Friday, October 31, 2008

Right Where We Want 'Em

Heh. Obama is launching ads in Arizona, Georgia and North Dakota. Now, these are some motherfucking red states. While recent polling suggests all of these states are marginally competitive, I don't expect Obama thinks he can win in these states. I agree with Nate Silver -- this is primarily a media strategy designed to demoralize the McCain campaign. It's like the burning of Atlanta in the Civil War.

I love McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' take in a memo to journalists tonight, characterizing the move as: "an attempt to widen the playing field and find his 270 Electoral Votes. This is a very tall order and trying to expand into new states in the final hours shows he doesn't have the votes to win." What? The fact that these states are competitive rather than absolutely blood red at this point is somehow bad for Obama?

McCain's silly "we got 'em right where we want 'em" nonsense made me think of this:

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I thought the Obama infomercial was pretty boring. In his effort to be substantive and to reach out to the few undecideds or soft republicans, he purposefully swung away from his lofty rhetoric into a mundane articulation of policy. Frankly, I think we could have used a jolt of his preachifying at this point -- we've seen enough policy on the stump. And the cut-away to him live at the end was totally anti-climactic.

But consider this: he did not mention Bush or McCain once during the 30 minutes. Never said, "Don't vote for him because ..." or "... failed policies of ..." Only talked about what he wanted to do. The future. Again, you may think he's the anti-christ, but the dude looked presidential.

Can you imagine McCain's 30 minutes in prime time?  Here's Juan Cole's take:
... if I had to guess, it would be ten minutes about McCain as a POW, ten minutes of McCain saying he isn’t Bush, and then ten minutes of bullshit smears about Ayers, Khalidi, socialism, celebrity, and maybe Rick Davis could go before the cameras and pull a tire gauge out of his ass. 

Cranky Asshole Update

As this most entertaining election cycle comes to a conclusion, I went back and read my Six Reasons post and felt I should update it with what I've learned in the eight weeks since I first wrote it.

I believe we've learned a lot about McCain's character and his fitness to govern from watching his campaign. And I think what we have learned is not positive, and leads me to conclude even more strongly that a vote for this man is not just a mistake, but an indictment of the voter's intelligence and powers of observation.

McCain's whole campaign has been about character. He really has not offered more than a crumb of policy discussion in the last several months. To the extent he has discussed them, his economic policies are incoherent -- like a moron reciting Ronald Reagan's talking points without really understanding the underlying issues (gee, kind of like every Sarah Palin interview, come to think of it).

What have we seen of McCain's "character"? We've seen a despicable, angry, name-calling jerk. He's an embarrassment to the American political culture. He's called his opponent a terrorist sympathizer (and doesn't object when others forget the "sympathizer" part and call Obama an actual terrorist); he's called him every 20th century name for commie that he can think of (socialist, marxist, redistributionist); he's called him naive, disloyal, dangerous, duplicitous, a Manchurian candidate, a fey academic, you name it. Pathetic.

This is McCain's character. A sense of senatorial entitlement and complete contempt for the American people as intelligent, cautious and independent-minded. Just yell a bunch of 1950's buzzwords and get them to vote with their emotions. The problem for the old bastard is that it ain't the 1950's any more.

And, once and for all, fuck John McCain's "service to our country" narrative (which, by way of reminder, was primarily as a POW in Vietnam; not exactly George Washington or Andrew Jackson or Ike territory, folks). If that's a reason to vote for him, we are a bunch of cretins. Any honor he accrued in Vietnam has been squandered in the sordid pathos of this campaign (and, before that, in the sordid personal history he accumulated post-war). He has absolutely no claim to being a viable commander in chief because of his captivity in Vietnam. It's completely idiotic.

