A bit of horserace commentary

by Henry Farrell on October 10, 2008

So I hear (via a prominent member of the sane Republican faction) that the word on the right side of the street is that the Republican National Committee is about to pull the plug on its joint ads with the McCain campaign, and devote its resources instead to trying to save a couple of the senators who are at serious risk of losing their seats. Now this is gossip, albeit of the high class variety; take it with the requisite pinch of salt. But it points to some real vulnerabilities in the McCain campaign’s finances. McCain’s decision to opt for public funding has meant that he’s had enormous difficulty competing with the Obama money raising machine. He’s been able to partly compensate by co-financing ads with the RNC (this “skirts the limits of the legislation that he himself co-wrote”:http://www.democracy21.org/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC=%7BAC81D4FF-0476-4E28-B9B1-7619D271A334%7D&DE=%7B349C2D62-1860-4F9A-8FDB-B6F8F1BB864B%7D but is just about legal). This has kept him competitive in TV advertising, albeit still significantly outgunned. But if the Republicans are as worried as they should be about the impending elections, there will be a _lot_ of calls on that money, and the RNC is going to have to make some tough choices. Should it keep spending money on the presidential campaign in the hope that McCain will win despite the polls, or should it instead try to minimize the damage of a McCain defeat by doing its best to stop the Democrats from making big gains in the Senate? Decisions, decisions …



Andrew 10.10.08 at 7:54 pm

It looks like Obama’s got it in the bag, so it would only seem wise for them to concentrate on Senate and house races, which is bad for my favourite local dem here in Seattle, Darcy Burner.


Jim Harrison 10.10.08 at 7:59 pm

Something else interesting is happening with the pattern of campaign spending. Obama is running ads here in California where he is already miles ahead in the polls and McCain isn’t even trying to win. Either his campaign has money to burn or he has decided that running up the popular vote margin is good politics. I’m inclined to the latter possibility. He may feel that he needs not only a victory in November but a big enough victory to see him through what will surely be a trying period of American history.


Henry 10.10.08 at 8:17 pm

Are they California buys or national network buys? I know that he has been doing a few of the latter, which would air in CA as everywhere else.


Jim Harrison 10.10.08 at 8:24 pm


I don’t know whether the California ads are local buys or national ones. Does anybody have better info?


lemuel pitkin 10.10.08 at 9:43 pm

Is anyone tracking state legislature races? Unsexy for sure, but a big swing toward Dems could make a big difference with redistricting just a couple years down the road. here in NY we are likely to get wall-to-wall Democratic state government for the first time in 40 years, but I have no idea if the same thing looks like happening elsehwere.


Ben Alpers 10.10.08 at 10:12 pm

My state of Oklahoma pretty predictably votes as the rest of the nation did twenty years ago. And 1988 was a pretty damn good year for the GOP.


Beryl 10.10.08 at 10:31 pm

Re Jim Harrion @2…

Obama’s running ads in Vermont. In Vermont?!


christian h. 10.11.08 at 12:03 am

The Obama ads here in SoCal are national ones. Anyway, I hope the Dems win a crushing victory. Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out, and watch liberals find new excuses to excuse the Dems excuses.


vivian 10.11.08 at 12:31 am

It’s nice to read a hopeful take on this. Digby made a good case that every time formal ties to McCain are dropped, that leaves the nastier third-party ads to work their deniable evil. I sure hope Henry is right.


P O'Neill 10.11.08 at 12:58 am

One dog that hasn’t barked is the 527s. I’ve heard a few ads from “independent” groups but nothing that has the traction of the Swift Boat crowd. Where is the big money that funded this shite in 2004? Hence the real dilemma of the RNC — there’s no one to take up the slack if they pull out of McMaverick’s ad campaign.


AJ 10.11.08 at 1:07 am

I am in California and the only ads here are definitely national network buys. My assumption would be that is what Beryl is seeing in Vermont too.


