by Rick Rockwell
With 30 days left until the election, Barack Obama appears to be the obvious winner in a race that may end up being not very close.
And the reason, although it defies logic on some levels, is quite simple: the economy.
This author makes this prediction as someone who does not support either major party candidate. But the signs are apparent.
Certainly the polls are there to be read. However, the polls have fluctuated wildly during the past year and most have proved to be wrong. But the consistent weight of those polls shows the momentum has shifted inexorably to Sen. Obama (D-IL). Obama and John McCain debate in what is a clear toss-up, and the polls show Obama the winner. Again, Obama’s running mate Joe Biden debates Sarah Palin, McCain’s vice-presidential pick, and again the result is a toss up. But again the polls show an easy victory for Sen. Biden (D-DE).
But the only polls that really matter are the ones that show the economy is the top issue for voters. And for some reason, although Obama has no economic record of note, voters see him as the savior as the economy totters on the precipice.
The explanation for this is likely due to history and party affiliation more than anything else.
The Republicans got us into the mess that was the Great Depression in 1929 and that cost them the White House for a generation. The mantra in middle class and lower class homes after that was you don’t vote for Republicans if you know what’s good for your pocketbook. Ronald Reagan may have charmed those middle class voters in the 1980s and changed the equation. But one thing you can credit to George W. Bush is that he has reminded the nation why you can’t let Republicans lead on economic issues: they are only out to protect their rich pals. And Obama’s election team, which has focused with a singular effort on tying Sen. McCain (R-AZ) to the policies of the Bush administration has little work to do when McCain doesn’t even know how many homes he shares with his wife. That fumble from before the current economic crisis continues to resonate. And to top everything off, the Bush administration’s dire warnings about a new Depression more or less have sealed McCain’s fate.
No voter who is voting on pocketbook issues is going to the polls and rewarding the party who brought us the New Depression.
Never mind that Obama pretty much swallowed the economic plan put forward by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Given an opportunity to lead now on the issue, Obama opted to go with his party’s leadership rather than the bi-partisan opposition. (Look for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to have a lot of say in an Obama administration, as they have pulled strings for him all year long.) So much for change. So much for new directions. But Obama is not a Republican (at least by party label) so he will win the election. History and electoral momentum tells us this is true.
Of course, the Republicans could find an October surprise of some enormous proportions in an attempt to shift the electoral stage somehow. But this is highly unlikely. Of course, there could be some new revelation about Obama, but that is also highly unlikely. So it is his election to lose.
This is not to refute completely what my colleague Jeff Siegel wrote about Obama and the economy last month (see: “Obama, the Economy, and Why He Won’t Win”). We are in agreement that Obama has not handled the crisis as well as he could have, meeting it mostly with rhetoric and not action. And we are in agreement that the country is going to pay for this misguided bill, no matter who takes office, because it shows neither major party candidate understands the problems of the middle and lower classes. But where we differ is predicting the American voter whose psyche has been difficult to parse the past few elections. Right now, the bottom line says Obama is the winner. You can take that to the bank.
For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:
(Political graphic © copyright Comandante Agi and used with permission; you can see more of the comandante's political graphics at his blogs, PIME and Guys from Area 51. To see a satirical video of what would happen if Homer Simpson voted for Obama, please check below.)
vice presidential debate
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by Rick Rockwell