More troubling even than the character issue is what we've learned about his fitness to govern. I'm not even going to get into the Palin pick -- all that needs to be said has been said better, by others. But back in August I wrote that he "surrounds himself with mediocre people" and the Palin pick is no exception. He has no interest in policy -- at a time of insane fragility of the American system of government and economy, this is reason enough not to vote for him. I believe he is clinically bi-polar, and I can't imagine a worse mental disorder to have in a president. He doesn't listen to anyone but himself. He's a compulsive gambler. The fatigue of the campaign trail has made him seem increasingly senile (his attempt to remember the 5th secretary of state who endoresed him on NBC was scary/pathetic). And he is going to die soon, perhaps very soon, leaving a potential power vacuum that defies historical comparison.

McCain is totally unfit to lead this nation. He really is George W. Bush with a little more gravitas -- dumb, narcissistic, mean-spirited, petty, anti-intellectual. We really don't need more of that shit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


HipLogic, one of the companies I invested in earlier this year, launched their platform today. Here's the video:

The conventional wisdom around Sand Hill Road is that the whole world will be running iPhones or Android phones in a couple of months, but as long-time readers know, I don't really buy that. In my conversations with carriers and handset manufacturers, they are looking for increased data services across their range of handsets, and the impending recession only makes that more urgent, as smartphone sales have fallen off in Europe and likely in the US as well.

The goals of the HipLogic platform are infinite personalization of the mobile experience, easy discovery of data services, and always-on connectivity. I think it's the right technology for the time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And You Wonder ...

... why I believe we need not simply defeat these American Taliban -- we need to sow their fields with salt for a generation. Take a listen to this, all you jews, muslims, non-evangelical christians, city-dwellers, free-thinkers, etc.  

After a week during which we heard Palin call us anti-American by implication, some unhinged Minnesota congresswoman call for a McCarthyesque pogrom against the un-American members of congress, a McCain flack suggest northern Virginia isn't real because it isn't "southern" (code for conservative and xenophobic, oh, I mean "patriotic"), and the rising spectre of a Reverend Wright attack on Obama's patriotism, don't you think it's time we stopped viewing these people as simply ignorant and pathetic, and started viewing them as a threat to our democracy?

[UPDATE] Mea culpa. Leave it to the master ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin, Revisited

I've mostly remained out of the fray as the left has picked apart Palin with a vengeance. But after a month of aggressive digging (and muckraking) by both the old and new media, I think some of the realities are starting to emerge.

Clearly, she's a not-very-bright small town/small state conservative. As such, she is scary to the coastal elites like all fly-over conservatives, because she's deeply religious in a freaky, enthusiastic, evangelical way; because she rejects the discourse of the traditional elites in favor of a know-nothing populism and fake "real America" patriotism (therefore, no press conferences prior to the election -- what good would that do? It would be about as useful as W. agreeing to debate theology with a panel of Wahhabi clerics); because she is into guns and snowmobiles and other stuff the elites find unpleasant. But that's not the crux of the problem.

There are two aspects of her biography that are actually quite troubling. And, no, it's not the fact that she's totally, completely unprepared for national office. Let's take that as a given.

The first is her absolute inability to tell the truth. Her ridiculous lies about her record and her abilities are really startling (Andrew Sullivan has done a good job of documenting them in his blog at the Altantic Monthly). She clearly believes it's ok to lie about almost anything to serve the higher cause of the mission from God that she is on, and to further ingratiate herself with that collection of xenophobes, fundamentalists, and rural conservatives who form her national base.

The second troubling aspect of the Palin bio can be found in the crevices of several of the stories about her -- namely, that she is largely an empty vessel, an instrument that has been played by a series of domineering men (her father, husband, minister and now a coterie of McCain handlers and conservative pundits). Hell, they won't even let her watch the news these days, so she doesn't get depressed, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. After all, they need her blindly swinging the axe for McCain. 

Combined with her lack of intellectual power and curiosity, this character trait makes Palin able to conduct the appallingly sleazy, racist McCain campaign while appearing as chipper as a Disney character. She seems to believe that Obama is un-American/muslim/terrorist in the same uncritical manner that she believes humans and dinosaurs co-existed 6,000 years ago -- because some male authority figure told her it was "true." (Well, perhaps not true in the sense that normal people use the word true, but true in the bizarro semiotic world her brain inhabits). The immoral stuff that makes McCain twitch in disgust is just water off this daffy duck's back.

What I'm more convinced of than ever is that Palin is decidedly not the future of American conservatism, despite the idiotic claims of Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard. If this election plays out the way it appears to be playing out, I believe the American conservative movement is headed for a great schism: the religionist wing (Palin, Huckabee) form one coalition around a few core social issues like abortion, while the ideological wing becomes the party in opposition, firing salvos at the Dems on big government and foreign policy. The latter will blame the former for losing this election (and with some legitimacy -- almost every conservative newspaper, for example, that has endorsed Obama has done so in part because of Palin).

They'll remain splintered until they find a Reagan/Clinton figure who can reunite them and move them to the center. Let's hope it doesn't happen for a good, long time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


No, not Tom Ellsworth's mobile video company. "Get Out The Vote." The grassroots key to winning elections. Actually mobilizing the lazy, disaffected electorate to line up at the local church or school and cast an actual ballot.
You may disagree with Obama ideologically on policy (even I was a little freaked out by how many programs he said he wants to fund in last night's debate), but read this piece on how he has built his much-celebrated ground game to get out the vote, and you can't but be impressed that a politician has finally figured out how to run a top-down and bottom-up campaign in the modern world. If this "movement" has legs, the Republicans are in deep trouble for the future (as some of them are starting to acknowledge). If you want to know what he learned as a community organizer -- the element of his resume that pious Palin derides so aggressively -- this is it. And, ironically, it may crush the church-based Republican alternative for decades.
In the meantime, the Obama campaign is going on a red state offensive in the final 19 days. They are running ads in West Virginia. They are considering expanding their footprint to Georgia, North Dakota and Kentucky, while continuing their ad blitz in Florida, Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina. I can construct a (somewhat fanciful) scenario in which he breaks 400 electoral votes. On the other hand, my gut tells me that just won't happen. But I do think it's going to take a small miracle for McCain to keep it under 350.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Debate

Much better than the previous ones. More substantive. More interactive. I was worried about old hack Bob Scheiffer as moderator, but he was pretty good.
I thought McCain started much better than Obama, who seemed a little off his game, a little slow and befuddled at the outset. McCain had him on the defensive for most of the first half of the debate.
About an hour in, though, McCain seemed to get tired and made three significant tactical blunders. First, he blew the Ayers/ACORN attack (which Obama only weakly refuted) by trying to segue into an argument that he was focused on the economy not character. Second, he got gobsmacked by Obama on the cost of health care plans. And third, he really messed up the partial birth abortion question, with his sneering air quotes on the health of the mother.
The split screen on HD really hurt McCain badly. He seemingly couldn't control his Tourette's-like mannerisms -- grunting, snorting, eye-rolling, grimacing, lip-licking --- or his obvious disdain for and condescending attitude toward Obama, who played it with his usual preternatural cool.
I think McCain won the debate scorecard -- he had more hits and took less direct damage. Substantively, I think it was a slight tilt to Obama, who seemed more credible and in control of his material. But on form, Obama crushed McCain -- he presented starkly the choice between the unflappable young man and the angry old bastard. As one commentator said afterwards, do we really want to see McCain's hideous face on our TV screens for the next four years?

