Where Is Obama's Overseas Trip Bounce?

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 16:00

I have seen some frustrated grumbling online about the negative bounce that Obama appears to be having from his overseas trip, despite the fantastic coverage and reception he has received. Pollster.com confirms this negative bounce, indicating that Obama's national lead has dropped to 2.4% from a consistent advantage of 4.4%-4.9% from mid-June through mid-July:

This trend is frustrating and worrying, but I actually think the answer is both simple and reassuring. Obama is not receiving a negative bounce from his overseas trip. Instead, McCain is closing the gap because he is heavily outspending Obama in paid advertising right now:

Rick Davis, the titular head of the McCain campaign, said on a conference call with reporters that the campaign and the RNC combined have just less than $95 million cash on hand at the end of June, and that they have been outspending Obama in advertising by almost a 3-to-1 margin since April.

"I think Obama probably made a strategic mistake by not matching our buy in June," Davis said.

The 6-8%of the electorate that can justifiably be termed "swing voters" tend not to be very high information voters. As such, it seems more likely that they would be swayed by television commercials than by television news. This is not because these voters are rubes who are easily suckered by campaign ads, but rather that they probably don't watch the news very much, and they certainly don't watch the news much during July.

Right now, McCain's advantage in paid advertising is more useful than Obama's advantage in free media. The good news is that while McCain currently has an advantage in paid media, Obama has wiped out McCain's cash advantage and will soon be able to take the paid media lead himself. When that happens, I expect the above trendline to reverse, or at least flatten out.

Chris Bowers :: Where Is Obama's Overseas Trip Bounce?

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Obama needs to start going negative (4.00 / 1)
McCain is basically going all negative already, and Obama shouldn't hesitate to go negative himself.  Every 4 years it seems like the Democrats want to take the "high road" and every 4 years they lose (save 92 and 96, which I was too young to really follow that closely, but if I have heard correctly, Clinton didn't pull any punches).  If Democrats want to roll the dice and try that again, they'll jeopardize what should be an easy win this year.

Don't read too much into this (4.00 / 1)
The Pollster number is disproportionately weighted to the tracking polls since there haven't been any other national polls for a while. All the regular, non-tracking polling was showing a 4-5 lead on average and that is what RCP shows which does include the last polls from CBS, ABC, Quinnipiac etc. That is not to say McCain hasn't closed the gap just that this isn't the greatest evidence to support that claim.

The point being that Rasmussen/Gallup have always showed a closer race (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
similar thing happened in Clinton Obama duel as well nt (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
As I note elsewhere (4.00 / 1)
you can see the same decline in some of the state polling.

I worry that Obama's trip isn't focused on the domestic issues that are going to decide this election.  In politics there is always a tendency to fight the last battle.  Iraq is not going to decide this election.

The Democrats best able to help Obama win an election fought on domestic issues are Edwards and Clinton.

I don't think that Clinton will be chosen, but in an election that will be fought on the economy the Clinton name has its advantages.  

It's pretty early (4.00 / 3)
I worry that Obama's trip isn't focused on the domestic issues that are going to decide this election.

Is it a good thing that Obama's getting it out of the way now then, so that he can more freely focus on domestic issues as we get closer to the election? :P

[ Parent ]
I Agree (0.00 / 0)
This trip is innoculating Obama from the central argument McCain is going to try to make the rest of the election: that Obama isn't enough of an experienced statesman to deal with foreign policy. This trip is giving Obama oodles of fodder he can use in the next few months to brush McCain's attacks off on that front, so he can pivot back onto domestic issues.

I also agree with Bowers that McCain's paid advertising edge is coming into play and that we're also seeing undue weight being put on the tracking polls. When the trip is over and we start to see the non-tracking polls come in, I think there will be some sort of bounce, even if it just re-establishes Obama's previous poll margin.

All in all, this isn't unexpected. I was guessing there would be some atrophy in Obama's numbers during the dog days of summer. It'll just make the size of his convention bounce (which I think you can bank on) all that more impressive.  

[ Parent ]
Agree (0.00 / 0)
Obama has essentially taken the wind out of McCain's campaign by neutralizing the foreign policy issues and made McCain come to him.  The befuddlement and frustration in the McCain camp are evident.  It is also starting to become the new narrative in the cable shows, and from there it will migrate into the general consciousness.  

McCain has now spent a good chunk of his cash, and Obama will come back from the trip having neutralized the fopo issues and appeared sufficiently presidential to win over most of the opinionmakers who actually didn't think he was up to it, and then he will turn to domestic issues with a real blitz, I think, starting with naming his VP before the Olympics, advertising during the Olympics, and then leading to the convention.  After that there will be the debates, where the contrast will be evident.  No time to be overcopnfident, but McCain and his operation really aren't in the same league.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
I think (0.00 / 0)
You can make the argument, and I may even agree with it.

