Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Sweeps the World, but McCain Moves Ahead of him Colorado Polls: What Gives?

So, Obama has had a nearly flawless foreign trip, which he clearly needed to make given the drumbeat of criticism about his "inexperience" from the McCain camp. It went better than anybody could have expected, with such bonuses as Iraqi PM al-Maliki coming out for his withdrawal timetable, that huge and favorable crowd in Berlin waving US flags for his thoughtful and charismatic speech, and even that shot through the hoop from behind the three-point line on the first try before cheering troops in Kuwait. Meanwhile, McCain was making gaffe after gaffe while visiting such outstanding places as the Fudge Haus in the German Village in Columbus, OH (yes, I know, swing city in a swing state), with almost nobody in attendance. But here we get it: McCain is now two points ahead of Obama in the latest polls out of Colorado after Obama being ahead of McCain for months, and reports have McCain making gains in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well, enough so that he might be ahead in MN if he picks Pawlenty for VP and ahead in MI if he picks Romney for it. So, what gives?

Probably the best explanation is that this trip has put foreign policy at the top of the debate and voters' consciousnesses, and for all the favorable photo ops and publicity, the hard fact is that McCain continues to hold a substantial lead on this issue over Obama. So, focusing on it has helped McCain, despite his constant references to Czechoslovakia (heck, confusing Slovakia with Slovenia did not hurt Bush in 2000). Of course, Obama needed to make this trip, and hopefully it will help in the longer run, weakening all those presumptions of foreign policy inexperience and incompetence (he looked plenty presidential and commander-in-chiefish, even if many more progressively oriented types may have found his hawkish rhetoric on some issues uncomfortable). But, now that he is back home, he should hope that the attention and the discourse shift back to such issues as the economy, where he clearly has a big lead over McCain.


Sandwichman said...

I doubt many people change their voting intentions based on what has been reported on the TV news in the last 24 hours. Not everybody is even watching. At this point in the (pre-)campaign, polls are nearly meaningless.

Jack said...

Two points ahead in polls coming out of Colorado, you say? What a surprise. I don't suppose that those polls give any details as to where in Colorado McCain has gained this upper hand. Wow, two points in a state with some of the most reactionary hamlets in the country. did the polls include Boulder or Denver? Was there a concentration on Colorado City? Do you think that Truman can catch up to Dewey?

One thing that has happened this week is that the media has stopped drooling all over McCain. He's stuck his foot in his mouth so often lately that maybe, just maybe, the adoring media has gotten the message that they had been fawning over a probable loser.
The Colorado polls? If McCain takes Colorado by only two points
he's a sure loser over all.

CMike said...

This July 27 election map looks encouraging.

Brenda Rosser said...

How reliable are the polls? How are polls verified?

I find it hard to believe that people would actually vote for another Republican in the US. Especially one that sounds a lot like George Bush.

Bruce Webb said...
McCain vs Obama in all polls.

The trend line in Colorado is fine. And given that the Democratic Convention is going to be in Denver we can expect wall to wall coverage in Colorado, the Obama campaign won't even have to throw a single ad up, you won't be able to turn on a TV or drive around the city without seeing the word 'Obama' in the background.

That McCain even has to contest Colorado is a plus for Democrats.
As to Brenda's question most of these polls (as shown in my supplied link) are fully scientific and statisically valid. Between the US's much larger population overall compared to similarly developed countries it is just not that hard to get a valid sample. For example while some polls have Bush typically higher and some typically lower historically national polls have tracked his approval rating within a relatively tight band.

Bruce Webb said...

Barkley this is OT. But over at AB I was asked about how European retirement systems compared to US Social Security. I know that you have weighed in on this in comments so if you are any of the Econospeaks could point me to some data sources on worker/retiree ratios and contribution levels I would appreciate it.

BTW I have the green light to post pretty much anything Social Security related at AB. If anyone has something they would like to expose in another venue pretty much its 'ask and you will receive'.

Bruce Webb said...

Shoot. Double copied the Colorado polling link and left of the Bush one. This combined poll is from Prof. Pollkatz (Eugene Stuart Thiel) who is a national treasure: said...


You're kidding,right? That map of yours is from 2004, and if anything proves my point. Kerry was ahead at this time four years ago, only to lose it in the end for various reasons.


Bruce W. is right that most of the polling done in the US is fairly accurate, as much as it can be. There are different polls, and some tilt in one direction or the other a bit, but watching the tracking average is usually pretty close to what is going on.