Thoughts on the Sequoia Deck

Two things really struck me after reading the "RIP Good Times" deck that Sequoia Capital presented to their CEO's at an all-hands meeting last week.
First, the extremely well-done and convincing frontispiece. Looking at graph after graph of macro-economic data, one gets the overwhelming feeling of inevitability.  Of course this crash happened. Look at the numbers!  Rising consumer debt. Falling wages. Ballooning home prices. Diminished savings. Risky lending. Insane derivatives vehicles. Out of control deficits. Jeez. If it seems so inevitable in retrospect, why didn't anyone (other than Paul Krugman) see it coming? 
I'm not suggesting that Sequoia's economist are overstating the challenging nature of the current economy and the factors that got us here; rather, I am shocked that these economists weren't advising their banking and hedge fund friends to reduce leverage, anticipate the sell-off in equities, and prepare for 1929 all over again. Guess the money was too good.
Second, look at slides 46 and 47.  The "what should our CEOs do" slides. On slide 46 they admonish their CEOs to create must-have products with clear revenue models; understand consumer's ability to pay and the alternatives available from competitors; conserve cash and focus on profitability. On slide 47 they suggest an ops review in which the CEOs should focus on cutting unnecessary G&A and production costs, being realistic about closing business, developing only necessary product features, and seeking a return on invested operating dollars. Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this what CEOs are supposed to be doing in ANY market?
That the very smart people at Sequoia, one of America's leading venture firms, feel that they have to tell their CEOs to ... well, to act like CEOs, tells me something about how much we've forgotten since the dot-com bubble burst and how much we all have been seduced by non-businesses (but ones with lots of users!) in the post-bubble web 2.0 froth.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Culture of Thrift

One of my mantras as a business unit manager and as a CEO was the importance of creating an organizational culture of thrift.  A lot of CEOs pay lip service to cost control, but don't really run their organizations with thrift as a fundamental value.  I think that is a terrible mistake.
In organizations that are succeeding, there is the tendency toward carelessness in spending. It's not outright, intentional waste; rather, it is just a willingness to let things slide and an assumption that it's not worth the pain to micro-manage everything. And so, the myriad of little expenditures run together into a flood of budget-busting costs. Conversely, running a thrifty organization means actually looking at every dollar that is being spent and thinking about the value that dollar of spending is generating in return.
Thrift is not simply cost-cutting. Many times, cutting costs is just not wise. It constrains the organization and prevents growth. But anyone who has managed a medium to large organization will attest to the fact that a lot of money gets spent on things that don't really matter to the success of the company. 
When I was younger, and dumber, I used to think you could create simple bonus incentives for managers to cut spending. But that didn't work -- managers would just say no to any project, regardless of how vital, in the interest of bonus maximization. That's where the culture of thrift came in. Instead of making the dialog about cutting, you shift the dialog to "how can we derive the most benefit from the smallest expenditure." 
Here's a great example: in the summer of 2006, Nanea Reeves and I assumed responsibility for the online platforms at Electronic Arts. I won't go into the details, but trust me -- at the time we took over, it was a mess.  We had to make a very sharp break with the past. Unfortunately, there was already a large team in place, a lot of spending in the pipeline, and a lot of risk aversion to going a radically different direction. Yet, everyone acknowledged that the platforms were broken and EA's future competitiveness would be compromised if we carried on with the existing plans.  Stalemate.
The typical way things go at EA (a company that doesn't have a trace of the culture of thrift in its DNA), you would figure out the product features and then bargain with your boss about budget. Nanea and I didn't do this -- we applied our culture of thrift thinking to the problem. We looked at the current budget and said, "How do we get what we need without any additional spending -- just by using the earmarked dollars in the budget?" We could do it, but it required firing a large number of people who were not useful to our strategy -- perhaps up to 75% of the employees in the group. It required outsourcing. And we explicitly put on the table the end of our department at the end of our project: when we finish, we go away. No empire building. No busy work. No inertial spending.
We got resistance at every level -- while nobody wanted to expand the budget to cover our new strategy, at the same time the EA culture fought us to retain unnecessary employees, continue funding quixotic projects, and not rock the boat. I kid you not: the then-CEO of EA actually interceded to question the wisdom of firing one of the low-level producers, because "he heard she was good." That's how unpopular a culture of thrift can be in an organization that is used to wanton spending. Ultimately, we prevailed, and on a recent earnings call, the now-CEO of EA actually spoke about our new "Nucleus" platform as a bedrock competitive advantage of the new, improved EA.
That's the essence of the culture of thrift. Do more with less. In this environment, it is the skill set that will separate the winners from the losers.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fite Dem Back

