sugar in with the medicine to help it go down some–swing voters weren’t likely to be turned off by heated vitriol and thus were more amenable to the criticisms offered.  Further, the Democrats were substantive, and delivered policy proposals and specifics which have been sorely lacking from the Republican convention.

Shorter: if you tuned in to see bashing of the other side, you were treated well.  If you tuned in to actually learn about the candidates, you would likely go away feeling a little disgusted with who’s leading the Republican ticket.

In the end, I think the Republican base will end this week unified and energized, but I don’t think it will match the same unification and energy levels of the Democratic party.  Last week alone was a healing and unifyng experience for the Democrats, allowing them to come together under a sense of common purpose while this week has provided a different motivation for unity and mobilization: indignation.

As for independents, it’s going to boil down to whether the anecdotal evidence is reflected in the polling, an answer we won’t have in full for a few days.  But mark my words, if by the end of the weekend McCain/Palin hasn’t pulled even with Obama/Biden, it will most definitely be time for Republicans to start mashing the panic button hard.

18 Responses to “What Constitutes Success for Palin?”

  1. Pug says:

    In spite of the praise being heaped on Sarah Palin by conservatives and the media, I think she made a serious strategic error. She was completely unknown before last Friday and she introduced herself to the country as a smug, condescending, sarcastic attack dog. Big mistake

  2. The reality on the ground?

    CBS has the race tied up at 42 percent. Nobama bounce. Palin’s the veep pick, not pres, and she had only 6 networks doing prime time, compared to Obama’s 10. Media bias is a bitch, and it’ll come back to haunt.

    McCain’s going to draw even more, because of all the media build-up and low expectations.

    Then there’s Richard Grenell on the Democratic panic at HuffPo:

    “Within the first few minutes of palin’s speech my phone started to light up with text messages. I could instantly tell that my liberal friends (and there are many) were nervous. palin the future president and next vice-president of the United States had something to say. the messages started with simple admissions like “she’s doing well.” As the humored filled speech unfolded my text messages increased. “she’s doing well” became “wow.” The evening ended with scared muses and hostile phrases like “we still have 2 more months” and “but how many hockey moms could there actually be in america.” the liberals were scared.”

    It’s too early to be writing “success for Palin” posts.

    Gallup’s number are tracking polls, so they combine response from days ago. Beside, never rely on Chris Bowers for polling analysis.

  3. radical_Moderate says:

    I will be interested in seeing the polling after McCain’s speech tonight. CBS has Obama/McCain rather inexplicably tied at 42% in a poll taken during the same period as the Gallup Daily Tracking poll that still shows Obama up 48% to 43%

    On the WAPO forums I’m seeing numerous comments from Independents totally turned off by Palin’s light weight, spiteful speech. A friend of mine was willing to give McCain a chance, listened to the Palin speech , opined that she was a “bitch” and has not voiced any interest in voting McCain since, LOL.

    If that speech didn’t frighten the bejeezus out of Any voter not a “true believer” I don’t know what will.

    Currently I am watching the Convention as I type. I am rather stunned. First Lindsey Graham gave what is probably the worst speech by a reasonably well known person of the Convention. Graham essentially went on a prolonged rant about how Obama didn’t support the victorious surge, and how Joe LIEberman was such a brave man for bucking “his” party…spoken in a such calcified manner that it failed to raise much enthusiasm even from that partisan crowd. I missed Ridge give his speech, but saw 2 “bio” films, one of Palin the other of Cindy McCain, of such unbelieveable cheap corniness that I am convinced they were put together by some glassy-eyed young Republicans in a high school film class. (jeesh I thought that the Repugs had money up the ying-yang.)

    Cindy’s “bio” was truly fairy-tale land, leaving out the fact that Both parents had been married and divorced, each with one child, before they birthed little Cindy Lou. Then there was the “romantic” meeting of Cindy Lou, aged 24, with predatory, still married father of 3, 41 year old John McCain at a Honolulu cocktail party (period photo shown with a dapper looking uniformed McCain with a serious comb-over) . Moving along, there was the detailing of the founding of Cindy’s charity (sans addiction problem natch), which is grantedly very noble of her, but more to the point for the Repugs I think is the fact that it is a PRIVATE charity ministering to the poor of the third world (unfortunately, Cindy doesn’t seem to be aware of the 37 million Americans that live in poverty.) She also rather amusingly, in light of their “romantic” meeting where both lied about their ages, insisted that her husband “never lies.” The balance of her talk was the Military service of her Father, husband, & son who is ready to go to Iraq, bla bla (doesn’t Biden have a son ready to deploy also?)