Joe Smith 10.11.08 at 1:21 am

527s are around, the MSM just does not give them as much free air-time. Team O aggressively attacks the fringe 527s on several levels, and as a result they do not gain the same level of free media the swiftboaters did. Kerry just tried to ignore them, when he should have attacked by attributing the arguments directly to George Bush and denigrating Bush’s lack of service. Kerry never called Bush on the carpet. However, Obama has done just that with McCain — both in new ads and in the press.


Vermont Devil 10.11.08 at 1:25 am

Beryl –

The ads you are seeing are probably aimed for the NH market.


Maury Maverick 10.11.08 at 1:32 am

Consider this: There are Senate races (Saxby Chambliss is a prime example) that were NOT supposed to be competitive that are suddenly neck and neck. When you know from the beginning that you are in a tough race, you prepare for it. If you get taken by surprise, then you panic and call in the calvary. Add to that the RSCC was broke to begin with, and have already abandoned open seats (CO and NM) in order to save vulnerable incumbents. (MN, OR, NC) People like Chambliss must be begging for RNC $$$.


P O'Neill 10.11.08 at 1:36 am


John Emerson 10.11.08 at 1:43 am

If there remain any “sane Republicans”, they must be completely despicable scum who enable the insane ones in full knowledge that they’re not only insane but also creepy and vicious.


Alice AN 10.11.08 at 1:49 am

My thought, in response to the inquiry about where the 527s are and the money that founded them last cycle are, evaporated with the plummeting Dow.


DC 10.11.08 at 2:15 am

“the sane Republican faction”

yeah, expand please?


Righteous Bubba 10.11.08 at 2:31 am


PHB 10.11.08 at 3:53 am

My serious concern is that McCain appears to be inciting his supporters to violence. For the past few days he has been listening to his supporters shout ‘traitor’ and ‘kill him’ without comment. When invited to condemn this type of behavior by his supporters his campaign instead attacked Obama for ‘attacking McCain’. I know that he did make a comment today, but it is not yet clear whether the change of campaign policy is for the incitement to stop completely or for McCain to stop doing it personally.

That is the sort of behavior I am much more familiar with seeing from Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley. Both owed their positions to the fact that they have supporters who were terrorists. And both would pivot from demands to condemn the extremists on their side to condemn the violence of the other. Between them they caused 3,000 deaths over 30 or so years.

This type of activity is not new in US history either. On the day of his assassination, a Dallas newspaper carried a full page advert with a picture of JFK and the heading ‘wanted for treason’. Before the OKC bombing, Gordon Liddy and the right wing hate radio types were talking about ‘aiming for the head’ when a cop attempts an arrest. If you look through the USENET archives you will find the exchanges I had with Timothy McVeigh before he murdered 200 people there.

Today I had lunch with a friend of Rabin’s who told me that the talk from the McCain campaign reminded him of the talk coming from Likud and the Settlers before his murder. Perhaps the McCain campaign believes that they could profit from a similar event.

It is time to put the McCain campaign and his staff that if there is absolutely no possibility of the GOP benefiting in the way that Likud and the Israeli right did. An assassination would not leave the Democrats leaderless as the loss of Rabin did. Nor would McCain be able to escape responsibility for the role that he has played. The GOP is already facing decimation. McCain is now playing with fire that threatens the annihilation of the Republican party.

The NRCC is not the only part of the Republican party that is turning away from McCain. The NRCC would not be making the switch without orders from the White House. It is Bush who raises that money. There are some tactics that offend even Bush it appears.


Kelly L. Scott 10.11.08 at 4:19 am

For what it’s worth, I’ve been seeing prime-time Obama ads here in Texas since Wednesday. They’ve all been :30 ads produced by his campaign. Last night one ran in the network premier of 11th hour on CBS. I would doubt these shows would offer local avails so…
I won’t speculate as to strategy but they made my wife and I feel a little less isolated.


nick 10.11.08 at 4:22 am

if it is network TV program its a national ad



Matt Austern 10.11.08 at 6:52 am

I’ve wondered about those California ads too. I live in California, and I saw an Obama ad last night on Comedy Central. If you live in a swing state, you probably can’t imagine how shocked I was to see it. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I saw a Presidential campaign ad on TV! Decades ago, probably.


