Obama's Blues

By Larison, Daniel | The American Conservative, June 30, 2008 | Go to article overview

Obama's Blues


Larison, Daniel, The American Conservative


Despite enormous structural advantages for Democrats in fundraising, voter registration, and party identification, national polling and Electoral College projections continue to show that Barack Obama would eke out only the narrowest of wins over John McCain if the general election were held today. Following a brief blip of increased support after wrapping up the Democratic nomination, Obama's meager three- to four-point lead in both the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls has returned. Obama consistently runs behind and McCain runs far ahead of their respective parties in the generic presidential polls.

The distribution of Obama's support in the Electoral College gives McCain a chance at victory in November, as the candidate who famously attacked "red" and "blue" political divisions in his 2004 convention speech has become identified completely with the culture of "blue" America in ways that turn his popular antiwar position into a liability.

According to the Electoral College map at RealClearPolitics.com, 110 electoral votes come from states considered tossups, but when these states are assigned to the candidates that narrowly lead in recent polling, Obama wins by just 32 electoral votes, 285-253. But that possible Obama victory depends heavily on success in Ohio, where Obama encountered some of the stiffest resistance to his candidacy and where, despite the 2006 electoral devastation of the state Republican Party, McCain has either led or remained within striking distance in most polling. Contrary to the Obama campaign's hope of using its significant fundraising advantage to "scramble" the electoral map, the two parties' coalitions in presidential voting remain impressively stable.

More strikingly, despite the enduring opposition of two-thirds of the public to the war in Iraq and his position as the major party antiwar candidate, Obama so far seems unable to build a coalition larger than those organized around Gore and Kerry in their close defeats. Thanks to the fiction created and maintained by mainstream journalists, McCain has been able to identify himself almost entirely with every major policy of the Bush administration yet retain the public persona of a rebellious and independent-minded reformer. At the same time, on the war itself, the public continues to have greater confidence in McCain than Obama. According to Rasmussen, 49 percent trust McCain more on the war, compared to just 37 percent for Obama. On the signature issue of his campaign and the policy that has done more than any other to destroy the GOP electorally, Obama cannot translate the public's war weariness into support because of this question of trust. …

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