Why McCain Doesn't Have the Numbers to Win

Sure, as I've been saying for a few months, the election is now about turnout. Even so, ABC News boils down the electoral map in such a way that it seems impossible John McCain can win:

If McCain doesn't win Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes, he would have to run the table and win all eight of the competitive states that were held by President Bush in 2004, including Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, and Nevada.

...If you take all four of these states that will be decided relatively early on Election Night next Tuesday -- Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida -- McCain has to win three out of four of those states to even have a chance of getting to 270 electoral votes.

It gets worse for McCain: Even Montana is no longer a sure thing and McCain has begun advertising there this week. [More...]

Given that campaign staffers are going public with the rift between the Palin and McCain camps and playing the blame game, it's evident to me that the McCain internal polling numbers show he's lost.

What was the turning point? The economy was a bubbling factor all along. In the end, it may be these three things that drove the final nails in the coffin that has become the McCain/Palin campaign:

1. McCain's pick of Sarah Palin
2. McCain's age and previous health issues
3. The Katie Couric interviews of Sarah Palin.

The Katie Couric interviews seem to be what turned the nation, as opposed to just liberal bloggers, against Sarah Palin. She never recovered and McCain sank like a lead balloon after them.

Many books will be written about this election -- which isn't over yet. But, assuming Obama wins, what do you think was the biggest turning point from which McCain could not recover?

< Late Night: Michelle Obama on Tonight Show | The Polls - 10/28 >


What Was the Turning Point for John McCain?
The economic bailout 39%
McCain's Choice of Sarah Palin 34%
McCain's Age 0%
McCain's Personality 2%
The Couric-Palin Interviews 11%
Saturday Night Live portrayals of Palin 2%
The $150k clothing spree 0%
Other 9%

Votes: 43
Results | Other Polls
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  • Display: Sort:
    "Fundamentals of the Economy Are Strong" (5.00 / 5) (#3)
    by john horse on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:56:59 AM EST
    ranks with the Palin interview, im ny opinion, as a major turning point.

    Lets also not forget George W. Bush.  Bush wasn't a turning point but he sure was an underlying condition dragging McCain down.  Without Bush I don't think this would have been a "change" election.

    Finally, lets also give credit to Obama.  It wasn't just McCain's mistakes that are going to cost him this election.  Obama had to prove that he was qualified to be President and the way he handled the financial meltdown and the debates demonstrated that he was the cool, collected, thoughtful leader than our nation needs.

    Credit is due Obama... (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:38:15 AM EST
    for the way he always comes off as cool, calm, and collected.

    Especially compared to McCain, who comes off as skittish, rash, impulsive, and hot tempered.

    In such a superficial election, it's what gives Obama a big edge in my eyes.


    Not enough (5.00 / 0) (#26)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:09:44 PM EST
    Credit is given to Obama's composure/personality-- it basically renders the whole "erratic new guy, scary" meme null and void when your target is the least emotionally volatile canidate since George HW Bush.

    It really is amazing to think that the 2 most (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by steviez314 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 06:01:20 AM EST
    important (media) people in this campaign have been Katie Couric and David Letterman.

    The Couric/Palin interview stretched over 5 days just killed McCain, and when he stood up Letterman, Hoosier Dave ragged on him for a week non-stop.

    Tina Fey, too. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:11:47 AM EST
    the selection (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by cpinva on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 07:03:31 AM EST
    of gov. palin, a wholly unqualified nobody, as his running mate, doomed sen. mccain's campaign. everything else was just icing on the collapsed cake.

    The economic meltdown (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by kenosharick on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:15:46 AM EST
    is what doomed the mccain campaign. The polls had been closing and he was even leading in a number of them until the collapse occured. If not for this economic crisis we would be having a real nail-biter on Nov 4.

    He was leading for one week after the (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:14:52 AM EST
    convention. It was a bounce. Before the bounce O was ahead for the entire summer.

    Therefore, it is a false comparison.


    Mmmm I think the Palin angle is (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Faust on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:37:19 AM EST
    overstated a little here. Not that it's not a factor but I think the a rough sketch of what happened is as follows:

    1. Economic collapse: this is not just the bailout per se as listed in your poll, but rather the total picture: the frozen credit markets, the bailout, the way McCain handled the bailout, the way McCain was forced into talking about the economy in the debates etc. It was the whole economic picture coupled with the perception that the GOP was mostly responsible coupled with the strength of the democratic brand on the economy.

