Only Racism Can Stop Obama Now?
Pat Lang has a long essay on why Barack Obama will “probably” be elected the 44th president but veers into an uncomfortable conclusion.
It seems to me that all of this has inflicted what should be fatal wounds on McCain’s chance of becoming president. Am I sure that he will not be elected? No. Why? Look at the polls. Given the disastrous situation of the Republican Party, Obama should be polling ahead of McCain everywhere. He is not. Why is that?
Frankly, there are still a lot of people in the US who are very leery of voting for a Black man whom they do not know. That is a sad thing, but true. Blacks know that it is true. Some readers will assume that I write of the South. No. I think Obama will do a lot better here than the pundits believe.
I’ve written several times now that I’m surprised Obama isn’t further ahead in the polls (he’s currently at 4.6 percent) given the circumstances. Not only, as Lang notes, is the Republican Party in very sad shape but Obama’s charismatic, smart, and running as good a national campaign as I can recall seeing.
Is race part of the explanation? Probably. There are almost certainly many people, including some consistent Democratic voters, who don’t want to see a black man win. The degree to which that will be offset by increased enthusiasm and turnout among voters who very much would like to see a black man win is unclear.
Recall that Obama was doing better than Hillary Clinton in most of the head-to-head polls against McCain. Except for a brief period during the height of the Jeremiah Wright scandal, Republican operatives universally preferred the idea of running against Clinton vice Obama. He was always the most feared candidate.
Why, then, hasn’t he run away with it?
First, while John McCain isn’t exactly the most beloved Republican among Republicans, he’s almost certainly the best general election candidate the party could have chosen from the available field. While I’m tired of hearing it, his personal story is quite compelling. He’s likable, in a curmudgeonly sort of way, and strikes people as trustworthy and reliable.
Second, while people seem to genuinely want to like and believe in Obama, he’s relatively new to the scene and people have some doubts about him.
Let’s look at some numbers from the latest Rasmussen poll, released yesterday on Perceptions of the Candidates and Trust:
A plurality of people think McCain is a better leader, shares their values, will keep spending from going up, and keep taxes down. Meanwhile, a whopping 41 percent think Obama’s too inexperienced.
Indeed, the only “good” thing he has going for him in the perceptions list is that he’s on the popular side of the bring troops home/finish the job debate. That’s offset, though, by the fact that a plurality — indeed, a virtual majority — trust McCain more on Iraq. And McCain has a solid lead on the broader “National Security” issue. So, score the Daddy Issues for McCain. (Who, incidentally, has a seven point lead among men.)
Obama’s edge, as one might expect of a Democrat, are on the Mommy Issues (along with a six point lead among women to go along with it): Heath care, education, the environment, and ethics. Realistically, the health is the only one of those issues that will get much traction.
Obama and McCain are essentially tied on the economy, energy, immigration, balancing the budget, negotiating trade agreements, taxes, Social Security, and abortion.
So, the bottom line remains what it has for months: Obama’s the heavy favorite to win. McCain’s only chance, barring dramatic intervening events (wars, terrorist attacks, scandals) to overtake him is by persuading people that national security policy is the key factor and maintaining his lead in that area. My guess is that the war in Iraq will remain so unpopular that he won’t be able to get it done. But I wouldn’t count him out, either.