Archive for October, 2008

Miami-Dade Mega-Exit Poll
October 31, 2008

  Miami polling firm Bendixen & Associates did a huge exit poll during the first 9 days of early voting in Miami-Dade– almost 87-hundred interviews at 18 of the 20 early voting sites.  The demographics of those interviewed– 55% hispanic, 25% Anglos, 20% black– sound roughly like the county’s electorate.

  Bottom-line result– Obama 61%, McCain 39%. 

   It should be noted that Sergio Bendixen’s firm has done work for the Obama campaign (though this poll was done for a Political Science class at UM, taught by Bendixen’s friend and former State Rep Mike Abrams).  Remember also that the Obamites have put major effort into early-vote turnout, while Republicans have largely concentrated on absentee ballots. 

   Still, 61% is impressive.  John Kerry took Miami-Dade with only 52% of the vote four years ago.

  Among sub-groups of the electorate:

  McCain prevailed with hispanic voters, 53-47%.  Cuban-Americans born in Cuba overwhelmingly favored the Republican, 69-31%.  But younger hispanics– those born in the USA– broke 72-28% for Obama.  And voters born in Latin American countries favored Obama, 70-30% (those from Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Honduras favored Obama by substantial margins, while voters born in Venezuela and Nicaragua went big for McCain)

   Age was another major factor- McCain doing well with voters 65-74 (64% backed the 72-year-old Republican) and those 75 and older (74% for McCain).

   But Obama led in the younger age groups:

   18-29 year-olds– 72-28%////30-49 year-olds–60-40%////50-64 year-olds–56-44%


McCain gets DB’s, but no RL
October 30, 2008

      The brothers Diaz-Balart, both embroiled in tough re-election campaigns to Congress, are always on hand to welcome John McCain to south Florida in these home-stretch days.

     At FIU a couple of weeks ago, and again at a lumberyard in Flagami yesterday, the Diaz-Balarts did yeoman’s duty, orating to warm the crowd up while McCain’s motorcade was on the way.  Mario very nearly lost his voice, in an energetic peroration before the FIU crowd.

    But South Florida’s third Cuban-American Congresista, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen?  Conspicuously absent from both McCain events, though I did spot a Ros-Lehtinen aide at the back of the lumberyard crowd yesterday.

   Back in January, as the GOP primary approached, she was everywhere with McCain– sipping cafecitos at Versailles, celebrating his win on the night of the 29th.

   Now, she’s running as her own “brand”, almost as an independent. Her TV commercials do not contain the word Republican– not even in the fine print at the end.  One is full of firefighters praising her efforts to help them.  The other features Ros-Lehtinen recounting her efforts on non-controversial issues like health care for small businesses and developing alternative-energy sources.

   She’s stayed away from her opponent almost as zealously as avoiding McCain.  She appeared at a candidates’ forum– questions known to the candidates in advance– with Annette Taddeo a month or so ago.  Since then, nothing.  She’s declined several offers– ours included– to debate on TV, not even bothering to cite “scheduling conflicts”, the usual dodge for a candidate.

   Her rationale for declining debate, as reported by WPLG’s Michael Putney– “My constituents know me.  They don’t need to see me debate.”

   All this, of course, frustrates her opponent, Annette Taddeo.  The political newcomer (owner of a translation firm) says her own polling shows her within four points of Ros-Lehtinen, but independent organizations that monitor these things disagree.  Congressional Quarterly rates the 18th CD “Republican Favored”, while the Cook Political Report deems it “Likely Republican”.  In other words, an upset isn’t likely, but isn’t out of the question.

   The District is basically 50-50 now; 131-thousand Republicans, 130-thousand Democrats (just 2 years ago, Republicans held a 128k-105k edge).  Taddeo’s campaign theme is to tie Ros-Lehtinen to George W.  Her best-known ad is a bit of cartoonery that dubs them “two peas in a pod.”