Are there people willing to vote for McCain. Oh yes. Do keep in mind that he ran against Bush in 2000, and was savaged by the Bush campaign. He has a long and well-deserved reputation as a moderate maverick, and certainly is more so than any of his now-gone rivals for the Republican nomination, which is one of the reasons he got the nomination. He was certainly the only one of that gang who had enough credible distance from Bush to get elected, along with an appealing personal story from his POW war heroism in Vietnam. Of course he has more recently been getting himself in hot water because he has moved closer to Bush on many issues, especially economic ones, where he appears to have no strong views or knowledge (and he has publicly admitted the last point). His strong point has long been foreign policy, where he is now claiming to be the man behind the surge in Iraq and claiming loudly that it has "worked," with a lot of media buying into that and giving Obama a hard time about having opposed it.

There are also parts of the country that are just intensely conservative in ways one does not see in Austrialia, or pretty much anywhere else in the high income countries, especially the Deep South, where Bush remains popular. It is both racism and religious extremism there.

Bruce W.,

Not sure I can get those numbers for you. I am leaving town for two weeks (conferences and lecturing in Europe, not vacation) and am madly trying to get everything in order before I blow the popsicle stand. Probably also means that people will not be seeing much of me here during that time. But, I remember finding those worker to retiree ratios pretty easily by googling. They are not exactly state secrets anywhere. Indeed, the generalization that many western European countries are near the two to one ratio that all these folks in the US freak out about when it is projected here for around 2030 is roughly correct, although I do not think any of them are quite at two to one yet.


Oh yeah, I would be surprised if McCain can hold a lead in CO, but the point more was that most of us would have been expecting some large scale movement across the US towards Obama after this past week, and if anything there has been this drift towards McCain, certainly no avalanche for Obama, although WaPo this morning declared the past week "a rout for Obama," which although it might sound bad for him, turned out to be nothing but a how great the week was for Obama, with no mention of the polls that so far have not exactly confirmed that.

Barkley said...

Regarding the polls, I was just digging around some at daily kos. There is an entry trumpeting the Gallup daily tracking poll. According to it Obama has nationally opened up his largest lead over McCain ever, 49% to 40%. However, there is this kicker. If one digs through that link further one finds a Gallup daily tracking poll for the purple states (the swing states). There the margin has narrowed from 49-40% some days ago to 48-42% most recently. So, for whatever weird reason, Obama has gained nationally, presumably in states where he is leading (or maybe in some where he is way behind), but has lost ground in the crucial battleground states. We are still at "What gives?"

Bruce W.,

Hmmm. Just did some googling, and those numbers are not easy to find, and different sources seem to give different numbers. The only place I found comparisons of the US and Germany was an odd source at,Declining Workforces Will Be Unable to Fund Future Pensions. It showed a figure, so it is hard to be precise, but it looks like the US is (or was in 2003, the year of the data source) at 3.8 in workers per retiree while Germany and Japan were at 2.5. This same figure has the US at about 2.3 in 2030, and about 2.2 in 2040, when Germany will be at 1.5 and Japan at 1.0.

I found another source just for Germany that has its 2000 "old age dependency ratio" (over 55 retired to workers) at 0.48, which would suggest a worker to retiree ratio of 1/.48, or 2.08, barely above 2 to 1. That can be found at

BTW, this Watsonwyatt outfit was the ultimate source for the figure in the other link, so you might want to dig around with them. In any case, whatever the precise numbers, it is accurate to say that the current German worker to retiree is at most barely above what the projection is for the US in 2030. That is about all the time I can spend on this right now, Bruce. Good luck digging further. Maybe you can get some really reliable numbers. (Looks like these might be state secrets after all.)

Bruce Webb said...

Thanks Barkley I'll take tthat as a springboard for my own Googling.

I was kind of vaguely hoping you had access to some OECD study that had done the work for me. I suspect that giving different contribution rates we are looking apples and oranges.

For example some of the GMU boys are pimping the Singapore Central Provident Fund which combines elements of HSA, Retirement Savings, and a mandatory add on plan. What they don't tell you is that it requires a combined 40% contribution with a 20%/20% employee/employer split compared to a 7.65%/7.65 split for Social Security and Medicare Part A. Give an extra 12.35% on each side and see what I can deliver.

Anonymous said...

As a Denver resident, I observed that:
1) McCain has been advertising a lot during Rockies games, the Rockies have had a 9 of 10 winning streak, so McCain's ads have gotten a lot more viewers;
2) The same polls also showed the Colorado Republican Senate candidate closing a 10-point gap;
3) The Republicans have been pushing the "more drilling will lower gas prices" and "oil shale is the magic bullet" memes, which are very popular on the Colorado western slope.