Noumenon 10.11.08 at 6:53 am

Note that the candidates are raising similar amounts of money, but McCain has to give his to the Republicans instead of being allowed to spend it on his campaign.


nick s 10.11.08 at 7:12 am

After her performance coordinating the GOP’s Senate efforts in ’06, somehow I don’t think that the RSCC will be pulling out the stops for Liddy Dole this year.


Tom Cuddy 10.11.08 at 7:18 am

I also heard this from someone whose son is a political player on the east coast


Kevin 10.11.08 at 7:33 am

“Sane Republican”? Sounds like an oxymoron these days. It’s a shame, because conservatism in and of itself, while not stance I generally agree with, isn’t at all a bad counter to excessive liberalism. I wish that some intellectuals on both sides would hash out some sort of inclusive progressive agenda and get a viable 3rd party going. I’m tired of the every 2-and-4 year fights over which corporate party should be in power and where.


cailte 10.11.08 at 11:08 am

Regarding those ad buys in Vermont — Those are directed to New Hampshire. I live in west central New Hampshire, but my “local” television stations are in Burlington, VT.


Danielle Day 10.11.08 at 11:38 am

Obama has bought himself an entire television program to air during the last week of the campaign.

When McCain tried to rein in his more rabid supporters at a town hall meeting, HE was booed. Sordid details on either TruthDig or HuffingtonPost


Magic Dog 10.11.08 at 12:11 pm

Anyway, I hope the Dems win a crushing victory.

So do I!!


joseph duemer 10.11.08 at 12:39 pm

Sam Wang, who runs the Princeton Election Consortium, has some good advice on how to best leverage your political contributions at this point in the race. His analysis of the race is also worth a look.


chris y 10.11.08 at 12:52 pm

My serious concern is that McCain appears to be inciting his supporters to violence. For the past few days he has been listening to his supporters shout ‘traitor’ and ‘kill him’ without comment.

He seems to have just backed off this: there’s a video going around where he tells his supporters to calm down and show some respect. The question is whether
* He means it;
* He’s scared by the thing he’s unleashed and wishes he hadn’t; or
* He calculates that that dog is now out of the trap, so he can look all statesmanlike while the craziness carries on without him.

Any guesses which?


mclaren 10.11.08 at 1:00 pm

Al Gore was 11 points up at this point in the campaign in the year 2000. We can’t let up. This is the time for a wild adrenaline-fueled blast of superhumane ffort by all Democrats and sane people everywhere. We must outdo all previous efforts at bringing out the vote, we must not just cut off the Repubs’ head but mount it on a pike, burn it, and bury its ashes in a radiation-proof vault 2 miles beneath the surface of the earth.

Massive Republican voter fraud and voter caging on an epochal scale will make this race too close to call. THAT’s when the Democrats will have to _really_ pull out all the stops. Mass riots in the streets when they start examining hanging chads. Mobs shutting down entire cities with sit-down strikes when this election goes to the Supreme Court. We have to make them understand that AMERICAN WILL BURN TO THE GROUND if this election is stolen.


PHB 10.11.08 at 1:53 pm

Chris Y.

I think that it is merely a tactic at this point. If McCain was genuine he would have to suspend his campaign until the crazies have understood that he means it.

McCain has written extensively of his need for validation from his father, it seems to be the same with the press. He really cannot understand why they have abandoned him for a black guy almost half his age. He feels entitled to the Presidency.

But he is also a coward. He could never stand up to his father and tell him that he wanted a different career. He flew planes as the easy way out. His attacks on Obama behind his back but not to his face have been abject cowardice.

That probably explains why McCain does not want to talk face to face with the leaders of Iran or for that matter even Spain. He is too cowardly to imagine looking his enemy in the eye. Perhaps that’s why he was a pilot rather than an infantryman.

At this point though, I think it is over for McCain. The only remaining question is whether he will have enough reputation left to continue in the Senate. He is going to be the Katherine Harris of the 2010 election.

Democrats need to think longer term. There is a practical limit to the amount that can be spent in elections. Obama is way over that point in the swing states and has to worry about going past the point where it is counter-productive.

That is what the Black Tuesday adversary, 30 minute Perot style blocks are there for. Obama is going to present his platform, uninterrupted to the whole country.

Texas is trending Democratic. There is no point in fighting it to win the 2008 election as if Obama wins Texas he has already won the Gore states plus one. But there fighting it in 2008 may put it in play for 2012. Just putting Texas in play is a major problem for the GOP.


Rofe 10.11.08 at 2:35 pm

christian h. (#8 above): I hope the Dems win a crushing victory. Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out, and watch liberals find new excuses to excuse the Dems excuses.

It is remarkable how conservatives view the world. A crushing Democratic victory, of course, would not reflect any inherent attractiveness in the Democrat candidate or the Democratic plaform. This crushing victory, of course, would also not reflect any voter dissatisfaction with the last 8 years of Republican stewardship (not to mention the list of their wretched ‘accomplishments’). Nor, of course would the victory have anything to do with the Republican ticket itself.

No, a crushing victory – in the Republican view – could only come about because of some perfect storm of coincidences (and likely plenty of Democratic dirty tricks, like asking Sarah Palin a question). And the victory, gross coincidence that it is, will only presage more Democratic shennanigans of the sort that forced Republicans in the first place to do any of the bad things they’ve done.

Well, christian, welcome to the real world. If this crushing victory does come about (and God I hope it does) you should enjoy the hell out of it because you and yours contributed mightily to it. Laid the foundation, so to speak. Or, to invoke John Houseman’s, “You’ve eaaarned it !”



Jim Cameron 10.11.08 at 2:38 pm

don’t think gore was up 11 pts


christian h. 10.11.08 at 3:40 pm

It is remarkable how conservatives view the world.

Oh Rofe, you’re funny. Next time you write something – anything – you might want to stop and think about it first, though. Little hint: I’m not a conservative.


MarkUp 10.11.08 at 3:40 pm

”There is no point in fighting it to win the 2008 election as if Obama wins Texas he has already won the Gore states plus one. ”

What, he’s not a Uniter? Perhaps I’m just looking too cynically at what I think of as a highly cynical statement.


Marvin Music 10.11.08 at 3:57 pm

I hope this is true. America can truly not afford 4 years of McCain/Palin on top of what we’ve already gone through. Palin as President would be a nightmare and it would be a real possibility if they win.


IM 10.11.08 at 4:56 pm

I hope the Dems win a crushing victory. Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out, and watch liberals find new excuses to excuse the Dems excuses.

Well, no. What Christian H, said was: “Wer hat uns verraten, Sozialdemokraten.”
In other words Obama and the dems will sell the left out.

Of course that is nonsense. O. is either a liberal, that is a sort of social democrat or a moderate, that is a sort of christian democrat. He has hardly campaigned as any sort of left winger. No selling out here. The lft, as far as it exists in the U.S. is ignored now and wil be ignored later.


lemuel pitkin 10.11.08 at 5:08 pm

Al Gore was 11 points up at this point in the campaign in the year 2000.

I’m pretty sure this is not true. Cite?

I hope the Dems win a crushing victory. Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out, and watch liberals find new excuses to excuse the Dems excuses.

