Some good news for Obama fans

Half a million contributions from 350,000 different contributors, and now a lead in the Newsweek poll among likely Iowa caucus-goers.

I must confess to having sunk into something like a funk about the Obama campaign. Yes, what seem to me like his structural advantages are still in place &#8212 youth, eloquence, intelligence, humor, money, enthusiasm, a background as an organizer, having been right about Iraq, low negatives, high crossover potential, tons of cash, enthusiasm, and a ready-made army of Southern Illinoisans who love Obama and look culturally a lot like Iowans &#8212 but the press has decided to filter all Obama stories through the lens of “inexperience,” and the poll numbers have stubbornly refused to move in his direction.

The theory that the polls understate Obama’s support because his disproportionately young supporters are disproportionately likely to have cellphones and not landlines might even be true. But it’s the same theory the Dean camp was pushing, and look what happened to them. There’s reason to think that the youth vote will be bigger this year, and that Obama’s young supporters, unlike Dean’s, might actually manage to find their way to the polls or the caucus rooms; still, it’s a fairly unconvincing narrative until we see some evidence for it.

The heartless, cynical Clinton campaign, with its heartless, robotic candidate has done a good job so far of making the “inevitability” myth into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and preventing much journalistic discussion of how disastrous Clinton as the nominee would be for the down-ballot races in, for example, the Mountain West.

Blue Blogistan is full of what seem to me like pointless debates about the details of the candidates’ “plans” to achieve various progressive goals &#8212 despite the obvious fact that all of those plans will hit the circular file the day after the election &#8212 while ignoring the equally obvious point that President Obama would be able to get much more done with 60 Democratic Senators than President Clinton, for all her “experience” and no matter how glorious her “plans,” could get done with 55.

So it was with considerable cheer that I opened the latest email (of many) from Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, reporting that:

* The campaign hit its goals of 500,000 contributions from 350,000 different contributors a day early; and

* The latest Newsweek Iowa poll has Obama leading Clinton and Edwards (28-24-22) among likely caucus-goers in Iowa.

The sample size wasn’t huge (sampling error +/- 7); the model about who’s a likely caucus voter is of dubious validity (though that may actually bias the results against an insurgent with youthful supporters); and it’s still three and a half months from the caucuses. Still, some good news is better than none.

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: