The Campaign Spot

Be of Good Cheer, My Rightie Friends

Reason for good cheer on a Tuesday morning if you’re a Republican.

1) If it were a 1996 election, with the perception of “peace and prosperity”, Obama would be ahead by 20 percent. Clinton won a solid reelection running on the v-chip for television, school uniforms, curfews for teenagers, cracking down on deadbeat dads, etc. Instead, we’re holding an election during two wars and amid one of the greatest economic crises in generations.

The other guys nominated a lawyer/community organizer who’s never run anything larger than a Senate office who never served in the military, who’s been in the U.S. Senate for less than four years. Our guys nominated a war hero.

How solid is the public’s faith in the ability that Obama could manage a crisis?

2) This story, if accurate, is huge and demonstrates how circumstances can change in a New York minute. An American policy in Afghanistan, repeatedly derided as failing, has spurred the Taliban to turn on al-Qaeda? If this pans out, shouldn’t this prompt the candidates to revise and extend their assessment of our Afghanistan policy? Doesn’t this blow up the “we’re losing in Afghanistan because we’re distracted in Iraq” argument?

3) Think about what McCain and Palin have had thrown at them this cycle – every Obama ad, every 527 ad, the ubiquitous Obama posters, the “Fact Checks” that don’t actually check any facts, the all-out cheerleading from so many corners of the press, etc. There is nothing more that the press could do to help Obama, short of having Keith Olbermann screaming on all channels at all times. And yet McCain and Palin are hanging in there. Sure, Obama’s up 5.8 in the RCP average. (Who would have guessed that Zogby, CBS News, and James Carville’s Democracy Corps would be showing the smallest lead, each showing 3 percent?) But remember Clinton won by 8 in 1996, and he had the advantage that Perot was splitting the anti-Democratic vote. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas once contended that friendly media was worth 15 percent in the polls. With almost everybody in the MSM making an all-out push, they’ve got their guy up six a month out. This is it, the press’s ability to influence the election is spent. A six percent lead is an uphill climb, but very far from insurmountable.

4) Palin brings up William Ayers, and the AP declares it racism. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank says that criticism of Congress’ oversight of the subprime mortgage meltdown is driven by racism. Criticism of Gwen Ifill for not disclosing her book to the Commission on Presidential Debates is, we are told, racism.

I’ve been very skeptical of the Bradley effect; for a long time, I thought most Americans who don’t prefer Obama would just say, “I prefer the other guy.” On the other hand, we’re in a political environment where criticism of white Democrats is enough to generate cries of racism. The American people see this. They know it’s horsepuckey. Heck, the first Saturday Night Live debate sketch depicted Obama promising to play the race card on Kim Jong Il.

In these circumstances, it does seem plausible that white voters could tell a pollster, “yes, I’m voting for Obama, please don’t call me racist.”

Juan Williams of NPR and Fox News puts the Bradley effect a lot higher than I do. “Obama’s got to have a buffer of 5 to 8 percentage points,” Williams said. “So if you have a race in which McCain is at, you know, 41, and Obama’s at 41, then imagine that really what you’re looking at is McCain at 49, Obama at 41.”


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