International Writers Magazine: US Election 2008: Reality Check
7th - CNN Poll of Polls:
Barack Obama - 48%
John McCain - - -43%
OBAMA IN THE UPHILL Parts I & 2
Electoral Map Realities Douse Change Parade
from his world tour as media darling, Barack Obama, Democratic nominee
for president and political rock star extraordinaire, looks invincible.
He is charismatic, youthful, and one of the most consummate orators
this country has produced in decades; a powerful combination in
a year of economic downturn, stagnating progress in an unpopular
foreign occupation, and a sitting president with historically low
approval ratings. In a time defined by the word CHANGE, he has all
but the copyright. Meanwhile, his opponent is an aging, white, military
veteran, as entrenched in Washington politics as anyone he competed
against for his party's nomination.
Things could not
be rosier for a newbie candidate, whether using the measure of domestic
angst, general enthusiasm, or simple timing. So where then are the cold
numbers to back it up?
While Obama was receiving standing ovations from American
troops, discussing international ideologies with heads of state from
Bagdad to Berlin, and speaking in front of hundreds of thousands of
people waving (not burning) American flags, John McCain was on the Today
Show yammering incoherently about a magical border between Pakistan
and Iraq then sped off to be captured smiling awkwardly from a Food
King cheese aisle.
By all matters of reasonable prognostication, Obama,
or anyone NOT Republican, should be trouncing McCain, both nationally
and, more importantly, in state races; which has always and will continue
to choose our presidents.
But he is not.
No matter the poll, even the more radical ones you might
find online, Obama barely ekes out the margin of error or is woefully
behind. Outside the usual Democratic strongholds like New York and California,
and a few scattered in-between, Obama fails to crack the all-consuming
45% range, something a candidate will need to achieve to gain the presidency,
unless Ross Perot has another run in him.
Even sacrificial lambs like Dukakis and McGovern had summer
numbers better than this. Jimmy Carter, running against a man who not
only pardoned one of the great criminals the presidency has known but
narrowly survived a savage pistol-whipped by Ronald Reagan to take his
party's nomination, ran double-digits everywhere in the summer of 1976.
However, come autumn, he was sweating Gerald Ford. After Watergate had
brought the federal government to its knees in constitutional crisis,
the squeaky clean Carter barely hung on for victory by less than 700,000
votes; a lousy three percent.
Following Labor Day, when most Americans start paying
attention, the entrenched, more conservative choice -- the tried-and-true,
less wild card candidate -- always begins to close the gap. In almost
every case since I've been on the planet, this has meant the Republican
candidate. Now is when Obama should shine, not only in magazines and
on the evening news, chatting up Katie Couric or appearing in front
of throngs of adoring fans, but in early state polls -- indicating which
ones he needs to bolster and defend and which to ignore and prepare
Obama appears unstoppably meteoric, while his opponent
reeks of same-old politics. Republicans appear doomed, while Democrats
point fingers and rally the troops. Ah, but appearances in the summer
of a presidential election can be deceiving, especially appearances
not backed up by figures. Numbers have no emotion. No face. They do
not bend to wills or are coerced by rhetoric. They are neither starry-eyed
nor dismayed. You either have them or you don't, and right now, anyone
paying attention to this contest can clearly see that Obama does not
have the numbers to back up the hoopla; of course with the kind of hoopla
he's engendered one would need Julius Caesar returns.
But we are far from that.
As stated very early in this thing, Barack Obama has a
ton of unprecedented baggage to carry; an African American, liberal,
junior senator with a weird name and a fuzzy New American background.
There are long odds this man would qualify for a driver's license in
Mississippi, much less apply for the nation's highest office. Shit,
beyond race and familiarity, experience and political ideology, by any
litmus, Obama is the big risk. He is quite literally the Change Candidate;
if he becomes the 44th president of the United States, nothing will
ever be the same again -- for good or ill.
This reporter thinks for good, but that means less than
nothing. My backing of Obama is purely generational. He is of my time,
and it's about time to turn pages. Choosing another military grey-haired
white protestant repeats what I have witnessed since I began to grasp
such things, and none of it is particularly pleasant.
But personal madness aside, success in the presidency
has more to do with circumstance, luck, and matters of history, and
even that is a heaping bowl of subjective.
Hey, if 9/11 had not transpired perhaps George W. Bush
would have been a serviceable caretaker president like the affably lost
Rutherford B. Hayes, but it did, and extraordinary circumstances call
for extraordinary men. Bush, on the other hand, turned out to be a mediocre,
half-assed simpleton. Therefore the record is spotty to poor to downright
There is no telling about this Obama guy or anyone for
that matter. This is why they play the game, jack.
However, one thing is for certain, this is not a country
that embraces change without a fight. It is not an electorate open to
the new and untried, and this will be to McCain's ultimate advantage.
Soon, as we see transpiring slowly, his campaign will pound this home:
New guy is untested and strange, and this equals scary and dangerous.
It's McCain's best shot, and the early state-by-state numbers bare this
Again, never mind these inane national polls, which range
from three points to ten. They have proved meaningless in the past and
with this wild card candidacy, they are far less than that. Even if
he loses, it is probably a good bet that Obama will secure the popular
vote. The droves of new Democrats registered during the record-smashing
primaries seal it, not to mention conceivably a 50% increase in the
youth vote; and that's coming from a skeptical/conservative prediction.
Obama will roll when he takes his states, but conquering the electoral
map is a far different animal.
are many weird concepts the American people are willing to accept;
seraphim, truth in journalism, the infallibility of heroism, patriotic
duty, lottery tickets, all-meat diets, love, Hare Krishna, humanity;
but one thing they are apparently not ready swallow is the next
president of the United States being a black liberal one-term senator
from the north. The evidence of this is reflected in the current
polling data coming out of the individual state counts, which will
ultimately decide whether Barack Obama or his Republican counterpart,
John McCain will be our next chief executive.
