Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hindsight is 20/20

Here is where we stand today:
-Obama is up by 7-9 points
-The debates are over
-The economic crisis continues to dominate the news
-Obama is making gains in traditional Republican states (North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana)
-John McCain has pulled his resources out of Michigan and the RNC is leaving even more
-No candidate has ever come back from a deficit this large at this stage of the race

So how do I feel at this point? The same as I always have. This race is John McCain's to lose. The euphoria from the Democratic side of the aisle is to be expected. The Democrats haven't won the White House in eight years and there are a lot of people voting this year who have never had the pleasure of voting for a winning presidential candidate. I would caution against too much celebrating however. After the second debate, the CNN panel was practically unanimous in their assessment that if the economic numbers held for Obama, the race was over. There was one voice who was not caught up in the numbers and that was David Gergen who reminded everyone that nothing in this race is predictable because of the simple fact that Obama is black.

Obama's race is alternately ignored and then over-analyzed. One minute the pundits act as if the issue doesn't exist and then the next moment, it is all that exists. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Race will be a factor in the election, the question remains as to how much of a factor it will be. That is the question that at this point has no answer. There is no precedent for this. The Bradley factor (named after the former mayor of Los Angeles who led by a substantial margin in the polls for Governor only to lose on election day) or the Wilder effect (named after the Governor of Virginia who went into the election with a 9 point lead and ending up winning by less than 1/2 a percent) can basically be thrown out of the window. This is not an election for the head of a town, city or state. This is an election for the biggest job in the world. No matter how far we have come in race relations in this country, race will still trump a lot of the personal interests of voters.

The unanswerable question at this point is how many of those undecided voters are truly undecided or just unwilling to state a preference because they don't want to be accused of bias. There are some who are unwilling to name Obama because they would be going against family and friends and there are some who are unwilling to name McCain because of the same reason. At this point we can assume that the majority of undecideds are White because of Obama's overwhelming support among Blacks. So how would a White woman in rural Kentucky tell her friends and family that she is bucking decades of family tradition and ideals and voting for a Barack Obama for President? I would guess very carefully. I can imagine the same being true of a closet McCain voter in a similar position. The easiest thing to be in this election is a registered Republican or Democrat, that way you can avoid being branded by simply stating that you are voting for your parties candidate. The "persuadable"/ Independent/ Undecided voter is in the toughest position because they cannot simply hide under a party banner.

The race will undoubtedly tighten before election day. Obama is counting on an unprecedented turn out from both minorities and younger voters to propel him to victory on November 4th. Previous candidates have gone down this road only to be disappointed come election day. Obama's national lead, while outside the margin of error, is still not safe from the undecideds breaking McCain's way and some of his promised support either switching sides or not showing up at all. Obama cautioned today against over confidence and complacency and he had good reason to do so. I wrote a piece back on September 29th in which I stated that the race was not over. Well, it wasn't over then and it ain't over now. There are more turns to come in this race, the least of which may just be the American people changing their minds one more time.

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