I've been listening to a lot of Linton Kwesi Johnson lately. For those of you who don't know him, LKJ was a British dub poet of West Indian origin, who recorded several amazing and incendiary reggae albums in the late 70s and early 80s. LKJ is, sadly, the perfect soundtrack to the current political and economic circumstances.

LKJ was at the height of his powers as a poet during a time of tremendous racial strife in England, with the anti-immigrant National Front on the rise, and frequent acts of violence perpetrated against blacks and Pakistanis by dead-enders and skinheads, and more subtle institutional racism perpetrated by the police, through the infamous "sus" laws. LKJ took on the racism of British culture with calm fury that still resonates as clear as a bell today.

Earlier this year, with the war still raging and the Democratic primaries in full swing, I was attracted to the dark, apocalyptic tones of "Time Come," with its rock-steady beats and lyrics of dire warning. Later, over the summer, I spent more time listening to his incredible "Independant Intavenshan" with its passionate call for personal political action, against a backdrop of jaunty horns.

But in the last couple of weeks, as the Republican demagogues have unleashed the race-baiting, xenophobic anger of the extreme right (and particularly the "Christian" conservative base), the song I keep gravitating to is LKJ's "Fite Dem Back." To wit:
Fascists on the attack!
No botha worry 'bout dat
Fascists on the attack!
We will fite dem back
Fascists on the attack!
We will countah-attack
Fascists on the attack!
When we drive dem back
We gonna smash they brains in
'Cause they ain't got nothin in 'em
This election gives us a clear chance to repudiate the toxic brew of hate and ignorance that passes for populism on the extreme right, and perhaps to end the unholy influence of evangelical christianity over the Republican party.

In times like these, when fascist cops can get on stage and spew thinly-veiled race hatred with impunity, we have a moral duty as Americans to fite dem back. To smash them. To demoralize them and end their power as a movement.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Veep Debate Redux

I actually found the vice-presidential debate more enjoyable than the presidential debate.  In place of the grouchy dickhead McCain and the aloof, bloodless Obama, Palin and Biden seemed like nice, normal people.  
Palin held her own, didn't try for too many scripted zingers, and, after a shaky start, seemed to relax into the moment.  I expected her to over-perform expectations, so her good performance didn't really surprise me all that much.
Biden was better than I expected -- more substantive, less windy, and as genuine as a guy who's lived in the Senate his whole adult life can possibly be.  He kept his answers short.  He was respectful of Palin but critical of McCain.  He walked the tightrope well.
Gwen Ifill, the moderator, was a train-wreck.  She failed miserably to keep the debaters on the question at hand, and let them wander all over the place in their answers.  
Who won?  Who cares.  Unless Jesus Christ walked into the auditorium and endorsed Palin, her performance wasn't going to change the game much (perhaps, as I expect, it will stanch the bleeding somewhat, and keep McCain at -6 to -8% over the weekend).  Biden reinforced the cool competence of the Obama campaign, without making too much trouble.  Unlike the punditocray, I think it was a draw, and the draw benefits the leader.
The best moment for me wasn't really anything either of them said, but rather it was the warm, cordial moment when they brought their families on stage at the end.  Huge contrast from McCain snubbing Obama by not looking at him, and the robotic Cindy reaching out to shake Obama's hand like she was removing moldy cheese from the refrigerator.  The families seemed at ease with one another on stage, and it made me like both of the candidates more. 