If it is not McCain, we have ourselves a story, bub.
has been a horrid twenty or so months for Republicans, and their man
has spearheaded what many RNC insiders have called a "god awful
shit-can" campaign. Yet he survives, while Obama barely leads in
polls that your average citizen lies in not appear racist or just plain
But it's not merely race or the goober-quotient that hounds Obama, as
many victim-jockeys offer up in handy excuse form. For decades this
country has exhibited a conservatively uninteresting voter block for
president. Beyond boredom, there is nothing particularly galling about
this, but it is fact -- something lost on crazies like Chris Matthews
who insist on describing the older, Caucasian, military candidate as
an underdog. Americans generally go for blandly fabricated billboards,
certainly not anyone resembling Barack Obama, whether he be black, red,
orange or green.
This is about the time when you'll hear the word radical thrown around.
Radical? Obama is about as radical as the next button-down lockstep
who runs for high office. You want radical? There is a long frightening
list located in the deep draw of The Desk, to be published by autumn.
It is these among other crucial reasons that this race is currently
wide open with nearly 170 electoral votes up for grabs, including the
standard lynchpin states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc.
It is time to put away trends and momentum and other meaningless political
buzz words and get real.
Ohio, the most economically devastated state in 2004, loudly resounded
that it would rather collectively starve than vote for any pansy liberal.
The same people who doomed John Kerry buried Obama by closing their
eyes and holding their noses to vote for Hillary Clinton, who'd somehow
managed to convince them she was the second coming of Huey Long.
Pennsylvania was not kind to Obama in the primaries either, and although
he holds a six to eight point lead now, the money people around his
camp are very worried that his failure to secure the Philadelphia suburbs
in the spring could eventually tip the state to McCain on Election Day.
For its part, the McCain campaign has taken the bait and dumped twice
the cash than Obama on media presence in both states. The silly "Make
Obama look like some kind of Biblical myth or celebrity airhead"
has made its rounds in places where "uppity" and "arrogant"
combine nicely with "elitist" and "lofty" to drum
up a significant enough voter fear.
And, for the record, there is no way McCain loses the predominantly
senior-laden, Jewish block-vote in Florida to Obama. The Democrats'
50 to 1 spending and not a single television, print or radio ad run
by Republicans has resulted in more or less a flatfooted tie.
The failure to secure even one of these three huge electoral-rich states,
ones with Democratic blood on their hands in the past two presidential
elections, has sent Obama headquarters scrambling to engage discussions
on the Midwest and challenge the heretofore Republican stronghold of
the deep South. But early returns do not support this effort.
Republicans enjoy double-digit leads almost everywhere below the Mason
Dixon line. Let's face it, without uttering a single word, McCain can
be confident that most of the South is spoken for.
Only Virginia and Georgia can conceivably lean toward Obama, their cities
teeming with a strong African American vote, but McCain still maintains
a pretty solid seven-point lead in Georgia and Virginia has never moved
more than a percentage point one way or the other. Talk of North Carolina
being in play is a media fantasy pitched to drunken lacrosse freaks
at Duke for a lark.
Approaching the Midwest, Obama has decent leads in his home state of
Illinois and bordering Wisconsin, but inexplicably holds shaky leads
(Iowa -- seven-points) or trails in other border states, such as Indiana
(two-points) or is being routed in Kentucky (20 points). Iowa is particularly
troubling when considering it was the state that started it all for
him in February and hailed him as the Democratic nominee in June, and
has suffered McCain's wrath for this ethanol energy business for years.
Prevailing wisdom among the pundit elite, when they're not slobbering
all over themselves laying odds on these innocuously vapid VP choices,
has heralded Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada as the new Battleground
States. Okay, great. Let's have a look how our Change Candidate is doing
in the Rockies and the desert.
Colorado, an increasingly liberal state in a time of deep hatred for
all-things Republican, has endured a considerable influx of McCain and
Obama ads, yet remains even. In a few weeks the Democratic Convention
in Denver should boost Obama's flaccid numbers here, but how much will
his triumphant acceptance stadium rally on the anniversary of Martin
Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech further paint him as
a vacuous superstar?
New Mexico, another state that boasted impressive early numbers for
Kerry in 2004 only to swing Republican, is also on the bubble. It's
governor threw the Clintons under a speeding train too late for the
Obama camp, which as a whole sees Bill Richardson as a pusillanimous
opportunist who will doubtless end up fucking them if he is not offered
the Vice Presidency, of which he most certainly will not.
Finally we have Nevada, which is still embroiled in secret lawsuits
from the Clinton hardliners over shenanigans in the scheduling of its
January caucus. Once again, in a year replete with doomstruck economic
forecasts resulting in rabid anti-Republican fervor, McCain stands dead
And while Obama has rapped up most of the northeast sans New Hampshire,
which not only resurrected the Hillary monster in February but also
simultaneously gave rise to the reanimated McCain Express, looks unsteady
at best. Obama barely leads in Minnesota (two to five points) and Michigan
(four points), which he will surely lose if McCain chooses Mitt Romney
as a running mate, and he is somehow down in Missouri.
It is early August and we have another Inevitable Candidate who does
not have the numbers. Things have shifted seamlessly from the Hillary
Myth to the Obama Myth.
Someone needs to show this space better state numbers in the next three
weeks or it will doubtless take one of the most baffling upsets in recent
presidential campaign history to keep John McCain from being the 44th
It's not about the hoopla. It's the numbers...stupid.
© James Campion Aug 8th 2008
For over a half century George Denis Patrick Carlin was the standard
bearer of the principles on which this space was founded: Nothing is
Sacred and Truth Need Not Apologize
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