Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2008

HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY.... Following up on an earlier item, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll offers quite a bit of good news for Democrats, but I was thumbing through some of the internals, and noticed some additional data worth considering.

As we know, voters often look to personal characteristics, instead of issue positions, when evaluating candidates, and as it turns out, these may pose an even bigger problem for the McCain campaign than simple horse-race numbers.

Asked, for example, which candidate would do more to bring needed change to Washington, voters prefer Obama to McCain by 25 points (58% to 33%). Asked which candidate better understands the economic problems people are having, voters again prefer Obama by a wide margin (57% to 33%). Asked which candidate is the stronger leader, a question on which McCain used to excel, Obama now has a narrow lead (47% to 46%).

And in my personal favorite, the poll asked respondents which candidate is "more honest and trustworthy." Obama enjoys a healthy, double-digit lead, 47% to 36%.

Just as importantly, this is a recent development. When voters were asked this same question about candidate honesty in mid-July, Obama and McCain were about tied (Obama had a three-point lead). The same poll asked the same question in August, and again, they were about tied (Obama led by just one point). Shortly after the Republican convention, McCain was perceived as more trustworthy by six points.

And now, that trend has completely reversed, and Obama leads by 11 points on honesty and trustworthiness.

I mention this in part because there's been a noticeable trend of late of political observers expressing their disappointment in the McCain campaign's relentless lying and shameless dishonesty, and I've wondered whether voters would pick up on any of this. If the poll results are any indication, they have.

Steve Benen 9:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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maybe all of those lies that he leaves in his commercials after they have been proven false, maybe the blatant lies coming out of his mouth at campaign stops, maybe they're all having an impact after all. we can only hope.

orange

Posted by: just bill on September 24, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I've wondered whether voters would pick up on any of this. If the poll results are any indication, they have.

So much for McCain's brand.

Posted by: Gregory on September 24, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I can't help but think it has something to do with how over the top and obvious the lies were. I don't think most voters are Pollyannas, I think they are fairly cynical about politicians' smears and expect a certain amount of nonsense, but McCain set a new low in POLITICAL LYING after EIGHT YEARS of GEORGE W. BUSH. There's pretty much no way your credibility won't take a hit, with that kind of accomplishment.

Posted by: jibeaux on September 24, 2008 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, I have no sympathy for McCain at all. He could have chosen to lose honorably, and instead he's going to lose with dishonor. He and his reputation will wind up on the ashheap of history along with all the other failed, corrupt politicians.

As Steve points out, this motion is doubtless due at least in part to the recent attention given to McCain's repeated lies. But the recent attacks by Team McCain on the media have me wondering -- did they really expect the media to aid and abet his lies?

Posted by: Gregory on September 24, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but how could 36% say McEvil is honest about anything when in fact he has not been ? He has in fact lied about everything ... even lies about lying... and this has been covered and presented even by the Corporate Media in spades ... on TV, in newspapers , and magazines like Newsweek and Time. So how is it then possible for anyone with a pulse to say McEvil is honest about anything ?

Posted by: stormskies on September 24, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I have to be a bit more cynical. What these polls show me is that a lot of people rely on the media for their opinions, rather than the facts. Thus, when Campbell Brown challenges McCain over media access, she gains the credibility to later say, "After watching Obama stumble in the debates, it's clear that McCain has a better understanding of economics."

Posted by: Danp on September 24, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Following up on my 10:08 comment, this has been the MO of David Brooks for years. I can't believe how many of my liberal friends think he is a moderate. The fact is he merely understands that his audience is liberal, so he couches his beliefs with Clintonesque caveats.

Posted by: Danp on September 24, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Remember "generic beer?" That nasty, awful, foul-aftertaste stuff that made "Crudweiser" taste good by comparison?

Well---McCain just made generic beer look good.

Same thing for that kim-jong-whatever goofus in North Korea, and Mr. Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

By comparison, he's even making Bush/Cheney look good.

Maybe that's the plan....