   For Ros-Lehtinen, staying away from the current President is a no-brainer.  I’m just a little surprised she’s a no-show when the Republican who would be President comes to town.

Crist Wins D’s Applause, R’s Silence
October 30, 2008

  Charlie Crist’s about-face on expanding early voting hours won immediate applause– from Democrats.  Within minutes of issuing Exec Order 08-217, Crist was getting e-mailed press-release bouquets from Cong. Kendrick Meek (D-Miami), Cong. Alcee Hastings (D) Ft. Lauderdale, and Fla. Democratic Party chief Karen Thurman.   The Congressmen pointed out, they’d urged the Gov to expand early voting.  The Chairwoman chimed in: “Crist did the right thing.”

   Ordinarily, her Republican counterpart, Jim Greer, is quick to note any major Crist developments.  Earlier in the week, he ballyhooed Crist being mentioned on a Time magazine list of the five most important pols not running for President.  But, on the broadening of early voting, Greer has been silent.

   Democrats, of course, have done well in early voting.  54% of early voters in Week 1 were Democrats.  30% were Republicans.  Expanding Week 2 hours might help the D’s add to that advantage.  Little wonder Steve Schale of the FL Obama campaign eventually weighed in with another attaboy press release– “We applaud Governor Crist”. 

   The Governor says he acted on behalf of FL voters, without regard to political consequence.  Crist was at McCain’s side this morning in Miami, encouraging those attending to vote early, vote by mail, or vote next Tuesday.  He says he sees encouraging signs of a come-from-behind McCain victory in FL.

   Sen. Mel Martinez was also at McCain’s side in Miami.  Asked about fears that expansion of early voting was a boon to Obama, Martinez replied: “We can’t be the party depending on people not getting to the polls ’cause the doors closed on them.  We’ve got to be the party that’s driving people to the polls because of our convictions, so I don’t fear that.”

   Meanwhile, extended hours had a pretty big impact in Miami-Dade.  In eight hours on Tuesday, about 25,000 voters cast ballots.  In  12 hours on Wednesday, that count was up to nearly 36,000.  Broward and the state elections web sites have yet to post yesterday’s totals (as of 7 AM).

Hillary Defectors Re-Defecting?
October 28, 2008

  St. Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff is on the Sarah Palin “Truth Squad” Republicans set up to counter criticism of their VP candidate.  The truth is, even she worries that Palin has turned out to be a drag on the ticket.

   After interviewing her about her re-election bid and about early voting rules, we turned off the camera and chatted informally about the Presidential race.

  When the talk turned to Palin, Bogdanoff admitted that droves of angry Clintonite Democrats may have been turned off by McCain’s VP pick.  Her seat-of-the-pants estimate is that half the Hillary fans she knew who were ready to vote McCain have been alienated by Palin, and have re-defected to the Obama-Biden ticket.

 She believes the Alaska Governor hasn’t gotten a fair shake from the media– a common perception in the McCain camp.  But she also conceded she hadn’t seen what was, for me, the most damning media interaction of this campaign– Palin’s failure to conjure up a cogent answer to Katie Couric’s question about what newspapers and magazines she reads… hardly a hard-edged gotcha inquiry.

   Bogdanoff blames over-preparation of the candidate, though critics might argue that rapid over-prep was needed because Palin, despite her position as Alaska’s Governor, was severely under-prepped to deal with questions about the world beyond Alaska.

“Danes for Change”– Off-Limits
October 24, 2008

  An unusual addition to the army of volunteers on South Florida streets for Barack Obama has just arrived.  They call themselves the “Danes for Change”– a dozen folks from Denmark who are being housed by Obama supporters in Miami’s Morningside neighborhood, and working out of a campaign office in the city’s Design District.

   I thought that was worth a story, so I got in touch with one of the Morningside hosts Thursday afternoon.  He was enthusiastic, but an hour or two later I got a call from local Obama campaign spokesman, Alejandro Miyar.  He asked about my interest in the “Danes for Change”, saying– “We have people coming in from all over.”  I replied, I though few were coming from across the ocean.  He said he had an urgent call to take, but would get back to me.