What is it you think CTers are expecting from the Dems, that won’t be delivered?


christian h. 10.11.08 at 5:40 pm

lemuel, if I meant “CTers” I would write “CTers”. I didn’t. I wrote “liberals”. And yes, since this was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I committed the grave sin of not specifying who precisely. Sue me.

IM, I am well aware that Obama is not on the left, thanks. So I guess you are correct he isn’t selling me out, as I have no expectations in the first place (and am also likely to profit from his economic policies, being what Democrats like to call “middle class” – that is, by objective standards, rich).

Still, I have the distinct impression that many liberals have high expectations, and they’ll be sorely disappointed. I’m looking forward to the rationalizations, is all I’m saying. What’s Harry Reid going to do if he can’t hide about the supposed necessity of “60 votes” anymore, because he has them. He might have to admit he thinks spying on citizens is a good idea!

Nevertheless, I mean it when I say I’d like to see the Republicans crushed. Who knows, instead of liberals being disappointed, it might be me who gets a (pleasant) surprise. It’s a chance worth taking.


Joe Seymour 10.11.08 at 6:03 pm

Gore was absolutely not “up 11 points at this time” in 2000. He very briefly held an 8-point advantage in Gallup at the beginning of October, right before the first debate (the “sighing” one that helped to sink him). I certainly agree that this is no time for complacency or overconfidence, but it’s simply not correct to suggest that Gore 2000=Obama 2008 at this point.


lemuel pitkin 10.11.08 at 6:09 pm

lemuel, if I meant “CTers” I would write “CTers”. I didn’t. I wrote “liberals”.

No, you wrote “us”. As in, “Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out.” I’m still wondering what you had in mind.


christian h. 10.11.08 at 6:12 pm

lemuel, yes, you are right – I did write “us”. That was careless of me. I meant “us” as in “the people of the US” not as in “the people on this blog”, and that’s what I should have written.


IM 10.11.08 at 6:18 pm

No, you wrote “us”. As in, “Then we can all enjoy the spectacle of watching them find a new excuse for selling us out.” I’m still wondering what you had in mind

Good point. Obama and the dems will sell us out, but this us does not include you?
Or means us just the citizenship as a whole?


christian h. 10.11.08 at 7:03 pm

IM, see my comment #45. Anyway, I plead guilty. I posted a comment to a blog post, and it clearly wasn’t very well thought out or formulated. Not at all up to the standards of this blog. I apologize. Next time I’ll have some copy editing done before hitting “Submit”.


IM 10.11.08 at 7:10 pm

I plead guilty to crossposting.


Bill Gardner 10.11.08 at 7:33 pm

McLaren @ #33:
We have to make them understand that AMERICAN WILL BURN TO THE GROUND if this election is stolen.

Just two words: Grow up.


MarkUp 10.11.08 at 7:48 pm

”Just two words: Grow up.”

‘Neutron Bomb’, works also, but too is a bit immature of a response. It is funny, the sell out fears, since Obama is so well established in the mythical American ‘center’ that any could feign hurt or shortcomings when he doesn’t act as ‘left’ as the far right paints him to be. Any counting on the concreteness of such Hopeâ„¢ for Change© have lost already. That’s notto say stop pushing, just to not be disappointed if your $2 Powerball ticket only wins you $1 back.


jamie 10.11.08 at 9:12 pm

Here’s the last three presidential elections graphed up against each other:


Around this day in October, 2000, GW was closing the deal and the polls were tied. No Democrat haa had a +10 against a Republican after the conventions since Clinton.


efgoldman99@gmail.com 10.11.08 at 11:15 pm

nick @ 22
“if it is network TV program its a national ad”

not necessarily. every network (or cable) show from the news to dancing with the stars to the superbowl includes local availabilities, which may be sold by the local station or local cable company to national, regional or local advertisers.

i think the other commenters are probably correct – that the buys they are seeing are at the network level – but there’s no way to know for sure unless one can see the local station’s or cable company’s log.