Posted by: Steve on September 24, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Now that I can once again watch the news shows (8 years of Bu$h propaganda sickened me), I found myself watching Rachel Maddow's show last night, and it dawned on me that it seems adults are back in town. A one hour cable TV news show actually discussing ISSUES in a mature and detailed fashion? I know Countdown and a few others have been doing this for years, but it is so refreshing that sanity finally seems to be creeping back into the public sphere.

I thought common sense was a ting of the past, but maybe, just maybe, Americans are growing up and realize what's important. And it ain't lipstick on a pig.

Oh, and just as a sidebar, I flipped through the channels during a commercial and Dildo Lielly had two guests on playing a trivia game, seeing if they could remember the name of a animated character Angelina Jolie was the voice over for.

And I thought Falafel guy hated pop culture!

Posted by: citizen_pain on September 24, 2008 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

how could 36% say McEvil is honest about anything when in fact he has not been ?

If memory serves me right, that number is roughly equivalent to those self-identifying as Republicans. I've commented before on the imperviousness of movement conservatives to information that conflicts with their faith.

Posted by: Gregory on September 24, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone think it is important that the Bush Administration has yet to conclude that the economy is even in a recession and yet they are convinced that our financial system is about to collapse?

Is it possible that they are just trying to avoid recession for a few more months, until say Feb. 2009.

Posted by: tomj on September 24, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

The individual questions can't be taken too seriously - if people like a candidate they will answer accordingly on each question, and their like or dislike may be determined by media hype more than the characteristics on the questions.

Still, the changes are significant.

Posted by: skeptonomist on September 24, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sure McCain's handlers will have only one prescription for what's ailing McCain: More cowbell. These people totally destroyed McCain's only chance by undermining his credibility, simply because they only know how to fight dirty and their playbook doesn't have plays that involve a friendly media. And so their first move was to alienate the media, which has destroyed McCain's lifeline. And now that they've burned through that, they'll just keep running the same play over and over; becoming increasingly dumbfounded as to why it's not working. Thus far, their only solution to being called liars is to keep lying.

McCain got a bounce because there was a lag between the negative attacks and the repercussions of the negative attacks. But karma's a bitch and McCain's got further to drop before it's done. And the Palin fad only helped mask the problem, by making them believe that their negative attacks were more effective than they really were. For as much as people were comparing Palin to Qualye, I think the better analogy is Vanilla Ice. Sure, you thought he was cool at first, but it quickly became an embarrassment to admit that you thought so. Palin will be remembered as a joke.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 24, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

In an earlier post someone noted the direct correlation between the potshots McCain hurls at Obama and the subsequent craters unearthed in the Palin/McCain campaign. It just keeps happening over and over and over.

Now, this poll tidbit basically blazes across the sky the hilarious irony of having a reputation for dishonesty while you're puttering around in the fuckin' "Straight Talk Express."

Uh-oh! Better get Maaco.

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

McCain/Palin's dishonesty has become a major theme in this campaign and they're paying the price. I think it will add an interesting dimension to the debates. They've lied so brazenley and so often that it will be difficult for them to seriously answeer questions. They will find themselves in a position to repeat a proven lie or somehow backtrack. They've put themselves at a disadvantage. Too bad.

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 24, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

But will they vote for him? For a long time Generic Democrat has had a wide lead over Generic Republican, but Obama barely outpolled McCain. Now the public, through daily exposure to Obama's persuasive, reasoned style, versus McCain's petulant, lying, turbulent campaign, is seeing that Obama is the better man, and offerting the better way into the future. But will that translate into enough votes to overcome the stealth resistance to a black president, which will likely culminate on election day, and is almost certainly what is keeping the polls so close currently? What other explanation can there be than the racial factor?

Posted by: hark on September 24, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

"As we know, voters often look to personal characteristics, instead of issue positions, when evaluating candidates..."