   But the next communication I had was a call from a very pleasant Dane named “Ulra” (sp?).  He said he and his fellow Danes would love to help me with my story, but had been told “it will not be possible.”

   He wasn’t clear on who had spiked the story, but a campaign source later confirmed my suspicions– that the Obama folks are a little touchy about any publicity that makes their guy look “more European and less American”.

   I’m sorry the story fell through– in large measure by the lead sentence I’d planned, borrowed from “My Fair Lady”, will go unused– “The Danes for Change plainly oppose McCain”.

October 23, 2008

   Another day, another poll.  This one’s from Quinnipiac U., showing Obama up 5 in Florida.  Yesterday, our NBC/Mason-Dixon poll had McCain up one. The day before, Fox News-Rasmussen reported a similar result.

   A poll a day– is this obsesssive running scoreboard really good for democracy?  (dunno– but politi-nerds like myself enjoy them)

   How can polls have such radically different results?

   The different results are largely due to pollsters’ different assumptions about who will turn out– how to weight responses from the field.  It’s a tough year to forecast, to gauge how many new voters will actually cast ballots, how much enthusiasm in the African-American community will drive turnout, and how successful the campaigns will be at getting their supporters to the polls.

  I checked my 2004 poll file– quaintly, it’s an actual paper file folder, sitting in a file drawer.  Between August 26, 2004 and election day, I had 5 surveys received on line and printed up, in my folder (3 from Mason-Dixon, one Research 2000, and a Strategic Vision).  There may have been a few others I hadn’t printed and saved.

   This year, according to, there have been 37 polls in Florida since August 26 of this year.  Taken all together, that means about 25,000 Floridians have been surveyed about Obama v. McCain in that time.  18 of the polls show Obama in the lead, 15 show McCain ahead.  None of them have put the margin at greater than 8%.

   The state of the race now?  RealClearPolitics averages the last five statewide polls, which yields a one-point Obama lead.  So– after all that polling– the bottom line is the race in Florida is close.  My bunion could have told you that.

PS– Obama/Miami
October 22, 2008

    I wondered why Barack Obama lingered so long at the end of his Bicentennial Park rally last night.  Turns out he was chatting by satellite with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, for a segment that will appear later on her show.

   DeGeneres has released a brief clip, during which she asks the candidate about his wife’s claims she’s a better dancer than he is.  Side-by-side clips of each Obama dancing with Ellen are played. 

   Obama, after delighting the Miami crowd with a few dance moves, concludes– “Michelle may be a better dancer than I am, but I’m convinced I’m a better dancer than John McCain.”

   DeGeneres’ response: “So am I.”

   If you want to watch the clip…

Obama Rally Observations
October 22, 2008

Just a few tidbits that we didn’t have time for on TV…

   Above the rally flew a banner plane, bearing the message “BARACK REPUDIATE AYERS– MICHELLE REPUDIATE DOHRN”.  Ayers, of course, is Bill Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader whose associations with Obama (serving on two non-profit boards, holding a “meet the candidate” event at Ayers’ home in Obama’s first political race) have been a major source of campaign controversy.  “Dohrn” is Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’ wife and also a radical leftist leader of the 60’s (indeed, in my memory of the time, she was better known than Ayers).  Neither Obama mentioned Ayers/Dohrn or the plane.

   Not sure who did the seating arrangements, but the stage in back of the podium had a lot of assistant US Attornies from the Miami office on it, including Dick Gregorie, who’s prosecuted some of the office’s biggest anti-drug cases (Manuel Noriega, among others).

   And it was good news/bad news for Annette Taddeo, the Democrat challenging Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the 18th Congressional District.  The candidate mentioned her at both his stops in South Florida.  At his Lake Worth “Jobs Summit” event, he got the name right– “Tuh-DAY-oh”.  But in her hometown, Obama mangled it– “TODDY-oh”.

