The Right and mainstream America: a universe apart

New polls conclusively show that the desperate smears of Obama -- along with increased exposure to Sarah Palin -- are backfiring on John McCain.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published October 10, 2008 9:35PM (EDT)

(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)

As the Right increasingly (a) demands to hear more about Bill Ayers and Obama The Communist/Muslim Terrorist and (b) proclaims Sarah Palin to be the darling of the Regular American and the new right-wing superstar -- claims that are converging in the traveling lynch mob tour known as the "McCain/Palin campaign" -- two new polls, one from Newsweek and one from Fox (.pdf), conclusively demonstrate how out-of-touch and fringe the Right has become.   Both polls show that as the Right reveals its true Ayers-driven face to the nation, (a) Obama's popularity holds steady while McCain and Palin's plummets, and (b) Sarah Palin is a massive liability for the McCain campaign.  

The Newsweek poll shows Obama/Biden with a lead of 11 points (up from 4 points a month ago) and Fox shows Obama/Biden with a 7-point lead (they had McCain winning by 3 a month ago), but in terms of seeing what the right-wing movement in this country has become, how fringe and disconnected from reality they are, the more revealing facts are buried inside the poll numbers.

In the new Newsweek poll, taken over the last two days in the midst of the Ayers attacks, Obama now has a +24 favorability rating (60/36), which has improved from the +20 (57/37) he registered in last month's poll.   In the new poll, McCain's favorability rating is only +6 (51/45), which has worsened substantially since the +21 he registered last month (57/36).  The same has happened to Sarah Palin's rating, which has dropped from +20 (52/32) in the prior month to a meager +4 now (49/45).

If anything, Americans see McCain -- not Obama -- as out-of-touch with their values, as 49% believe McCain does not share their values and only 47% believe he does.    By stark contrast, Americans overwhelmingly believe Obama shares their values (59-37%) (Newsweek, 12-14).  Americans also overwhelmingly believe that Obama would "fit well with people in your local community" (63-31%), while a much smaller margin (54-40%) says that about McCain (Newsweek 12, 14) .

Worse still (for the Right), a large majority -- 55-39% -- answer "NO" when asked if Sarah Palin "is qualified to step in as President if she had to" (Newsweek 14), whereas only 46% answered "NO" last month.  And 47% say that Hockey Mom Palin does not share their values, while only 48% say that Palin does (versus 59% who say that the Radical-Terrorist Obama shares their values) (Newsweek 14).  

Worse even still (for the Right), Americans say that Obama's selection of Joe Biden makes them more likely to vote for Obama by a margin of 11% (34-23%), but say that McCain's selection of Palin makes them less likely to vote for McCain by a margin of 8% (32-40%) (Fox 8-9).   And in the last month alone, the percent saying that McCain's selection of Palin has made them less likely to vote for McCain has increased substantially (31% to 40%).

Even worse (for the Right), Obama the Terrorist now has the highest favorability rating of any of the four candidates (60%), while Palin the New Reagan Superstar has the lowest (47%).  And even Biden's favorability rating (57%) is higher than McCain's (53).  More revealingly, Palin has the highest unfavorability rating (42%), followed by McCain (40%), Obama (34%) and Biden (29%) (Fox 13-16).   

And in the last month -- as the McCain/Palin campaign began spewing their bile -- Obama's favorability rating has increased (57% to 60%) while his unfavorability rating has declined (36% to 34%).  By contrast, McCain's favorability/unfavorability ratings have plummeted during this same time (60/33 to 53/40), as has Palin's (54/27 to 47/42).  Standing next to Sarah Palin in that debate has turned Joe Biden -- Joe Biden -- into a wildly popular politician in America, with a 57/29 favorability rating.

In sum, the more Americans see of and hear from Sarah Palin and are exposed to her filthy smear politics, the worse she looks to them.  And the more the McCain/Palin campaign attacks Obama with ugly, despicable smears, the worse McCain/Palin lookwhile Obama's popularity with Americans continues to solidify and even gradually increase (Americans believe Obama is "trustworthy" by an overwhelming margin of 60-32%) (Fox 36).

And perhaps most damning of all for the McCain campaign, when asked which campaign has been "too negative or nasty," Americans choose the McCain/Palin campaign by an overwhelming margin (39-10%) (Newsweek 17) -- by far the most lopsided margin for that question over the last eight years (by comparison, both the Democratic and GOP campaigns of 2000 and 2004 registered no more than 24% on that question and each side received roughly equal ratings).  Fox specifically asked if the "Obama-Ayers connection" would make Americans less likely to vote for Obama, and Americans resoundingly answered NO (32-61%), and -- as Greg Sargent notes -- since GOP voters overwhelmingly answered "YES" to that question, and would not have voted for Obama anyway, the Ayers issue, even when Fox asked about it directly, has almost no effect.

