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The International Writers Magazine: US Election 2008: Reality Check
Aug 7th - CNN Poll of Polls:
Barack Obama - 48%

John McCain - - -43%

Electoral Map Realities Douse Change Parade

James Campion

Fresh 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 for humiliation.

    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 criminal.
    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 out.

    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.

Part Two: 8.8.08

There 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.

It 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 stupid.

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 even.

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 Commander-in-Chief.
It's not about the hoopla. It's the numbers...stupid.

© James Campion Aug 8th 2008

George Carlin 1937-2008
James Campion
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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