Patience rewarded

Obama didn’t back of his criticisms of Sarah Palin, and it turns out her popularity was a mix of pure illusion and bubble.

One of the bad habits of Democratic candidates and campaign consultants is backing off too fast when a message doesn’t seem to be connecting. It takes a cool nerve to be able to keep saying something that at first blush the voters aren’t buying, and good judgment to figure out which messages will get through if you’re patient enough.

That’s one of the things I like about the Obama campaign. When HRC started pushing the gas tax holiday this summer, all the polling said it was a big winner. But Barack Obama or someone close to him decided that there were some ideas too stupid to convince even a swing voter, and that the gas tax holiday was one of them. Obama pushed back hard, and managed to get the press to report the story as “Clinton offers dumb pander that no expert believes in, while Obama tells the hard truth.” He’s also held strong on negotations without preconditions.

For the past two weeks, all the concern trolls have been warning the Obama campaign not to be mean to poor Sarah Palin, because the voters like her and identify with her and you shouldn’t pick on a gurrrrrl. But “I killed the Bridge to Nowhere” was an obvious crock, and so was “I’m a national security expert because Alaska is close to Russia,” and so was “I didn’t ask for earmarks.” And the Obama folks had the guts to keep saying &#8212 reasonably politely, but insistently and loudly &#8212 “bullsh!t.” (At the same time, they scrupulously kept away from all the crap about her children and her religion.)

And guess what? Palin’s favorables have been dropping like a stone (and Troopergate hasn’t even really broken yet). (Graph here.) She now has the worst favorables/unfavorables among the four candidates. She’s great for rallying the theocon-and-gun-nut part of the base, but it turns out that independents (and, I’d bet, better-educated suburban women) like her less and less the more they know about her. Clinton voters don’t like her.

By election day, Palin is going to be a millstone around McCain’s neck.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com