Unsurprisingly, then, Americans overwhelmingly believe that the McCain/Palin ads are "too negative" (56-41%) and "misleading and distorting" (58-37%), while Americans overwhelmingly believe that the Obama/Biden ads are neither too negative (29-68%) nor misleading and distorting (36-57%) (Newsweek 23-24).  Americans believe Obama/Biden is running a "positive" rather than "negative" campaign (56-21%), but believe the opposite about McCain/Palin by an almost equal margin (27-51%) (Fox 38).

Having McCain and Palin run around the country stoking right-wing fury and unmasking their movement for all to see is backfiring in the extreme.   What is more likely than anything else to lead to a sure Obama victory -- by landslide -- is if the McCain/Palin campaign continues to cater itself to the desires and advice of the National Review/Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity mentality, which believes that Sarah Palin is a huge political asset among Normal Americans (Free Sarah Palin!) and that if Americans just keep hearing more and more and more about what a Terrorist-loving Muslim-Communist-radical Barack Hussein Obama is (ACORN!!), then  . . . any day now!  . . .  Americans are going to decide that they want the same twisted, bloated faction that has run our country into the ground for the last eight years to continue to rule. 

The Limbaugh/Fox News/Bill Kristol/National Review Right is a faction in desperate need of collective death as a movement.  And it will be particularly appropriate if the final blow is delivered by their own malicious, hate-mongering hand.


UPDATE: Two follow-ups to two posts here from this week:

(1) After the criticism here of The Washington Post's Dan Balz yesterday for his misleadingly even-handed treatment of "character attacks" in the campaign, Balz wrote a much better and more honest article today, in which he makes clear that there is no comparison and states:

I wrote yesterday about the risks to both McCain and Obama -- and the country -- as they fire at one another in increasingly sharp terms. The danger is that the winner will come to office with a sizable portion of the population poisoned by the effects of the campaign.

But what's also clear is that McCain's tactics are over the line, with no restraint in sight, and threaten to provoke reactions among partisans on both sides that will continue to escalate.

I don't know if there's any causation between the criticism and his behavioral change, but it's welcomed either way.

(2)  When I wrote earlier this week about Sean Hannity's promotion of and reliance on one of the nation's most virulent anti-semites, "Andy Martin," I noted that the ADL had, extraordinarily, said nothing to condemn Hannity for that behavior.  Today, they issued a letter to Hannity doing exactly that.  That should be useful:  ADL condemns Sean Hannity and Fox News for their reliance on "a man with an extensive track record of making anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks" in a program attacking Barack Obama.  I wonder what South Florida voters would think about that.


UPDATE II: The McCain campaign is obviously reading the same polls and reaching the same conclusions.  Read Ana Marie Cox's amazing account of how McCain -- after stoking these sentiments for more than a week -- suddenly and repeatedly tried to restrain and even admonish today's lynch mob in Minnesota (h/t Andrew Sullivan).  But look at what the crowd is saying in their questions to McCain as a result of what the McCain/Palin campaign has done ("I'm scared of Barack Obama... he's an Arab ...").  McCain repeatedly interrupted questions like this to say that Obama is a "decent family man" and to insist that disagreements with Obama be "respectful," and Cox -- an unrepentant, tire-swinging McCain lover if ever there was one -- generously says:  "I think [McCain] means it."

Right.  He spent the last seven days whipping up the Right in this country into an unprecedentedly ugly frenzy, and just as polls show that he is falling further behind and the tactics are backfiring (and as the former GOP Michigan Governor and long-time McCain supporter condemns McCain for these tactics and William F. Buckley's Republican son endorses Obama, citing his radically changed behavior and his choice of Palin), McCain abruptly and flamboyantly condemns such sentiments.  Whatever else that is, genuine isn't it.


UPDATE III: Or, as Nate Silver -- after surveying the latest polls today like only he can -- puts it:

With 25 days to go until the election, Barack Obama is presently at his all-time highs in four of the six national tracking polls (Research 2000, Battleground, Hotline and Zogby) and is just one point off his high in Gallup. He has emerged with clear leads in both Florida and Ohio, where there are several polls out today. He is blowing McCain out in most polls of Pennsylvania and Michigan, and is making states like West Virgina and Georgia competitive.

Screaming "AYERS!" and "ACORN!" just a few more times will change all of that any minute now.


UPDATE IV: Here is the video of McCain today, trying to undo what he and Sarah Palin have spent the last couple of weeks purposely unleashing:


Glenn Greenwald

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