Entrepreneurship in Tough Times

I think it's too early to assess the real impact of the Great Wall Street Meltdown of 2008 on the venture community and on the startup companies we fund. One thing seems clear: with the IPO market disappearing and the M&A market effected by the diminished currencies of the potential buyers, the exit opportunities are certain to be attenuated.  The blowback from this attenuation -- and an overall reduction in risk tolerance by investors across the board -- will likely take the fun out of fundraising for a while.

This will also have an immediate and palpable effect on pre-money valuations. Venture tolerance for risk is deeply entangled with our ability to acquire ownership, the price we pay for that ownership, the cost to maintain that ownership over time, and the availability of exits.  If the market for follow-on financings gets soft, and it takes much longer to get companies liquid, then we will have to assume greater downstream dilution, or increased and prolonged pro-rata investment to maintain ownership, with the increased risk that brings.
The really hard-sells in this environment are typically the "build an audience and think about business models later" plays.  These companies are generally hit the hardest by the diminishing venture risk-tolerance. I'm not sure this is entirely justified, particularly if the company has a low burn rate, but the rationale seems to be that it's harder to flip these no-revenue plays for their strategic advantage alone (vis YouTube) when the buyers' currencies get whacked, and it's impossible to take them public in a contracting market focused on economic fundamentals.  
But it is not all gloom and doom.  I have personal experience launching and managing a startup to success in the last downturn. JAMDAT raised its first round of venture investment in early 2001.  We raised a series B in 2002 and a series C in 2003, before going public on the heels of Google in October 2004.  So I have some scars from financing a company during times like these, as well as the pleasure of seeing it all work out in the end when the market recovers.
Based on that experience, I want to offer three lessons from the JAMDAT playbook for entrepreneurs dealing with a the fear-tainted venture capital environment:
1) Focus the burn.  I am not arguing for lay-offs and contraction, hunkering down in the bunker with canned goods and ammo. But you need to be spending every dollar you have in single-minded pursuit of the things that are going to increase shareholder value and the likelihood of future financing. 
We kept JAMDAT at around 30 employees and a $400K burn for two and a half years, until our revenue model became clear.  If the team needed a feature and we wouldn't fund it, they got creative -- outsourced to India, formed partnerships with independent developers. We grew expenses and headcount in response to actual financial opportunities. 
There were some tough times -- the US carriers delayed launching the services that enabled our business by 6-9 months (which was the blink of an eye for them, but devastating to our carefully-managed cash position).  You have to plan ahead -- getting caught with no cash and having to appeal to your existing investors for bridge financing, or having to raise money when you are on your knees, is a recipe for entrepreneurial disaster.
2) Manage for Long-Term Competitive Advantage.  This is not the time to be chasing every possible tangential business opportunity, or funding pet projects and speculative R&D. This is the time to pursue your chosen strategy with insane focus. We used to evaluate everything we did at JAMDAT with the following question: is this going to create long-term competitive advantage for our publishing business? 
We were pursuing a risky strategy -- it assumed that color screen phones with embedded operating systems and bill-on-behalf models would predominate in the cell phone markets in the US and Europe.  That was non-obvious in 2001/2.  But we were right; and the fiscal discipline and strategic focus that we embedded in our DNA during the uncertain period allowed us to get to profitability and market dominance rapidly after the worm turned.  We had eliminated all the fat and distraction, and we were able to execute much more efficiently when the business took off.
3) Don't Fool Yourself.  Raising money in these environments really sucks. In the spring of 2002, we initiated our series B -- a full 8 months before we were scheduled to run out of cash. Just to be on the safe side.  Every tier 2 and tier 3 VC we pitched announced that they were "only doing down rounds."  We were literally thrown out of one VC's office -- asked to eat the lunch that had been ordered for us elsewhere -- because we had the temerity to suggest that, having funded JAMDAT at a post-bubble valuation and having shown good progress, we should not be lumped in with, or whatever other dead dot-comedy they may have funded in the 1999 greed-orgy.
The key is that you have to be honest with yourself about your business. You have to talk the talk and walk the walk on risk reduction and focus.  You have to be honest about your opportunity.  In this environment, you won't be getting away with top-down, "if-we-only-get-1%-of-this-huge-market" fantasies, or bullshit pro forma P&Ls with 70% EBIT margins in year 3. 
The VC who kicked us to the curb was an idiot -- he was so focused on the deal that he couldn't see the opportunity. That happens a lot in these funding environments. But don't blame the VCs for seeing through your bad business, either.  An investor may have the stomach to take a flier and see if it works out in a frothy market, but not now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dangerously Unfit