    And so to a pompous film detailing McCain’s life, with numerous references to his “5 years in a box” (hey I thought that McCain never talked about his POW status?) His first wife and family were left out of course.

    McCain appears before a puke green screen looking a little green himself. Now to listen to his pitch….

  4. radical_Moderate says:

    About the CBS Poll, according to their website:
    “This poll was conducted among a random sample of 835 adults nationwide, including 734 registered voters, interviewed by telephone September 1-3, 2008.” roughly the same time frame as the Gallup Poll.

  5. rmbailey says:

    The race is on but I disagree with some of the arguments stated here.

    First, new updates show 40 million people watched the Palin speech which is more than the number that watched Obama. Interesting. Second, establishing the evangelical base was extremely imortant for the Republicans. The media never talks about this but the election turned in Ohio last time becasue of the strong evangelical vote. There are as many of these voters in Ohio as there are in the south. Carl Rove understood this and this is how the Republicans won in 04.

    The third is Palin herself. She actually may have trumped Obama’s star status in a world where we are looking for the next “American Idol” in politics. This is a sad statement as to our society and how we elect our leaders, but it is the truth nonetheless.. Palin was brilliant in her presentation, she is extrelemely photogenic and will attract many undecided voters purely becasue of this. I am discovering one thing about McCain. He is a brilliant politician and because of this, he may very well win the Presidency when there is no way that he should.

    One more thing, the deomcrats keep nominating a candidate that will speak to the left wing of the party. The problem with this is it is the surest way to lose the general election. There is a good chance that they have done it to themselves again.

  6. “About the CBS Poll, according to their website:”

    Both polls are pre-Palin, which confirms my point: This post was written too early. We’ll know the full impact of the Palin effect this weekend.

    It’s going to be good, then you’ll haven an answer to “what constitutes success for Palin?”

  7. Americaneocon:

    Did you read the post? Seriously. I discussed that the polls were pre-Palin’s speech, they were not Pre-Palin herself. That announcement came the Friday directly after Obama’s speech, and the bounce in polls came after during and post convention interviews began cycling themselves out of the pool.

    Further, I do believe I said we won’t know for sure until about Sunday or Monday at the earliest. That’s why the title of the post is a question.

    That’s my troll feeding for the week.

  8. Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of time to itemize. I do however think, from all that I have read, that Mrs. Palin and her whole family have too much trashiness about them.

    Though I understand many folks saying that they are common people with common problems, do we really want people of that ilk having to combat problems for us. Unfortunately, I suspect that they need all the time and focus they have for their present personal issues than to have to deal with other peoples’ problems.

    I mean, she is the governor and she/they still can not combat “common problems” with all the staff and assistants they must have. What is their problem? Rather than spend time pondering what their personal issues are, we must admit, from what we currently know, they are a little bit trashy.

  9. pappy says:

    BrandonK- “Mrs. Palin and her whole family have too much trashiness about them.”
    “Though I understand many folks saying that they are common people with common problems, do we really want people of that ilk …”

    Why didn’t you just come out and say “trailer trash”? BTW, “people of that ilk” are sucessfull, engaged, committed folks.

  10. Lily of France says:

    Polls are not factor indicators of who is going to win the election or not. It is a tool used favorably or unfavorably on either side. Many things are certain given the last few weeks of the coverages: 1) The media bias favors the democrat side. On the other hand talk show hosts counters that which creates a some sort of balance for a debate. 2) The feminists have been exposed as fraudulent cowards and speaking with vicious double tongues. Sarah Palin has the cuts and will reap the glory, you wait and see. 3) Given the presidential candidates have made their picks, one could make the argument that it is a balance structure now to where the election will be decided by strategies via attacks, dirt, slinging. The argument and balance structure that I am referring to is this Obama’s inexperience vs. Sarah’s (even though Sarah possesses more); Biden’s lengthy record as a senator vs. McCain’s. I would call this fair game.

