The numbers, considered carefully, make an Obama win look like a safer and safer bet. Herewith a Canadian spectator’s opinions as to why this is and why it’s a good thing.

Why? · Seems pretty obvious to me. Most Americans didn’t pay much attention to the election until the conventions. Then 50 million people watched the big speeches and first debate.

Prior to that, most people had seen pictures and brief film-clips of Obama and, and had been aware of some of the Republican framing efforts: “He’s this young black guy with a Muslim middle name and big ears who gives fiery speeches and whose pastor was a kook. Weird. Maybe dangerous.”

Then Obama delivered a nice even-toned convention speech. And during the debate he was this perfectly normal American politician, saying all the perfectly normal things you’d expect an American politician to say. I didn’t think he “won” the debate, but that didn’t matter. At this point, there are quite a few Americans who’ve just had it with Republicans, and if there’s a mainstream alternative they’re taking it. Once Obama looked convincingly mainstream to 50 million people, I suspect the deal was done.

Why This is a Good Thing · Obama doesn’t have that much of a track record, as the Republicans point out. But we do know two things about him: First, he’s a damn good salesman. Second, he’s an outstanding manager. His built-from-scratch campaign organization went mano a mano with the mighty Clinton machine and won, and is now inflicting severe damage on the Rove-crafted juggernaut, based on effective people mobilization and (in part) smart use of the Internet.

You might push back, saying “It’s not him, he just hired the right experts” and I’d point out that the single most important skill in a successful executive is recruiting and team-building. So chances are Obama would be a competent executive-branch manager.

But it’s that salesmanship that’s the big thing. To the rest of the world, it looks like the US needs to make some fairly heroic efforts over the next few years around economics and energy. If there’s an administration that can sell the package effectively and get the population energized, the problems feel tractable; otherwise not. So I think that writing and speechmaking skills, often dismissed as “mere politics”, are actually real important in picking the 44th POTUS.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: David Warde-Farley (Oct 01 2008, at 16:10)

"... and I’d point out that the single most important skill in a successful executive is recruiting and team-building. So chances are Obama would be a competent executive-branch manager."

I think Lessig's endorsement of Obama's technology policy (and of Obama himself) speaks volumes in that department.


From: dr2chase (Oct 01 2008, at 16:29)

I would add, he seems to be pretty sharp in figuring out how things will go. He spoke before the Iraq war, against the war, and pretty well predicted all the ways it would go wrong, and he framed it, for better or worse, in terms of how it would be bad for the U.S. (It's certainly bad for Iraq). He spoke out for withdrawal and described more or less the plan that seems to be emerging now (first with Maliki's support, later with Bush's support).


From: Dale Sears (Oct 01 2008, at 16:59)

The only problem here is that you are deceived into thinking the Republicans are responsible for this current financial mess.

It was actually the CRA

( and the Democrats that started it all, and Obama's "community organizing" was teaching people how to protest at banks and force them to make high-risk loans, or suffer public humiliation and real financial losses due to the penalties imposed by the CRA.

This is extortion, and is the root of all of the housing debt that is now the burden of all of the tax payers. Is that good?

The blame for this mess rests squarely on Obama and the other Democrats and yet the Republicans are getting the blame. In addition, everybody is paying *except* the people who should be paying for their bad debt.

This is definitely not good, and it's an amazing injustice.


From: James Robertson (Oct 01 2008, at 17:21)

Both of these candidates are problematic, especially on free speech grounds. McCain is bad enough, with his campaign finance "reform" ideas. Obama is downright thuggish - have a look at this.

It's not the only such attempt by Obama and his people to stifle opposing viewpoints. It's bad enough for a candidate to do this sort of thing; in office, I suspect Obama will be the worst President for civil rights since Woodrow Wilson.


From: breath (Oct 01 2008, at 19:02)

James Robertson, I don't think your "thuggish" link really conveys the message that you want it to. All of the new stories say that Obama is doing something very above-the-board: he's asking local leaders to speak out on his behalf when they hear a lie. McCain is doing the same thing, in exactly the same way; he's even calling his groups "Truth Squads" too!