Over time, we gotta do something about this. Voting for a person that will give us "more wars" that would result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents, explode the national debt, destroy our environment, erode our incomes, reduce our job security, turn our courts over to ideologues, and jail, torture and execute the innocent simply because we like his or her "personal characteristics" is, putting it mildly, fucked up.

Posted by: CJ on September 24, 2008 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I think this honesty bounce has more to do with McCain's 180 degree turn from the Great Deregulator to fire breathing populist in a 24 hour period last week than it does his disgusting video ads without any $$ behind them intended for the media 2 weeks ago.

Posted by: markg8 on September 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

CJ: word.

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory: But the recent attacks by Team McCain on the media have me wondering -- did they really expect the media to aid and abet his lies?

I think they did. I think they profoundly misjudged the mood of the country and the closer attention being paid by many voters to this campaign. I think they thought McCain's 25-year free ride with a fawning and forgiving media would see them through no matter what they did. I think they thought that 11th-hour tricks could be sustained for three months.

And, perhaps most importantly, I think that when they started channeling Spiro Agnew from the grave with a transparent attack on the media, they seriously underestimated how personally offended the thin-skinned press corps would be--and how inevitable was the backlash from that.

Posted by: shortstop on September 24, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I think they thought that 11th-hour tricks could be sustained for three months.

Not without reason -- recall that Joe Klein and Richard Cohen defended McCain's lies in several columns before joining the "Enough" Club.

As was observed in the wake of the McCain campaign's recent attack on the New York Times, movement conservatives play a double game: They rely on the MSM to get its message out, but can charge "liberal media bias!" to justify their ignoring any information that conflicts with their faith.

Posted by: Gregory on September 24, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

A corrolary to this is the fact that McCain is not being given a free pass by the media anymore.

I think that story is worth looking into! It's not like the media has a weak stomach about accepting GOP lies.

Posted by: zak822 on September 24, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

As usual, hark cuts straight to the core of the matter; John McCain and the mouth-breathers who run his campaign do not give a tin weasel for what the polls say. They're running a slash-and-burn action which relies on people holding their noses and voting Republican, knowing they will be able to rationalize later that they were tricked. The only difference between this election and the last two is that the Republican campaign is barely even disguising its attempts to fool the uninformed voters.

It's all about getting past the finish line first, no mater what it takes to get there. If he wins (for the record, I strongly doubt it), he'll give a tearjerker speech that riffs heavily on his POW experience, semi-apologize in a roundabout way for the dirty things he had to do to win the election, plead for unity and for the country to come together, and finish up with a bunch of blather about reaching across the aisle.

If Obama wins, his speech would probably sound a lot the same, except for the POW stuff and apologizing for having to be a shitheel to win. Whoever wins is going to face an electorate among which roughly half are bitterly oppposed to his election: winning them over is going to be job one, or else America's rise from the ashes is going nowhere.

Posted by: Mark on September 24, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop nails it: Of course McCain's team thought the media would be compliant and just ignore his lies. They've been doing it for the better part of 23 years, so why would they stop now?

Plus, it's worked for Bush and others in the GOP for a while now -- the media was so beaten into the ground by them with the false claims of "liberal bias!!" they just went along.

But the one thing McCain -- and the GOP in general -- seem to not have a grasp of is this thing called "The Internet."

We know McCain has no clue about it, but it's not just him: It's like most of the GOP doesn't realize what they say and do is recorded for all the world to see. They just think once it leaves their mouths (or, more accurately, asses), it goes away, never to be seen or heard from again.

It doesn't work that way any more, and they have yet to catch on to it.

And here's to hoping they never do ...

:-)

Posted by: Mark D on September 24, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

These numbers raise more red flags about polling in general. According to most polls the race is still very tight in many states. Yet the internals of this poll show overwhelming support for Obama over McCain. So are the results of this poll somehow skewed or tainted, or are many people thinking of voting completely opposite of their stated opinions when the time comes?

The former would be unfortunate, the latter would be insane. Talk me down here, folks, I'm really not comprehending this one.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on September 24, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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