It ain’t over yet

The press has already started inaugurating President Obama, but there are still quite a few hurdles left for the Democrat — including John McCain
By STEVEN STARK  |  October 24, 2008

080801-tote_main

In the wake of Barack Obama’s triumphant European tour, the political press continues, by and large, to declare the election all but over. “Virtually all of the evidence that we have reviewed . . . point [sic] to a comfortable Obama/Democratic party victory in November,” write political analysts Alan Abramowitz, Thomas E. Mann, and Larry Sabato on Sabato’s Crystal Ball Web site. Michael Grunwald of Time agrees, asking, “Is McCain a no-shot?” Grunwald concludes that he probably is.

Obama may indeed end up the comfortable winner in November. But right now, there are a number of factors that still make John McCain at least even money — and by my current calculations, slightly better — to emerge victorious on Election Day.

It’s true that Obama has a powerful tail wind, thanks to the nation’s desire for change, and he is the most eloquent nominee since Ronald Reagan, with star power to boot. He also will be able to outspend the GOP decisively. And so far, McCain has failed to gain much traction against his Democratic rival.

But Obama’s head winds are just as strong. To win, he will literally have to rewrite history. Some of the hurdles he’ll have to overcome, as I’ve observed previously, include:

• No Democrat who hails from north of the Mason-Dixon line has been elected since 1960.

• No candidate in the modern primary era has ever been elected in November after failing to win more than one of the nation’s seven largest states in either its pre-convention primary or, if the state didn’t hold a primary, its caucuses.

• No candidate in modern times has ever been elected president with a voting record that could be identified as his party’s most liberal or conservative, yet in 2007 Obama was designated as the former (by the National Journal).

• No candidate arguably since Abraham Lincoln has been elected president with as little political experience as Obama.

None of this is to say that Obama can’t overcome these historical obstacles, and he has exceeded expectations before. But as any lawyer knows, try to defy too many precedents and the odds begin to run against you.

Moreover, McCain has some cards to play, even if he has not played them yet. The press seems to be under the assumption that, because it knows so much about McCain, the electorate does too. The hunch here is that, while the outlines may be familiar to voters, the details are not. Few voters are intimately familiar with the specifics of McCain’s war heroism; or the fact that he and his wife adopted a little girl from one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages, in Bangladesh; or the personal kindness he has displayed to colleagues like Democrat Morris Udall, who McCain visited regularly while Udall was dying. By November, they will.

In addition, for better or worse, the attacks against Obama haven’t really begun. There will be a raft of negative ads — and more, such as attacks from right-wing talk radio — likely featuring Obama’s own words, in his own voice (taken from the audio version of Obama’s book Dreams From My Father). We likely haven’t heard the last of Reverend Wright, nor the last attack on his wife, Michelle, either.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Stark Ravings , Michael Dukakis, Barack Obama, Elections and Voting,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY STEVEN STARK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MAPPING OUT THE NEW YEAR'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE  |  December 29, 2010
    MAPPING OUT THE NEW YEAR'S POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
  •   DEMOCRATS AGAINST OBAMA  |  November 03, 2010
    Now that the midterm wipeout has concluded, analysts are already sizing up the GOP challengers to a weakened Barack Obama. Not only that: some Democratic party elders are considering the once-unthinkable scenario of a debilitating challenge to Barack Obama from inside his party.
  •   THE INDEPENDENT HERD  |  October 06, 2010
    The big news in this election cycle is the rise of the Tea Party. Fair enough. But passing under the radar is an accompanying development that could have even more far-reaching consequences — the rise of an emboldened third force in our politics.
  •   THE AMERICAN IDOL PARTY  |  September 23, 2010
    Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell might not turn out to be good candidates, but they make great television.
  •   HAS OBAMA PEAKED? YES, HE HAS  |  November 12, 2009
    To listen to some pundits, Barack Obama's public image began taking a serious beating when the off-year election returns came in a week ago. Or maybe it was the undeserved Nobel Prize, his approach to the war in Afghanistan, or when he revved up his pursuit of national health-care reform.

 See all articles by: STEVEN STARK