If you thought I was stretching when I questioned McCain's personal narrative and described him as the callow beneficiary of nepotism and favors, read Tim Dickinson's new article in Rolling Stone. If anything, I understated what an asshole he was and is.  If Obama had received this much "affirmative action," he'd be answering for it every day.
Well, perhaps it just won't matter.  Looks like the pigeons are coming home to roost.  McCain is conceding defeat in Michigan, one of the few blue states he had a chance to pick off.  Now he can only play defense, hoping to stop the Obama machine from rolling him in Virginia, North Carolina, and Missouri, while he tries to put the math together to win with a bare minimum majority in the electoral college.
I think we'll be seeing a lot more of Jeremiah Wright, sex ed for kindergartners, and dead abortion babies in the weeks to come, as Johnny Pugilism hits the ropes for the last time.
Oh, and perky Palin wins the debate tonight if she manages not to fart, drool, or confuse Palestine with Pakistan.  Post-Couric, expectations are so low it is almost impossible for her to under-perform.  That said, she's got to be nerved out -- the pressure on her must be ridiculous. She's the last chance McCain has to reverse the tide at this point.
Biden is not exactly inspiring a lot of confidence, either. I attended an intimate dinner with Biden in LA last year, when he was cranking up his campaign. He's a nice guy, but boy can he spew bullshit.  Somebody asked him an ethanol question that could have been answered in one sentence, and he talked for almost 20 excruciating minutes.
I think the Hartford Courant had the best line on Biden v. Palin: that the audience is anticipating the debate with "ghoulish fascination -- like waiting for a crash at a NASCAR race ..."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Fat Lady is Practicing Her Scales Backstage

I don't trust polls.  There are a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the tendency of polls to be dead wrong.

That said, if the current presidential election polling is correct merely in identifying the trends, our war hero buddy Johnny Drama is fucked.  Clearly, there is a lot of time left on the clock, and this could (and likely will) tighten before voters cast ballots in November. But this is some very, very bad news for the GOP.

Some context for you non-junkies:  Obama is currently leading -- comfortably in many cases -- in Florida (2004 Bush +5%), Ohio (+2.1), Nevada (+2.6), Virginia (+8.2), North Carolina (+12.4), Colorado (+4.7), New Mexico (+1), and Iowa (+1) -- all states won by Bush in 2004 by the margins in parenthesis.  CNN has Obama slightly ahead in Missouri, which Bush won +7.2%; and most polls have Indiana too close to call, a state where Bush won +20.7%.  

This represents an aggregate 123 electoral vote swing in favor of the Democrats. To give you a sense of how bad this is going for McCain/Palin, North Carolina hasn't voted Democratic since 1976 -- not even for Bill Clinton. Indiana hasn't gone blue in the last 40 years.  Bush won in 2004 with 286 electoral votes to Kerry's 252. Assuming the polls are correct and the leads hold (kind of a ludicrous assumption given past experience, but let's go with it), Obama beats McCain in a landslide, 375 to 163.  My own prediction is a lot closer: between 305 and 318 electoral votes for Obama to win the presidency.

Interestingly, the Obama camp said a week ago that the polls understated the power of their ground game. They believe that their registration of new voters (young people, African-Americans) is not captured in the traditional polling.  When this was first reported, it sounded naive.  Now it looks more plausible than ever.