I’ll be the first to admit that the last month of the Presidential campaign has been a real bummer. With most political junkies hoping for a nail-biting, one-state finish, the economic plunge put a damper on all the excitement. Barack Obama, on the heels of an anti-incumbent party backlash, surged ahead in some polls by 12 percentage points. It looked like it was all over for John McCain.
Not anymore! A new Associated Press-GfK poll has it Obama 44 percent to McCain 43 percent. That means 13 percent is divided between other candidates and the undecided voters.
How could this happen, especially with McCain’s final subpar debate performance and the continuing lampooning of his running mate Sarah Palin?
Here are some of the reasons.
Polling Errors: To be fair, most polls were amazingly accurate this year, with two exceptions. Obama was up 13 points in New Hampshire but lost and was up 10 points in South Dakota but lost. Other than that, most polls were on the money. But remember, all polls have a margin of error that can factor into the real outcome. Let’s assume a margin of error of 4 percentage points. That means this poll could be as wide as 48 Obama, 39 McCain, or even 47 McCain, 40 Obama. It’s a toss-up!
Wavering concerns: The old saying about Bill Clinton was that his support was “a mile wide, but only an inch deep.” That means a lot of people had lukewarm feelings and misgivings about him, even though he won. In many respects Clinton’s character was the issue. This time, it’s Obama’s lack of foreign policy and military experience that keeps raising its head, despite the endorsement of Colin Powell and Obama’s satisfactory debate skills on these issues. People still have doubts!
The “Everyman” vote: Okay, I am the first to say the “Joe, the Plumber” thing went on way too long. We were about to put an “action hero” suit on the poor guy, with a big “JP” in the middle. Still, many people relate to Joe because he is like so many aspiring small business owners in the country: They just want a chance to make it for them and their families. It’s nothing more complicated than that. Obama’s ambition to “spread the wealth around” just reeks of socialism to many voters. No matter its faults, our system is still a free-market democracy. People cheer for little guys like Joe!
The Palin “non-factor”: The “Saturday Night Live” parodies are a hoot, especially with Palin joining in. But you can’t discuss Palin’s lack of experience, without discussing Obama’s lack of experience. You just can’t have it both ways. Have we ever had major party candidates with resumes this short? Yes, Abraham Lincoln for one. He worked out just fine. Bottom line, Obama and Palin are both hurt by their inexperience, but the issue may be neutralized to many voters.
“The Underdog” factor: Look, people, including me, like a horse race. The best part of this campaign was the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama showdown of the primary season. I loved the seesaw drama. So did the American public. Voter turnout was the highest ever. TV ratings for the nomination acceptance speeches set world records. It was simply amazing. Being down in the polls the past month has probably helped McCain get some of those “I’m voting for the underdog” ballots. That is, after all, how McCain got to this point in the first place! Remember where he was in the polls a year ago. At the bottom! People like a guy who fights from the bottom to the top. Just ask the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
With twelve days to go, there is still time for a lot of drama and suspense in this campaign! Check back at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.