    2. Press jumps into Obama's tank. It is clear that after 1. that the press started to turn on McCain. One mistake that people make in my view is that they seem to think that the press turn on a candidate because of things that a candidate does (e.g. McCain "stoppped being the McCain we knew) but this is false. The village makes up its mind and then they use whatever material is at hand to push the narrative they want and fill in the blanks. Therefore economic collapse ---> press core jumps all the way into the tank ----> 3.

    3. Filling in the narrative. Once the media elite decided Obama was their man they just needed material to generate the new narrative that would help this cause. Palin is part of this. As soon as McCain's numbers started to fail it was EASY to just grab negative Palin stuff about it and beat him about the face and neck with it. The counter argument is that Palin caused problems and there is certainly some chicken and the egg stuff here, but the initial poll moves were clearly a result of the economic shift. The Palin stuff was an important but ultimately secondary effect used by the media. This was inevitable and why Palin was such a risky pick. It was always the case that if McCain's numbers started to fail that Palin would be cited as a cause no matter what she did.

    That's the short answer from my perspective.

    if Obama faltered (none / 0) (#22)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:17:27 AM EST
    the media would have been on him like the sharks they are.

    They follow blood in the water, and love the buzz.

    McCain was bleeding, Obama created buzz.

    It's that simple, and it can change on a dime.


    Re: #2 (none / 0) (#25)
    by lilburro on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:01:10 PM EST
    McCain was complaining about the press far before the economic collapse.  Here is a Media Matters article from August 5 that already has a world of evidence to draw upon for its argument:  Media Matters.

    So is the economic collapse really when the media "turned on" McCain?  McCain was up by 1-2 points as of 9/11.  By the next week, the economy started collapsing and Obama was up a few points in the polls and had a small lead.

    It is extremely fortunate that Obama had the media on his side at this point in time.  But McCain also made quite a few mistakes of his own - fundamentals of the economy, the ridiculous suspending of his campaign.  McCain didn't have a consistent story to offer during the beginning of the economic crisis.  And the economic crisis has really served to push Hillary women into Obama's column.  

    From Jeralyn:

    Supporters of Hillary Clinton, as many as a fifth of whom had at one point told pollsters they'd support McCain over Obama, now back the Democratic nominee 88 percent to 7 percent.

    Not that McCain hasn't had to struggle with the Obama love.  Maybe in another year his Ayers attacks would fly.  But I think the media AND the electorate are wary of swiftboating antics this year.


    Republican policies and practice (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by pixpixpix on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:01:32 AM EST
    "what do you think was the biggest turning point from which McCain could not recover?"

    Really it was the election of GWB and the implementation in the ensuing eight years of a policy of aggressive Americanism, free-for-all markets, anti-science, fundamentalist-toned social policies and an insular demonization of opponents

    McCain is the tail end of this train.

    One important factor (5.00 / 0) (#16)
    by eric on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 10:04:58 AM EST
    and one that I cannot figure out, is that McCain's campaign changed the way he deals with the press.  He was always friendly, answered questions, and schmoozed.  Then, his campaign, apparently to keep him on message, restricted access and changed the way they deal with the press.  It really made them mad.  And hurt.  JMM posted a link to this LA Times story about one heartbroken reporter.  "McCain was frank, garrulous and accessible -- and then he wasn't"

    I think this change was one of the most important factors in McCain's downfall.  Lose the press and you lose the spin on everything that happens.  I don't know why he squandered this asset.  Maybe he had to change his relationship with the press because of the dynamics of a Presidential campaign.  I think that was his intent - message control and all that.  But it was self-injurious.

    McCain Refused to Acknowledge The Success (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by john horse on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:33:32 PM EST
    of the Obama Surge.  

    With less than one week to go and polls showing Barack Obama with an insurmountable lead, Senator John McCain still refuses to acknowledge the success of the Obama surge. McCain opposed the Obama surge from the beginning and confidently predicted that it would fail. But now that it is clear that the surge has succeeded, and brought victory within sight, Senator McCain can't quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment.

    the polls are meaningless (none / 0) (#2)
    by pluege on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:36:45 AM EST
    the crucible of this election, as in the past 2 presidential elections, is on republican voter suppression. If it is successful AGAIN, in only a very few states, Big Liar John mcinsane will be the next president.