    However, to be informed by every important issue is critical and to vote on it based on these issues and truths must be the driving force to cast a vote.

    Politics and the media are a breed of its own – corrupt, distorted, manipulated and coerced. Follow your conscience not your emotions. Study the issues yourself not believing it because Hollywood, media or your favorite singer/rock group believes it. If you apply this to real life, you’ll see that when it comes down to it, when the smoke is clear and the brouhaha dissipates and the feeling good energy leaves you, the truth will stare at you straight in the eye where you have no place to run but to yourself.


  11. ChicagoRepublican says:

    The analysis by Chris Bowers, purporting to show that the Palin pick helped Obama prior to the GOP convention, is seriously flawed. He failed to account for the effect of the big news story going on over the weekend: Hurricane Gustav. No one was paying attention to much else on Saturday through Monday as the storm bore down on NOLA. The entire long weekend’s results were simply Obama’s convention bounce peaking a little late.

    Undoubtedly there was a small (very small) additional bump from the Kos and HuffPo cheap shots and savage media drumbeat of criticism over the weekend. This bump will be dwarfed by the backlash as voters observe reality and react to the patently scurrilous attacks. The Rasmussen and Gallup tracking polls are starting to show this: both have narrowed by three full points (from Obama +5 to +2 on Rasmussen and Obama +7 to +4 on Gallup) with just one-third of the interviews conducted after Sarah’s speech. Expect to see a McCain lead by Sunday, barring another big hurricane.

  12. Scott says:

    If you follow the links below, you will see that you are mistaken, both Palin and McCain beat Obama in viewers. And they both had over twice as many as Biden.

    As for the polls, they are LAGGING indicators as to where the public is leaning… give it a few days and I think you will see a big swing to McCain/Palin.

    McCain TV Ratings Beat Obama in Preliminary Numbers:

    More than 40 million people see Palin speech

  13. Americanecon says:

    Nice try, Kyle, seriously.

    I’m sure you label anyone who points out your errors a “troll.”

    You don’t bother to mention that we won’t know for sure until “polling interviews include voters after the Palin address” until three paragraphs after you’ve hammer McCain and Palin, saying their campaign “looks largely to be an uphill one,” and ” they face a significant polling deficit, with the Gallup Daily Tracker placing them seven points behind.”

    What is your evidence for an “uphill battle”? Surely, you can’t make meaningful predictions until AFTER the speeches, so by recognizing this, even peripherally, you contradict the main logic of your post … which is to say, basically, the GOP’s toast and Obama’s the most.

    In any case, you make an awful lot of grand conclusions after mentioning that the Gallup sample cannot capture the full public opinion effect of the convention – something we won’t know fully until next week.

    With all due respect, I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about. What’s this about “the Democrats were substantive, and delivered policy proposals and specifics which have been sorely lacking from the Republican convention.”

    The GOP was very specific, actually, but spin things how you want. Practice makes perfect.

  14. Mandy says:

    Lewt us be candid: Sarah palin and her family DO constitute trailer trash, and this is hardly what the American electorate want as their leaders. The tatctic of not allowing her to meet with the news media is going to backfire big time. the Palin pick was, as Karl Rove said, for election purposes, and after the glowo is over, voters will understand that think about the fact that she very likely could be President — a prospect so scary that all but the least unreconstructed bigot wilol pull the lever for Obama/

  15. Jeff says:


    There once was a vice-president from Missouri named Harry S. Truman who was branded exactly the same way in his day as you are doing with Palin family. Yes he had a lot of experience but he was treated as if he was a hayseed from Missouri by the inside the beltway group. That hayseed was one our best presidents. I am sure that you are person who feels that you have all the answers and that everyone should agree with you because of your natural superiority. What you really are is bigot. A person who only sees the world from their own perspective without thinking others have value. Let’s get a grip on reality and understand that even though we are different there is still value in those we may not agree with politically. Hopefully some day you will grow up and see the world differently. If you don’t you will be mired in your own delusional world forever.

  16. chuck says:

    Ok, now you have the initial polling that shows McCain pulling comfortably within the margin of error. And even slightly ahead in some polls. With more polls to come, with more complete samples of the post convention picture. Ratings data clearly shows that more people watched the top 2 speakers in the Twin Cities than those in Denver. Any convention bounce for Obama was effectively stolen by McCains all-in move of picking Palin and picking her quickly after Barack left the podium. The GOP has won the last two weeks. Indisputable.