Bush pilot 10.12.08 at 6:08 am

LOL, y’all are as delusional as a 9/11 truther or an intelligent designer – your pick.

Listen, I’ve already heard on campus how McCain sold out his buddies to get special treatment during his time as a POW, how he recklessly shot himself down anyway, so on and so on. It is a little better than 2004, when I was hearing about how much the bush family supported hitler and profited from the holocaust – but that is probably a reflection of the polls. Should they tighten up another few points, I’m sure I’ll learn McCain’s father blew up the Maine to start the Spainish-American war …

holding McCain responsible for what a few folks in his audience yell at his campaign stops is a far higher standard that holding a 20-year member of a church for a few comments that person’s minister makes ;-)


Todd 10.12.08 at 9:49 am

Bush Pilot – Since you like to allude to a certain reverend, lets use it to give the real parallel. Here it is in a SAT analogy:

McCain is to His Supporters as a reverend is to his parishioners.

If McCain spews language that encodes that Obama is the other because he’s “not like us” and that he “pals with terrorists” and then his supporters behave as if Obama is an “Arab” or they are “scared”, then McCain is to some degree responsible.

Now if a Reverend says “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” in one of his two sermons over the course of his tenure at a church. And then his parishioner says in a debate that the Bush administration took its eye off the ball and failed to kill Osama Bin Laden and that “We will kill bin Laden; we will crush al Qaeda” under his Presidency. That Reverend is not responsible for his behavior. He can’t take any credit for it at all.

I don’t believe McCain is racist. He wants to draw a contrast between him and Obama. The Ayers thing is fair game (even if I think he’s overblowing it), but it’s a very difficult game to play because he has to criticize without demonizing – something the Republican party hasn’t been able to do in a long time.


Jim Harrison 10.12.08 at 4:43 pm

The engine of Republican political success is the promotion of culture war. It has been a long time since they could win on the issues. It follows that the difference between what Democrats say during a campaign and what Republicans say during a campaign is not so much a matter of morality as of strategy. Of course Democrats despise Bush and McCain–politics is all about hating–but Democratic candidates would much rather be talking about income disparity, health care, and the energy policy because these issues are winners for them. A Republican candidate simply cannot focus on realities and win.

By the way, while I think Obama is simply being shrewd in avoiding personal attacks on McCain, McCain’s history is actually quite dubious. Obama simply doesn’t have a close relationship with Ayers while McCain’s does have a close and ongoing relationship with Gordon Liddy, various anti-Castro Cuban terrorists, and truly crazy retail preachers like Hagey, not to mention the public fact his running mate is literally in bed with a former member of a successionist fringe party. The they’re-all-alike meme works best when, well, they’re all alike.


MarkUp 10.12.08 at 5:04 pm

“is literally in bed with a former member of a successionist fringe party”

It would be better if she slept with a member of a mainstream ‘successionist’ I suppose. Or should that be in the form of a question?



Jersey Bob 10.12.08 at 5:19 pm

PHB, et al: Texas is NOT trending Democratic, at least not in the Presidential race. Yahoo’s interactive poll of polls shows McCain leading Obama steady at 51 to 38 (http://news.yahoo.com/election/2008/dashboard).

But here in the red part of a blue state, I spent 3 hours yesterday canvassing for Obama and down-ballot races, and will do so again today and later in the week. It doesn’t matter how far ahead we seem to be, now is the time to put the pedal to the metal. Make the Republicrook racists cry in their six packs.


PersonFromPorlock 10.12.08 at 8:58 pm

Any rumor that depends on the Republican Party, or any facet of it, showing competence as a political organization can be discounted out of hand.


PersonFromPorlock 10.12.08 at 9:04 pm

mclaren 10.11.08 at 1:00 pm:

Mobs shutting down entire cities with sit-down strikes when this election goes to the Supreme Court. We have to make them understand that AMERICAN WILL BURN TO THE GROUND if this election is stolen.

My word! Constipation and conflagration?

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