    I think the selection of Palin angered (none / 0) (#6)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 07:15:41 AM EST
    the media elites much in the way that Bill Clinton got their goat 16 years ago. Bill Clinton was, to his core, not one of them. Palin is the same.
    Qualifications had nothing to do with her fall---not to say that she had any. If they approved of her, she would have done fine.
    It's frightening to think that McCain could have been competitive had the focus not been on his selection of Palin.

    unless gov. palin (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:22:33 AM EST
    had remained cloistered, until nov. 4th, not even the MSM could have totally prevented the voting public from concluding she's not the brightest bulb in the box.

    at some point, the campaign would have been forced to trot her out. ask any coach or director: once the game/play starts, they have little control over the players. jack welch's good boys and girls can only do so much spinning, and she'd (palin) have spun out of control, regardless of what they did.

    her selection was demonstrably the clearest example of the lack of judgement, that pretty much defines the mccain candidacy.


    Why do you say that? Bush was a (none / 0) (#10)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:20:11 AM EST
    complete moron---much stupider than Palin---and they covered for him.

    Bush Was Smart Enough (5.00 / 0) (#14)
    by daring grace on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:54:48 AM EST
    to have a campaign around him that helped him look good, good enough anyway.

    Palin doesn't seem to have managed that. But then, neither has McCain, himself.

    The McCain campaign mishandled her introduction to the voters and whatever appeal she might have crafted to win over people outside her base was essentially lost after the first week or so of warm glow post convention.

    I'm not sure she had the chops to make/sustain that connection with non-RW voters anyway, but she never really got the chance, thanks to the malpractice of her handlers.


    That's just silly. (none / 0) (#19)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:13:58 AM EST
    McCain's campaign really messed up by sequestering her.

    If she had multiple interviews and only messed one up, she would have been in better shape.

    Those "media elites" that you talk about, are the fourth estate. They are the ONLY way we voters can get to know our candidates.


    I don't understand your comment after (none / 0) (#23)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:17:43 AM EST
    the first sentence.
    Bush was  a horrible, inarticulate, ignorant, SUPITD candidate. The press covered for him magnificently in 2000. They certainly could have done the same for Palin. That they did not had something to do with McCain's campaign, but there were other factors. Their dislike of rubes and hicks was quite evidently one of the factors.

    The press in 2000 is different than the press of (none / 0) (#24)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:32:53 AM EST

    You are discounting the You Tube effect.


    Absolutely so. (none / 0) (#28)
    by Cream City on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 06:20:43 PM EST
    Putting all the emphasis on one interview, and it being the Couric interview, just made no sense.  Multiple interviews always is the wise way to go, and especially in the case of an unknown, and especially one working against other factors such as gender.  This was pointed out by Gergen and others who really blame a lot on the Bushies who took over McCain's campaign and started curtailing his contacts with the press, too.  And Gergen's take on how badly the Bushies handled Palin makes me wonder if it was almost intentional sabotage.

    Calling in the Bushies meant some smart changes for the McCain campaign, but it looks like the tradeoff was some stupid stuff that may make it a net loss.


    I missed that Gergen analysis, but (none / 0) (#29)
    by coigue on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 10:20:17 AM EST
    it sounds interesting.

    Shows how sexist they are that they felt they needed to "protect Palin from herself".


    Why? WaPo headline says it all (none / 0) (#9)
    by Cream City on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:52:27 AM EST
    From Howard Kurtz column:

    Journalists Name 44th President

    Just as they selected the Dem nominee.  Fortunate for me, with my state decided so long ago by journalists and pollsters, so I have one less decision to make on my busy Tuesday.

    They did it in 2000 (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Faust on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:38:04 AM EST
    and they did it in 2004 why would it change now?

    Funny. (none / 0) (#21)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:15:23 AM EST
    like an overcorrection (none / 0) (#17)
    by coigue on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:10:29 AM EST
    of a helicopter pilot that ends in a spin out and a crash.