    Couple the above with the fact, FACT mind you, that Barack Obama has consistently underperformed his projected numbers every time ballots have been cast this year (not caucus votes, but ballots, at polling places on election day). Add in the likelihood that the Dems must have ALL 3 of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio to win on 11/4. And salt liberally with the knowledge that Obama has been operating with a tailwind for months, while McCain has the definite headwind of having GOP after his name. What you get is a recipe for disaster in November for Obama.
    He should be ahead by double digits. To win by 5 points he’ll need to be ahead in pre-election polls by nearly 10. To win the election he’ll need 3% more votes than McCain. The GOP can win with less than 50%. The Dems can’t. Thats just the way the states work out. The fact that the largest margin out there shows 7 and most show a dead heat and some show a slight McCain lead should scare the boxers off of Barack.
    The GOP has the proven ground game. Democrats used to have a proven ground game, when their base was working class. Now their base has a lot of people not used to accomplishing anything.
    Remember, Gallup had Kerry up by 3 points a week before the 2004 vote. Bush won by 3. So go ahead and bank on that 7 point Obama spread in the latest Gallup.

    The commentary by liberal columnists shows that they know they have been beaten during the convention phase of the campaign. Obama should have won. He had the advantage going in. He had the better message. He had the tailwind. He lost the convention fight anyway. His enemies have seen that his front lines are paper thin and very, very weak. McCain has the momentum. Considering the year long ground swell for Obama this is almost inconcievable. And yet it happened. Now its a dogfight. And there will be no defectors from the enemy camp this time (superdelegates). He has to win the debate phase just to recapture his momentum. Anything less than a decisive set of debate wins won’t do. Remember, GWB was trounced pretty well in the debates last time. And he won the election. Everyone expects Obama to trounce McCain in the debates. Has Obamas performance in the tests so far shown that he can live up to expectations?

    Barack is in trouble.

  17. Scott Somerville says:

    I’m pretty sure “success” for Sarah Palin means becoming America’s first female vice president next January (probably after several months of litigation and another trip to the Supreme Court for guidance).

    Here’s the thing you don’t seem to factor in… conservatives in America have felt shamed and silenced for a LONG time. Alexis de Tocqueville described the sheer power of public opinion in America, arguing that it was more effective than any amount of government censorship. Conservatives have been tuning in Rush Limbaugh, et al, for twenty years to try to overcome their own inferiority complex. They’ve been saying the media is unfair, biased against people like them, but nobody seems to agree (especially the media).

    Then Sarah Palin comes along to validate everything these cowed and demoralized conservatives have felt. History is full of battles where beleaguered forces overcame overwheliming odds through the power of an inspiring leader (let’s start with the Battle of Agincourt, where Shakespeare has Henry V say, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”). People who are ready to charge the barricades have been surprisingly effective over the years–and conservatives are suddenly fired up.

    The media has managed to infuriate the right and validate most of their grievances in one astonishingly short week. Conservatives have generally assumed the press would do everything in its power to make sure Obama wins, but they didn’t think the non-political public would ever notice. Now there are a lot of working moms who wonder why Oprah won’t have Sarah on her show.

    Then there’s the Bradley Effect. It was DEMOCRATS, if you recall, who said they had voted for Obama in the exit polls even though their ballots showed something different. Republicans may have the guts to tell you they’re going to vote for a white guy over a black guy, but Democrats seem more nuanced* about the issue. (*They lie to pollsters.) This means the polls in battleground states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan) are going to SAY Obama is leading, which the media will SAY proves that America has rejected old Mr. How-Many-Houses White Guy and his Creationist side-kick, but the fired-up foot soldiers of the Evangelical base are going to campaign like they believe in miracles (which they do) instead of media (which they don’t).

    None of this means McCain/Palin will beat Obama/Biden… but it sure makes for an interesting race.

  18. Scott Somerville says:

    If McCain/Palin manage to pull substantially AHEAD of Obama in any sustained way, it will be time for candidate replacement surgery.

    Anybody interested in starting a pool on when Joe Biden will be tragically sidelined with a critically infected hair-follicle (or something) and Barack Obama will heroically fill his slot with the Lady-in-Waiting?

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