Flutist Furious at McCain-Palin
October 21, 2008

      South Florida flutist Nestor Torres is ticked that a McCain-Palin press release implied he’s a supporter.  The released promised that “Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), St. Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff and renowned flutist Nestor Torres will attend the ‘Viva Broward’ rally” last Sunday, with Lieberman holding a press conference afterward.

      The clear implication is that Torres- who did perform at the celebration of Hispanic culture- supports McCain-Palin.  “ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! I DO NOT SUPPORT McCAIN!” was his e-mailed response to my question about it.  “I am with Obama a thousand percent.”  Torres asked if I’d forward a copy of the release to him “so I can reply accordingly.”

      And speaking of press releases that stretch the truth — Linda Bird, candidate for State Senate, deserves a special mention.  Her campaign manager Mara Leventhal, sent out a release claiming that Hillary Clinton, at an Obama “Get Out the Vote” rally in Fort Lauderdale, “urged the crowd to vote for Linda in her Senate race against Jeff Atwater.”  Leventhal gushed “we couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader than Hillary.”

    I was at the rally, and went back to the videotape to make sure I hadn’t missed something.  Hillary Clinton did do some “cheerleading” for Congressional candidates Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez, “two men I hope you will help send to Congress.”

     Her mention of Bird was kind of a PS.   In its entirety: “I also want to acknowledge a woman running for the State Senate, Linda Bird.  Thank you, Linda, for running.”  No pom-poms in sight.

Putting on Ayers…and ACORN
October 16, 2008

  OK—call me a member of a media establishment that craves confrontation, but I was watching this debate to see when and how the name William Ayers would be brought up.

   At 25:34 into the proceedings, Bob Schieffer opened the door, asking the candidates if they had anything to say, face-to-face, about the negative charges that ads and running-mates have been leveling.

   It took a full ten minutes for McCain to bring up Ayers’ name.  After he complained about Cong. John Lewis and negative ads… after Obama had responded that McCain’s ads were far more negative and that Cong. Lewis had gone overboard, comparing McCain to George Wallace…finally, McCain got around to Ayers and the anti-poverty group ACORN, as a rushed PS.

   “Mr. Ayers—I don’t care about a washed-up terrorist,” he began abruptly, adding that Obama owed voters an explanation of his relationship with the former member of the Weather Underground—an “unrepentant domestic terrorist”, as the McCain campaign consistently phrases it.

   Obama clearly expected it—repeating his usual defense that he was 8 years old when Ayers was engineering bomb attacks in support of a leftist, anti-war agenda.  “Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign…and will not be advising me in the White House.”

   They went back and forth for a while—“You launched your political career in his home.” “That’s not true.”  Judging by the reaction of focus groups assembled by the networks, this subject isn’t playing big with undecided voters.

   Nor did they seem to react much to McCain’s comments about ACORN, the anti-poverty group being investigated in several states, Florida among them, for registering bogus voters.  McCain’s rhetoric was hot—ACORN was “tearing at the fabric” of the American political system, he said.

   Obama countered that he’d helped ACORN in its efforts to get a motor-voter law set up in Illinois, several years ago. 

   The bottom-line for me wasn’t so much the back-and-forth on the specific charges about Ayers and ACORN.  It was the way McCain brought it up, at the end of a long harangue on other subjects.  It felt like he wasn’t wild about raising these subjects, but knew he had to, to try to cultivate the seeds of doubt sown by his VP.

   Unlike McCain, Sarah Palin embraces the attack role with gusto—her convention speech was remembered and well-received by the GOP audience for her skewering of Obama’s background as a community organizer.  Unfortunately for McCain, Palin’s getting more attention as skeweree than skewerer, these days.

   So—trailing and needing to shake things up—he finally shouldered the Ayers and ACORN attacks, and made them his own.  But that ten-minute delay made McCain look like a reluctant warrior, this time.