No, the race is not over yet, but Barack Obama and Joe Biden are on the ropes. Unless they do something to right their ship, it’s going to sink.
The trend is not going their way. If you look at the latest composite map by Real Clear Politics, toss-up states are moving in the McCain-Palin direction. Indiana, Florida and North Carolina are prime examples, and Virginia looks like it will lean next. All were battleground states; all are now trending toward McCain.
Why is this happening? Sarah Palin.
The ranks of undecided voters, particularly among women, are coming her way in large numbers. And, as I noted weeks ago, a relatively small (but still significant) number of disgruntled Hillary supporters are coming Palin’s way.
The press coverage of Palin is not hurting the GOP ticket either. Despite her waffling (and even appearing uncertain) in some of the clips with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Palin is holding her ground. And again, the press is being accused by some of being overly aggressive and harsh (translate sexist) in the coverage of Palin. Whether that is true or not (and I think to a large degree it’s not), there is the perception that she’s being held to a different standard. She’s a “hockey mom” under the media siege, and it makes her a very sympathetic figure. That translates to votes.
The McCain-Palin phenomenon is also being aided by other events. Hurricanes have twice interrupted the political coverage, and other events may do the same. Whether there are serious questions about Palin’s experience may not matter. With just over seven weeks left before we vote, the Republicans may just run out the clock.
The fact that Barack Obama has cancelled his appearance on Saturday Night Live speaks volumes about how serious his campaign needs to get. You see, Palin is now benefitting from the very same “celebrity status” he once owned, but has now lost to her. In the only audience I ever had with Obama, he said he was “worried about being the flavor of the month.” In today’s “been there; done that” society his concern was very prophetic.
Here’s what to watch: There are just eight battleground states left. Just for the fun of it, let’s give Virginia to McCain and New Hampshire to Obama. That leaves six key states, and they are clustered:
“The Rust Belt” – Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Obama needs to win two of these; but even if McCain takes only Ohio, the GOP can still win.
“The New West” – New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. If McCain wins two of these, he’s your next President. (By the way, if he wins Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada, I have him at exactly 270 electoral votes, which is the bare minimum for victory).
So, where does Palin fit in? She’s a western governor who appeals to small town voters. This helps explain why she is campaigning today in Carson City, Nevada. But there are rural parts of Pennsylvania that despise Obama for his remarks about “clinging to their religion and guns," so Palin may help there, too.
Obama has to hope for two things: 1) That Joe Biden crushes Sarah Palin in the October 2, VP debate; and 2) that the economic numbers continue to sour, and Obama makes that the number one issue.
If not, this election is over!
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