Right now I think Obama is being to passive on the energy issue.  I like his position on offshore drilling, but he needs to highlight an affirmative agenda.  

[ Parent ]
Stupid question (4.00 / 1)
Is, in fact, McCain's apparent lead in paid media over the last month a result of McCain having a cash advantage? Or is it just because the McCain and Obama campaigns were choosing to focus their cash in different areas? Basically it seems like every time over the last month I've heard about the Obama campaign spending money, it was on field organizing and infrastructure (what the McCain campaign calls "a tremendous waste of money"...), and every time I've heard about the McCain campaign spending money it was on ads. But I've never been able to figure out if it's actually the case the Obama campaign is focusing spending on ground organizing and the McCain campaign is focusing spending on ads; or if I'm just reading too much into the news reports.

McCain burning his cash... (4.00 / 2)
McCain has to burn all of his cash before the convention because he's accepting public financing.  As such, he's just burning a lot more money now than Obama.

With that being said, I think Obama is actually strategically focusing on organizing and infrastructure over paid advertising, and Obama also decided to withhold matching McCain's first ad (early in June) with their own ad buy.  I think Obama's first ad didn't come until mid to late June.

[ Parent ]
early versus late (4.00 / 4)
Sometimes it is better to do an early ad buy than a late ad buy.

I think if you're an incumbent, you want to do an early ad buy to try to knock out your opponent before they get traction. Clinton did this in 1996 and Gray Davis did it in 2002 and that's what Liddy Dole has been trying to do against Kay Hagan in NC.

But if the race is between to challengers, then I would wager that it's more important to have more money down the stretch to try to drown the other guy out and to mobilize every last voter that is available.

So let's see. McCain will have 84 million to spend in Sept and Oct, or roughly 42 million a month (or 30 million in Sept and 54 million in Oct). The RNC, based on figures they've been floating will have roughly what, another 80 million to spend in Sept. and Oct? (assuming they spend some in August and they are spending some right now; could be more like 90 million though). Obama will probably bring in upwards or 70 million in September and the DNC should bring in at least as much as they did in June (22 million). Say Obama does 50,50,70,70 for July,Aug,Sept,Oct and the DNC does 25,25,30,30. That'd be 330 million on top of the 90 million they have in COH now. So that's 420 million to spend.

McCain as has been seen, has hit his peak in fundraising. So his totals are more likely to be like the DNC's, except for the bump in public financing.
25,25,42,42 = 134 (and that's being charitable for July and Aug.)

And the RNC, although it started out with a big COH lead, actually didn't raise that much more than the Dems. So if we assume a slight upward trend we can guess
25,30,35,40 = 130

So that's 260 million plus the 100 million they had already which comes to 360 million for the GOP.

So I'd except at least a 50 million dollar cash advantage for Obama. That's an extra 50 million that can be used to soak the airwaves in the final weeks. Also, since Obama is working to set up a decent field operation now, it actually will be an effective field operation in November. So the money spent there now is more likely to payoff come October when people actually know what they are doing and voter lists of who to target have already been refined over the summer.  

[ Parent ]
McCain ads on Cable TV (0.00 / 0)
I've seen a number of McCain ads, mostly during Rockies baseball games.

Are those games on FSN? (0.00 / 0)
I've seen a ton of McCain ads on FSN during Tigers games lately.

[ Parent ]
Funny (0.00 / 0)
There aren't any during Giants games.  

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Far too early to be talking about the impact of the trip (4.00 / 7)
Wasn't it just the last couple of days that all the positive coverage happened (not to mention is still happening)?

Wait a week and then maybe we'll know the impact.

Exactly. (4.00 / 1)
Polls tend to lag events by about a week or two.  

[ Parent ]
Long-run (4.00 / 5)
I think Yglesias recently had a post titled "Whites of Their Eyes", which I think encapsulates the Obama strategy perfectly.  The worrying while looking at the polls is exactly how I remember feeling in the run-up to Iowa, and even pretty much until Super Tuesday hit, and I looked down and thought "wow, they did it."

The Obama campaign is keeping the keg dry.  McCain is hitting him on the economy right now, but I think the campaign is rightly confident in its decision to wait, especially if the familiar trope that "voters don't start paying attention until the conventions anyway" is true.  I have no idea if that is actually true, but certainly people care about what they've heard recently.

Obama is hitting foreign policy hard right now because it will pay off down the line.  The narratives will shift, the media will say "well Obama really proved his chops" on that foreign policy trip, so McCain won't have the help of the media as much (one can hope) on that issue.  Then the convention will hit, and the ad campaign will go on, and the ground game will be firing on all cylinders.

I will say one other advantage of this trip is that if the media stops questioning his foreign policy cred, they won't be up in arms when he doesn't pick a hawkish VP.  They'll get the narrative, "Obama thinks he knows what he's doing on foreign policy, like on his trip to the middle east, and maliki certainly thinks he knows what he's doing..." and so Obama can go economic concern, or reinforcing.

Frankly, the confidence the Obama campaign has in itself, well, instills me with confidence.

Excellent post (0.00 / 0)
This is exactly the way I am seeing things right now.

[ Parent ]
Come Labor Day .. (0.00 / 0)
Obama better get amped up on the air and go after McCain ... I wouldn't worry too much before

[ Parent ]
Agreed (0.00 / 0)
I'll also add that any short term bounce McCain is getting because of TV ads will be more than neutralized by the strides Obama is making on this trip.  The narrative on Iraq has shifted to the point where McCain has no idea how to criticize Obama.  Once the focus shifts back to the economy, McCain doesn't have a leg to stand on except for drilling and gas tax holidays, both of which Obama should be able to swat down.

McCain will probably announce his running mate this week.  Then Obama will announce his, we'll have the Dem convention, and then the Obama machine should really get going.

I wouldn't be surprised if we look back on today as McCain's peak in the polls.

[ Parent ]
Can't measure the trip yet (4.00 / 2)
The decline started WELL before the trip. There's been only a tiny handful of polls that have been conducted since the trip started. He's only been over there for 3 days, and only one real "news" day (Mon-Thu). It'll be the better part of a week before we see any kind of impact from the trip.

You're right about the cause though. I've seen twice as many McCain ads in Florida as I've seen from Obama, and more different ads. The only ad I've seen from Obama is that stupid "Kansas heartland" bio spot that's been over-played the last few weeks, while McCain has bio spots, attack ads, issue ads, and huge numbers of ads. I've saw one forgettable MoveOn ad yesterday, but that's it.

I haven't even heard a decent Obama response to that asinine "Obama raised your gas prices" ad. The only thing I've heard from the campaign is "It's a negative ad! WAAAHH!" instead of a useful response like "John McCain thinks you're an idiot."

I don't know why Obama's letting himself get pummeled in the air war, but it would be nice to see him fight back a little bit.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Newsweek dot com on the McCain's "nonsense" ad (0.00 / 0)
I noticed that Newsweek posted a link to Factcheck.org's call that the ad blaming Obama for high gas prices was "a full tank of nonsense." Reprinted by permission, the byline is Viveca Novak, who was tangentially a part of the Valerie Plame leak story.


[ Parent ]
Agree. (0.00 / 0)
It's pretty darn early for the trip to be registering, especially for low information voters.

They probably didn't even realize Obama was abroad until Monday evening.

[ Parent ]
4+ point lead at RCP for over 6 weeks (0.00 / 0)
At RCP Obama has maintained a 4 point lead (or more) since June 8, and all Obama declines were matched by declining McCain numbers. They both have been trending down since the fourth of July. (imo, its summertime and likely voters are on vacation or at the pool.)

I know people in the netroots like pollster.com and that is all well and good but RCP is easier for me to unpack. I also agree that pollster.com disproportionately favors tracking polls--which will never show landslide, even when it comes ;)

No worries, be happy.

Great trip - good omen (0.00 / 0)
I am very pleased about Senator Obama's trip to Iraq.

I had been worried that he was going to get our troops out of there precipitously. Not to worry.

The best part is that the troops that will be withdrawn will be sent to Afghanistan. The Senator has said that that is the war we must win.

I was also pleased to hear Senator Obama talk about how well the surge was working. Not like when that awful Hillary person said it. This is way different.

McCain (0.00 / 0)
is shooting himself in the foot with much of his advertising.  He is missing the cultural connection and seems to be conceding to Obama's strength in cultural appeal. Lest you think this a good thing, keep in mind that it is this that will bring out the swiftboat ads sooner rather than later.  These sorts of ads are most likely to appear in Oct. but if McCain is doing poorly they may come out early.  Obama would do well ride the economy and the war narratives until late and save his money for late in the race when he will need it to wipe the mud from his face.

Are His Numbers really dropping? (0.00 / 0)
I keep hearing this over and over, and yet every poll that comes out seems to have him up 6-8 points.

Just off the top of my head the last batch of national polls had Obama up by 9,8,7,and 6.

Pollster must be including tracking polls i their average along with the national polls.

Bottom line: in terms of regular polls,other than newsweek, every poll has had Obama up by 6 or more for quite some time now.


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