The stories go on to say that the Republicans are manufacturing a controversy about the fact that some of the local leaders are law enforcement officials, claiming that they were "threatened with prosecution". This seems to be a lie along the very lines that the Truth Squads are intended to address.

The top story starts with this: "Republicans -- led by the Governor of Missouri and the Republican National Committee -- are alleging that there is something untoward about the 'Truth Squad'", and the next paragraph is: "There is no evidence, however, that these prosecutors are threatening to use their prosecutorial powers in such a way." Third paragraph: "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have used prosecutors on their 'Truth Squads' too".

Not so thuggish, it seems.


From: Rob (Oct 01 2008, at 18:59)

Cool Tim, one little comment about the election and half your comments are stoopid republican troll postings. I particularly love this:

"I suspect Obama will be the worst President for civil rights since Woodrow Wilson."

Woodrow Wilson? WTF? I know he was a Democrat and all, but buddy, if that is the best you can do in the face of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and the vile ridiculousness of the TSA, you are beyond the bottom of the barrel and desperately trying to scrape up slime from a very dry wadi.


From: Francis Hwang (Oct 01 2008, at 21:09)

"It was actually the CRA and the Democrats that started it all"

Oh, really, Dale Sears? You think all this mess can be laid at the foot of just one political party? That's funny, 'cause from where I sit I see plenty of blame to go around, including:

* Ayn-Rand-acolyte Alan Greenspan bringing interest rates down to the floor after the 2001 dot-com crash, which helped flood the world with cheap money, bringing down risk premiums and encouraging banks to lend to anyone who could lie about their names on a mortgage application,

* The SEC deciding in 2004 to quietly exempt five specific firms from long-standing capital ratio requirements, thereby inflating the balloon further (

* The FASB and SEC's complicity in allowing the fiction of "mark-to-market" accounting to be propagated by even the biggest financial actors

* The refusal by regulators or by a Republican-dominated Congress to compel a central exchange for credit default swaps, thereby necessitating the government bailout of Bear Stearns and AIG lest the entire world be exposed to a tsunami of counterparty risk.

I'll grant that the Democrats are complicit as well. I think, for example, that Freddie and Fannie were bound to fail spectacularly, and that plenty of Democrats profited from the hybrid status of those companies. And I am happy that the rejection of the bailout was somewhat bipartisan, although I wish more Democrats had voted against it.

But let's be clear: We didn't just live through a massive real-estate bubble because some poor black people picketed a bank somewhere in Chicago. We lived through a massive real-estate bubble because the world was awash with cheap money, Bush-era regulators didn't do their jobs, and a thousand companies knew they could make a quick buck and then stick the taxpayers with the losses when the whole thing blew up.


From: John Cowan (Oct 01 2008, at 22:35)

Tim, please shut down comments. If I want this sort of thing, I know where to find it -- the trick is to find places where it isn't.


From: Paul Guinnessy (Oct 02 2008, at 08:03)

I'm not so sure a lot of americans are paying attention just yet, but its getting better. A lot of americans didn't tune into the Democratic convention because they were on vacation. Obama's strong point is that his campaign has more than 2000 staff and its still in the black, and a serious number of advisers in foreign policy, business, and science working for free. Its been harder to find out what McCain's positions are on a number of issues and who is advising him (except for Phil Gramm), which I don't take as a good sign. If you want more science coverage, check out our blog at


From: len (Oct 08 2008, at 08:38)

The thuggish remark is accurate as I experienced when being called and threatened in the middle of the night. The Daley machine is well-known for it and Obama is a sock puppet.

The rest of it has been distractions to cover the fact that his isn't really a grassroots organization but a money machine disguised to look like one. Oprah's party this weekend is a $28,500 a plate affair, so if those are grass roots, it must be Canadian grass because no one in a sober frame of mind would pay that.

That said, Obama will likely win this. The markets are voting with their feet because as his numbers go up, the markets go down in reaction to his promises to burden small businesses. The Democrats deserve to win this. May having be as good as wanting.

The technology sector will take a clobbering but there is hope for the small companies who are steering away from the big overbuilt standards and rolling small 80% solutions for health and safety infrastructure. Open source has a neglible effect on that because the licensing isn't the cost driver: implementation and maintenance are.


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